SUE HERERA, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Closing the books. Stocks end August with their worst month in more than three years. So what does it mean for September?
Another gusher. Oil spikes again posting its biggest three-day gain in 15 years.
And lone star startups. Why one Texas City has become a launching pad for small business.
All of that and more for Monday, August 31st.
Good evening, everybody, and welcome. I’m Sue Herera. Tyler is off tonight.
Oil prices spike again, pulling together their biggest day since 1990. More on that in just a moment.
But, first, despite that turnaround in oil, stocks wrapped up a very bad month of August. You know the story. Fears over China’s growth and uncertainty about the timing of an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve. And that led to one of the worst months in years on Wall Street.
Today, the Dow Jones Industrial average fell about 115 points to close at 16,528. The NASDAQ shed 51 and S&P 500 lost 16 points. But for the month, the Dow was down about 6.5 percent, its worst month in more than five years. NASDAQ fell nearly 7 percent and S&P 500 shed more than 6. For the NASDAQ and S&P, it was their biggest monthly percentage drop since May of 2012.
So, August ends with steep losses and heavy volatility and we head into what historically is one of the worst months for stocks.
So, Dominic Chu looks at whether or not history might repeat itself.
DOMINIC CHU, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: For many, August has turned out to be a month of you’ll soon try and forget. Investors and traders witnessed some of the worst monthly losses in years and measures of stock market volatility soared to new heights. All of this amidst of big backdrop of uncertainty that may continue into September and beyond.
BILL STONE, PNC: I’m hopeful that, you know, perhaps we’ve seen some of the worst of the volatility because I feel like we cleansed our palette, so to speak, in terms of getting that, you know, 10 percent correction that we were long overdue for.
That being said, a lot of the things that I talked about, as to why you should expect volatility are still out there. So, Fed still hasn’t moved yet. China certainly is probably going to continue to struggling for some time, perhaps a lot of the other emerging markets as well.
CHU: Market history may be on the side of the bears as well. According to S&P Capital IQ strategist Sam Stovall, since the end 1945, September has been one of the worst months for stock market returns compared with any other month. The S&P 500 has fallen by an average of 0.6 of 1 percent during the month since that time period. That factors into the more pessimistic case for stocks, but it doesn’t mean that everyone is running scared.
KATIE NIXON: We’ve seen fundamental earnings growth here in the U.S. positive. We’ll get, hopefully, some good news out of the third-quarter releases as we get those in early October, and that could provide a nice tail wind for markets. Couple that with the fact that the recent correction has pushed valuations down to a much more reasonable level. We think it sets the stage for what could be a pretty good market coming in to the end of the year.
CHU: The bottom line here is that investors should brace for what could be more ups and downs in the stock market, especially with a lot of variables, both known and unknown in the coming months.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Dominic Chu.
HERERA: One of the things going on in this crazy august market, the stunning comeback of oil prices. Today, prices continue that rapid climb. Domestic crude ending up early 9 percent at $49.20 a barrel, and put oil up 27 percent since Thursday, its biggest three-day percentage gain in 15 years.
Jackie DeAngelis looks what’s behind the huge move.
JACKIE DEANGELIS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Crude oil prices reversing today to end the session up $4. WTI finishing at $49.20 and nearly 26 percent gain in just three days.
Traders weren’t necessarily expecting this today. As a matter of fact, the session opened lower as the markets were pausing to digest some of the news we’ve heard as of late. But then some headlines that major producers and OPEC players were willing to sit down at the table to talk about stabilizing the global marketplace sent prices higher.
In addition, the EIA came out with production data for the month showing that in June, the U.S. produced $9.3 million of barrels a day, that’s down for two months in a row from the pick of 9.6 million barrels in April. Then, a fire at a Canadian oil sands project because of an issue there creating a production halt which could eventually lead to U.S. inventories coming down. So, the perfect storm of elements to take prices higher from here.
But buyer beware, a lot of this was short covering and traders still believe those lows we tested at $37.75 aren’t out of the question because right now people are moving the price higher on talk of talking, actual negotiations haven’t happened just yet.
Reporting from NYMEX, I’m Jackie DeAngelis for NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT.
HERERA: Steve Wood joins us now to talk more about what lies ahead for the markets next month. He is chief market strategist at Russell Investments.
Well, I guess I should take a deep breath that August is over, but I’m looking into September which traditionally has an awful lot of volatility in it as well.
But you say this is a return to more normal volatility?
STEPHEN WOOD, RUSSELL INVESTMENTS: Yes, investors have been spoiled. It’s been a six-plus year raging bull market in U.S. equities, certainly, and it’s beginning to get traction in Europe as well. China had a year, until very recently, was up well over 100 percent in, you know, a low-volatile environment.
So, the volatility that we’re seeing now is more historically normal. It just kind of condensed in a couple of weeks as opposed to spread out.
