TYLER MATHISEN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Numbers game. The Department of Health and Human Services tells how many people bought policies on the troubled federal health insurance exchange. Critical mass or critical list for the new health care law?
SUSIE GHARIB, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Ka-ching. Macy`s surprises investors with a strong quarter, pushing the stock to a record, all while making upbeat comments about the upcoming holiday shopping season. Is the consumer stronger than first thought?
MATHISEN: Heading to the Hill. Janet Yellen, the president`s choice to lead the nation`s central bank, has her confirmation hearing tomorrow. Will she become the Fed`s first female chair and how might her policies differ from Ben Bernanke`s?
All that and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Wednesday, November 13th.
GHARIB: Good evening, everyone.
The first score card on Obamacare is out and it`s not good. Just 106,000 Americans have purchased their new healthcare plan under the 6-week old Affordable Care Act. And most of those buyers enrolled through their state`s Web site, not the trouble-plagued federal online marketplace, Healthcare.gov.
Now, the results are much worst than expected and Bertha Coombs joins us now with a break down of the numbers.
So, Bertha, I know you`ve been going through all of this information. Let`s start by just telling us who did succeed in signing up?
BERTHA COOMBS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: We don`t really know. They didn`t really give us demographic information. They just basically gave us the numbers of what they saw.
So, in terms of people who actually selected a plan at this point, we`re talking about 106,000 and as you mentioned, the majority of those came through the state-based exchanges that have been working fairly well, only 26,000, nearly 27,000 managed to select a plan. Some of them paid, a lot of them haven`t, but at least have at this point selected a plan through the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov.
As we all know, they had a lot of troubles for a lot of people. It`s been very frustrating. What`s interesting is to see just the wide variety, more people were able to select a plan on the California exchange than were on the federal exchange. And this is just for the first month, some of the states had more updated numbers.
In New York, pretty strong numbers, as well, just over 16,000, Kentucky which has been fairly good for them, over 5,500.
But take a look at the states on the federal exchange. And these are some of the states that have big uninsured populations like Florida, just 3,500 people.
In Texas, fewer than 3,000 people and Texas is a place where you have over 20 percent of people — 20 percent uninsured in that state. So, that`s a state they really want to target, and these problems with the Web site had made it difficult for people to come through.
MATHISEN: A couple quick questions here, was there a number they were expecting?
COOMBS: You know, it`s interesting because in September, there is a memo that was released by a House panel.
Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, had estimated that they would have roughly 500,000 people who would be at this stage. So, it seems like they —
MATHISEN: Twenty percent of that number. If this is an earnings call for a company —
MATHISEN: — people would be selling the stock right now.
COOMBS: Although they have been lowering expectations clearly because of the problems with the federal exchange.
MATHISEN: Was there a conference call today to follow up where people answered questions? What was the tone of that?
COOMBS: There was. Kathleen Sebelius was on it, and her tone was actually fairly confident, sort of saying, we know there have been problems. She did address the issue and she said we will give you more data with regard to demographics next month. Right now, it`s just difficult to get the data and difficult for it to be reliable.
This is really just the first month. Some states have already been talking about what is going on in November.
GHARIB: Talk about addressing the issues, we hear from the White House that President Obama is going to be speaking out tomorrow on all this and the thing in particular that people are concerned about, can I keep my original insurance policy? Is there anything the president can do to make that happen at this point?
COOMBS: It will be interesting to see. Obviously, there are legislators that want to a pass a bill that would allow people to keep those plans. But there are those in the industry who say it`s really difficult for the insurers at this point because they priced when they need to offer next week — next year rather, and for them to go back and keep those plans for another year might be difficult. In some cases, they are offering people the chance to renew early to maintain those plans, and in some states like California and Vermont, they have asked those insurers to keep people on the plans temporarily through the end of open enrollment on March 31st.
COOMBS: So, there is some leeway but not a whole lot.
MATHISEN: What a story this is turning out to be.
COOMBS: Isn`t it?
MATHISEN: Bertha Coombs, thank you very much.
Well, before those enrollment numbers came out today, the president`s technology chief went to Capitol Hill to answer questions from Congress about the troubled rollout. On a chilly day in Washington, it got hot.
Eamon Javers was at today`s hearing and joins us now with more — Eamon.
EAMON JAVERS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was hot, Tyler.
A very tough day here for the Obama administration up on Capitol Hill. They sent the White House`s chief technology officer up to the Hill. There was a lot of squabbling in the hearing room, real tensions are evident between the Democrats and the Republicans on this panel but the Obama administration officials were asked time and time again whether or not they can promise to hit this November 30th deadline for fixing Healthcare.gov that they laid out for themselves.
