Nightly Business Report – April 18, 2019

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

BILL GRIFFETH, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR:  Welcome to Wall Street.  Pinterest and Zoom make their trading debuts.  Both stocks soar, but are investors in them for the long haul?  

Data rebound.  Retail sales posted their biggest gain since 2017 and that`s lifting the outlook for economic growth.  

Behind the wheel.  The car is fast, it`s rare, it`s expensive and it`s already sold out.  

Those stories and much more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for this Thursday, April the 18th.  

And we do bid you a good evening, everybody, and welcome.  Sue is off tonight.  

There was high drama in Washington today with the release of the Mueller report, but Wall Street was more focused on a couple of very high-profile IPOs, Pinterest and Zoom, two fast-growing Silicon Valley start-ups.  They made their trading debuts today, becoming the latest in a wave of new offerings coming to market.  

They operate in very different businesses.  Pinterest allows you to post images on your personal digital billboard while Zoom is a videoconferencing company.  But both stocks soared in their debut today.  Pinterest is listed at the New York Stock Exchange, Zoom in the Nasdaq, and both made for a high-energy morning.  

GRIFFETH:  There were old-time crowds, anticipation and excitement on the trading floors marking today`s twin debuts.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It does appear to be imminent here.  

GRIFFETH:  At the Nasdaq, Zoom opened first.  The rare, profitable tech company going into the IPO.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Zoom has now opened here at $65.  

GRIFFETH:  An initial pop of more than 80 percent gave investors plenty to cheer about.  It wasn`t bad for CEO and founder Eric Yuan, either.  Born in China, his application to enter the United States was turned down eight times over a two-year period.  Today, though, he became a billionaire, at least on paper. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is a very, very exciting time to cover the IPO business.  

GRIFFETH:  Less than two minutes later, over at the New York Stock Exchange, shares of digital image board Pinterest began trading.  

GRIFFETH:  It, too, opened higher, up 25 percent from its IPO price, giving traders and investors plenty of opportunity for selfies to pin, especially for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) alum Ben Silbermann, the founder of the company.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Already, 21 million shares had changed hands.  

GRIFFETH:  With at least a half dozen more IPOs expected next week and Uber likely next month, there might be even more excitement ahead.  

GRIFFETH:  And Pinterest, as we mentioned, is not yet profitable despite seeing a 60 percent rise in revenue last year.  Now that it`s a publicly traded company, one of its challenges will be to convince investors that it has a plan to increase market share.  
Julia Boorstin takes a look at what`s next for that company.

JULIA BOORSTIN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  Pinterest investors are betting on a platform`s ability to expand internationally, to draw different types of advertisers and to make it easier for customers to make purchases through the platform.  The fact that it`s a natural place for commerce, making it a valuable destination for brands.  

BEN SILBERMANN, PINTEREST CO-FOUNDER & CEO:  The really cool thing about advertising on Pinterest is that people are there to get inspiration to do things and that often means buying.  So, over the last couple of years, instead for the foreseeable future, we`re going to work on bridging that gap between seeing something inspirational and finding a product from a retailer you trust at a price point that makes sense.  

BOORSTIN:  CEO Ben Silbermann also made a point to distinguish his company from Facebook`s issues around privacy and manipulation as Pinterest works to be a safe place for brands to advertise, and for consumers to find inspiration.  

SILBERMANN:  Pinterest isn`t a social network and it isn`t about other people and celebrities.  It`s really about yourself, and your dreams and your aspirations.  

BOORSTIN:  But analysts are evaluating that platform with the same criteria that they do Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter and Snap, looking at its users engagement and revenue growth.  

And while Pinterest may not consider itself a social company, its dual class structure giving voting control to its founders is right in line with both Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Snap.  Silbermann saying he and his team are focused on running the company for the long term.  We`ll see if the after the stock gains today, investors also hold on for the long firm.  
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Julia Boorstin, in Los Angeles.  

GRIFFETH:  And then Zoom, as we mentioned, is the rare tech IPO that is actually profitable.  Its goal is to make video communications frictionless.  But it`s not just earnings that investors care about, they also like to see growth and Zoom`s CEO said today he had a strategy to grow the brand.  

ERIC YUAN, ZOOM FOUNDER & CEO:   I think that, first of all, you know, we started from S&P customers, we`re going to have more and more large enterprises customers, and we are the ones that have a much better cycle.  I think to be a public company brings more responsibility, and plus it can really help our company brand.  And with that, it would probably, you know, our enterprise business probably take off from here.  

