Nightly Business Report – February 21, 2019

ANNOUNCER:  This is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT with Bill Griffeth and Sue

numbers send stocks lower.  Is this just the tip of the iceberg, though?  

Green shoots.  Home sales have been tepid but could mortgage rates at their
lowest levels in the year provide a needed lift for the spring selling

And shoe snag.  It was the split that blew up Twitter.  So how does Nike
(NYSE:NKE) rebound from its primetime blow out?

All that and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for this Thursday,
February 21st.

And we do bid you a good evening, everybody, and welcome.  Sue has the
night off.  

It`s been a concern hanging over the markets for a while now: a global
economic slowdown.  And today, several data points added to investors`
jitters.  Reports from Europe and Japan show that manufacturing activity
contracted there this month.  Here in the U.S., mid-Atlantic factory
activity contracted, and business spending on durable goods was soft.  
Things were tempered a bit on word that trade negotiators were working on a
framework to ease U.S./China trade tensions.

But overall, stocks did end lower today.  The Dow industrials were down
almost 200 points for a time, finished down 103.  The Nasdaq snapped its
eight-day win streak falling by 29, and the S&P gave back just about 10

Steve Liesman gets us started tonight.  


round of soft economic data.  Durable goods orders came in delayed from
December by the government shutdown but below expectations, up 1.2 percent,
propelled mostly by aircraft orders.  The business spending category fell
for the fourth in the past five months.  

And a key Fed barometer, the Philly Fed manufacturing index for February
went negative for the first time since 2016.  But St. Louis Fed President
James Bullard in an exclusive CNBC interview said the data is in line with
expected economic slowing, not worse than anticipated.  

JAMES BULLARD, ST. LOUIS FED PRESIDNET:  We`re expecting growth to slow
down in 2019 relative to 2018.  We`re going to get 3 percent plus growth
for 2018.  2019 probably isn`t going to hit that; 2.25 I think is a good
number.  That`s not a terrible outcome.  It just means that the economy is
returning to trend growth.

LIESMAN:  Bullard was an early advocate of the Fed ceasing its rate hikes,
a policy the rest of the committee has now come around to belatedly.

BULLARD:  I`m hopeful that this will set up the economy for a good — a
good continued expansion.  This expansion is going to be the longest in the
post-war era as of June 2019.  

LIESMAN:  Bullard sees a higher chance of a recession but it`s not his base
case.  He thinks the U.S. can avoid a recession despite global economic
weakness.  In the meantime as that slowdown takes hold, there could be more
days of bad data to come.  

A key to all of this could be Federal Reserve policy.  The minutes of the
Fed meeting told investors Wednesday that not only is the Fed on policy
with rate hikes it`s likely toned its controversial balance sheet reduction
this year.  



GRIFFETH:  So what does today`s weak data say about the economy?  

Joining us right now is Lindsey Piegza.  She`s chief economist at Stifel.  

Lindsey, always good to see you.  Thanks for joining us.  


GRIFFETH:  Are you expecting a continued slowdown in the economy?  

PIEGZA:  We are.  And I think the latest round of soft data really
reinforces the notion of that expectation of softer trend of growth in the
domestic economy.  Now, early on the weakness was just sort of bubbling
underneath the surface, but now we`re starting to see a clear trend emerge,
as we saw not only in home sales but in corporate investment.  The consumer
is starting to lose a little momentum, so it`s widespread and it`s becoming
more and more evident that the U.S. economy is on track for a slower pace
of growth current year and the risk of recession now rapidly rising as we
look out to 2020 and beyond.  

GRIFFETH:  Now, is this just the result of the business cycle?  Inevitably
we see a slowdown, or are we to blame this on the slowdown we`re already
seeing overseas?  

PIEGZA:  Well, I think from a timing standpoint, you can make the argument
that we were, quote, due for a slowdown but I think it`s more a reflection
of fundamental weakness that we see on the part of the consumer, on the
part of businesses, and, of course, that global weakness now filtering into
the U.S. economy.  Of course, we are focused on what`s happening at home,
but we`re a global economy and we certainly can`t ignore that weakness that
we`re seeing abroad at this point.  

GRIFFETH:  Now, if we get at some point a trade agreement and tariffs don`t
go up any higher, maybe even come back down again, what would that do to
the economy, do you think?  

PIEGZA:  Well, I think it will provide a short-term boost of optimism.  
Right now, there`s a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace regarding will
we, won`t we see a U.S./China trade deal knocked out from this latest round
of talks.  And that could help to maybe push out the risk of recession.  

But I don`t think it`s enough to stave off the recession that we do see
coming around the corner eventually.  