They were really unable to give a concrete answer to that that really brought confidence to the Republicans on the panel on Capitol Hill. Take a listen to this exchange where they sort of ducked the issue whether or not they can guarantee November 30th as a hard deadline for a fix.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: Are we going to hit November 30th?
TODD PARK, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER: Thank you for the question and thank you for your kind words at the beginning, as well. The goal that has been laid out is for the site not to be perfect by the end of November —
LANKFORD: Functional people can log on.
PARK: — so that the vast majority of Americans will be able to use the site smoothly. That`s the goal we`re going for and working hard to get there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAVERS: So, Todd Park there, the White House chief technology officer, saying that`s the goal, not necessarily making a guarantee that they`re going to be able to get to that November 30th deadline, Tyler.
MATHISEN: All right. Eamon Javers, thank you very much.
JAVERS: You bet.
GHARIB: On Wall Street, call it the Janet Yellen rally as the Dow and S&P hit records today. Investors snapped up stocks, counting on market friendly comments about Federal Reserve policies when Yellen testifies before Senate lawmakers tomorrow for her confirmation hearing to succeed to Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman.
Also boosting stocks, Macy`s and the much better than expected earnings and we`ll have more in a moment on Macy`s and also what to expect from that Janet Yellen hearing.
But, first, here are today`s closing numbers: the Dow jumped 71 points, and 15,821 is fresh all-time high. The NASDAQ rose 45, the S&P added 14 points, closing at it`s own record high.
MATHISEN: Well, the biggest gainer in the S&P today was the company Susie was just talking about. Macy`s shares closed at an all-time high themselves, shooting up more than 9 percent, more than $50 a piece after easily beating Wall Street estimates on earnings in the last quarter. But it`s what Macy`s said about the upcoming holiday shopping season that really had the stock jumping.
Courtney Reagan has more.
COURTNEY REAGAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the rest of retail echoes Macy`s commentary in its quarterly earnings report, it`s looking like it could be a very merry Christmas. Macy`s reporting better than expected third quarter sales and profit, but it`s the department stores encouraging guidance for the holiday season that sent the stock price to all time highs.
CEO Terry Lundgren making a key statement in the earnings release saying, quote, “Our business improved during the quarter with particular strength in October, so we are entering the fourth quarter with confidence.”
(on camera): While last quarter, Macy`s blamed its rare earnings miss on consumers facing spending head winds, this quarter, the company says the strategy is to thank for its strong results.
(voice-over): A key component of Macy`s strategy is its omni channel offering or the seamless experience across platforms from in-store to online. And most retail watchers agree, Macy`s leads the competition in that area. But it`s also the department store`s merchandise and pricing that helped prop the retailer above competition.
MATTHEW BOSS, JPMORGAN: It`s things like Estee Lauder, it`s Clinique. It`s the handbag that`s Michael Kors, it`s Coach (NYSE:COH), it`s Ralph Lauren. These are brands that Macy`s sells in the department store world that a number of their peers don`t.
REAGAN: Now, the big question on Wall Street`s mind is: will Macy`s holiday forecast be the exception or the rule?
CHUCK GROM, STERNE AGEE: There appears to be momentum here, a little bit of life in the consumer. And we`ll know I think by the end of the day tomorrow if we can extrapolate this across other parts of retail.
REAGAN: For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Courtney Reagan.
GHARIB: Speaking of momentum, not much momentum in sales at Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO). After the closing bell, the computer networking equipment maker posted better than expected quarterly earnings but weaker sales. Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) sales fell sharply in after-hours trading. The Dow component earned 53 cents a share, that`s excluding certain items and it was two cents better that analyst estimates.
But revenue, which topped $12 billion, was $330 million less than expected.
Josh Lipton joins us now from Silicon Valley.
So, Josh, as you look through the numbers, what`s the one take away from investors from the Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) report?
JOSH LIPTON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, as you pointed out, listen, Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is getting hit hard here in the after hours. It`s dragging some rivals down with it; missed on sales. You also saw a disappointing guide.
One number that did strike me through the release was Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO)`s decision to boost its buyback by a big $15 billion. Remember, the company had already authorized up to $82 billion in stock repurchases.
And, you know, when you talk to Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) bulls, those analysts will bring that up. It`s a big part of the thesis, that they believe they`re going to see bigger buybacks. But tonight obviously, at least right now in the after hours, traders and investors, they are focused on the miss in the top line and a disappointing guidance.
GHARIB: And we`ll see what happens in trading tomorrow with Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) stock and we`ll be counting on you to fill us in. Thanks so much.
