SUSIE GHARIB, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Upbeat outlook. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says the economy is growing, but she’s worried about the housing and job markets. And she gave no hints on when interest rates might start to rise.
TYLER MATHISEN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)!’s windfall. What will it do with all that cash from the Alibaba IPO? And will any of it be returned to shareholders?
GHARIB: And hitting the books. Rates on federal student loans for this coming school year were set today. And guess what? Borrowers will pay more.
We have all that and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Wednesday, May 7th.
MATHISEN: Good evening, everyone, and welcome.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen went to Capitol Hill today. She told Congress’ Joint Economic Committee that the U.S. economy is turning up after a winter of virtual standstill. But she pointed to several areas that bear watching — among them, housing.
Steve Liesman has our report.
STEVE LIESMAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s testimony before Congress’ Joint Economic Committee today blaming the first quarter’s economic weakness solidly on the harsh winter weather and saying she already sees a rebound in spending and production in the first month of the spring. And that leads her to be optimistic about growth this year.
JANET YELLEN, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIR: Looking ahead, I expect that economic activity will expand at a somewhat faster pace this year than it did last year. That the unemployment rate will continue to decline gradually, and that inflation will begin to move up toward 2 percent.
LIESMAN: Behind Yellen’s optimism, she sees less fiscal restraint, that is, a smaller decline in government spending, gains in home prices and equities leading to increased spending, firming foreign growth and increasing confidence among business and consumers. Yellen cited geopolitical tensions and possible financial instability in emerging markets as the biggest risks to her forecast.
She’s also clearly concerned about recent housing weakness, suggesting it’s a serious risk to the Fed’s outlook.
The new Fed chair, though, gave no hint that rates would rise any sooner than the market currently believes, which is about the second quarter of 2015, and she said the Fed remains on course to end its bond-buying program or quantitative easing by the end of this year, if the forecast for strong growth pans out.
Several representatives peppered the chair with questions about whether the Fed’s policy of keeping interest rates so low for so long are creating financial bubbles. Yellin said it’s not a concern at this time.
YELLEN: Valuations are in historically normal ranges. Now, interest rates, long-term interest rates are low, and that is one of the factors that feeds into equity market valuations.
So, there is that linkage. So, there are pocket where we could potentially see this valuations in smaller-cap stocks, but overall, those broad metrics don’t suggest that we are in obviously bubble territory.
LIESMAN: Yellin said there could be bubbles in high-yielding corporate debt or junk bonds, but overall, she said the financial system did not appear to be overleveraged.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Steve Liesman.
GHARIB: For more analysis, let’s turn now to Josh Feinman. He’s chief of global economist at Deutsch Wealth and Asset Management.
Josh, what was the key message from your point of view from Janet Yellen and translate what her message means if you’re an investor, a business owner, or someone looking for job?
JOSHUA FEINMAN, DEUTSCH WEALTH & ASSET MANAGEMENT CHIEF GLOBAL ECONOMIST: I think there’s a couple things. One is she reiterated the point that the economy’s weakness earlier this year was largely transitory. She expects the momentum to pick up as the year progresses. And the recent indicators have been supportive of that.
But the other thing she stressed is that, while we’ve made a lot of progress, there’s still a long way to go to repair the damage that was done, particularly in the labor market, that there’s still a lot of slack out there. And with slack still persisting, with wage pressures and inflation pressures very, very dormant, it’s not a recipe for the Fed, you know, rushing for the exits.
MATHISEN: Why is she worried about housing, Josh?
FEINMAN: Well, recently, say the last six months or so, the recovery in housing seems to have stalled about at bit, and that is a bit of a worry, but I think part of that is the weather, part is a response to the backup in interest rates we saw last year.
I think going forward, we’re likely to see housing continue or resume, I should say, its recovery. But if it doesn’t, we get to the summer and it’s not happening, I think that would be a concern.
GHARIB: So, Josh, I know the years of forecasting 4 percent economic growth for this current quarter that we’re in right now, and yet you’re talking about problems in housing, problems in the labor market. Where’s that growth going to come from?
FEINMAN: Well, some of it is just a make up for the winter. You know, we’ve got no growth in the first quarter, so if we get 4 percent in the second quarter, that shouldn’t be extrapolated forward the underlying trend. Some of it is the makeup.
What I think is happening, though, is the underlying momentum in the economy is picking up and we’ll start to see that more clearly as the year progresses, but the important point is that progress is being made, the labor market, as I said, still has a ways to go and there’s still a lot of slack. I think that’s why Fed Chair Yellen was reiterating the point that they’re not likely going to be moving quickly to start renormalizing rates.
