Transcript: Nightly Business Report – February 23, 2016

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


ALI BIN IBRAHIM AL-NAIMI, SAUDI OIL MINISTER:  There is no sense in wasting our time seeking production cuts.  They will not happen.


SUE HERERA, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR:  And with those words from one of the most powerful players in the oil industry, prices fell, taking stocks down along with them.

TYLER MATHISEN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR:  Back in the game.  First-time home buyers are starting to enter the housing market but some have to jump through hoops to get there.

HERERA:  Revving up.  Are you driving one of the best cars on the market?  The results of the one of the year’s most anticipated studies — tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Tuesday, February 23rd.

MATHISEN:  Good evening, everyone and welcome.

It took just a few words to send oil prices and stocks lower today.  Saudi Arabia’s oil minister shattered all hopes for production cuts that could bolster prices when he said point blank they’re just not going to happen.

Oil prices had risen recently on the prospect of capping production or maybe even cutting it.  But they reverse course today settling down about 4.5 percent.  And the downward pull on oil pushed down stocks.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell to 16,431, the NASDAQ dropped 67, and the S&P 500 was off 24.

Brian Sullivan in Houston at the CERAWeek Conference has more on the comments from the man who runs Saudi Arabia’s oil business.


BRIAN SULLIVAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  The good news, don’t expect gasoline prices to move higher any time soon.  That’s because oil is likely to stay lower for longer.  The Saudi Arabian oil minister, arguably the most important oil executive in the world, told a crowd at a major energy conference today here in Houston that a coordinated production cut was not likely.

ALI AL-NAIMI, SAUDI OIL MINISTER:  Not many countries are going to deliver even if they say they will cut production.  They will not deliver.  So, there’s no sense in wasting our time seeking production cuts.  They will not happen.

SULLIVAN:  That comment made headlines and moved the market as disappointed traders sent oil prices lower.  Over the past few weeks, oil prices had moved up a bit on the talk that perhaps OPEC would make some kind of a coordinated production cut.  But so far, that’s all it’s been, just talk.

And though the Saudis and a few countries did agree to a freeze in production, meaning keep out the bubbles where they are but not add to global production, keep in mind that freeze is pretty much a global record highs for oil output.

The Saudi oil minister also addressed the idea that his country was trying to put the U.S. shale oil boom out of business.

AL-NAIMI:  Let me say for the record again, we have not declared war on shale or on production from any given country or company.

SULLIVAN:  And though a few heads in the audience did nod in agreement with that comment, a few others may likely disagree.  They want the price of oil and oil stocks go down and the threat of more bankruptcies go up.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT in Houston Texas, I’m Brian Sullivan.


HERERA:  The CEO of JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) said losses on loans made to energy companies could cost that bank nearly $3 billion.  Jamie Dimon made the disclosure at its annual investor day and he said that the bank has added 500 million to its reserves against possible loan losses.

That brings the total amount that JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) has set aside to cover potential energy losses to $1.3 billion.  He added that if crude prices stay at $25 a barrel for 18 months, it may add an additional $1.5 billion to its reserve balance.  Shares fell more than 4 percent in trading today.

MATHISEN:  The fall in oil prices was part of the reason for the recent stock market turbulence and that weighed on consumer confidence.  A closely watched index of Americans outlook dropped to a seven-month low in February.  The conference board says that consumers assessment of the labor market and business conditions declined earlier this month.

HERERA:  Consumers, however, are feeling good about their homes, as they continue to spend on home improvement projects.  And that helped Home Depot (NYSE:HD), the world’s largest home improvement retailer report better-than-expected earnings and sales.  Shares rose more than 1 percent, making it one of the only Dow components to see gains today.

Morgan Brennan has more on the company’s strong quarter.


MORGAN BRENNAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  Home Depot (NYSE:HD) wrapping up a big year with a better-than-expected holiday quarter.  The retailer posting a nearly 10 percent rise in sales as Americans continue to buy more products for home improvement projects.  The unseasonably warm weather certainly helped with a record temperatures in many parts of the country heading into Christmas.

The company saying the customers took advantage and completed more outdoor projects with strong sales for pressure washers, mowers, concrete, and decking.  So, analysts note the results were strong overall and would have been even if the weather had not been so mild.

MICHAEL LASSER, UBS SR. BROADLINE & HARDLINE RETAIL ANALYST:  The consumer remains very engaged with the home improvement category due in part to the strength of housing, but also due in part to the strength of the economy, the labor market.  It’s also a reflection of what Home Depot (NYSE:HD) is doing because it clearly gain share during the period.