Josh Lipton reporting from Silicon Valley.
MATHISEN: And still ahead, with mortgage rates creeping higher and first time buyers increasingly priced out of the market, one home builder is shifting back to a strategy it used during the housing crash.
MATHISEN: Last month`s 16-day partial government shutdown helped lower the nation`s federal deficit for October. The treasury says the government ran a $91 billion short fall last month. That was about 25 percent lower than the deficit Uncle Sam racked up during the same month a year ago.
GHARIB: Now, one of the sticking points that led to that partial government shutdown, a losing effort by House Republicans to repeal a tax on medical devices. But chief executives of those device makers have picked up the fight, heading to the nation`s capital today to tell lawmakers how the taxes are hurting businesses and jobs.
Jane Wells has more.
PROTESTERS: End the shutdown. End the shutdown!
JANE WELLS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The government shutdown may be over but one fight in the middle of it is not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we doing by taxes medical devices?
WELLS: A group of CEOs hit Capitol Hill this week to lobby for the repeal of a tax on medical devices they make — a 2.3 percent tax on everything from MRI machines to stints.
The taxes also hit MyoScience, the Silicon Valley startup which created a device using cold to relieve pain or remove wrinkles. Sales should reach $10 million this year.
But CEO Clint Carnell says most are overseas where there`s no tax.
CLINTON CARNELL, MYOSCIENCE CEO: The device taxes on revenues, not profits.
WELLS: That`s the real beef here, that startups have to pay taxes on revenues before they are profitable and MyoScience won`t be profitable for years, hence the trip to Washington.
CARNELL: The venture capital community for med devices really struggled the last couple of years. And it`s not just the device tax, it`s regulations, longer approval process. So, a lot of the funding is coming from Europe, coming from Asia. And obviously, when you have investors that are from those areas, they want you to commercialize, grow your company, even move it to those areas of the world.
WELLS (on camera): While some claimed medical device jobs are being shipped overseas in part because of the tax, Carnell says he is resisting the efforts of his foreign investors to relocate MyoScience headquarters outside the country. He`s an American. He wants to keep it an American company. It`s just going to cost him.
CARNELL: I think it`s one of those that`s getting kicked around like a political football, when in reality, this is something we all should be able to get around. It`s an American issue. It`s about innovation, creating world class companies here, innovating new products, getting better patient here in the United States, and exporting that to the rest of the world.
WELLS: He and others lobbying for change don`t believe the tax will kill innovation, just export at least some of it or at least some of the devices, allowing foreigners to benefit from American technology before Americans do.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Janes Wells, Washington.
MATHISEN: SeaWorld reports better than expected earnings after the bell, and that is where we begin tonight`s “Market Focus”.
The theme park operator`s profit up 30 percent in the third quarter which its CEO attributes to pricing and effective cost management. But revenues were a little lighter than expected. The stock ended the day nearly 3 percent higher, finishing at $32.82.
Chegg shares plummeted on the company`s first day of trading. The textbook rental business priced its IPO at $12.50 a share, and that was above the expected range. Chegg CEO said he will use some of the money raised to expand his business.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN ROSENSWEIG, CHEGG CEO: What we want to do is accelerate our rate of growth, when see opportunities to use a strong balance sheet. Look, in this economy, strong balance sheet is a winning formula for investors. So, now, we`d just bee able to put $200 million more in our balance sheet. We`ve got extraordinary growth. So, we want to use it to buy more things that help students improve their outcomes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATHISEN: Well, the outcome for Chegg stock today not so hot. It dropped 22 1/2 percent to $9.68.
It was a different story today, though, for Extended Stay America, the hotel chain which specializes in hotel rooms and apartments. Well, they saw shares surge in the market debut, the company`s IPO price of $20 was in the midpoint of the expected range. The stock, though, sprinted more than 19 percent to $23.87.
GHARIB: Meanwhile, shares of Perry Ellis tumbled today after the closing retailers cut its earnings and revenue outlook for the third quarter and the full year. Weak sales and the company`s private label business and its direct retail channel were to blame for the disappointing forecast. Shares plunged 23 percent to $15.
Here is an update on some Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) news that we told you about yesterday. As you recall, it was ordered to pay Kraft (NYSE:KFT) nearly $2.8 billion in damages after the coffee chain easterly termination of a grocery deal. Today, Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) revised its fourth quarter results to reflect that loss. Kraft (NYSE:KFT)`s award almost completely wiped out the coffee company`s earnings for the year. But that didn`t seem to shake investors. Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) shares were up 1 percent to $81.46.
