Nightly Business Report – February 28, 2019

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



months into 2019 and the stock market is heating up, making this one of the 

best starts to a year in decades.  


getting more expensive.  And a new report shows a growing number of 

borrowers are failing to make their monthly payments.  

MATHISEN:  Fake review crackdown.  A ground-breaking settlement for the 

FTC.  But do companies need to get a better grip on what`s posted on their 


Those stories and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Thursday, 

February 28th.

HERERA:  Good evening, everyone, and welcome.  I`m Sue Herera.  

MATHISEN:  And I`m Tyler Mathisen, in tonight for Bill Griffeth. 

And we begin tonight with that hot market.  February is in the books, the 

month that brings us Valentine`s Day, saw investors fall in love with 

stocks.  Just look at the numbers.  The three major indexes all posted 

solid gains.  Look at those numbers, extending the rally that has taken 

over Wall Street for much of 2019.  

That came — that rise came despite a pullback in today`s session.  That 

one saw the Dow Jones industrial average fall 69 points to 25,916, Nasdaq 

down 21 and the S&P 500 was off seven.  

Mike Santoli has more on the February rally and what March might bring.



rally slowed in February, but it didn`t stop, giving stocks one of their 

strongest ever two-month starts to a year.  February`s gain in the S&P 500 

leads the index up by about 11 percent so far in 2019, only the fifth time 

in 70 years that the market was up double digits for the first two months.  

In past years when stocks have been up in both January and February, 

further gains have been typical over the remainder of the year, though 

there have been some jarring exceptions such as 1987 when stocks continued 

to soar into the summer, coming to a dramatic crash that October.  

The strength in 2019 has largely been a sharp snapback from profound 

weakness late in 2018, which saw the worst December since the 1930s on a 

mix of severe U.S. slowdown fears and worries that the Federal Reserve 

would keep raising rates, and hasten a recession.  A new message of 

patients from Fed officials helped a beaten market recovered to within 5 

percent of its September record highs.  This despite continued expectations 

for a U.S. economic slowdown and sharp cuts to corporate earnings forecasts 

for the first half of the year.  The Fed`s gentler tone and lack of 

worrisome inflation have helped treasury yields remain near one-year lows 

making dividend-yielding stocks appear more attractive to investors.  

Entering March, a big question is whether a trade deal with China will be 

reached and whether one has already been largely priced into stocks.  A 

deal that allowed industrial companies to raise profit outlook to help 

support stocks after their recent rally, which had appeared to tire a bit 

over the last couple of weeks.

Today, stronger-than-expected fourth quarter report on U.S. GDP further 

calmed recession fears but raised the prospects of a give-back in growth 

this quarter which might not be the worst thing for a Wall Street that has 

made a fragile peace with the current slower growth, and lower backdrop.  



HERERA:  The economy continues to hum along at a healthy clip.  Fourth 

quarter gross domestic product came in better than expected and growth for 

all of 2018 was the strongest in years.  

Steve Liesman is in Washington tonight.



registering strong growth in the fourth quarter, stronger than expected by 

economists and stronger than potential growth.  It came in at 2.6 percent 

and Wall Street was looking for around 2 percent.  How did we get there?  

Well, the consumer ended up being stronger than had been forecast, and 

business investment was pretty strong at 6.2 percent.  

Residential investment, that is the housing market, did subtract from 

growth and federal spending only ended a bit, up 0.4 percent.  The number 

was a sequential weakening from the third quarter and especially from the 

4.2 percent a number of registered in the second quarter.  Economists 

surveyed by CNBC expect the first quarter to be weaker still at 1.9 percent 

which is just around potential growth.  One of the reasons weakening is 

expected is inventories were very strong in the fourth quarter, perhaps 

built up by companies trying to get ahead of the tariffs and those goods 

landing on American shores in December.  That`s supposed to run off perhaps 

in the first quarter.

JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) in fact says inventory data had surprised to the 

upside.  This development also may pose a headwind for GDP growth this 

quarter.  The year-over-year growth rate was 3.1 percent.  And the 

administration took that as a victory.  Larry Kudlow, the director of 

President Trump`s National Economic Council, expects the strong growth to 

continue in 2019.  

LARRY KUDLOW, NEC DIRECTOR:  So people are saying, well, there`s a sugar 

high one year, that`s it.  They`re just plain wrong.  These policies are 

working, so I`m going to say 3 percent 2018 and I`m going to say 3 percent 

2019 and 3 percent as far as the eye can see.  