GRIFFETH:  Kathleen Smith joins us right now to talk about the IPO market, and at the moment, she`s co-founder and principal at Renaissance Capital.  
Welcome back.  Good to see you again.


GRIFFETH:  If anything, you`re concerned about the valuations on some of these IPOs, right?  

SMITH:  Certainly.  I think valuation is very important and investors breathed a sigh of relief to see Zoom and Pinterest trade so well after the very disciplined trading that we had with Lyft, the largest IPO so far this year.  

So, this is — these two companies tell us that IPOs can be priced right and trade well.  

GRIFFETH:  If anything, Pinterest had been conservatively priced I think in light of what happened to Lyft, don`t you think?

SMITH:  That`s correct.  Pinterest was priced below its 2017 private round and that gave investors, and although the price came up a little further afterward, it gave investors, I think, a more attractive price entry point for Pinterest.  

GRIFFETH:  What have we learned about Lyft?  

SMITH:  Well, Lyft is trading now at 20 percent below its IPO price, and it`s not been a successful IPO, and it tells you that investors were concerned about how large the losses were about a billion dollars and that it wasn`t sure about the business model and what it could expect in terms of the profit profile, when there would be profits. I think the important thing is the Lyft trading is definitely going to get into the psyche of investors when they look at Uber — 


SMITH:  — another very large company that`s also losing a large amount of money.  

GRIFFETH:  Yes, we haven`t gotten into the mother lode of a huge number of IPOs that are still to come, including Uber and some of these other companies.  What are your expectations going forward after what we`ve been through so far the last couple of months?  

SMITH:  Well, we`re thinking that if all of these large, billion-dollar-plus private companies who are targeting 2019 and then just your regular number of IPOs, we could have an IPO market that has seen more volume than ever, an historic amount of dollars raised.  So, in order to do that, the market is going to have to be very healthy and pricing`s going to have to be attractive for investors.  

GRIFFETH:  Is profitability as important as it would seem?  I mean, we look back to the dotcom boom of the `90s when so many unprofitable companies came public and were so successful.  Is that more important today, do you think?  

SMITH:  Yes.  The IPO market today is more institutional.  There`s a smarter investor in the market and there is a very big concern about profitability and it may be they`re building it into a model that in the case of Pinterest, it`s maybe a year and a half down the road, but it`s still an understanding of the business model and how it can turn profitable.  If there`s not that understanding, it`s going to be difficult to get an IPO done.  

GRIFFETH:  And we will see how it goes from here and it should be interesting.  Kathleen Smith with Renaissance Capital — again, thanks for joining us tonight. 

SMITH:  Thank you.  

GRIFFETH:  By the way, Zoom`s video communications was want the only stock with the word zoom in its name to do well today.  In an apparent case of mistaken identity, shares of Zoom Technologies (NASDAQ:ZOOM) rallied by as much as 80 percent today before settling back at the close.  This company is an over-the-counter penny stock for a Chinese mobile phone components maker.  Its ticker symbol is Zoom.  So the confusion, perhaps, is understandable.  

Elsewhere on Wall Street today, those IPOs looked at sentiment as investors focused on corporate earnings and a handful of economic reports which we will get to in just a moment, but the market took the release of the Mueller report we mentioned stride today.  As you know, the Justice Department sent the report to Congress and released it to the public this morning with portions of it blacked out.  

The Dow Industrial Average added 110 points, and we are back to 26,559, the Nasdaq was up about two, and the S&P 500 gained four.  
And here`s a look at the weekly performance since the markets tomorrow for the Good Friday holiday.  

To earnings now, and two Dow components that reported results.  First, Travelers, which saw its profits rise as catastrophe losses fell and underwriting improved, and that offset a decline in net investment income.  That sent the stock to a one-year high during today`s trading session.

And then there`s American Express (NYSE:EXPR) (NYSE:AXP).  The card users spent more and that helped the company beat analysts` estimates.  American Express (NYSE:EXPR) (NYSE:AXP) has invested heavily in its rewards program which brought in more than a million customers in the past two years.  Shares got a lift in today`s trade, as well.  
It wasn`t too long ago that Wall Street was concerned about the U.S. economy slowing down, but a new batch of reports appears to alleviate some of those concerns. Steve Liesman dives into the data for us.

STEVE LIESMAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  The weak economy that caught so much concern just a few months ago is suddenly not looking that weak.  A combination of better trade and retail sales data has Wall Street economists marking up their forecast for the just-completed first quarter sharply.  