MATHISEN: Applications for new mortgages fell slightly last week. The Mortgage Bankers Association says filings for refis and new home loans fell 1.8 percent as mortgage rates edged a fraction higher.
GHARIB: Well, with rates now sitting at a one-month high, applications for loans slipping and many would be home buyers waiting for home prices to stop rising. Home builders are facing a lot of challenges.
So, what`s the state of the nation`s builders right now, and how are they changing their focus and some of their products?
Diana Olick takes a look.
DIANA OLICK, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Home buyers may be coming back but for the nation`s big builders, they are coming back mostly to the higher end move up market. Entry level buyers are priced out.
RICHARD DUGAS, PULTE HOMES CEO: It`s a question of when they can get in and afford it. And I believe that is currently under a little bit of pressure.
OLICK: That`s why Pulte, the nation`s second largest home builder, is shifting its attention. Pulte acquired entry level builder Centex during the recession. But that`s not where the buyers are now. They are heading for the higher end Pulte brand, and active adult Del Webb division.
DUGAS: I think you`re have to adjust, in our case, the overall portfolio in order to take advantage of that and perhaps the entry level is not 40 percent or 50 percent of the overall market like it used to be, maybe it settles in at 35 percent or 30 percent.
OLICK: Pulte and its fellow builders are also faced with increased competition from the new single family rental market. Entry level buyers who can`t afford large downpayments or don`t have the credit scores necessary are increasingly turning to rental.
With new home prices soaring, some builders are shifting back to strategies they used during the crash.
BRAD HUNTER, METROSTUDY: We`re seeing 10 percent pull backs in home prices from the builders, a combination of incentives, and concessions and just sometimes an outright reduction in their home price.
OLICK (on camera): Pulte`s Dugas says he is not ready to lower prices. The margins are still too good, but he`s also not ruling out concessions, either, because he doesn`t expect competition from single family rental homes to go away any time soon. In fact, he calls it a long-term play.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Diana Olick, in New York.
MATHISEN: Well, if you`ve got money in the market, you will want to watch what happens in Washington tomorrow. Janet Yellen, President Obama`s choice to become the next head of the Federal Reserve, faces the Senate Banking Committee in her confirmation hearings. She`s expected to win the job but not before being peppered with questions about interest rate policy, inflation, unemployment, transparency at the Fed and, oh, yes, how soon she might pull back on the stimulus the Fed has been pumping into the economy.
Joining us to talk more about Janet Yellen and what she means for your money is Michael Feroli. He`s chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM).
Michael, welcome, and good evening to you.
Do you have any doubt that Ms. Yellen is going to be confirmed, and if she is, presuming she is, how might she be a different Fed chief than Ben Bernanke?
MICHAEL FEROLI, J.P. MORGAN CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST: So far, expectations are she will get confirmed. In terms of the differences from Bernanke, I think the most important to keep in mind is that there`s actually going to be a fair bit of continuity with Bernanke. You know, she served alongside Bernanke for a number of years now. Many of the policies that Bernanke has created, she`s helped to implement. Certainly, that`s been the case with a lot of the communication policies.
So, I think initially, the thing is not to expect a lot of differences but actually a fair amount of continuity.
GHARIB: You know, Michael, we got an advanced copy of Janet Yellen`s testimony that she`s going to make in front of the Banking Committee and sounded very much like Ben Bernanke in her testimony saying it`s important to continue supporting the recovery. I guess that`s code for saying she`s going to keep the stimulus plans going for awhile yet.
But what can surprise us coming out from the Janet Yellen Fed? Is there something — everybody thinks she`s going to be just like Ben Bernanke. But what could surprise us?
FEROLI: Well, again, I think as far as tomorrow`s testimony, we already have the prepared remarks, and, you know, I think some people were expecting that to sound a little perhaps a little more hawkish than we come to expect Janet Yellen in order to, you know, put aside those charges that she may be too soft on inflation.
We didn`t really see that in these prepared remarks and I suspect she`ll sound more like herself tomorrow. In terms of what could surprise us? I think Yellen probably has a little greater emphasis on communication than perhaps Bernanke.
Bernanke was a great innovator in asset purchases and in Q.E. Yellen, I suspect, we could see, you know, continued push toward more transparency and even more communication than we have from the current Fed. So, I think that`s probably the direction to expect policy to evolve in the coming months and years.
MATHISEN: You know, Michael, she will also, presuming she`s confirmed, she`ll also be dealing with a different voting policy making committee. How might that change as some of those incumbents move off the open market committee, new people come in? Is it going to be a more difficult, more fractious group that she has to deal with that market has had to?
