ANNOUNCER: This is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT with Sue Herera and Bill
SUE HERERA, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Data disconnect. New economic
reports show strength while others show weakness, and that is making it
difficult to figure out whether a recession is up ahead.
Putting patients before profits. Lawmakers say drug companies are failing
to do that, prompting big pharma CEOs to defend their practices.
Major expansion. Jeep sales are red hot, and now, Fiat Chrysler is making
a big investment in Detroit.
Those stories and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Tuesday,
Good evening, everyone, and welcome. Bill Griffeth is off tonight.
It was a busy Tuesday that saw the Fed chairman on Capitol Hill. Drug CEOs
were there too. And the president arrived in Hanoi for an historic summit.
But we begin tonight with the economy and the questions swirling around
where it`s headed. Today, a number of reports painted a somewhat confusing
picture. Consumer confidence rebounded in February and building permits, a
sign of things to come, were higher. That`s the good news.
But housing starts, a report delayed because of the shutdown, tumbled to
their lowest level in more than two years. Home prices decelerated in
December, according to the Case Shiller home price index. And then, Home
Depot (NYSE:HD) reported earnings that missed expectations, and that sent
the stock lower in trading today.
Courtney Reagan takes a closer look at the Dow components` numbers and what
they may be saying about housing and the economy.
COURTNEY REAGAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Home Depot
(NYSE:HD) just finished its best year ever, but the home improvement
retailer`s final quarter disappointed. CEO Craig Menear says unfavorable
weather, cold, snowy and wet conditions is the reason for the lower-than-
expected sales. When it`s wet outside, home improvement projects get
The categories that are less weather-dependent performed better.
PETER KEITH, PIPER JAFFRAY: Home Depot (NYSE:HD) is a great company. In
the last five years, they powered through weather. And so, when you see a
company now that`s missing and they`re starting to call out weather and
rain, frankly, I think is probably the first that`s been called out for
quite sometime — to me, that does seem to express some weakness in the
REAGAN: U.S. comparable sales increased more than 3-1/2 percent, and the
number of transactions and the amount each shopper spent both grew in the
quarter. Sales to professionals like contractors continued to outpace
sales to do-it-yourselfers.
Home Depot`s online sales grew 23 percent in the quarter and now, half of
online purchases are picked up in stores.
The strength of the U.S. housing market remains a key driver of home
improvement spending. Chief financial officer Carol Tome says most housing
metrics are trending positive, noting that home equity has more than
doubled since 2011 in the U.S. and more than half of U.S. homes are more
than 40 years old, requiring improvements, a bullish indicator for Home
Altogether, Home Depot (NYSE:HD) executives classify the U.S. housing
market as stable, and forecast comparable sales to grow 5 percent this
BRIAN NAGEL, OPPENHEIMER & CO.: There`s so much concern out there right
now with what we`ve seen weaker housing data, maybe a weaker consumer. I
don`t see that in these Home Depot (NYSE:HD) results.
KEITH: They`re probably the best retailer in the country and one of the
best operators in general. To me, it`s very clear. It`s just signs that
the housing market are starting to slow.
REAGAN: Analysts agree that Home Depot (NYSE:HD) a well-run retailer but
if the housing market starts to weaken, even the strong home improvement
players will get hurt.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Courtney Reagan.
HERERA: The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, addressed some
of the conflicting economic data when he delivered his semiannual testimony
on the economy. And he told lawmakers that the Central Bank is prepared to
stay the course.
Our Steve Liesman has more.
STEVE LIESMAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Fed Chairman Jerome
Powell on day one of his congressional testimony offering a mild outlook on
monetary policy and interest rate hikes. He didn`t close the door on
another rate hike this year but he emphasized the Fed will wait and see.
JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: The committee has decided that
with our policy rate in the range of neutral with muted inflation pressures
and with some of the downside risks that we`ve talked about, this is a good
time to be patient and watch and wait and see how the situation evolves.
LIESMAN: If it sounds like he said that before, it`s because he had.
Powell stuck very closely to the words from the January Fed meeting and his
press conference. The Fed at that meeting pivoted from a policy of
gradually increasing rates to one of patience. Powell offered an
optimistic view on the U.S. economy this year but said headwinds both
foreign and domestic have clouded the outlook.
