Transcript: Nightly Business Report — March 20, 2015

NBR ThumANNOUNCER: This is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT with Tyler Mathisen and
Sue Herera.

take off, capping a strong week for equities. But it`s the NASDAQ that`s
really powering ahead as that index closes in on an all time high.

experimental drug that`s showing promise in the fight against Alzheimer`s,
and sending shares of Biogen soaring.

HERERA: Protecting your portfolio. Our market monitor tonight has a
list of stocks that he says will do well no matter what the dollar does.

All that and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Friday, March

MATHISEN: Good evening, everyone. And welcome.

It may be snowing in New York City tonight, but spring fever came to
Wall Street today. Dow Jones Industrial Average capped a strong week with
a triple digit gain, and the NASDAQ moves within striking distance of its
all-time record closing high. The blue chip index up 168 points to 18,127,
the NASDAQ gained 34 points, rising for five straight days to its third
highest close ever at 5,026, and S&P 500 was up nearly 19 to 2,108.

In a week of big triple digit swings, the “don`t fight the Fed” crowd
won out (ph), stocks got lot of help after the Fed Wednesday dropped the
word “patient” from its interest rate prognosis but basically said it will
be patient about raising them. The Dow rose 2 percent for the week. The
NASDAQ outpacing the others with a 3 percent rise and the S&P saw its
steepest weekly advance in six.

But focus squarely this week on NASDAQ which closed above 5,000 for
the second time this year and on a few occasions this week, the index was
up when the Dow and the S&P were down. So, why the recent strength in the

Bertha Coombs has our report.


The NASDAQ is now within reach of new all-time high. And this time around,
says JPMorgan`s Kate Moore, the tech heavy index is driven by profits more
than hype.

KATE MOORE, J.P. MORGAN U.S. PRIVATE BANK: We actually think that
tech earnings are much more sustainable than they`ve ever been before. And
in fact, in 2000, and kind of like a 15 years ago, it was a completely
different sector without earnings and I think a lot of hope and optimism
behind it. This is a real fundamental story and actually, tech is one of
our biggest sector overweights in our portfolios.

COOMBS: When it comes to valuations, the NASDAQ composite in the
large cap NASDAQ 100 trade at more than 20 times earnings. Not much higher
than the S&P 500 18 price/earnings ratio, in part because of
diversification. Firms like Walgreens and insurer Anthem now list here,
alongside tech juggernaut Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

Though there`s one sector some worry might be frothy, biotech. The
NASDAQ biotech ETF is up more than 20 percent this year, its outsized gains
matched by triple-digit valuations.

DAVID SEABURG, COWEN AND COMPANY: Over the past month, we`ve seen
incredible amount of money flowing into biotech. It`s going to continue to
flow into the biotech sector and I think will continue to be a driver of

COOMBS: Overall, small cap stocks have also seen strong gains helping
to drive the NASDAQ higher.

KATIE NIXON, NORTHERN TRUST: Smaller caps are attractive for a couple
of reasons. One, obviously is the run-up in the dollar and small cap
companies tend to have more domestic exposure. But, secondly, this was an
area that way underperformed last year. And so, I think you`re going to
naturally see a rotation.

COOMBS: One of the biggest changes from 15 years ago was that
investors have more ways to gain exposure to these sectors through the
surge in exchange traded funds. They no longer have to make a bet just on
individual stocks and that can help mitigate downside risk.



HERERA: One of the areas on the NASDAQ that has been gang-busters has
been biotech. In fact, the sector has been higher for eight straight days
and the ETF that tracks them is up about 42 percent in the past year.
Today, Biogen was one of the best performers in the S&P 500 after its
experimental Alzheimer`s drug we told you about last night showed in a
study it significantly slowed mental decline. The shares jumped nearly 10
percent on the news.

Meg Tirrell has more on this possible breakthrough.


expectations were sky high and today, Biogen exceeded them, giving hope for
a disease with no good treatment options. In a small study reported today,
Biogen`s experimental Alzheimer`s drug known as BIB 37 reduced the plaque
build-ups in the brain associated with the disease. It also showed
significant benefits on two measures of cognition, slowing the declines in
memory loss and thinking clearly compared with the placebo.

DR. YARON WERBER, CITIGROUP ANALYST: The verdict today was better
than expected overall, and what`s really interesting is this class of anti-
bodies for Alzheimer`s disease in the past has had very mixed results and
most of the drugs actually failed. But today`s result is great for

TIRRELL: The positive efficacy results were a surprise because the
study was in the earliest phases, designed primarily to assess safety. The
drug did show some side effects associated with clearing the amyloid
plaques from the brain. It`s thought that removal of the plaques can
weaken blood vessels causing them to leak.