FEROLI: I think that`s right. I think certainly early next year, she`s going to have a very limited small board because you have a couple people who have retired but haven`t been replaced and then of the rotating regional reserve bank president, a couple of those are going to be more hawkish than Bernanke`s had to deal with. So, I think at least initially, until we replace some of those board members, she`s going to be dealing with a small committee and a couple of whom are going to be opposed to.
But presumably, she`s going to want, you know, more accommodated or at least continue to be very accommodated, policies and that may be met with at least two dissents early on and perhaps depending on there is a vacancy in the Cleveland Fed if that gets replaced but hawk, he could be seeing three dissents on a committee of only nine people.
So, I do think that that`s going to be, you know, a little bit of an issue for Yellen early next year.
MATHISEN: That`s interesting. And you don`t see that very often, at least not in recent history at the Fed, either under Greenspan or Bernanke.
Michael Feroli, chief economist at JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), thanks very much.
FEROLI: Sure. Thank you.
GHARIB: And coming up next on the program, will the high profile launch of two new gaming systems result in a surge in sales for the game maker?
GHARIB: More TV viewers are cutting the cord. The paid TV industry continued to lost subscribers in the third quarter of this year, getting hurt by cheaper streaming video services, we`re talking about Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Hulu. The traditional cable and satellite providers lost another 113,000 paying customers in the summer quarter. That`s more than the 101,000 it lost during the same period a year ago.
MATHISEN: While fewer people are paying for cable TV, more people are snapping up the hottest new video game titles and eagerly awaiting new game consoles from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Sony (NYSE:SNE), leading to sort of a renaissance for the gaming industry.
Julia Boorstin has the story.
JULIA BOORSTIN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sony (NYSE:SNE)`s PlayStation 4 hits stores Friday. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)`s Xbox One, a week later. Both new consoles are expected to sellout this holiday season which bodes well for game giants Activision and Electronic Art.
DOUG CREUTZ, COWEN & COMPANY: If installed base builds into next year, we know people buy more games after they bought a new console. So, we`re going to have kind of the relative age of the installed base will get younger and that will drive more software sales as we get into next year, particularly next holiday.
BOORSTIN: We ask gamers who is at the top of their holiday wish list.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m definitely going to buy “GTA 5” and the new “NBA 14”.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be the “2K14 NBA”.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably buy the new NBA when it comes out, or “Call of Duty”, those are my two games.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can get pricey, yes, but for quality games like “Call of Duty: Ghost”, it`s totally worth it.
BOORSTIN: This holiday season, Activision`s “Call of Duty: Ghost” will get the biggest boost. Then, next year, we`ll see the games designed specifically for the new consoles. Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS)` “Titanfall”, and Activision`s “Destiny” are the two most hotly anticipated games designed for the new format.
(on camera): But video game sales are already on the rebound, thanks to huge new titles designed for the older generation of games. In October, video game sales are expected to post the third consecutive month of gains, up more than 30 percent.
(voice-over): It all comes to pent-up demand for the biggest titles, like EA`s “Battlefield 4” and “Grand Theft Auto V” from Take Two Interactive, which broke records with a billion dollars in sales in the first few days. Both titles are clearly demonstrating gamers` willingness to invest in new games and digital extras.
ERIC HANDLER, MKM PARTNERS: People are allocating more money for online map packs or downloadable content on missions and that sort of stuff. So, it`s fewer games but there is — those fewer games are generating bigger revenues.
BOORSTIN: One potential area of frustration, games made for the current consoles won`t work on the new ones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, it would be super convenient for me to play regular Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One. That would be amazing. But it`s not the way Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) works. So —
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I sold my games after I had my fair share with them. So I`m not really worried that much.
BOORSTIN: For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Julia Boorstin, Los Angeles.
GHARIB: And finally tonight, Christie`s in New York City hosted the highest grossing art auction of all time last night, breaking several records, including a total take of nearly $692 million for just the night. Also, this Francis Bacon triptych became most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction, priced at a staggering $142.4 million. No word yet on either the seller or the buyer.
And one other stat that`s interesting, the most expensive piece of artwork sold by a living artist, Jeff Koons —
MATHISEN: The balloon dog.
GHARIB: Balloon dog, $58 million.
MATHISEN: Fifty-eight million, right on your front lawn. It`s going to be delivered Sunday.
GHARIB: Better than the stock market, maybe, huh?
That`s NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight. I`m Susie Gharib. Thanks for watching.
MATHISEN: And thanks from me, as well. I`m Tyler Mathisen, have a great evening everybody. We`ll see you back here tomorrow night.
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