Now, Powell suggested he didn`t see a threat from the economy running out
POWELL: If there`s more slack in the labor market, it`s because people are
coming back in. If people weren`t coming back in, the unemployment rate
would be substantially lower, but they are or they`re staying in. So labor
participation rate is rising and that tells us there is more room to grow.
And that certainly has implications for monetary policy.
LIESMAN: Day two of Powell`s testimony is tomorrow in front of the House.
That could be a more contentious hearing with several new committee
members. Investors will get a chance to see just how much support the new
House members have for the Fed`s new policy of patience, or whether they
have another policy in mind.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Steve Liesman.
HERERA: A number of economists and business surveys say that the odds of a
recession are rising and that it could happen later this year or next, but
a couple of hedge fund managers today said that`s not necessarily the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC LASRY, AVENUE CAPITAL GROUP CEO: Everybody is worried about a
recession. I don`t think that`s happening at all. I do think you`re going
to have slower growth. And what that means is at least for most people,
you`re going to feel that. It`s not going to feel as if things were as
good as they were last year. It`s just going to be slower.
ELON COOPERMAN, OMEGA ADVISORS CHAIRMAN & CEO: The conditions, they would
normally lead to a big market decline just don`t seem to be present. What
are the conditions that lead to a big market decline? Number one, the
stock market spells an oncoming recession. Recession is in the cards.
Economic slowdown, yes, but recession is in the cards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HERERA: So what do we know about the economy and where it might be headed?
We`re joined tonight by Patrick Chovanec. He`s the chief strategist with
Silvercrest Asset Management.
Patrick, welcome back. Nice to see you again.
PATRICK CHOVANEC, SILVERCREST ASSET MANAGEMENT CHIEF STRATEGIST: Good to
see you, Sue.
HERERA: It is confusing. I mean, housing is a perfect example. You get
starts going one way. You get home sales going the other way. So, net-net
how do you view the economy and conflicting data?
CHOVANEC: So, first off, it`s important to remember that this has been a
really sluggish and uneven recovery for its entire length, for ten years.
And, you know, we were kind of spoiled a little bit by the summer where
things really seemed to be cooking on all cylinders, but the economy is
slowing. The debate right now is, how much is it slowing?
And one of the problems right now is because of the government shutdown, a
lot of the data is either missing or coming out late. And so, we kind of
have to fill in the blanks with speculation.
HERERA: So does that mean as an investor you wait for another month to get
a cleaner, if you will, number on things like home starts or, you know,
retail sales or the like?
CHOVANEC: So the frustration right now is of course we`d like to have
maximum visibility. We don`t have all the visibility that we`d like. But
we never have clear visibility.
There`s always — you know, things can get better, things can get worse.
And I would say from an investor`s point of view that you never really want
to be basing your investments in a way that if two months — a month or two
months of either really good numbers or really bad numbers come out that
would fundamentally change the way that you`re investing.
You know, we`re in the tenth year of a recovery. Seventy-five percent of
economists that were surveyed said sometime over the next few years, they
expect a recession. So, you know at some point, this cycle is going to end
and you probably need to be prepared for — to cover the downside of that.
HERERA: Do you take the Fed out of the equation now because they have
said, and the Fed chief repeated it today, that they will take a very
patient and measured approach to any interest rate increases? Is the Fed
less of a component now?
CHOVANEC: So, one of the good pieces of news right now in the economy is
that inflation has remained fairly low. And so, the Fed isn`t really under
any pressure to raise rates. That was one of the fears in the second half
of last year that caused the market sell-off, that people were afraid that
the Fed was going to raise rates and push the economy into a recession. It
sounds like the Fed intends to be patient and can afford to be patient.
HERERA: You say good news will be good news and bad news will be bad news.
I mean, is it as simple as that when you have such murkiness in some of
CHOVANEC: I said that because sometimes in the past when people were
afraid that the Fed would raise rates, a bad economic number would come out
and the market would actually go up because they`d say, oh, good, the Fed
will ease or the Fed won`t rate hike. Well, now, the Fed has said, we`re
not going to raise rates. And so, that means that the economy is going to
have to stand on its own.
HERERA: Patrick, we`ll leave it there. Thanks so much.
CHOVANEC: Good to be with you.
HERERA: Patrick Chovanec with Silvercrest Asset Management.
Well, on Wall Street stocks were lower in a choppy trading session as
investors weighed Home Depot`s results and the testimony from the Fed
chief. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 33 points to 26,057. The
Nasdaq fell five and the S&P 500 was off two.