WERBER: One of the things they`re going to try to do from now on
whether lower dose offers the same activity with the better safety profile,
or whether they could change the dosing. At the current dose, the side
effect looks a little too high, so they`re going to have to figure a way
around it.

TIRRELL: Biogen says it plans to move into a phase three trial this
year, skipping over the mid-stages of testing. If all goes well, analysts
say the drug could hit the market as early as 2018. But it`s got a lot to
prove before then.

WERBER: In Alzheimer`s disease, the chance of success historically
has been low. I know in the declines today, we characterized that the way
to think about it, we conservatively think about a 30 percent chance of
success. But again, the data was fairly encouraging, so maybe that`s a
little too conservative.

Historically, there`s been a lot of variability between the early
stage testing and then the final phase three results. The issue is the
drugs have not been that effective and on top of it, conducting studies in
this disease has been difficult historically.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One foot right in front of the other.

TIRRELL: Biogen did a few things differently in this trial. It
tested the drug only on patients with early stages of the disease,
suggested by studies of previous drugs to be the population that could
benefit the most. And it screens patients to make sure they have the
build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain that the drug targets.

So, while there`s a long road ahead, both Wall Street and the medical
community are cautiously optimistic. A successful drug for Alzheimer`s
could draw as much as $10 billion in annual sales according to analysts and
provide hope for the millions of people worldwide living with the disease.



MATHISEN: And now to the currency markets which along with central
banks around the globe seem to be driving much of the market action lately.
The euro rose against the dollar today after the leaders of Greece and
Germany struck a slightly more conciliatory tone over Greece`s plan to deal
with its debt.

But as Julia Chatterley reports from Brussels, the talks remain tense
and there`s a lot of work to be done.


Talks between Germany`s Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras, the prime
minister of Greece, wrapped up in the small hours of this morning. But you
didn`t really need to read between the lines at the statement that Germany
gave. Angela Merkel used words like “yet again”, “once again” the onus
remains on Greece to come up with a full set of reforms and only then they
get access to the crucial cash the country needs.

The one positive I can pull out of this though, it does seem that
Greece is going to try to come up with those reforms over the next few
days, and then they`ll be assessed by the European finance minister. There
does seem to be a greater sense of urgency about these negotiations, but I
think the message from Brussels is that the pressure on Greece is going to
remain very firm.

In terms of the next step, Alexis Tsipras of Greece will head over to
Berlin on Monday, and the suggestion here is that we`re all going to see
some kind of breakthrough, perhaps it takes place next week on Monday in
Berlin. But, you know, I have to say, I hope goes there holding a great
reforms because ultimately, that`s what`s needed.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Julia Chatterley in Brussels.


HERERA: And it was the move lower in the dollar today that sent the
price of oil higher. West Texas crude shot up 4 percent to settle at
$45.72. The commodity is higher for the week, snapping four weeks of

In the meantime, the oil rig count continues to fall. According to
Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI), the number of rigs drilling for oil was cut by 41
this week to 825, its 15th weekly decline and the lowest number in four

MATHISEN: One sector that may be more insulated from the moves in the
dollars we explained a moment ago is small company shares since those
companies do most of their business within the United States. And today,
the Russell 2000 small cap index hit a record. There you see it.

And that is where our market monitor looks for investment

Sandy Villere is co-portfolio manager at his own firm, Villere &
Company, a money management firm with $3 billion under management.

Sandy, welcome. Good to have you with us.

Do you agree with the guest who in the earlier piece said there are a
couple of reasons why she likes small caps now, one is that dollar thing,
the other is that they have dramatically underperformed for a while, most
especially this yea, and at some point, this is probably going to swing
back the other way?

long-term investor. So, if you go back to 1926, probably longer than any
of us have, but small caps outperformed 2 percent annually versus large
cap. I do think the U.S. is the cleanest shirt in the dirty laundry when
you look at the global economy.

So, I do believe that plus playing catch-up from last year when the
S&P did 13 percent in the Russell 2000 only did 3 percent, we do need to
play a little bit of catch-up. And certainly, the stronger dollar will
definitely lead to a stronger smaller cap year.

So, I think this year, if you can stay American and stay small, you`re
going to outperform in 2015.

HERERA: Because it`s really all about growth. Is it not? I mean,
the bigger more established companies probably won`t grow as fast, in
theory, anyway, as the smaller company.