BRENNAN:  That helped enable the company to raise its dividend by 17 percent and initiate a $5 billion stock buyback program.

Home Depot (NYSE:HD) has been bucking the broader retail trends.  Many retailers have succumb to deep discounting, amid high inventory levels and softer sales, as consumer spend less on items like apparel and electronics.  But a recovering housing market has fueled activity in home improvement, one of the few areas where the windfall of low gas prices has actually translated to more consumer spending.  That’s helped Home Depot (NYSE:HD) as well as competitors like Lowe’s.

LASSER:  Including the big boxes are gaining share at the expense of other players like the special league channel, like the department stores such as Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD).  We think that there’s room for both Home Depot (NYSE:HD) and Lowe’s to really do well within this category.  Their success is not necessarily mutually exclusive.

BRENNAN:  For 2016, Home Depot’s management expects to continue benefitting from U.S. economic growth, albeit more tempered.  Plus, the ongoing housing market recovery.  The retailer forecast home prices will rise 3 1/2 percent this year with strong housing turnover and household for formation driving that growth, promising guidance just before the spring home buying season gets underway.



MATHISEN:  Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL) also rang in a strong quarter.  The largest luxury home builder in the U.S. reported better than expected revenue in the first quarter, as it sold homes at higher rises.

The company also said buyer traffic increased in the first part of February and that it expects higher demand in the key spring selling season.

HERERA:  Home price growth picked up at the end of last year.  The latest data from the S&P Case-Shiller home price index shows prices rose about 5.5 percent in the 12 months ended in December.  The hottest markets were primarily on the West Coast with Portland prices increasing more than 11 percent and San Francisco and Denver gaining more than 10 percent.

MATHISEN:  And sales of existing homes rose to a six-month high in January, lifted in part by a rise in first time home buyers.  After being sidelined for much of the housing recovery so far, millennials are finally starting to enter the market lured by rock bottom mortgage rates, and an improving employment picture.

Diana Olick has more.


DIANA OLICK, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  They’re still unpacking boxes but Alex Hoffspiegel and Melissa Cruz say they are already committed to their new Atlanta home long term.

MELISSA CRUZ, HOMEOWNER:  To me, you know, once we got married I just wanted our own place and something to call our own.  You know, something where we could, you know, grow and have our own family.

OLICK:  They’ve been married barely six months but the two attorneys began looking for a home a year ago, knowing that finding the right home and qualifying for a mortgage would both be tough.

ALEX HOFFSPIEGEL, HOMEOWNER:  I think we knew that it would be a little bit difficult.  I had no idea how intense the underwriting process is and how much they really dig into everything in your life.

OLICK:  Obtaining a mortgage is the number one financial priority for millennials, according to a new report (VIDEO GAP).

They may be getting married and starting families later than previous generations, but the majority still want to be homeowners and that means qualifying for a mortgage.

DAMIAN COOK, ASSURANCE FINANCIAL:  Everyone is faced with the same hurdles, especially to the millennials.  A lot of it is establishing credit.

OLICK:  Damian Cook helped Alex and Melissa to qualify for their 30-year fix, even though the couple was putting down 20 percent on the home, Melissa had student loans.  In the end, they had to take her off the mortgage.

COOK:  So, she still has ownership possession in the house.  He’s not obligated on the note of mortgage.

OLICK:  Student loan debt, weak income growth and geographic flexibility, are contributed to the low homeowner rate among millennials.  But as this cohort finally edges in to the housing market, they are finding that mortgages are available.  Its affordability and lack for sale that are both standing in their way.

HOFFSPIEGEL:  We saw this house at 8:00 that night.  There were already two offers in that day.  So, we knew that we had to act quickly

OLICK:  They got the right house in the right location with the right schools but —

HOFFSPIEGEL:  We’re the youngest people in the neighborhood.

OLICK:  Hopefully not for long.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Diana Olick in Washington.


HERERA:  Ralph McLaughlin joins us now to talk more about the housing market.  He is the chief economist at Trulia.

Good to see you again.  Welcome back.

RALPH MCLAUGHLIN, TRULIA CHIEF ECONOMIST:  Thank you, Sue.  Good to see you, too.

HERERA:  Tell me where you think housing is right now.  I mean, we pointed out the Case-Shiller index which points to some very significant percentage increase in terms of price, mostly on the West Coast.  But that doesn’t seem to be a representative picture of where housing is now.

MCLAUGHLIN:  Yes, we think the housing market is solid at Trulia.  However, the flurry of today’s report suggest while the housing market is solid in most dimensions, there are signs that consumers may be a little apprehensive about buying a home.  So, existing home sales are up, but they’re up about 11 percent, which is great news for the real estate industry, particularly real estate agents who are making deals and also lenders who are originating mortgages.