MATHISEN: Where has inflation gone?
FEINMAN: Nowhere. I mean, inflation has just been largely quiescent. It’s below the Fed’s target, and that’s another one of the reasons that the Fed doesn’t — you know, the recipe is for patience, because, you know, they’re missing both sides of their dual mandates still. Inflation is below target and we’re below full employment.
Both those things would argue that the Fed should move quickly to start renormalizing rates.
GHARIB: To use an overused word, the new normal. I mean, where do you see the unemployment rate going? Will we ever get back to full employment, roughly 5 percent? And where do interest rates ultimately go? What’s the new normal on that?
FEINMAN: I think we’ll ultimately get back to something close to full employment. It’s just going to take a while. You know, we’ve gone now 76 months with no net job creation. Even using a conservative estimate, you probably need to create about 80,000 jobs a month to keep up with the trend in the labor force. We’ve created zero over the last 76 months.
So, that leaves us about 6 million jobs shy of what I would consider full employment. So, if we continue to create jobs at 200,000 a month, it would still take us more than three years to get back to full employment.
GHARIB: Oh, wow, that’s an amazing number to think about.
Josh, thank you so much for coming by. Josh Feinman —
FEINMAN: Great to be here.
GHARIB: — chief global economist at Deutsch Wealth and Asset Management.
MATHISEN: Well, Susie, the major averages began the day sharply lower, disappointing earnings and outlooks. But with the help from Janet Yellen and signs that Russia’s President Putin may now be looking to ease tensions over Ukraine, the Dow and the S&P 500 battled back from the those early losses to notch their biggest gains in three weeks.
The NASDAQ, though, well, it was lower throughout the session on a sell-off in Internet, technology, and social media stocks, like Twitter. It lost another 3.7 percent today.
At the end of a choppy trading day, the Dow was 117 points higher. NASDAQ lost 13, but at one point it was down 50, so it, too, came back but just not enough to go into the green. The S&P added 10.
Now, while most stocks did end higher, some names you know got hit hard.
Dominic Chu takes a closer look.
DOMINIC CHU, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For weeks now, investors have been taking money off the table when it comes to stocks and have had tremendous upside runs. They’re also known as those momentum stocks.
Today, we saw some dramatic single-day sell-offs. Take upscale grocery store chain Whole Foods. It said that sales and stores open at least a year grew at a slower pace than expected as competitive pressures picked up.
As a result, Whole Foods cut sales and profit forecasts and the stock lost around a fifth of its value.
Then, there’s cybersecurity firm FireEye. The once high-flying company said that losses for the current quarter would be worse than previously thought. The stock lost a quarter of its value.
Then, there’s AOL (NYSE:AOL), the online media and entertainment company, reported a bigger drop in profits than Wall Street had been expecting. AOL (NYSE:AOL) is in the middle of a turnaround effort and has been shutting down underperforming units and investing in its advertising business. The shares lost around a quarter of their value as well today.
Of course, when stocks drop that much in value in such a short period of time, some investors use it as a buying opportunity.
KEN ALLEN, T. ROWE PRICE: A lot of these companies importantly are reinvesting aggressively in businesses which is holding back earnings and cash flow, and I think in a lot of cases making them look even more expensive than they are. A couple that are kind of cases in point there are Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD).
CHU: The bigger concern is whether or not this kind of selling will carry into other parts of the market.
JOE TERRANOVA: There’s no need for the retail investor at home, who’s invested in non high-beta momentum type of names to have significant concern.
CHU (on camera): Some investors are taking comfort that while there are sell-offs in certain stocks, it’s not happening across the entire market. And they’ll point to the fact we still remain near record highs for the Dow and S&P 500.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Dominic Chu.
GHARIB: And Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) is another stock that got slammed today, down more than 6 percent, and that’s despite encouraging news that the company will be one of the biggest beneficiaries when Alibaba goes public later this year. Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! owns nearly a quarter of the Chinese e-commerce giant.
So, what does Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! stand to gain from Alibaba going public and what could that mean for Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! shareholders?
Josh Lipton takes a look.
JOSH LIPTON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jack Mott (ph) is bringing his company public, but what Alibaba’s public debut with will mean for Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! shareholders is still an open question. Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! owns 23 percent of Alibaba and will sell 9 percent of that stake in Alibaba’s offering.
Exactly how many billions of dollars that will net yahoo! Depends on Alibaba’s valuation and various tax considerations. Estimates range from $7 billion to $11 billion.