LIESMAN:  As for the Federal Reserve, this number probably changes their 

outlook very little.  They expect the economy to weaken this year and are 

concerned about risks like global economic weakness and trade tensions.  

They`ll wait to see how those issues play out before making any changes to 

their policy either way.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Steve Liesman in Washington.  


MATHISEN:  Let`s turn now to Brian Nick to talk about the economy, the 

market and some areas where you might want to put some money to work.  He`s 

the chief investment strategist at Nuveen.  

Brian, welcome.  Good to have you with us.



MATHISEN:  You know, two months do not a year make, but it`s been a pretty 

good year in two months.  Eleven percent gains for the S&P 500 so far this 

year.  Does that argue that maybe the best gains of the year have already 

been booked and that I might get a little more cautious?  

NICK:  Yes, we think so.  We came into the year relatively cautious with 

respect to our expectations.  I think it`s fair to say that January and 

February have exceeded those expectations.  But we don`t think we`ve 

necessarily hit highs for the year, but we do think most of the returns for 

the year, at least in the United States, are likely behind us and that`s 

caused us not to get out of stocks but to become somewhat more selective 

and defensive in terms of where we`re putting money to work

HERERA:  What about around the globe we`re seeing slowing economies and 

eventually that does impact us here at home.  How big a factor is that in 

your forecast, if at all?  

NICK:  Yes.  One of the reasons we think growth will slow in the U.S. in 

the first quarter is that growth overseas has slowed.  So, that export that 

is pretty strong in the fourth quarter GDP report is probably not going to 

be as strong in the first quarter.

We spent a lot of time looking for signs of a bottom or of a soft landing 

in the economies like China and the eurozone where the data has continued 

to get worse in most cases.  If you look at factory output in China, it 

just hit a two or three year low.  In the eurozone, we have German factory 

output, again, plunging month after month.  

So, we are anxiously looking for a bottom in those economies before we 

become more optimistic about a balance in U.S. growth, economic growth and 

earnings growth.  

MATHISEN:  Let me take you back to that comment you just made a moment ago 

and that was the idea that maybe you don`t want to go to cash and get out 

of stocks but be a little more selective, maybe a little more defensive in 

the equities that you put in your portfolio.  What does that mean in 

practical terms?  Does it mean less tech and more health care and consumer 


And in health care, what kind of stocks are you talking about, because 

that`s a big, broad specter se?  

NICK:  Sure.  So, that`s exactly where we`re positioned.  I think if you 

rate all these sectors by what`s the most cyclical, what`s going to do well 

when growth is accelerating to most defensive, which is what`s most likely 

to do well in a recession, we`re somewhere in the middle, because we think 

growth is going to be around that 2 percent, 2.5 percent level this year.  

Not a high chance of a recession.  So we`re not in utilities which is the 

most defensive but we`re not in industrials which have been the most 

cyclical and the best performers.  

Health care tends to be a relatively solid area of defensive growth.  

That`s been kind of our mantra this year.  Within health care, you 

obviously have some kind of more highly valued stocks that are tied to 

biotech and you have the insurers and the medical device companies.  We`re 

more conservatively positioned within there, as we are within tech too.  

So less cyclical and somewhat more kind of structurally secular higher 

growth rates in terms of earnings but not going for those stocks that were 

extraordinarily highly valued and that have been such outperformers for the 

last several years.  

MATHISEN:  Thank you very much, Brian.  Great to see you.  Brian Nick is 

with Nuveen.  

NICK:  Thank you.  

HERERA:  And as Brian Nick just mentioned, new reports out of China do 

indeed point to some economic challenges.  Factory activity in that country 

fell to its lowest level in three years in February due to weak global 

demand and the lunar New Year holiday.  A separate report showed growth in 

disposable income slowed in China as well last year.  This as the cost of 

living rose.  And that`s resulting in fewer sales of cars, electronics and 

home appliances.  

MATHISEN:  And in Vietnam, the summit between President Trump and North 

Korean leader Kim Jong-un came to an abrupt end.  

Eamon Javers reports tonight from Hanoi.



literally set for lunch in Hanoi on Thursday, but talks between President 

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un broke down before the two men 

could break bread.  

Staffers scrambled to cancel the lunch as well as a planned signing 

ceremony in Hanoi as the president explained why he walked away from the 



sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn`t do that.  They were 

willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we 

couldn`t give up all of the sanctions for that, so we continue to work and 

we`ll see.  But we had to walk away from that particular suggestion.  We 

had to walk away from it.  

JAVERS:  President Trump insisted that relations between the two countries 

remain good, despite the failed summit.  