VILLERE: Yes. And I think that`s true in any environment that small
should outperform or outgrow large and just looking at a simple example of
Zoe`s Kitchen being a small concept, versus a more mature McDonald`s. I
would certainly expect Zoe`s to be riskier and outperformed McDonald`s over
the long run. So, we do like to focus on smaller cap stocks in our Villere
balance fund.

MATHISEN: Let`s move to your first pick, and that is Men`s Wearhouse.
It went through a rather fractious acquisition with Jos. A. Bank. How is
it doing? How has the integration gone? And why do you like this one?

VILLERE: Yes, anytime you can buy a great franchise for the long-term
and I`m a three to five year investor and it has a short-term cloud over
it. That short-term cloud would be kind of getting rid of George Zimmer,
the founder, the acquisition of Jos. Banks, and you can buy a company
that`s got $6 in earnings power out to 2016, $150 million in synergies
between the two. I think it`s going to work out well for shareholders.

MATHISEN: You can also buy one suit and get six free, Sandy.


VILLERE: That`s right.

HERERA: I knew that was coming. I knew it was coming from him.

All right. DST is next on your list, Sandy. Why?

VILLERE: So, they do data processing and software automation for
communications, health care, as well as the financial services industry.
And I`m very familiar with the 60 percent of the revenue in the financial
services industry because it`s mutual fund administration. They`re
basically doing the back office for my mutual fund. So, their top five
customers are very sticky. They`ve been with them an average of 35 years.

What I like about is the valuation. They traded six times EBITDA,
versus their peers at 8 to 12 times EBITDA, because of the non-core assets
that they`re liquidating. They got $125 million a quarter they`re
liquidating and about — over the next two years, they liquidate another
billion dollars they can use to buyback stock and pay down debt. So, it`s
going to work out well, I think.

MATHISEN: Your third choice is financial engines trading. I`m not
familiar with it but I am familiar with the Nobel Price economist Bill
Sharpe, who was one of the founders.

VILLERE: Yes, he started this company in 1996, and basically, it`s a
way for all of the — all the 401(k) corporate participants, they get all
these mutual fund choices and all these — it`s very confusing. So, he`s
got software you can put in your age, income level, and retirement, even
Social Security application, too, that tells you when to take it, when not

And it`s been very successful. They got now a third of the Fortune
500 companies, the likes of Northup Grumman and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT),
AT&T (NYSE:T) just signed up with them, $40 billion in their plan. So, I
think this is going to work out well. And again, domestically-based, and I
think, you know, when you talk about a dollar and all this stuff, I think
you`re going to do well in this environment.

MATHISEN: All right. Sandy, have a great weekend. Thanks for your
ideas tonight.

VILLERE: Thanks for having me. I appreciate.

MATHISEN: Sandy Villere of Villere and Company.

HERERA: Money is flowing into stock funds. Data from Bank of America
(NYSE:BAC) Merrill Lynch shows $20 billion went into stock funds last week.
That`s the biggest weekly inflow this year. Exchange-traded funds
attracted all of that new cash, $23 billion, while stock mutual funds
posted $3 million in outflows.

MATHISEN: The Federal Reserve paid record $97 billion to the U.S.
Treasury last year. This according to audited financial statements, much
of the gain due to interest on the Central Bank`s big bond purchases. In
2013, the Fed handed the Treasury about $8 billion. By law, the Central
Bank has to hand over the bulk of its profits to the U.S. Treasury.

HERERA: With the most recent Federal Reserve meeting in the rearview
mirror, the word “patience” gone from its policy statement and the door
open to raising rates, what might it take for the central bank to start

Steve Liesman takes a look.


Now that the Federal Reserve has signaled rate hikes could come at any
meeting after April, Wall Street is looking closely at clues for when
conditions will be right. Chicago Fed President Charlie Evans, one of the
more dovish members of the Fed, stuck to the forecast saying the right time
won`t be until next year because he doesn`t see inflation turning around.

CHARLES EVANS, CHICAGO FED PRESIDENT: I`m open to discussion being
persuaded that maybe this is the right time to start that. At the moment,
I still think 2016 is more likely, given the forecast configuration that I

LIESMAN: Evans said that because inflation is below the 2 percent
target for so long, it makes sense to let it run above the target for some
time. But Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, a centrist, neither hawk
nor dove, suggested that a rate hike is more likely this year.

Lockhart said that serious consideration is being given to a rate hike
at any of the three meetings between June and September. In the statement
Wednesday, the Fed gave two tests for a rate hike. First, further
improvement in the labor market, and second, confidence that inflation
moving back to target.

Economists believe that the strong dollar and lower oil prices could
keep inflation falling through at least the early summer. Assuming they
don`t decline much more from here. The Fed`s own forecast don`t show much
movement upward until 2016.

through a period where you can see what inflation looks like after the
transitory effect on these oil prices.