Pharma stocks were expected to see some turbulence today as a number of
high-profile CEOs testified in front of a Senate committee on the high
price of prescription drugs. And while there was a lot of harsh
questioning, there was little in the way of what to do about the issue.
Ylan Mui is covering the story for us tonight from Washington.
YLAN MUI, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Everyone wants to know
why prescription drugs cost so much, and lawmakers today came out swinging
to get some answers.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR), SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: Is the
stock price more important than inventing that next miracle cure? Even if
you buy the specious argument that a drug price`s list price at launch is
driven by research costs, what could justify arbitrary price increases year
after year long after the research and development spending is done?
MUI: The CEOs defended their pricing, pointing to the high cost of
research and development, or what`s known as R&D. Merck (NYSE:MRK) said it
invested $10 million in R&D last year and it spent a billion on an
Alzheimer`s drug that never even made it to market. They also tried to
shift the blame to the middleman, the pharmacy benefit managers and the
insurance companies. They say they`re the real reason that consumers that
consumers aren`t seeing lower prices on drugs, and they urge lawmakers to
pursue a holistic solution.
KEN FRAZIER, MERCK CHAIRMAN & CEO: No one company can unilaterally lower
list prices without running into financial and operating disadvantages that
make it impossible to do that. But if we all bring the parties together
around the table with the goal of doing what`s best for the patient, I
think we can come up with a system that works for all Americans.
MUI: This is just the beginning of the road here on Capitol Hill. Senator
Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the committee that held the hearing, said
he`s not done just yet.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We`re not
going to accept finger pointing. I believe that we all know, though, that
there`s so many people in this process and there`s so little transparency.
MUI: There is a lot of appetite for some sort of legislation on the Hill,
but lawmakers still need to agree on what exactly it should look like.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Ylan Mui in Washington.
HERERA: The FDA today outlined a number of measures to combat the opioid
crisis. The measures include packaging the pills in small amounts, such as
for a day or two following surgery, and reducing the dosage amounts. It is
also calling for new steps to promote non-addictive pain medicines. The
FDA has been criticized for not having done enough to stem the epidemic and
for even enabling it by approving powerful pain killers for widespread use.
It is time to take a look at some of today`s “Upgrades and Downgrades”.
Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) was downgraded from sell to buy at UBS. The analyst
cites concerns over slowing global construction demand. The price target
is $125. The stock fell more than 2 percent to $137.98.
Foot Locker was downgraded to hold from buy at Pivotal Research. The
analyst cites tough comparisons in the coming quarters along with the
stock`s valuation. The price target is $64. The shares fell $1.5 percent
Still ahead, why Wall Street`s attention is turning to Vietnam.
HERERA: President Trump and the head of North Korea arrived in Vietnam for
an historic second summit. It is a geopolitical event that investors are
watching for signs of an easing of nuclear tensions.
Eamon Javers reports tonight from Hanoi.
EAMON JAVERS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: It was about 65 hours
of travel time for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as he made his way here
from Pyongyang by armored train, about 20 hours of travel time for
President Trump on Air Force One. The two leaders sat for their second
face-to-face summit here in Hanoi, Vietnam.
And among the questions experts are asking are what possible agreement
could these two leaders come to. If they can`t get to a full deal for
denuclearization of North Korea, including removal of all sites and all
potential weapons material, what are the smaller steps that the two leaders
could agree to? One possibility is a formal end to the Korean War, which
ended with an armistice back in 1953 but not a formal cessation of the war
So, that is one document that could be signed here. The other possibility
is the opening of liaison offices between the two countries as a step
toward the normalization of relations between North Korea and the United
States. So, we`ll watch for that.
But, of course, these are two free-wheeling leaders who like to negotiate
on the fly and maintain a lot of flexibility, as they get together face to
face. So just about everything is on the table at this historic second
summit between these two leaders here in Hanoi, Vietnam.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Eamon Javers in Hanoi.
HERERA: And there is also an interesting economic story unfolding in
Vietnam. The country has become one of the surprise winners of the trade
war between the U.S. and China.
Eunice Yoon is also in Hanoi for us tonight.
EUNICE YOON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Kim arrived in Hanoi
today. He and President Trump are expected to first meet on Wednesday
evening for a brief one-on-one and have dinner with their advisers. Then
on Thursday, the two will have a series of meetings.