TRUMP:  This wasn`t a walk away like you get up and walk out.  This was 

very friendly.  We shook hands.  We — you know, there`s a warmth that we 

have, and I hope that you get up and walk out.  This was very friendly.  We 

shook hands.  

We — you know, there`s a warmth that we have, and I hope that stays.  I 

think it will.  But we are — you know, we`re positioned to do something 

very special.  This has been going on for many decades.  This isn`t me.  

JAVERS:  The president indicated the North Koreans offered to take steps to 

shut down the Yongbyon enrichment facility where much of the country`s 

nuclear effort is centered, but he said American intelligence is aware of 

other facilities that the North Koreans were not offering to dismantle, and 

that`s why he couldn`t agree to lift sanctions.  For their part, North 

Korean officials insisted they only asked for partial sanctions relief and 

called their proposal realistic.

As Air Force One lifted off early from Hanoi on Thursday, the future of the 

nuclear talks remained unclear.  The president said it could be a long time 

before the two men see each other again.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Eamon Javers in Hanoi.  


HERERA:  It is time to take a look at some of today`s upgrades and 


Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL) was downgraded to in line from outperform at 

Evercore ISI.  The analyst cites a slow start to the spring selling season.  

The price target is $38.  The stock fell 2 percent to $35.60.  

The firm also downgraded rival home builders D.R. Horton (NYSE:DHI), KB 

Home (NYSE:KBH) and Pulte Group for primarily the same reason.

HP was downgraded to underperform from buy at Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) 

Merrill Lynch.  The analyst cites cash flow headwinds and a risk of an 

incremental PC slowdown.  HP reported a revenue miss last night.  The price 

target is $19.  The stock fell 17 percent to $19.73.  

MATHISEN:  And still ahead, revving up risk.  Cars are getting bigger and 

more expensive, and so are all those auto loans.  


MATHISEN:  Uber and Lyft will reportedly offer cash bonuses to some drivers 

with the option to use that cash to buy IPO shares when the companies go 

public.  According to “The Wall Street Journal”, the longest serving or 

most active drivers would be eligible for the programs.  It`s a rare move 

that lets individual investors access some of the most anticipated IPOs in 


HERERA:  Some disturbing news today.  Pedestrian deaths have hit a 28-year 

high.  The governors Highway Safety Association said distracted drivers and 

distracted pedestrians are contributing to the rise.  Another factor is the 

growing number of SUVs on the road, and they are bigger and heavier than 


MATHISEN:  We also got new data on auto loans that today is renewing 

concerns the American consumer may be struggling financially.  The 

percentage of buyers behind on car payments by a couple of months ticked 

higher in the fourth quarter.  

Phil LeBeau has the details.



tougher for some car buyers to make their monthly payment.  The credit firm 

Experian which tracks millions of auto loans says the percentage of 

borrowers missing payments for more than two months edged higher at the end 

of last year.  

Just under 1 percent of all auto loans were 60 days delinquent, still well 

below the rates seen in the last recession.  But with average amount 

borrowed climbing to a record high above $31,000 and the average loan 

amounting hitting $545 a month, there`s concern Americans may be getting 

overextended, taking out bigger auto loans than they can afford.  

TORSTEN SLOK, DEUTSCHE BANK SECURITIES:  We don`t want to paint too dark a 

picture here, but the bottom line is the trend is not our friend when you 

think about the economy is really strong.  Why are people falling 

delinquent on their loans when we`re creating 300,000 jobs?  That`s the 

question everyone should be asking themselves.  

LEBEAU:  After the best four-year stretch of auto sales the U.S. has ever 

seen, there`s still a healthy appetite for newer models, especially trucks 

and SUVs.  And that`s the reason consumers are borrowing more money.  Those 

bigger vehicles come with bigger price tags that keep climbing as 

automakers add more technology and features.  

In fact, the average amount paid for a new vehicle has jumped 41 percent 

since 2010.  The news is not much better when it comes to used cars.  Late 

last year, the average loan for a used model topped $20,000 for the first 

time ever.  

Higher prices are not slowing down demand for pre-owned models.  Last year 

an estimated 40 million used cars were sold in the United States, and that 

number is expected to move slightly higher this year. 



HERERA:  The world`s largest brewer is focused on drinks with less alcohol.  

That`s where we begin tonight`s “Market Focus”.  

Anheuser-Busch InBev says sales with beers with lower or no alcohol grew 8 

percent.  The company plans to grow that figure to 20 percent by 2025.  