GRIFFETH:  After the minutes of the latest Fed meeting came out yesterday,
there were actually some on Wall Street who were saying that maybe we would
see another rate increase, maybe even two more before the end of this year.  

What do you think?  You don`t sound like you would agree with that.  

PIEGZA:  Well, I don`t think the fed should raise rates.  But what they
will do is another question.  And what we saw in the minutes is that the
debate is very much ongoing between the doves and the hawks.  

Now, the market saw the Fed statement in January as the Fed essentially
throwing in the towel for any additional rate increases.  What we see from
the minutes is there`s still a faction at the Fed that is arguing in need
of further rate increases because right now, the committee continues to
point to weakness overseas as opposed to domestic weakness.  

We`re still at 2-ish percent growth, 2-ish percent of inflation, the very
conditions that warranted several increases over the past couple of years.  

GRIFFETH:  All right.  Lindsey Piegza with Stifel, again, thanks for
joining us.  And aloha.  

PIEGZA:  Thank you.  

GRIFFETH:  See you later.  

Another piece of soft data came from the housing sector today.  Sales of
existing homes fell to their lowest level in three years last month, down
1.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of just below 5 million units
when Wall Street was looking for 5 million units.  

And that sales decline occurred just as mortgage rates were hitting their
lowest level in over a year.  So what does it mean for the upcoming spring
selling season?  

Joining us right now from California is Fred Glick, CEO of the real estate
and mortgage brokerage company  

Fred, always good to see you.  Thanks for joining us.  

FRED GLICK, ARRIVVA.COM CEO:  Same here, Bill.  Nice to see you too.  

GRIFFETH:  First of all, the sales declined.  Do we put that — blame the
weather for that or what do you see there?  

GLICK:  Sure.  Blame weather, Christmas, New Year`s, general malaise.  You
know, it was just — it was just like the seven-year itch that the real
estate world had, it had been going up and up and up.  And about September
and October, it actually started to slow, but it just got ugly during the
hard winter.  

And now, we`re seeing a little bit coming out of it.  The weather is
getting a little better in certain places.  Still ugly in some.  But we`re
starting to see the rates are coming down.  We`re starting to see people
starting to get back in the market a little bit.  

GRIFFETH:  But, and you do see — you`re expecting a pickup in the spring
but you`re not expecting a great spring selling season, just kind of a
normal one, yes?  

GLICK:  Yes.  We`re back to what I call normal.  It`s kind of a balance
between buyers and sellers.  Prices are going to be reasonable, I would
think.  There`s always a couple of markets that are going to be a little
better than others and some are going to be worse, but it all comes down to
economics and how people feel and a need to move and a need to buy.  

So, it`s a combination of a zillion things and it really depends on your
individual market.  

GRIFFETH:  Where do you see the best opportunities for a decent spring
selling season?  Which cities do you think?  

GLICK:  Well, I`m currently seeing the San Francisco Bay Area getting back
to like they started the car and now they`re in first gear.  And Los
Angeles has kind of been the same way too.  There are some markets around
the country who I think might get a little bit of a surprise, like in the
Carolinas where the weather has been terrible.  But there`s always going to
be people coming to them.  The triangle around Raleigh, South Carolina, you
still have people who retire there, so those kind of markets.  

But it`s all about, again, where are the jobs going to be.  As long as
you`ve got the jobs, that`s where you`re going to have the markets.  If
your company just shut down, I forget where it was, the Honda plant that
just shut down, that`s going to be a problem.  


GLICK:  So you`ve got to feel out each individual market and even within a
market there`s only certain places that are active and certain places that

GRIFFETH:  Finally, home builders in some areas have been reticent to
increase their production because they`re not sure about demand, but there
are some areas where home builders have been building.  You think maybe
they overbuilt in some areas, right?  Like Detroit or something?  

GLICK:  Yes.  Like the Upper Midwest has some issues with overbuild.  We
also have it even out in Sacramento here.  And the thing is, you might get
three or four different companies that are building, but they don`t talk to
each other.  They all get the same economic data and say, hey, we better
build.  But if they all come on at the same time, then they`re all going to
be staring at each other and twiddling their thumbs because there`s not
enough buyers.  

So, cities need to prepare that way in the future.  

GRIFFETH:  All right.

GLICK:  But now, you know, the rental market is still strong so they`re
probably going to survive that way being able to renting it out themselves
or possibly selling it to investors in bulk.  That`s the worst case.  

GRIFFETH:  Yes, spring can`t come soon enough, that`s for sure.  