But what will Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! do with all that money? Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! CEO Marissa Meyer was asked that very question today at a conference in New York City. She said the company will act as a good steward of capital.
MARISSA MAYER, YAHOO CEO: We had previously sold part of our stake in Alibaba and gotten the proceeds. We returned some of those proceeds to shareholders. In fact, a majority of proceeds went to shareholders, but we did make some smart investments in the company in terms of building out talent, building out technology, and platforms like Tumblr.
LIPTON: Analysts say Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! could use the capital to pay a dividend or increase its buyback program. That would provide support for the stock price and send a message to investors that Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)!’s leaders are confident that their stock is a smart investment.
YOUSSEF SQUALI, CANTOR FITZGERALD: It does convey to investors that management, this new management team, is putting their money where their mouth is.
LIPTON: Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! could also use the money to do acquisitions. Mayer has completed multiple accusations, including Summly, a mobile news app, and Tumblr, a blogging service.
Analysts say she should now be on the hunt for bigger acquisition targets.
COLIN GILLIS, BCC FINANCIAL: An acquisition of a company such as AOL (NYSE:AOL), which we laid out, may make sense because AOL (NYSE:AOL) actually is stronger than Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! in video views.
They do about 1.3 million videos per month. Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! does about 600,000. If you combine those two companies together, not only is there a lot of cost synergies, but to get that knew growth, you get that strong positioning in video that Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! seeks.
LIPTON: Mayer would have to be careful when choosing acquisition targets. Unlike Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), whose core business is performing well, Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! remains a turnaround story. Investors might not give Mayer the same leeway to make risky bets as they do for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
(on camera): Bottom line, the jury is still out for shareholders and whether to stick by Mayer strategy for Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! or just sell and perhaps own Alibaba shares instead.
Josh Lipton, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Silicon Valley.
MATHISEN: Still ahead, heading off to college this fall? Well, it just got a lot more expensive to take out a federal student loan. We’ve got the details just ahead.
MATHISEN: Another sign of life in the housing market, mortgage applications rose more than 5 percent last week as interest rates dipped just a bit. Both refinancings and new home loans were up.
Just last week, applications for home loans fell to their lowest level since December of the year 2000.
GHARIB: Higher mortgage rates, a spike in home prices, and tougher credit rules have all combined to stall the housing recovery, especially for younger would-be buyers. And now, more of them are becoming renters and they’re doing so by choice.
Diana Olick has the story.
DIANA OLICK, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The dream of home ownership isn’t exactly dead. It’s just being postponed, especially for younger Americans who are hit hardest by the recession.
STEVE DEGGENDORF, FANNIE MAE SENIOR DIRECTOR: Younger renters have told us by a vast majority that they eventually want to own a home but the road to get there, to get the mortgage financing is going to be pretty difficult.
OLICK: Housing began to recover thanks to all-cash investors. But as they now slow down, younger mortgage-dependent buyers are not picking up the slack.
YELLEN: Readings on housing activity, a sector that has been recovering since 2011, have remained disappointing so far this year and will bear watching.
OLICK: Employment for younger Americans is still weak, but it’s not just jobs. A new survey by Fannie Mae found big changes in why younger renters choose to stay renting. In 2012, 35 percent said they were renting in order to make themselves financially ready to own, that dropped to just 26 percent in 2013. More renters now say they rent because it’s a more affordable option. There are also social changes afoot.
(on camera): Unlike their parents who prefer gated communities, today’s younger millennials are more social. They want to be here, downtown, close to work, close to amenities, and that usually means renting.
JONATHAN EPPERS, RADPAD CEO: The rental market is so hot today that the rental owners are really building sort of places that renters want to live in. Like you can get a pool, a movie theater, you know, concierge at your apartment complex. If you bought a house at 23, you wouldn’t get any of that stuff.
OLICK (voice-over): Jonathan Eppers, CEO of RadPad, a new app designed to make every facet of renting easier. Eppers is also a millennial renter.
EPPERS: Last thing you want to come out of college when you have that is all debt is fork out more debt to buy a house.
OLICK: The majority of renters surveyed by Fannie Mae said they did not have sufficient funds to cover even a 5 percent downpayment plus closing costs on a typical starter home. So while the monthly payment for owning a home may be cheaper than rent in some places, actually buying that home is the barrier to entry.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Diane Olick in Washington.
GHARIB: To read more about millennials and the housing market, go to our Web site, NBR.com.
MATHISEN: Now, the big challenge for millennials, the more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. And today, interest rates on most federal undergraduate student loans rose for the upcoming school year. Most of those loans are now pegged to the yield on the ten-year sold at the last auction in May, and that happened today. Yields rose and as a result, rates will go up and kick in on July 1.