Prices are also up.  Case-Shiller is up by about 5 1/2 percent.  Good news, mostly good news for sellers, which means they will be getting higher asking price for their home.  Not so great for buyers.

The little bit of pessimistic news out of today’s report is from the consumer confidence index.  Part of that index asks whether or not Americans are going to buy a home in the next six months.  We saw a sharp drop in that number from 7.5 percent down to about 3.5 percent.

We think that’s a reflection of two things.  One, jitters over the global economic outlook as well as decline in the U.S. stock market.

And second, short inventory, a low inventory for that matter.  It’s tough to be optimistic about buying a home if there aren’t a lot of homes out there to buy.

MATHISEN:  Which leads me immediately to my question.  I have sort of two questions.  Why is inventory so persistently low in so many markets?

MCLAUGHLIN:  So, we think it’s two reasons.  First, entry level homes, a larger share of homes are underwater still, even though we are far removed from the recession.  In some markets, it’s between 15 and 20 percent.  So, those existing owners are likely to put their home on the market if they’re going to take a loss.

The second is we think there may be a bit of spreading going on of house prices, which basically means that existing homeowner may want to put their home on the market, but trade up homes they might eventually buy are more expensive or possibly out of their price range.  We think those are two primary reasons why inventory is low.

HERERA:  Very quickly, Ralph, is it a good sign that millennials might be starting to get into the market?

MCLAUGHLIN:  Absolutely, it’s a good sign.  They represent the largest share of potential home buyers in the country.

Half of new loan originations are for new home buyers.  Great news, although that hasn’t changed much over the past year.


MCLAUGHLIN:  The mortgage risk index is up a little bit, which means that homebuyers are likely putting less than for a home primarily because prices have gone up.

HERERA:  On that note, Ralph, thank you so much.  Ralph McLaughlin with Trulia.

MATHISEN:  An update on a story we reported yesterday.  United Technology said a merger with Honeywell is not going to happen.

David Faber first reported that the two companies have held merger talks.  Today, Faber spoke to the CEO of United Tech.  He confirmed an offer was made by Honeywell but also explained why a deal won’t get done.


GREGORY HAYES, UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CEO:  What they bottom line said is it will be irresponsible for us to pursue the merger because of the potential destruction in value, the distraction from what we’re trying to do on a long term basis at UTC.

Keep in mind, David, we’re just in the process of invigorating UTC.  We’ve got this brand new gear turbofan engine.  We’ve got 7,000 orders.  We’re in the middle of a big ramp up in production.

We’re going to be building a thousand of these engines in a couple of years, and the thought of trying to distract everybody with a merger just doesn’t make sense, especially a merger that’s very unlikely to occur.


MATHISEN:  The CEO went on to explain that the merger is unlikely to occur because of antitrust scrutiny.  But late today, Honeywell issued a statement saying we don’t see the regulatory process as a material obstacle to a transaction.  So, stay tuned.

HERERA:  Coming up, in the lead, the two car brands that are way ahead of the competition.


HERERA:  Demonstrations in support of apple in its battle with the FBI are scheduled to take place across the country this evening.  Earlier today, one of the most influential figures in technology, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) cofounder Bill Gates took a different view of that issue that many of his Silicon Valley counterparts who have voiced their full support for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

Eamon Javers has the details.


EAMON JAVERS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  The cyber privacy debate ricocheted around the world Tuesday, roping in the richest man in the world, the former head of NSA and even an infamous whistleblower.  But not all of them said what you’d expect.

Start with the former head of the NSA who said on CNBC that he’s had a surprising change of heart on the balance between cyber privacy and cyber security.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER NSA DIRECTOR:  The world is changing.  And what we’re — look, NSA has always had an offensive and defensive mission.  We’ve always been challenged with balancing.  My argument is the American political process needs to make a smart decision.  The smart decision is not compelling these companies to have universal backdoor.

JAVERS:  Billionaire Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) cofounder Bill Gates also weighed into the debate over whether Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) should be forced to create new software to allow the FBI access to the iPhone of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook.  In a series of print and television interviews, Gates appeared to part ways with some of the other tech CEOs who have strongly backed Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).  “With the right safeguards in place,” Gates said, “the government shouldn’t have to be completely blind to terrorist threats.”

BILL GATES, MICROSOFT FOUNDER:  The courts are going to rule and it will be good to have that precedent.  I do think the people want the government to act on their behalf if they feel like the safeguards are there.