GLICK:  Yes, I`ll bet for your golf game that`s for sure.  

GRIFFETH:  Fred, thanks.  Fred Glick with  

GLICK:  Thank you, Bill.  

GRIFFETH:  Now to trade where negotiators from the U.S. and China do
continue to meet in Washington and there have been some conflicting reports
about their progress.  

Kayla Tausche has more from our nation`s capital.  


in two months, cabinet level officials from the U.S. and China met formally
to keep working to ending the year-long trade spat.  The U.S. side led by
Ambassador Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the
Chinese, the visiting them, led by vice premier and special envoy Liu He.  

With one week before the trade truce expires, the two sides are drafting
agreements to correct six structural issues, including currency, forced
technology transfer and cyber theft, intellectual property rights and
agriculture.  Solving these issues would require China to make permanent
changes to its economy it`s been unwilling to make before.  Observers
aren`t optimistic.  

get a lot of Chinese promises, but life is about implementation,
implementation and you`re unlikely to see a lot of that.

TAUSCHE:  President Trump wants manufacturing to move from China back to
the U.S. but apparel makers say there aren`t many other low cost options.  

have a whole lot of choices when we vacate China, which means that prices
will go up and you will be seeing that in March, whether there`s an
agreement or there`s no agreement.  

TAUSCHE:  Trade attorneys say a decision to delay otherwise automatic
tariff hikes must be put in place by Tuesday in order to be effective March
1st.  This set of negotiations is expected to go into this evening and
resume on Friday.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Kayla Tausche in Washington.


GRIFFETH:  And as those trade talks continue, China deals with the fallout
from a slowdown in its own exports.  Some Chinese retailers had been laying
off workers and moving operations out of the country even before the
tariffs began — became an issue because they were already dealing with
rising costs.  And now, the ongoing trade dispute threatens to make things
even worse.  

Eunice Yoon takes us to Zhongshan, China, tonight.  


used to turn out shoes for shoppers in the U.S.  Today, it`s idle.  

Back in December, the factory shut its doors for the last time, laying off
more than 1,000 workers.  

Chu Shaohua was one of them.  

They put up a notice to announce the shutdown and told everyone to pick up
their salary and compensation, he says.  Then we had to leave.  

He and his fellow ex-workers were told their jobs had moved to Cambodia,
part of a broader trend of manufacturers shifting to cheaper countries to
battle rising costs in China.

One person`s salary here is equal to six workers there, he says.  The trade
war certainly had something to do with it too.  

After 20 years of experience, Chu earned $725 a month.  With China`s
economy slowing and exports to the U.S. under strain, workers told us good
jobs like that are harder to find.  

Factories here in the industrial south are offering fewer benefits than
last year, and often only part-time contracts.  And with China pushing to
upgrade its manufacturing sector, Chu says he lacks the skills recruiters
today are looking for.  

This is a typical job fair for migrant workers in China.  In the past,
advertisements were for construction work or selling garments.  Now, it`s
I.T., engineering and electronics.  

There are so many unknowns, he says.  I`ll have to wait and see if there
are better opportunities in other places.  And until uncertainty lifts over
the jobs market.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Eunice Yoon in Zhongshan.  


GRIFFETH:  Coming up, how YouTube`s latest fumble could be an opening for
the competition.  


GRIFFETH:  AT&T (NYSE:T) today became the latest company to pull its ads
from YouTube after the discovery of inappropriate content on the social
media platform.  The telecom giant joins Nestle and Disney (NYSE:DIS), who
removed their ads yesterday.  

Julia Boorstin takes a look at the fallout.


biggest video site in the world and the largest when it comes to digital
video advertising, but now it`s facing criticism and concern.  Nestle, AT&T
(NYSE:T), Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, and reportedly Disney
(NYSE:DIS) are pausing spending on YouTube in the wake of revelations that
their ads ran alongside pedophiles` comments on videos of children.  

BRENT HILL, JEFFRIES:  These brands need to make a statement to say that
they`re off to let parents know that they — they don`t subscribe to this
bad behavior.  

BOORSTIN:  Hill says that Disney (NYSE:DIS) may even use this as a pivot
point to pull viewers over to its own streaming subscription service set to
launch this fall.  

YouTube saying, quote, any content including comments that endangers minors
is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube.  We
took immediate action by deleting accounts and channels, reporting illegal
activity to authorities and disabling violative comments.  There`s more to
be done and we continue to work to improve and catch abuse more quickly.  

This is not the first time YouTube has felt pressure from advertisers over
its challenges blocking inappropriate content.  Two years ago major
advertisers, including Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), Walmart and PepsiCo paused
spending after their ads ran alongside inappropriate content.  