That demand helps offset a decline in sales of its flagship Bud and Bud 

Light beers in its most recent quarter.  Shares of Bud rose 5 percent to 


Struggling retailer J.C. Penney reported better-than-expected earnings and 

revenue.  The company was able to reduce the glut of unsold inventory.  As 

part of its turnaround plan, it will close 18 stores this year and it will 

shut 9 of its home and furniture locations.  JCPenney surged more than 22 

percent to $1.52.  

Horizon Pharma said that it had positive test results for a drug designed 

to treat thyroid eye disease.  Eighty-three percent of patients in the late 

stage trial showed improvement compared to less than 10 percent with a 

placebo.  If approved by the FDA, the drug will be one of the first on the 

market to treat the disease.  And Horizon`s CEO said the results are 



TIMOTHY WALBERT, HORIZON PHARMA CEO:  This is a great day for patients with 

thyroid eye disease.  If you look at this disease, it typically occurs 

where patients` eyes begin to bulge due to inflammation causing it 

difficult for them to close their eyelids, they get dry eyes.  If you ask 

them, they say closing their eyes is like rubbing sand paper over their 



HERERA:  The news sent shares soaring, up nearly 33 percent to $29.01.  

The drug maker Bristol Myers Squib is coming under increasing opposition to 

its proposed $74 billion takeover of the biotech company Celgene 

(NASDAQ:CELG).  Activist investor Starboard Value called the potential 

deal, quote, poorly conceived and ill-advised, end quote.  Just a day after 

investment firm Wellington Management criticized it as too risky and 


But Bristol defended the deal saying it would create significant benefits 

for shareholders.  Shares were up more than 1 percent to $51.66.  Celgene 

(NASDAQ:CELG) was down nearly 9 percent at $83.12.  

MATHISEN:  Well, California`s largest utility, PG&E, took a $10.5 billion 

charge linked to last year`s deadly camp fire and says there is, quote, 

substantial doubt over its prospects as a going concern in a filing.  It 

said it wouldn`t be able to provide operating earnings guidance for the 

year given the uncertainty over its liabilities.  The company filed for 

bankruptcy last month.  PG&E fell more than 4 percent to $17.03.  

Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) reported better-than-expected earnings but revenue was 

a little light.  The retailer noted a double-digit rise in digital sales 

and said it plans to open new stores this year.  Investors did like what 

they heard, sending the stock up in initial after-hours trading.  

And the gap plans to split itself into two independent publicly traded 

companies with Old Navy becoming a stand-alone firm.  The other company, 

which is yet to be named, will consist of the Gap (NYSE:GPS) Brand, Athleta 

and the Banana Republic brand.  The retailer says the split will allow the 

companies to have separate strategies.  And that sent the stock sharply 

higher in initial after-hours trading, as you see there.  

HERERA:  YouTube is disabling comments on videos with minors following 

reports of an active pedophile network in the comments section.  YouTube 

outlined its strategy to combat the issue in a blog post.  The company will 

also launch a new tool that it believes will be more effective at 

identifying and removing predatory comments.  

MATHISEN:  A federal trade commission investigation has led to its first-

ever settlement related to fake online reviews.  The agency alleges that a 

third party was paid to post false reviews of a supplement product on 

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).  The FTC says that when a company buys fake reviews 

to inflate its Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) ratings, it hurts both shoppers and 

companies that play by the rules.  Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) said that it is 

pleased the FTC is taking action.  But a recent study shows that the 

practice is widespread.  30 percent of Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) reviews are 

fake or unreliable, according to the study.  Fifty-two percent of reviews 

posted on are, quote, inauthentic and unreliable.  Other 

studies show the problem could be even worse.  

HERERA:  So, what can companies do, like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), to crack 

down on fake reviews on their websites?  

Joining us to talk about that is Erik Gordon, a professor with the 

University of Michigan`s Ross School of Business.  

Welcome.  Welcome back, Erik.  Good to see you as always.  

What can companies — 


HERERA:  What can companies do to combat this?  They obviously need to do 

something given the percentages that we just cited here.  What can they do?  

GORDON:  So, companies like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) have amazing data analytic 

capabilities.  So far they used it mostly to generate data to convince 

companies to buy ads on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).  They need to divert some of 

that money and turn more of their attention to real-time data analytics to 

spot the patterns, the predictable patterns that indicate that these 

reviews are fake.  

For example, typical fake review.  It`s great, five stars.  That`s with no 

explanation about why it`s great.  So the amazons, the Walmarts, they have 

to invest more of their expertise into cleaning this up.  

MATHISEN:  So, is what`s going on here, Professor, the idea that the 

company that has a product, a diet supplement or something else, is 

actually paying individuals to post these reviews and write them up and 

submit them, thereby inflating their rating, which drives in more business, 

which helps not only the seller of the product, but it also helps the 

online company, be it Walmart or Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN)?  