Sharon Epperson joins us now.
How much are they going to go up? What’s going to happen?
SHARON EPPERSON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Well, we’re talking about rates for 2014-2015 school year that are going to go up less than a percentage point, but it’s still going to be a significant gain for some people. We’re talking about what most borrowers take out, which is a Stafford loan, going up to almost 5 percent, 4.66 percent, and then we’re looking at the plus loan, which you can take out as a graduate student or parents can take out. That will be over 7 percent. The graduate Stafford loan is going to be in the middle there, over 6 percent.
GHARIB: That’s a big hit. I mean, I guess if you’re a senior going into senior year of college, it’s not to be so bad. But if you’re a freshman, it could really add —
EPPERSON: Taking out over time.
EPPERSON: But month to month, if you look at it that way, and we should be budgeting monthly, it’s only about $4 a month if you’re talking about $10,000 in student loan debt and a ten-year repayment period. You’re going to be paying an extra four bucks or so a month.
MATHISEN: Does it make more sense to take out private loans?
EPPERSON: A lot of people look at these rising federal rates and they think, OK, maybe I should —
MATHISEN: Just go to my bank, or my credit union.
EPPERSON: Right. But you still likely are going to pay more over the life of the loan. If you take out a Stafford loan like most folks do, that’s going to be cheaper than many of the private loans that you can take out. Looking at Sallie Mae, their fixed-rate loans range anywhere from 5.75 percent above 12 percent, as much as that much, and a variable rate loan, yes, if you have outstanding credit, maybe you can qualify for one that’s around 2 percent, a little more than that. But it’s going to fluctuate and it could go up to more than 10 percent.
GHARIB: Well, now that you bring up about fluctuating and, you know, these high numbers, Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts, is proposing some kind of refinance bill so that you could refinance your student loans, just like we refinance our mortgages.
Do you think that this proposal will go through?
EPPERSON: Well, there’s a lot of merit to it. There’s a lot of merit to it. I mean, anyone with a big loan balance and not a lot of income, this is supposed to help them. And so, bringing those rates down, and she’s looking at the rates that we currently have, which are under 4 percent for that Stafford loan, making them, refinancing at that level would be a great idea.
But it’s very unlikely that this is going to get through with all the different hurdles that we’ll have to go through in terms of how divided Congress is right now. There’s not a lot of likelihood that people think it’s going to pass, but there are parts of this bill that could have merit and be incorporated.
MATHISEN: Are there any tax wrinkles that borrowers ought to be aware of with respect to student loans?
For example, is the interest tax deductible? If my mother or father are paying for it, is it a gift to me, or what?
EPPERSON: Well, the borrower, the student loan interest deduction is for the borrower. So, the parent doesn’t have the tax write-off, but the borrower does. And that is something to — that’s very important to point out and very important for borrowers to pay attention to some of the other tax credits they could get in terms of paying for college, really important things to look at. Good point.
MATHISEN: Sharon, thank you very much.
GHARIB: Mondelez and D.E. Master Blenders are joining forces to create one of the world’s biggest coffee companies. And that’s where we begin tonight’s “Market Focus”.
The two companies will combine coffee assets, creating a business as expected to have annual revenue of more than $7 billion a year. The move is part of a new restructuring plan at Mondelez, so they can cut cost and focus on its snack food units, like Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers.
It’s earnings also topped estimates. Shares popped more than 8 percent to $38.10. Shares of DirecTV surged on reports that it’s working with advisers, including Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), about a possible deal with AT&T (NYSE:T). Reportedly, AT&T (NYSE:T) is the one that approached the satellite TV provider last week about combining forces. Shares jumped about 8 percent to $88.25.
Well, Humana (NYSE:HUM) was out with earnings that easily beat analyst estimates. The insurer reported growing membership in its Medicare Advantage and prescription plans. The actual quarterly profit did fall more than 20 percent, but that’s because last year’s results were helped by a settlement.
But Humana’s customer growth outlook was also strong. Shares rose almost 9 percent to $119 and change.
MATHISEN: Shares of Phillips 66 got a lift after the company hiked its dividend by 28 percent. The quarterly payout of 50 cents a share will be made to the oil refiner’s shareholders in June.
Now, do the math here. If you own seven shares, that means you can afford a gallon of regular. The stock was up slightly to $85.03.
All right. Moving on, Freeport-McMoRan selling its Eagle Ford Shale assets in Texas for $3.1 billion. The buyer is EnCana, a Canadian energy company. The deal will almost double EnCana’s oil output. Freeport trying to sell energy assets to trim its debt.