Growth is now seen at 2.4 percent, a long way from the modest 1 percent forecast in early March.  Of course, it`s not the 3 percent growths of last year, but it is above what most economists consider to be trend growth.  The current quarter is forecast to come in right around the same place, but we don`t have all of the data yet and some remain cautious.  
JOE LAVORGNA, NATIXIS:  Retail sales is only about 20 percent, 25 percent of total consumption.  So, there`s a big piece we still don`t know a lot about, but the momentum looks good, at least for a much better Q2 compared to Q1.  It`s very possibly a better consumer spending, but perhaps even larger inventory drawdown, or imports can turn out to be stronger.  

LIESMAN:  Retail sales are up a strong 1.6 percent, besting the 1 percent consensus among economists, with the strength of electronics, internet sales and grocery stores and clothing sales.  
And it wasn`t the only upbeat report.  Jobless claims fell 192,000, the lowest level since 1969 when there were a lot fewer workers in the American economy.  

The Fed, unlikely to hike rates because of the newfound economic strength, but those who were sure the Fed would cut rates are likely to be disappointed.  

As far as the Fed is concerned, an economy running at 2.5 percent is doing just fine.  It doesn`t need any help from the central bank.  

GRIFFETH:  Elsewhere, the International Trade Commission said today that the trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico would modestly boost the economy and the commission`s report said they would also add about 175,000 jobs over a six-year period while increasing U.S. exports, but it found that the deal would reduce vehicle production here in the U.S. and lead to a small increase in prices overall.  The agreement must still be approved by Congress and the scouting report is it still faces an uphill battle there.

Time to take a look at some of today`s “Upgrades and Downgrades”.  
We began with shares of Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS).  They were downgraded to neutral from buy at Citi, one day after reporting better than expected earnings.  The analyst says that the stock has little room to grow right now.  The price target, $48.  That stock finished just below that level at $47.55.  

Pepsi which also reported earnings yesterday was upgraded to neutral from sell at Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS).  The analyst cited momentum in the company`s snack business. The price target now, $132, and that stock rose a fraction to $127.09.  

Still ahead, the future of banking.  Our market monitor says now is the time to invest in the rise of digital payments.  

GRIFFETH:  Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) is suing former CEO Eddie Lampert and past board members, including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.  
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) creditors alleges that Lampert, his hedge fund and others siphoned billions of dollars in assets from the retailer over several years before it eventually went bankrupt last October.  Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) has not turned a profit for the past 10 years, and it closed more than 3,000 stores over that time.  
In January, Lampert purchased the retailers for $5.2 billion as part of the bankruptcy option.  A Lampert spokesman called the claims in today`s lawsuit misleading or just flat wrong.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to introduce legislation to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21, and that includes vaping devices, as well.  McConnell said that the bill would be introduced in May.  He described it as a top priority right now.  
Some tobacco companies have supported that initiative called Tobacco 21, but today`s news pressured shares of some of the tobacco stocks, as you can see.  Atria was down more than 3 percent.  BTI was down 1 1/2.  
The governor of Wisconsin wants to renegotiate his state`s deal with Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn.  Governor Tony Evers said today he`s not convinced that Foxconn will be able to fulfill his promise of creating 13,000 jobs at a planned factory in that state.  The $10 billion facility was agreed to back in 2017 with the state offering $4 billion in tax credits and other subsidies over 15 years, but now, Governor Evers wants to revisit some of those terms.  

As we reported, weekly jobless claims fell in the most recent week, hitting a fresh 50-year low.  That continued labor market tightness is making it each more difficult for some businesses to find workers and as Kate Rogers (NYSE:ROG) reports, that`s especially true in the solar industry.  

KATE ROGERS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  At Petersen Dean, the solar business is booming and panel installers are in high demand.  

RUBEN TRUJILLO, SOLAR PANEL INSTALLER:  Every day is different.  Every house is different.  Everything is always different, designs so you never really see the same thing every day.  

ROGERS:  The boost in business roof and solar installation company is due in part from a mandate from California that requires all newly built homes like the one you see behind me here to have solar power beginning in the year 2020. And after two years of job losses within the solar industry, the change is welcome. 

GARY LIARDON, PETERSEN DEAN CONSUMER GROUP:  We are constantly hiring installers, but that mandate is going to increase our need for installers by roughly 300 percent just based on current install rates today.  So translated into literal terms, we will need another 350 to 400 installers.  
ROGERS:  Industry experts are projecting job growth beyond just the Golden State this year, with a 7 percent gain to a total of 260,000 jobs.  
The Trump administration`s 30 percent tariffs on imported solar panels levied last year sent a ripple through the solar world.  Thousands of jobs were lost which advocates blame on uncertainty surrounding the cost of tariffs and their implementation.