And this scandal comes on the heels of criticism that YouTube has unleashed
a conspiracy theory boom, and we`re just starting to see YouTube`s parent,
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), see real threats to its dominance of ad market share,
while Amazon`s revenue grew by 50 percent last year according to E-
Marketer, Google`s dropped by one percentage point to 37 percent.  

But Hill says these challenges are more of a speed bump than a true
roadblock for YouTube.  

HILL:  Everyone is trying to tackle the giant YouTube with their own
platforms.  So yes, there`s more choices for advertisers, but ultimately
the advertisers will go where the eyeballs are.  The eyeballs are still at
these big platforms.  

BOORSTIN:  And one reason why Viacom (NYSE:VIA) just bought Pluto TV, an
ad-supported digital video service.  We`ll see if YouTube can take steps to
keep big brands from ditching its user-generated content.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Julia Boorstin in Los Angeles.  


GRIFFETH:  Investors take a slice out of Domino`s, and that`s where we
begin tonight`s market focus with the pizza chain missing both earnings and
revenue estimates.  And its same-store sales in the U.S. also came in shy
of expectations.  Nonetheless, Domino`s CEO says overall, he`s happy with
the results.  


RICHARD ALLISON, DOMINO`S PIZZA CEO:  We`re actually quite pleased with the
result, particularly when you take a look at our business in the U.S.  
We`ve continued to deliver double-digit retail sales growth in the U.S., 31
consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales and 5.6 for the quarter
we were very happy with.  Disappointed in the international comp.  


GRIFFETH:  Separately, Domino`s increased its dividend by 18 percent to 65
cents, but it wasn`t enough to please investors.  Shares fell by 9 percent
to $253.01 today.  

Elsewhere, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) are partnering
on a new credit card tied to the iPhone.  “The Wall Street Journal” says
the card, which will use MasterCard`s network, will be paired with a new
iPhone features designed to help manage their money.  The official launch
expected later this year.  Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares fell slightly to
$171.06.  Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) fell more than 1 percent to $196.36

Zillow`s co-founder Spencer Rascoff is out as the company CEO and is being
replaced by another co-founder and former CEO, Rich Barton.  Rascoff has
been CEO of the online real estate company for nearly a decade and will
remain on the board.  The company also beat on revenue estimates after the
bell.  Zillow shares are down more than 25 percent in just the past year,
and they were volatile following the news, but closed the regular session
up a fraction to $35.04.  

Also after the bell tonight, Kraft (NYSE:KFT) Heinz missed earnings and
revenue estimates.  The company said that cost inflation was lower and
savings hurt profits.  The company also revealed it got a subpoena from the
SEC over accounting policies and procedures.  The company also slashed its
dividend.  Shares initially fell more than 10 percent following that news
after falling a fraction during the regular session to $48.18.  

And Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) has raised its quarterly dividend now for the 57th
consecutive year, hiking it a penny to 40 cents per share.  The dividend is
payable on April 1st to those who own the shares on March 15th.  Coke also
is planning to buy back 150 million of its own shares.  And those shares
rose more than 1.5 percent today to $45.86.  

And Foot Locker is also hiking its quarterly payout by 10 percent.  It`s
planning to buy back more than $1 billion of its own stock.  The athletic
apparel company also announced an increase in capital spending this year,
in part to expand its business in Asia.  Shares were down a fraction to

Nike (NYSE:NKE) shares took a hit today after one of its sneakers failed on
primetime television.  Duke basketball star Zion Williamson`s Nike
(NYSE:NKE) shoe ripped in less than half a minute into the game Wednesday
night against North Carolina.  Williamson suffered a knee injury, which
kept him off the court for the rest of the game.  Nike (NYSE:NKE) shares
were down 1 percent today to $83.95.

Joining us right now to talk about what Nike (NYSE:NKE) is going to have to
do to deal with a very high-profile issue, Dean Crutchfield, the CEO of
brand advisory firm Crutchfield and Partners.  

Dean, good to see you again.  Thanks for joining us tonight.  


GRIFFETH:  The most anticipated game of the season, the number one player
on the number one team, and this happens.  Does it get any worse PR-wise
for Nike (NYSE:NKE)?  

CRUTCHFIELD:  No, you don`t get really much worse than this when you become
a major brand with a major game and have a major catastrophe like this.  I
mean, what surprised me is how badly Nike (NYSE:NKE) has responded to this
situation.  Usually companies when they`re on top of their game and the
crisis hits, they have leadership in place.  They respond boldly in terms
of the public`s concerns and they are transparent about what they`re going
to do.  