LIESMAN: The couple of clues to Fed policy could come next week with
a speech by Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, and one by Fed Chair Janet
Yellen on Friday. But on Tuesday, maybe most important, the government
will release the federal consumer price index. Economists look for a 0.2
percent rise that will only partially reverse the 0.7 decline in January.

(on camera): So, year over year and further complicating the outlook
for Fed policy, prices will still be falling in U.S., raising the question,
why exactly are they going to raise rates?



MATHISEN: Still ahead, strong as steel? Not so much lately. Why
some companies in the sector have been getting burned?


MATHISEN: The Federal Trade Commission reportedly made the decision
in 2012 not to sue Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) for alleged antitrust violations.
As reported by “The Wall Street Journal” and based on a confidential
report, Google`s search algorithm would place its own services above those
of its competitors in search for results. FDC experts wanted to sue the
company but instead settled the investigation in 2013 when Google
(NASDAQ:GOOG) agreed to change its business practices.

HERERA: AK Steel is the latest steel company to warn about its profit
outlook. The reason? The imports of the metal are flooding the market,
increasing supply and lowering prices. Shares of AK Steel fell about 3.5

But the company isn`t alone. Morgan Brennan takes a look at why the
sector is coming under pressure.


American steel companies have been on the front line of the so-called
currency wars. Starting with AK Steel. Shares of the Ohio-based steel
manufacturer tumbled today after the company warned of a first quarter loss
as shipments fell 14 percent. Why? A flood of steel imports.

In January, imports were 33 percent higher than a year ago, according
to the American Iron and Steel Institute, and finished steel products from
South Korea, Turkey, Japan, and Brazil grew the most.

Analysts say imports had soared to record levels, adding to a supply
glut in the domestic market.

PHILIP GIBBS, KEYBANC CAPITAL MARKETS: If we look at finished steel
imports as a percentage of supply, last year, that number was about 28
percent. That number in 2013 was about 23 percent, which is normal. We
look at a range of 20 percent to 25 percent as something we typically would
see because we are still short in this country. But I think what`s
alarming year-to-date, that percentage has gone to 30 percent to 35
percent. So, a thousand basis point market share gain.

BRENNAN (on camera): The stronger dollars has made imports look
cheaper, in turn pushing U.S. prices lower with the Midwestern hot coal oil
index shutting 20 percent just since the start of 2015.

And that means AK Steel isn`t alone. Two other U.S. steel makers
Nucor (NYSE:NUE) and Steel Dynamics (NASDAQ:STLD) lowered their earnings
guidance this week as well, blaming imports.

(voice-over): Factor in falling demand for the steel pipes used by
the oil and gas industry and analysts are bracing for another tough year.

GIBBS: Now the fundamentals at this point are still very challenged,
as we discussed, imports peaking, steel price at their lows, to the extent
that energy markets leave stabilize in the 16, I think you could see a
pretty big pickup in growth. But not until 2016, 2017.

BRENNAN: But this issue will remain in the spotlight because many of
these companies are expected to testify about imports next week, at a
congressional hearing in D.C.



MATHISEN: Shares of one home builder hit the roof and that is where
we begin tonight`s “Market Focus”.

KB Home (NYSE:KBH) posted better-than-expected earnings in its first
quarter, as strong demand helped drive revenue by 29 percent on the upside.
The company said the strong performance due to more houses being sold at
higher prices. Now, that is what you call insight. Shares of KB up
sharply about 8 percent. It closed at $15.26.

It always works with home builders. Sell more for a higher price.

Upscale jeweler Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) had a sales drop and earnings that
were relatively in line with estimates. But the king of bling warned a
strong dollar will hurt results for the rest of the year and stronger
dollar cut into purchases by tourists here in the U.S., while at the same
time, weakening the value of the company`s overseas sale. Tiffany
(NYSE:TIF) shares off just 4 percent to $82.93.

HERERA: Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI (NASDAQ:TBUS)) posting that meet
expectations and sales that meet targets, as consumers broke open their
wallets for dinner last quarter. The company which operates restaurant
chains like Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouses also raised its full year
outlook. Shares hit a 52-week high, up about 3 percent to $66.75.

The seemingly never-ending mall saga between Simon Property Group
(NYSE:SPG) and rival Macerich (NYSE:MAC) may be nearing an end. Simon
saying it`s making what it calls its best and final offer for Macerich
(NYSE:MAC), raising its bid to a little more than $23 billion. Earlier
this week, that bid was rejected. Simon`s original offer was $16 billion.
Simon property shares were up nearly 3 percent, to close at $197.34.
Macerich (NYSE:MAC) trades on the Frankfurt Exchange.