ABIGAIL ROSS HOPPER, SOLAR ENERGY INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION:  The vast majority of consumers now do it to save money.  And so, the tariffs obviously cut into that savings, and so for some people in some places, if you`re in a state that has low electricity prices, they`re not going to have enough savings if solar becomes more expensive.  
ROGERS:  But the page is turning, as tariffs are set to decline by 5 percent each year, and certain products are exempted from the tax, as are the first two and a half giga watts of imported cells. 

That drop in costs coupled with corporate investment and utility companies turning to solar should prove to be a boost for business.  
Now, companies like Petersen Dean are focused on finding skilled workers, something SEIA says is a challenge industry wide.  To compete for talent, Petersen Dean offers 401(k) plans, health insurance and ongoing training to workers.  Experience installers can make up to $50 an hour.  
Beyond just pay and benefits, for workers like Trujillo, the beauty is in seeing the finished product.  

TRUJILLO:  The end is the best.  Just to see the work, how it looks, how it came out, aesthetically, it`s always good work.  

ROGERS:  For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Kate Rogers (NYSE:ROG) in Ontario, California.

GRIFFETH:  Skechers shares slide and that`s where we begin tonight`s “Market Focus”, with the casual sneaker-maker falling in today`s market after missing analyst expectations for its first quarter earnings and sales.  

Sketchers says its profits were affected by a higher income tax rate.  The company also issued disappointing second-quarter guidance.  And that stock was down nearly 10.5 percent in today`s trade to $31.60. 
Blackstone shares got a lift after the private equity company said he was going to change its status to a corporation from its current structure of a publicly traded partnership.  CEO Steve Schwarzman says that the change will let more people buy that company`s stock.  

STEVE SCHWARZMAN, BLACKSTONE CHAIRMAN & CEO:  We can sell to 4.5 trillion out of 12, but if we make this change to be a corporation which is like every other corporation, then we can double the number of people.  

GRIFFETH:  And that stock rose 7.5 percent on that news to $38.62.  
Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP) reported better than expected quarterly profits, thanks to price increases and cost-cuts.  That helped offset the impact from the Midwestern floods.  The CEO says the company`s more efficient systems did help it get through some very challenging weather conditions.  

LANCE FRITZ, UNION PACIFIC CEO:  The outage was epic for us.  We had our east-west main line severed for almost two weeks, 13 days, and as far as any of us can tell, that hasn`t happened, at least as far back as we can see, let`s say, 50 years ago.  It was an epic, epic weather issue.  

GRIFFETH:  Be that as it may, the stock hit an all-time high today, closed at $176.66.  
Honeywell posted stronger than expected sales in its first quarter.  The industrial conglomerate whose products range from thermostats to jet engines cited solid demand for it`s aerospace products.  The CFO says the company predicts little impact from Boeing`s reduction of the 737 MAX production.  Honeywell also raised its full-year forecast.  While it was at it, the stock rose 4 percent today to $169.06.  

E*TRADE topped first quarter earnings estimates after posting solid revenue.  The online brokerage company said an increase in new users helped offset lower commissions.  The stock just rose over 3.2 percent today to $51.14.  

BB&T (NASDAQ:MSDXP) (NYSE:BBT) reported a slight rise in its profits in the most recent quarter as it recorded merger related expenses ahead of its get-together with SunTrust.  And when it comes to lending, the CEO said today that activity is strong and getting stronger.  

KELLY KING, BB&T (NASDAQ:MSDXP) (NYSE:BBT) CHAIRMAN & CEO:  Our pipeline, where we kind of measure all the applications and process, are at an all-time high?  And so, we`re seeing a broad-based level of confidence, a broad based level of, you know, willingness to put our money to invest in plant, and capital and equipment.  

GRIFFETH:  Nonetheless, stocks fell nearly 1 percent today to $49.35.  
Our weekly market monitor likes the financial technology sector, or fintech as it`s know.  He has names that he says will benefit as the financial services industry becomes more automated, especially when it comes to making payments.  

This is his first time on our program.  We welcome Alex Chalakian.  He`s the CEO of Lake Avenue Financial.  
Alex, thanks for joining us tonight.

GRIFFETH:  And we start with Square, of course, one of the leaders in the electronic payments industry came public a few years ago, but it has stumbled in the last few months going back to last fall on questions about its earnings growth.  But you still like this company, why?  

CHALAKIAN:  Definitely.  Well, as we turn to a cashless society, Square`s going to definitely profit from this area and we`re going to see their point of sales and terminals, as well as other products are going to keep growing, and that`s why you noticed the revenue has gone up by 51 percent year over year.  