HERERA: Does it worry you, though, that we saw that 1,000-point gap down? I mean, it seems as though, yes, we’re used to volatility but the extremes seem to be more extreme than what we’ve seen in the past.
WOOD: But it’s very, very punk indicated. That pattern is somewhat new. But that’s why investors need to extend their time horizon. They need to be more globally diversified, multi-strategies. It’s not just stocks. It’s not just bonds, it’s a combination they need to look globally.
But I think volatility and a return to volatility is something we should expect. There’s no reason why tomorrow should be different than today. I don’t think the market really looks at calendar dates.
HERERA: The market doesn’t know it it’s going to be September tomorrow, right?
WOOD: Yes. The orbit of the Earth around the sun doesn’t really affect global asset prices.
So, I think we’re seeing volatility. There’s a Chinese question mark. There’s a Federal Reserve question mark. You were talking about oil earlier, question mark.
So, there’s a lot of moving pieces and valuations globally for all of these asset classes. Where do they make sense? I think the market is struggling with that right now.
HERERA: Let’s start first of all with oil. You know, the kind of spikes that we haven’t seen in multiple years, certainly, and that has brought back the inflation scenario, which leads us to the fed.
So, tie that all up in one neat little bow in terms of how you view it.
WOOD: One neat little bow would be the Fed. I mean, if I have to boil everything down to the most critical element, I’m going to look at the Federal Reserve. Whatever Janet Yellen does as the chair of the Federal Reserve, that’s what we know, that’s the most important thing.
Right now, inflation is very, very low and the Fed would like inflation to be higher. So when they talk about price stability or inflation stability, it can be too low as well as being too high. It’s just that most people have experience with it being too high in 70s and 80s.
WOOD: But, right now, inflation is a little low. So, I don’t think inflation right now is going to force the Fed to do anything that they don’t want to do before they do it.
So, the Fed has time. Inflation is low. Oils at high $40s right now. It’s not at $148 it was there a couple of years ago.
So, I think right now, the inflation story right now is still on the low side. I think the Federal Reserve, just as an institution, wants to raise rates by the end of this year. We still think it’s going to be September. Higher than —
HERERA: You do? That was going to be the next question.
WOOD: That’s our expectation, that it will still be September. By the end of the year, the Fed as an institution, they want to have interest policy back. They have not been able to have a positive —
HERERA: It’s been out of their control.
WOOD: — since 2008.
So, they haven’t had their number one policy tool for pushing a decade right now. So, they want to get that back, have a positive rate and then after that, we’ll wait and see. Then I think they look at the data, then they’ll look at inflation. Once they go positive, they become data dependent.
HERERA: All right. You said to look outside just the traditional stock and bond allocations, maybe look overseas.
WOOD: Our overweight at Russell has been, in equity space, has been Europe. We arrived at that conclusion last year. We looked at valuations in the United States, kind of rich. Stocks are kind of expensive. In Europe, they were more attractive.
The economy in Europe was coming off the bottom. The United States is kind of a maturing economy, but the United States, as we mentioned earlier, is getting closer to raising rates with each month, whereas the European Central Bank is going to start printing a lot of money. They are doing quantitative easing, equity prices like that, and so, we still have an overweight to Europe.
HERERA: All right. Steve, thank you so much. Good to see you again.
HERERA: Steve Woods with Russell Investments.
As we mentioned, the Fed — well, the markets dive right into September with a crunch of economic data leading into Friday’s big jobs report. That data could be a big week for the Fed and for stocks.
Bob Pisani takes a look at what the markets will be paying attention to.
BOB PISANI, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: It’s a tough week to focus on economics since the market is still dealing with last week’s crazy volatility. But economics are really important because, as the Fed’s Stanley Fischer said this weekend, what happens with the data in the next few weeks will determine if the Fed will raise rates in September.
Fortunately, this is chockfull of data started with the ISM manufacturing index. That’s tomorrow. The first read on the economy in august.
We’ll also get revised productivity numbers on Wednesday and the ISM nonmanufacturing index on Thursday. That’s a look at sentiment in the services industry.
The most important data point, of course, will be the August jobs report. That’s going to be on Friday. Traders are expecting a gain of 220,000 jobs. That would be the fourth straight monthly gains over 200,000.
One key component will be wage growth, which has been roughly stagnant, just about 2 percent a year. The big issue is that if any of this data is sufficient to turn the Feds doves into hawks, to turn those who are unsure they want to raise rates in September, into those who do want to raise rates.
Now, there are key players, like the New York Feds William Dudley, vice chair Stan Fischer and Chair Janet Yellen who appear to be sitting on the fence. So, this is going to go right down to the wire on September 15th.
So, would the market go up or down if the Fed raise rates? The Fed would not raise rates without a compelling argument that the U.S. economy is improving. Good news on the U.S. economy would mean the U.S. is outperforming the rest of the world and would likely drive more investment into our market, including the stock market.