Kim is very security conscious and we don`t know his exact movement so he
has met with Vietnamese officials and is widely expected to tour some
industrial zones. I`m at a factory that makes and exports clothes to the
United States, and the North Koreans have reportedly expressed interest in
Vietnam as a possible model for their own economic development.
Vietnam was an isolated state-led command economy and transitioned
successfully to an open economy. Managed to do that without political
upheaval. And from what we know, Kim has feared that economic reform could
lead to regime change.
Vietnam is also seen as attractive because it`s been able to carve out
political independence. The U.S. used to be an enemy and now, it`s an
important export market, and that has given Vietnam leverage over China.
And this is possibly attractive to Kim since North Korea is entirely
dependent on Beijing.
But, of course, he won`t be able to do what Vietnam did if North Korea
remains wrapped in sanctions. And the Trump administration`s offer on the
table is we will make you rich if you give up your nuclear weapons. The
question is, will this visit make him more willing to take that offer in
the path of denuclearization?
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Eunice Yoon in Hanoi.
HERERA: Macy`s (NYSE:M) is trimming its management ranks. That`s where we
begin tonight`s “Market Focus”.
The department store plans to eliminate 100 senior management jobs as part
of a plan to save $100 million a year. Macy`s (NYSE:M) reported better-
than-expected earnings and revenue in the most recent quarter and said its
plans to double down on its most popular merchandise like beauty and
jewelry to help increase its profits. Despite offering a flat outlook,
Macy`s (NYSE:M) rose 1.5 percent to $24.72.
Higher demand for its Dunkin` Donuts branded coffee helped J.M. Smucker
(NYSE:SJM) beat quarterly earnings and revenue expectations. The package
food maker also benefited from its purchase of the premium pet food company
Ainsworth. The stock rose nearly 5 percent to $106.09.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is in Twitter trouble with the SEC again. The agency
has asked a judge to hold him in contempt of court after Musk tweeted about
Tesla`s projected vehicle production, saying the tweet violates a
settlement that it reached with Musk after he tweeted about taking Tesla
public last year. Separately, investors of the energy storage company
Maxwell Technologies (NASDAQ:MXWL) are reportedly suing to block Tesla`s
acquisition of the company. Tesla`s shares were down a fraction today to
And a federal appeals court has cleared AT&T`s $85 billion takeover of Time
Warner (NYSE:TWX). The ruling rejects the Justice Department`s claims that
the deal would reduce competition and raise prices for consumers. The DOJ
has no plans to appeal further. AT&T (NYSE:T) was up slightly at $31.22.
And WW, formerly Weightwatchers, issued full year guidance that was below
expectations after quarterly results missed estimates. The company said
the year got off to a, quote, soft start and its winter recruiting campaign
didn`t deliver as many new members as hoped. The disappointing guidance
initially sent shares plummeting after hours. They closed the regular
session up just a fraction at $29.57.
Jeep, perhaps the hottest auto brand in the U.S., is gearing up for a major
expansion. Fiat Chrysler says it will add nearly 6,500 jobs in new or
expanded jeep plants in the Detroit area, while announcing plans to layoff
1,300 workers in Illinois.
Phil LeBeau has more on Jeep`s shifting strategy.
PHIL LEBEAU, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Jeep, which once used
the tag line imported from Detroit, now at the heart of a huge investment
in the Motor City. Fiat Chrysler is pumping $4.5 billion into facilities
in the Detroit area. That includes converting an old engine facility into
a final assembly plant.
Just last month, Fiat Chrysler`s CEO said the company needs room to build
all new Wagoneer models.
MIKE MANLEY, FACE CEO: Those new vehicles need new capacity. There`s no
way to fit it into our existing manufacturing infrastructure, so we`ll
bring capacity onboard for those. As you know, the pent-up interest really
LEBEAU: While Jeep is adding jobs in Michigan, it`s laying off more than
1,300 workers in northern Illinois, cutting a shift at the plant that
builds the Cherokee (NASDAQ:CHKE). Over the last decade, Jeep Sales have
exploded, now easily surpassing a million vehicles worldwide, fueled by
spot-on styling and a growing love of SUVs, thanks to relatively low gas
Still, the company knows gas prices can spike quickly, so the new
production will include plug-in and fully electric Jeep models. In the
Detroit area, adding thousands of jobs is a welcome shot in the arm.