When companies are not on top of their game, they typically defend or they
deny — they deny, they defend and they deflect.  And sadly, I`m really
surprised to see that`s what Nike (NYSE:NKE) is doing right now.  

GRIFFETH:  They did issue a statement.  They showed concern for Zion
Williamson.  Thankfully we are told his knee is stable and it was a minor
sprain, although he is going miss some time.  And then they said they are
going to investigate what happened.  

What more would you want to see CEO Mark Parker do?  

CRUTCHFIELD:  Well, I`d like to see, you know, a proper accountability
here.  I mean the two big questions is, is there a design flaw and what
does that say about quality control, two really important factors for Nike
(NYSE:NKE) and its reputation.  

So, to me, it is about responding boldly, about hiding nothing and telling
all.  I mean, what I`ve been reading is they are talking about how
wonderful they are as a company and how wonderful their products are and
how they look after consumers.  I haven`t seen anything to allay concerns
in terms of what`s your action plan going forward.  

Can you imagine if this happened to a soda brand or car brand?  You would
recall the product.  

GRIFFETH:  Well, we were talking earlier today about some past PR problems.  
When you say Tylenol scare, everybody knows what we`re talking about.  You
say Exxon Valdez, you know what we`re talking about.  You say Chipotle, and
you unfortunately remember what happened to them the last few years.  

Do you think Nike (NYSE:NKE) is destined to have that kind of a reaction in
the future?  

CRUTCHFIELD:  I think that my best question to you, Bill, is to ask you
what did you eat last Wednesday?  And I think most people will turn around
and say I can`t remember.  


CRUTCHFIELD:  And often that`s the case with crisis.  So no, I think this
will go away given the news cycle, people will forget about it, but it`s
something that will always stick with them because this is quite a famous
situation and it`s getting a lot of play.  

GRIFFETH:  That is for sure.  Dean Crutchfield with Crutchfield and
Partners, always good to see you.  Thanks for joining us tonight.  

CRUTCHFIELD:  Thank you.  Thank you.  

GRIFFETH:  And up next, the benchmark report for best and worst in the auto
industry.  Where does your car fall on the list?  


GRIFFETH:  Finally tonight, Consumer Reports is out with its annual report
on the best and worst in the auto industry.  It`s based in part on reviews
of thousands of vehicle owners.  This is one of the real benchmark reports
in the industry.  

And this year, there`s a new number one and a notable decline for one

Phil LeBeau has our story.  


on the mind of every car buyer.  Will I be happy with this model?  

Consumer Reports auto team, which tests scores of new vehicles and compiles
reviews from thousands of owners to rank the best and worst every year says
Subaru is now the best brand in the industry, jumping ahead of last year`s
number one, Genesis and Porsche.  Subaru may not have the sexiest models,
but their quality is consistently high.  

JAKE FISHER, CONSUMER REPORTS:  With Subaru, they really do almost
everything really well.  Make an enjoyable car to drive and really reliable

LEBEAU:  Reliability complaints is one reason why Consumer Reports is no
longer recommending the Tesla Model 3.  Over the last year, Tesla has
pushed hard to expand Model 3 production, even adding an assembly line
under a permanent tent outside its factory in California.  

Elon Musk called it production hell.  Now, some Model 3 owners say their
cars have problems.  

FISHER:  A lot of the issues are electronics.  So, there`s some issues in
terms of replacing the screens, for instance.  But we see other issues in
terms of the trim breaking.  With the Tesla model 3, we`ve heard some
issues with the glass actually.  

LEBEAU:  Tesla says the vast majority of these issues have already been
corrected through design and manufacturing improvements.  And we are
already seeing a significant improvement in our field data.  

Consumer Reports says despite quality complaints, Model 3 owners are the
most satisfied with their car.  That`s not surprising.  Jeep sales are
soaring, even though it`s once again rated among the worst brands by
Consumer Reports.  

This year the three lowest rated brands are Fiat, right behind Jaguar and
Land Rover.  

Fiat`s management says this report is skewed because it has a limited
number of models and sample size.  Last year, Fiat`s sales in the United
States dropped by more than 40 percent.  



GRIFFETH:  And to see the full list of Consumer Reports, you can head to
our website at  

Before we go, a final look at the day on Wall Street.  A down day on some
noticeably weak economic data.  The Dow fell 103 points today, the Nasdaq
snapped its eight-day win streak by falling 29, and the S&P gave back just
about 10 points today.  

That is the NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight.  I`m Bill Griffeth.  
Thanks so much for watching.  Have a great evening.  Hope to see you


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