GORDON:  Yes.  That`s exactly what`s going on.  Much to the surprise of 

most of us.  So, the whole premise for most of us is if we read a review, 

we think it`s from somebody like us.  We think it`s not an ad and, 

therefore, we trust it.  

So it`s sneaky, but it`s very powerful.  It influences how high up a 

product is in the first screen that you see so you don`t have to scroll 

down and influences us to think, wow, this must be really good.  These 

folks really liked it.  

HERERA:  So the company, say Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) or Walmart, should they 

be held responsible for those reviews, especially when it concerns make a 

diet supplement or something else that could affect people`s health?  

GORDON:  You know, that`s a tricky thing, sue, because if we hold them 

responsible for everything there, I don`t know how anybody could humanly do 

this.  But I think they have to rise to a higher standard.  They have to 

say, well, it`s just as important to clean up these fake ads as it is to go 

out and sell the ads.  

HERERA:  Nice to see you again.  Erik Gordon with the University of 

Michigan`s Ross School of Business.  Thanks.  

And coming up, why some are in for a surprise when they file their taxes.


HERERA:  There has been a lot of talk recently about smaller refunds this 

tax filing season, but today, the treasury secretary said they are starting 

to rebound.  

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY:  Tax refunds are up 17 percent week 

over week.  That basically gets us to the same level as last year.  And I 

would just emphasize, even if people had perfectly done their withholding, 

and I think withholding is complicated, we encourage people to go to the 

withholding calculator, people really should be focused on they`re paying 

lower taxes.  Those lower taxes is money back into the economy and that`s 

why we have the economic growth we do.  


HERERA:  And it was that issue of not changing paycheck withholdings that 

caught many by surprise when they went to file their taxes.  

Sharon Epperson has more from Harrington Park, New Jersey.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Eat a little something because we`re going out 



old Joe Carley and his wife, Cheryl (ph), were always happy to break even 

on their tax return.  They rarely got a refund, but also never had to write 

a big check.  After the tax overhaul, Joe sought the help of his financial 

advisor —  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is the section that`s changing the most.  

EPPERSON:  — who delivered some bad news.  

JOE CARLEY, TAXPAYER:  We are going to owe more this year than prior years.  

EPPERSON:  Nearly $4,000 more.  His reaction?  

CARLEY:  Dismayed, to say the least.  

EPPERSON:  The Tax Foundation estimates 80 percent of filers paid less 

because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  Only 5 percent saw their taxes go 


Still, many people are surprised when they do their taxes.  Finding out 

they`re getting smaller refunds or they owe.  One reason that`s happening, 

under the new tax code, withholding tables changed.  Companies lowered the 

amount of federal taxes taken out of employees` paychecks, giving them more 

take-home pay — maybe too much more.  

KIM DULA, FRIEDMAN LLP MANAGING PARTNER:  Unless you went that extra step 

and said, OK, but what are all the other changes going to do to me as a 

taxpayer, what deductions am I going to lose, what is my tax situation 

going to look like, maybe that decrease in withholding shouldn`t have 


EPPERSON:  Last year the IRS urged taxpayers to check federal withholding 

amounts on their paychecks.  One study found only 16 percent did.  Meaning 

many weren`t paying enough in federal taxes all year long, which is now 

impacting the amount of their refund.  

The new tax law also capped the deduction for state and local taxes.  

That`s had a big impact on residents in high-tax states, including many 

clients of New Jersey financial planner Michael Gibney.

MICHAEL GIBNEY, MODERA WEALTH MANAGEMENT:  That entire section is limited 

now to $10,000, where in the past that could have been $20,000, $30,000, 

$40,000, $50,000 for some people.  

EPPERSON:  With other tax breaks limited or eliminated, millions of 

taxpayers are finding themselves in an unfamiliar situation, taking the 

standard deduction instead of itemizing, which may raise their tax bill.  

It did for the Carleys, so now they`re planning how to manage their 2019 


CARLEY:  One thing we have done is try to put more into a 401(k) to have a 

positive tax impact.  

EPPERSON:  Making more retirement plan contributions may reduce their 

taxable income and lower their next tax bill.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Sharon Epperson, Harrington Park, New 



HERERA: And that is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT tonight.  I`m Sue Herera.  

Thanks for joining us.  

HERERA:  And thanks from me as well.  I`m Tyler Mathisen.  Have a great 

evening, everybody, and we`ll see you tomorrow.


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