GOV. GRETCHEN WITMER (D), MICHIGAN: This is a moment in our state where
we`ve got some momentum mere that we`ve got to keep our foot on the gas.
LEBEAU: Lawmakers in Michigan now have 60 days to agree on requirements
needed to lock in Jeep`s expansion. That would secure the biggest auto
investment in that state since the recession a decade ago.
Phil LeBeau, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Chicago.
HERERA: Coming up, the Brexit deadline is fast approaching, and that has
some companies scrambling.
HERERA: Here`s a look at what to watch for tomorrow.
As we reported, the Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, will be back on Capitol
Hill for a second day of testimony on the economy. Retail earnings include
Lowe`s, Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and TJX companies. A House congressional
committee will hold a hearing on U.S.-China trade. And Trade
Representative Robert Lighthizer is expected to testify.
And that`s what to keep your eye on for Wednesday.
Trade uncertainty is prompting American companies to pull back on their
expansion plans into China. In a survey conducted by the American Chamber
of Commerce in China, roughly one-third of respondents say they will not
invest more in that country. That compares to about a quarter of
respondents last year. Their chief concern is U.S. tariffs on products
exported from China as well as rising costs and slower economic growth.
And now to the United Kingdom where the clock is ticking. Britain is
scheduled to leave the European Union at the end of next month, and at this
point, no one is quite sure how that will happen because no plan has been
And as Willem Marx reports, that is creating a lot of headaches for one
company in Southampton, England.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prime minister —
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
WILLEM MARX, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: As Theresa May rises
to her latest parliamentary challenge this week in Westminster, businesses
across Britain battle a stubbornly uncertain Brexit future. With well-
known names ready to run down their U.K. facilities or shift jobs overseas.
U.S. e-commerce firm PFS has chosen a different route.
What we see now is not the full picture.
LISA COOLEY, PFS GENERAL MANAGER: No.
MARX: Lisa Cooley left Memphis, Tennessee, late last year to open this new
fulfillment center in English port city of Southampton. She`s barely
gotten her feet under the table, but Brexit`s March 29th deadline is
already demanding her attention.
COOLEY: It`s a task trying to start something up in that span of time.
And it`s also a task trying to get inventory moved and imported here and
set up. I believe it`s a little chaotic in the beginning, but, you know,
at the ending our goal is to service our clients.
MARX: Those clients are as global as her consumers and her company employs
thousands of workers worldwide. Until recently, PFS had only one European
major warehouse in Belgium. Just an hour outside Brussels where Theresa
May traveled again last week to try and salvage her divorce deal with the
Regardless of how well or badly Brexit negotiations go in the coming weeks,
it`s clear that many sectors seeking to do business here in Britain have
already made significant changes. And this warehouse is one big example.
Logistics can be relentless, and firms like PFS can`t wait on the
politicians while they wrap, pack and ship people`s parcels.
COOLEY: There`s timelines. It takes time to get equipment. It takes time
to get your systems up and going. Of course, you have to go through the
process of hiring employees. Time I wouldn`t necessarily say is on the
side of the retailers we service.
MARX: Brexit may have shattered British politics, but the economy has so
far survived, with unemployment at its lowest level in generations.
COOLEY: In the long run, it`s more the uncertainty of not knowing which
direction you`re going to proceed. I think that`s the biggest concern and
the biggest challenge here.
MARX: And as firms make preparations and bank book provisions, those
Brexit concerns are now big enough to fill a building.
Willem Marx, Southampton, England.
HERERA: But it`s not just small companies watching Brexit, so is Boeing
(NYSE:BA). That company is shifting spare parts between its distribution
centers in the U.K. and elsewhere in the world. According to “Reuters”,
the global aerospace industry relies heavily on those distribution centers
and an integrated supply chain. The Boeing (NYSE:BA) official said the
company is making sure it has parts where they`re needed.
And to read more about the business threat of a no-deal Brexit, you can
always head to our website, NBR.com.
Before we go, here`s a look at the day`s numbers on Wall Street. The Dow
Jones Industrial Average was down 33 points, very choppy trading session,
26,057 is where we finished. The Nasdaq fell five and the S&P 500 was off
And tomorrow, the Fed, trade and earnings and that summit will all be in
That is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight. I`m Sue Herera. Thanks so
much for joining us. Have a great evening and we`ll see you right here