GRIFFETH:  All right.  But then you`ve got PayPal, of course, spun off from eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) a few years ago.  There seems to be no stumble in that stock recently.  Is that getting too expensive for you?  

CHALAKIAN:  Well, eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) — excuse me, PayPal, as you know from eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), but they have come in to different areas, such as lending and their new peer to peer payment app called Venmo has grown tremendously.  We see that space getting bigger and bigger.  
Right now, they`re a person to person payments area is at $35 billion, and it should be going to 4335 billion in the next couple of years.  So, there`s a lot of growth opportunities there for them as well.  

GRIFFETH:  And the other pick is not about payments, but it`s about financial technology.  Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU), they`ve been around a long time, but they`ve had to change their product offerings over the years as technology changed, right?  

CHALAKIAN:  Definitely.  And as we know all of us, we did our taxes recently.  So, for the do-it-yourselfer, they`re either utilizing TurboTax, or they`re using Quick Books or they`re on their Mint software.  And if you use a professional, chances are they were using Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU) software, as well.  And we`ve seen that area growing, and that`s why their last year revenue was increased by 12 percent.  

GRIFFETH:  Before I let you go, very quickly, in the payments area, again, you know, it`s becoming a crowded field.  Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is getting into that area, as well, and there are other companies.  So, are those two companies that you like, the only two do you like, or do you like the whole industry?  

CHALAKIAN:  No.  I like different areas of it.  We typically try to diversify for our clients, but these are some of the top holdings right now in the area of fintech for us.  

GRIFFETH:  Got it.  Alex Chalakian with Lake Avenue Financial, thanks again for joining us tonight.  

CHALAKIAN:  Thank you.  

GRIFFETH:  Coming up, it`s fast, it`s expensive and it sold out in just days.  

GRIFFETH:  Yesterday, we told you about the big push by automakers to go green with electric vehicles.  I mean, that`s been a big theme at this year`s New York Auto Show.  But there`s another car that caught our attention.  It`s called the Jesko.  It`s fast, it`s pricey and it`s very much in demand.  
Robert Frank got an up-close look for us tonight.

ROBERT FRANK, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  This is the fastest production car ever built, able to top 300 miles an hour and it sold out in just five days at a price of $3 million.  
It is called the Jesko, and it`s the latest model from the Swedish hyper carmaker Koenigsegg.  Only 125 Jeskos will be produced.  They will make one a week starting next year.  

Koenigsegg is one of those super exclusive hypercar brands known only to the super rich and car fanatics, as Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche move into the SUV world and make a lot more cars, companies like Koenigsegg are appealing to wealthy buyers who want truly rare cars that can outrun the competition.  Koenigsegg plans to increase production to 1,000 by 2022.  

And for the buyers of a $3 million super car, the threat of tariffs won`t likely be a problem.  

HALLDORA VON KOENIGSEGG, KOENIGSEGG COO:  You really need a Koenigsegg, so I`m sure if you look at other parts of the world like China, Malaysia or, you know, other countries like that, that means they have 200 percent of tax on hyper cars like this, and they still buy them.
FRANK:  This car generates 1,600 horsepower.  And at high speeds, it generates 3,000 pounds of downforce.  

Koenigsegg says most of its buyers are young entrepreneurs from around the world who may not drive it at 300 miles an hour, but do like the status.  
VON KOENIGSEGG:  Knowing that your car is the fastest in the world and that if you put it in the hands of a really professional driver on the safe place that it can do that, that it can break those records and make history, that`s a cool thing.  

FRANK:  The Jesko is named for founder Christian von Koenigsegg`s father who lent the company his entire life`s savings when it was struggling.  Hopefully, he`ll get paid back.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Robert Frank at the New York Auto Show in Manhattan.  

GRIFFETH:  And before we go, a final look at the day on Wall Street.  Generally positive, the Dow at the 110 points, the Nasdaq was up about 2, and the S&P 500 gained four.  And for the week — we`re closed tomorrow — the major averages all moved just slightly.  
And, by the way, today, Pinterest and Zoom both soared in their Wall Street debuts.  

That is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight, I`m Bill Griffeth.  Thanks so much for watching.  We will see you tomorrow for a special edition of NBR.  Hope you can join us.


Nightly Business Report transcripts and video are available on-line post broadcast at The program is transcribed by ASC Services II Media, LLC. Updates may be posted at a later date. The views of our guests and commentators are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Nightly Business Report, or CNBC, Inc. Information presented on Nightly Business Report is not and should not be considered as investment advice. (c) 2019 CNBC, Inc.

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