JAVERS:  That didn’t impress NSA leaker Edward Snowden, now hiding from U.S. law enforcement in Russia who tweeted sarcastically, “breaking, rich man favors central authority.”  And then later, “Would those supportive of compelling Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to harm their product similarly support compelling doctors to harm a patient?”

Now, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has until Friday to respond to the judge’s order.  Ands the company is expected to fight back a battle that could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Eamon Javers in Washington.


MATHISEN:  Now to the race for second place.  Donald Trump widely expected to win the Nevada Republican caucuses today.  A question many are focused on is who will be the runner up?

John Harwood is following the story from Washington.

John, if the polls are right and Trump wins the caucus tonight, how significant will that be?

JOHN HARWOOD, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  It will be a significant win for Donald Trump.  He will have won three of the first four states.  Losing narrowly in Iowa and you go to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Of course, all of that just sets up Super Tuesday, on March 1st across 11 states.  But Donald Trump is in a pretty powerful position so far.  Somebody’s got to knock him off.

HERERA:  What about the second place race?  That seems to be taking on increasing importance.

HARWOOD:  I’m not sure about that, Sue.  You know, there was a time early in the race when you shape and winnow the field of candidates, and certainly, we’ve seen some candidates dropped out.

But this is a point in the race where people need to stop — if they intend to defeat Donald Trump need to stop running for second place and run for first.  You can’t go — finish in second place and go second all the way to the nomination.  That’s going to lead the first place guy ahead of you and Donald Trump is building a lead in delegates.

If he sustains that lead on March 1st in the Super Tuesday states, then when we go to March 15th, when the contest turns to winner-take-all, that means if you finish in first place, you get all the delegates.  That is where Donald Trump, if he’s not stopped by then, will begin racking up an insurmountable delegate lead.

MATHISEN:  Let’s talk about Super Tuesday.  It’s largely state in the south, not exclusively, but the big one is Texas.  Does Mr. Cruz have to win Texas to be viable?

HARWOOD:  Yes he does.  Just as John Kasich would on March 15th have to win Ohio and Marco Rubio on March 15th would have to win Florida.  Ted Cruz has got to win his home state to be the viable alternative to Donald Trump.  And that’s a big challenge.

You know, Donald Trump has so much national reach.  He leads by a lot in Florida over Rubio, leads by a little over Kasich in Ohio.  We haven’t had a lot of good polling out of Texas but Ted Cruz had got to make progress in headquarter a hurry.

MATHISEN:  All right.  John Harwood, thanks very much.  Exciting times on the political beat.  We appreciate it.

HERERA:  Cold weather helps Macy’s (NYSE:M) fourth quarter results, and that is where we begin tonight’s “Market Focus”.

A chilly January grows strong demand for boots and jackets, which helped to lift sales and overshadow an otherwise weak holiday season for the company.  Overall, profit and revenue fell for the year.  Something Macy’s (NYSE:M) CEO Terry Lundgren called disappointing.  He also said the company is exploring options for its real estate portfolio.


TERRY LUNDGREN, MACY CEO:  There is indeed value here.  And where I had stores in the past that I wasn’t sure who might want them, I’m just learning turn that over to experts and they will figure that out, people who do this for a living.  I’m actually quite excited about the possibilities that we have to use our real estate to capture the value, but at the same time we’re going to stay investment grade.  So, we’re not going to do anything crazy or short term here.


HERERA:  Shares gained 3 percent to $42.31.

Viacom (NYSE:VIA) said it has been approached by several investors interested in buying a minority stake in paramount pictures.

Viacom (NYSE:VIA) CEO Philippe Dauman said tht the company would keep control of Paramount after any deal was done.  Shares were up fractionally to $37.01.

Computer storage company Western Digital (NYSE:WDC) said it has lost a nearly $4 billion investment from a Chinese company amid security concerns raised by the U.S. government.  As a result, Western Digital (NYSE:WDC) said it would need to cut its initial offer price for its rival SanDisk (NASDAQ:SNDK).  Shares of Western Digital (NYSE:WDC) fell more than 7 percent to $42.77.

MATHISEN:  Shares of PTC Therapeutics received a refuse to file letter from the Food and Drug Administration, and that’s for the pharmaceutical company’s new drug intended to treat muscular dystrophy.  In the letter, the FDA said the application for the drug was not sufficiently complete to permit a substantive review.  Shares lost more than 61 percent.  They fell to $10.84.

The magazine publisher Time Incorporated reported exploring a deal to purchase a core business of tech giant Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO).  The news comes after Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) announced last week it was putting its core Internet businesses up for sale.  Shares of Time down 3 percent to $13.91.  Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) lost more than 1.5 percent to $30.67.