Shares of EnCana up more than 4 percent, $23.57 the finish there. Freeport up a fraction, $33.99.
And Tesla’s earnings topped expectations and apparently investors focused on the company’s warning that expenses will rise. The electric carmaker produced more cars than it said it would and made more money after separating out accounting items. But the costs of new model rollouts, international expansion and a new battery factory tossed ice water on an otherwise favorable report.
The stock was down more than 7 percent after the close. During the regular session, shares down about 3 percent to $201.35.
GHARIB: Well, it isn’t easy for a city to declare bankruptcy, and it turns out it isn’t cheap either. Court documents show that total fees and expenses from law firms, consultants, and other adviser involved in Detroit’s bankruptcy reached nearly $36 million last year. And officials predict the fees will be even higher in 2014.
MATHISEN: The fast food worker movement demanding higher pay and better working conditions is about to go global. Organizers from the group Fast Food Forward with representatives from dozens of countries on six continents were outside of McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) in New York City today calling for a fast food worker strike, and protests around the world on May 15th.
The group is calling for a base salary of $15 an hour for the United States’ 4 million fast food workers.
GHARIB: And coming up, the future of Wall Street and why the financial capital of the world may be unrecognizable 25 years from now.
GHARIB: Some big money was spent in the kickoff to the new spring art auction season. As we told you the other night, a rarely seen 1907 painting by Claude Monet titled “Water Lilies,” was put up for auction and last night sold for $24 million plus $3 million more in commission at Christie’s Auction House in New York. The winning bidder who called in on the phone no less chose to remain anonymous.
MATHISEN: NBC Universal (NYSE:UVV) has locked up rights to air the Olympic Games through the year 2032. The network already secured the rights for all summer and winter games through 2020, but is now paying nearly $8 billion more for another 12 years of broadcasting rights across all media platforms including free and subscription TV, the Internet, and mobile telecast.
NBC Universal (NYSE:UVV) is the parent of CNBC, which produces this program.
GHARIB: Since we’re talking about the future, what might Wall Street look like in 25 years? Will there be any traders still working at the New York Stock Exchange or will they all move the London, Hong Kong, or another financial hub outside of the United States?
Kayla Tausche takes a look at how the future of finance might change.
KAYLA TAUSCHE, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Most big banks have already fled the financial district for cushier headquarters elsewhere. The New York Stock Exchange, one of the last holdouts here on Wall Street proper. But by the year 2039, what was once the epicenter of high finance might be just a relic and the world’s new commercial hub oceans away.
(voice-over): Since the late 18th century, Wall Street has been the world’s premier trading hub. By 2039, it will be more of an idea than a place. Banks will lean on their core businesses of liaising between companies and investors, underwriting bonds and stocks, and making loans to consumers and businesses.
Author and futurist David Wolman says that’s how it should be.
DAVID WOLMAN, AUTHOR: I would like to see banks go back to being community banks, irrespective of where they’re located — you know, buttressing and empowering the local economy through lending and securing deposits. You know, they’re pulling more people into the formal economy instead of necessarily just gambling on a collateralized debt obligation.
TAUSCHE: Consultants agree, saying the masters of the universe mentality will fade, regardless of the political climate. Companies will seek independent advice on mergers, complex trading will become automated, and sell-side head count will shrink dramatically, especially in the financial centers.
Emergence of new economic centers will follow GDP growth, like the one local Chinese officials are building in Shenzhen, laying groundwork for a working population of 650,000 and $25 billion in GDP by 2020, giving New York, London, and Hong Kong a run for their money.
Competition will come from all over. International banks, big data, and peers (ph) in the shadows says Dave Hoffman at PWC.
DAVE HOFFMAN, PWC: There will be a move afoot, whether it’s a hedge fund or different kind of entity. There will be other entities in the game, but the question is, who’s going to really create the most frictionless customer experience, who’s going to have the trust of the consumer, whether it’s a deposit or a loan account, and who are the regulators going to ultimately let in the business?
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Kayla Tausche, in New York.
GHARIB: And that is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight. I’m Susie Gharib. Thanks for joining us.
MATHISEN: And thanks from me as well. I’m Tyler Mathisen. Have a great evening, everybody. And we’ll hope to see you right back here tomorrow night.
Nightly Business Report transcripts and video are available on-line post broadcast at http://nbr.com. The program is transcribed by CQRC Transcriptions, 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) 2014 CNBC, Inc.