And Airgas (NYSE:ARG) cut its current quarter outlook for the second
time. The supplier of industrial gas and welding equipment cited a weak
economy, a sharp drop in oil prices, and strong dollar for its weak
guidance. Shares closed down 5 percent to $107.28.

MATHISEN: A number of cyber security firms are planning to go public
this year, Rapid7, LogRhythm and Mimecast are all set to sell shares to the
public and seek valuations in excess of a billion dollars. The firms are
looking to capitalize on investor interest following a number those high
profile hack attacks.

HERERA: Coming up, what the Canadian medical marijuana industry has
that the U.S. doesn`t and why big money is flowing north of the border?


MATHISEN: Economic calendar packed next week and here`s a look at
what to watch. Housing data on tap starting Monday. Existing home sales
Tuesday. Consumer price index, as Steve Liesman reported, that is a number
Federal Reserve watching closely. And on Friday, the final read on fourth
quarter GDP.

HERERA: The government has unveiled the first set of fracking rules
on federal and Indian lands. The plan includes provisions to protect
ground water, increase transparency on the part of companies to disclose
the chemicals they use and higher standards for storing waste. Fracking is
the process that involves pumping water, sand, and chemicals into well to
extract oil or gas.

MATHISEN: Despite being legal in some states, the medical marijuana
industry in the U.S. faces some big hurdles like access to banks, credit,
financing, not to mention navigating state and federal regulations. But
our neighbor to the north, Canada, has made the sale of medical marijuana
easier and the money is following.

Jane Wells has the story from Nanaimo, British Columbia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one`s ever done this before.

is a 60,000 square foot legal medical marijuana growing facility, the
largest government-licensed grow in the world, a place where workers wear
clean suits, where security is akin to Fort Knox and where there are no
piles of cash around.

done online, over the phone, and we accept credit cards.

WELLS (on camera): Where do you bank?

KENNEDY: We back with RBC, Rural Bank of Canada.

WELLS (voice-over): Oh, cannabis, our northern neighbor legalized
medical marijuana on a national level, licensing private operations like
this one called Tilray, so the country`s 40,000 medical marijuana patients
can order pot online and get it in the mail.

KENNEDY: We like tight, tough regulation and like clarity. There
just isn`t the type of clarity that we see in Canada. There isn`t the type
of clarity like that in the U.S.

WELLS (on camera): But Canada isn`t the only nation giving marijuana
the green light now, at least on a medical level. Other nations
considering it, right inside U.S. borders.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: People are saying that this is going to be bigger
than bingo. Now, I don`t know what that means, exactly.

WELLS (voice-over): At the reservation economic summit in Las Vegas,
native American tribal leaders discuss the possibility of growing pot on
tribal land.

possibly create $3 million a year for our tribe alone as economic

WELLS: The U.S. Justice Department has told tribes it may look the
other way as it has with Washington and Colorado if tribes growing pot
follows certain rules.

CHARLES GALBRAITH: It`s 556 tribes in this country. They have their
own history, their own leadership, and they`re going to make their own

WELLS: In the meantime up north, the green wave rolls across Canada,
Tilray expects $20 million in revenues this year, $50 million next. And
since medical pot is legal on a federal level, it is free to do the sort of
research on the plant unheard of down south.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Jane Wells, Nanaimo, British Columbia.


HERERA: And finally tonight, what would you rather save for, vacation
or retirement? It`s a question many have probably asked themselves and
according to a new survey, by TIAA Crest, savers rather set aside for some
time on the beach. Only 8 percent of savers listed contributing to IRA as
first priority, about the same percentage of people who had no idea what
their top savings goal was.

That`s not very encouraging for long-term retirement savings.

MATHISEN: Retirement will be mine for sure.

HERERA: Mine as well.

MATHISEN: Right now.

HERERA: We`ll see.

That`s NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight. I`m Sue Herera. Have a
great weekend and thanks for watching.

MATHISEN: And for me as well. Thanks. I`m Tyler Mathisen. Have a
great weekend and we will see you back here on Monday.


Nightly Business Report transcripts and video are available on-line post
broadcast at The program is transcribed by CQRC
Transcriptions, LLC. Updates may be posted at a later date. The views of
our guests and commentators are their own and do not necessarily represent
the views of Nightly Business Report, or CNBC, Inc. Information presented
on Nightly Business Report is not and should not be considered as
investment advice. (c) 2015 CNBC, Inc.


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