HERERA:  Consumer Reports annual ranking of the best and worst auto brands shows the hottest models may not be so hot, at least in the eyes of those who have tested dozens of cars, trucks and SUVs.

And as Phil LeBeau reports, there are two auto brands that stood out as being way ahead of the competition.


PHIL LEBEAU, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  With Americans buying a record number of new cars, trucks and SUVs, consumer reports says testing of those new models shows a clear split between the best and worst brands.

Top picks this year include Audi, Subaru, Lexus, Porsche, and BMW, with Consumer Reports recommending 100 percent of the Audi and Subaru models it tested.

Subaru, the only auto brand to grow U.S. sales every year for the last decade is praised for being consistently reliable.

JAKE FISHER, CONSUMER REPORTS:  When you drive a Subaru, they actually drive extremely well.  They ride well.  They handle well.  They’re reliable.  And they do have a lot of features including a lot of advanced safety features that really normally you only see in much higher priced cars.

LEBEAU:  One reason some get high marks is whether or not they have collision avoidance systems which Consumer Reports recommend.  The lowest rated autos are Fiat, Jeep and Mitsubishi.

Jeep’s poor showing may surprise some, given the brand’s red hot sales in recent years.  But Consumer Reports is blunt in talking about Jeep.

FISHER:  The reliability isn’t very good.  There are better vehicles out there.  You know, certainly, there’s the image, the styling.  I admit the styling is very good.  But, you know, if you’re looking for something deeper than that, unfortunately, it’s not there.

LEBEAU:  Fiat Chrysler, the parent of Jeep, says it respects Consumer Reports opinion but says it is working on improving its model and that Fiat Chrysler’s own internal reviews show that their models are getting better.



MATHISEN:  Coming up, premium pricing.  Why similar products for men and women can have very different price tags.


HERERA:  Same product, different price.  According to a recent study, women may more, a lot more over the course of a lifetime than men will for similar items.

Dina Gusovsky takes a closer look at the so-called pink tax.


DINA GUSOVSKY, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  Most women love to shop, but did you know that female shoppers get charged more at the register than men?  New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs recently did a study that revealed across all the industries that were surveyed, women paid more, 42 percent of the time for identical or similar products for those marketed to men.

JULIE MENIN, FMR. NYC DCA COMMISSIONER:  We looked at products that women would buy from the youngest age, all the way up to seniors.  What this can mean for women over the course of an average lifetime is literally thousands of dollars that women are paying for these products more than men.

GUSOVSKY:  We decided to see for ourselves.

Going to pharmacies and searching the Internet.  Yes, men’s products seem to cost less.

Hmm, same product.  Same weight, same size.  Hmm, price.

This study showed that for general toys, women paid 11 percent more.

Check out these boys versus girls shark helmets.  They look almost the same.  Except the one for girls cost $27.99 versus $14.99 for boys.  These t-shirts look almost identical except in price.  Girls pay a dollar more.

Shampoo and conditioner, a whooping 48 percent more.

Well, at least these bladder guards are priced the same.  But wait, there’s a catch.  Look closely and you’ll see the men comes with 53 pads but the women with only 39.

MENIN:  These are issues of national concern.  These are not concerns that are indigenous to only New York City, because many of the products we sampled were national chains.  We know this problem and pattern is existing in cities across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It cost for more a woman?

GUSOVSKY:  Uh-huh.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That’s terrible, especially when women don’t make as much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Argue as the register.

GUSOVSKY:  You’re going to argue at the register.  What are you going to say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don’t charge me more just because I’m a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As a woman we’re used to that stuff.  Like honestly at this point, like, what can you do already?

MIKE JACKSON, EVENT SOLUTIONS INTERNATIONAL:  In some cases, this could be even a positive for the brand to really come out and take a step forward and say that we recognize that there’s an issue.  It’s kind of an issue that frankly, has not been significant in the past.  We’ve taken a leadership role to ensure that we respect our customers.  It really comes down to respecting your customers.

MENIN:  We sent letters to the CEOs of every manufacturing retailer of the 800 products that we sampled to urge them to change this practice.

GUSOVSKY:  Did they respond?

MENIN:  No, they have not.

GUSOVSKY:  Not even one CEO, no one?

MENIN:  They did not (VIDEO GAP)



HERERA:  It’s all your fault.

MATHISEN:  It’s amazing.

HERERA:  That’s NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight.  I’m Sue Herera.  Thanks for watching.

MATHISEN:  I’m Tyler Mathisen.  We’ll settle this later.  Have great evening, everybody.  We’ll see you tomorrow.


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