This, at least, is the hope of the bulls. One thing the Fed is certainly hoping for is that China remains calm. While the Fed does not consider China part of its mandate, raising rates during a period of global turmoil is something they would clearly like to avoid.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Bob Pisani at the New York Stock Exchange.
HERERA: Amid all of that volatile and energy, Warren Buffett has actually upped his exposure to that sector. The billionaire investor’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) revealed it has taken a nearly 11 percent stake in the oil refiner Phillips 66. The $4.5 billion position rebuilds Buffett’s stake in the company, and it comes after it sold nearly 2/3 of its shares back in 2014.
Phillips’ shares rose more than 2 percent in today’s trading.
So, here to discuss Buffett’s big bet and what he sees in the refiner, we welcome back Susie Gharib. She is a senior special correspondent at “Fortune”, and an NBR contributor. She’s covered Warren Buffett for years now.
I mean, you are the best Buffett watcher I know, Susie.
SUSIE GHARIB, NBR CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don’t know about that. But leave it to Warren Buffett to always surprise us. Everybody is all worried about the oil market, and he’s bullish on oil.
HERERA: So, why did he do this particular deal?
GHARIB: Well, I think it’s kind of interesting that, you know, he had a relationship with this company before. It’s almost like going back to your old girlfriend. It was bad timing back then. Oil prices were very high and now this might be good timing.
The people I talked to, oil experts, actually, this time, said don’t look at the refining part. This isn’t really an oil play, but underneath of it are some valuable assets that Warren Buffett is isolating. Petrochemicals, natural gas delivery, these very lucrative, very steady eddy kind of businesses, just the kind of investments Warren Buffett likes.
HERERA: Because I was going to say, on the surface, it doesn’t fit into the types of companies that he puts into his portfolio. So, maybe we have to look a little deeper, as you suggest.
GHARIB: Right. Don’t you think like food like Heinz, Dairy Queen or railroads —
HERERA: Right. That ends up on your kitchen table or gets it to your kitchen table.
GHARIB: But there are similarities, Sue, because these are undervalued assets. He likes unloved assets. It’s also a contrarian play. He always rules against the crowd. People don’t like energy, he likes energy.
He knows his limitations. He knows he doesn’t know anything about oil. So, management is important and from what I hear, the management people running Phillips are pretty terrific. They’re doing all of the right moves and very excellent marks.
HERERA: He’s been making a lot of moves, too. He’s been very inquisitive lately.
GHARIB: Yes. Can you keep up? A few weeks ago, he bought Precision Castparts (NYSE:PCP), $32 million. Earlier this year, the Kraft (NYSE:KFT) Foods deal, $10 billion. If you add it up, something like $50 billion that he’s invested —
HERERA: It is amazing.
GHARIB: It is amazing.
HERERA: Especially amid the volatility.
GHARIB: Amid the volatility. And you know what’s also interesting is that yesterday was Warren Buffett’s birthday. He celebrated 85. So, 85th birthday, maybe this is his birthday present. But I think it’s also a message to all of the Buffett watchers, that don’t count me out. I’m staying as chairman, CEO.
GHARIB: And I’m not slowing down.
HERERA: And I’m doing just fine, thank you very much, right? We wish him a very happy return.
Susie, it’s so good to see you again.
GHARIB: Thank you. Great to see you too.
HERERA: Come back real soon.
GHARIB: Thank you.
HERERA: Susie Gharib.
More tension with China as talk bubbles up about sanctions over cyber hacks on U.S. companies, just weeks before the Chinese president visits Washington. We’ll talk about that, next.
HERERA: Last week, we told you about a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that could shake up the relationships between companies and their subcontractors.
Home builders say that decision could have a major impact on how they do business and not in a good way.
Diana Olick has that story.
DIANA OLICK, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: It’s a major change to the government’s joint employer status which could now put home builders on the hook for issues involving subcontractors, such as labor violations and union negotiations.
The NLRB declined our request for an interview but in their release said the board’s previous standards has failed to keep pace with changes in the workplace and economic circumstances.
Now, while the ruling covers all employers from fast food companies to health care to high tech, it’s particularly profound for the nation’s home builders. They rely heavily on specialty trade contractors, like roofers, electricians, plumbers, framers. They are calling it everything from unnecessary to crippling.
JERRY HOWARD: This ruling really, if it’s applied to small businesses and the home building sector, really shows no understanding of 80 percent of the marketplace. It’s just — it’s impossible to comply with and use the same business model and has been working successfully for 200 years.
OLICK: The builders can’t fight the ruling unless there’s a specific case brought against them. I did speak with the CEO of Miami-based Lennar (NYSE:LEN), Stewart Miller. He says he thinks his business is highly differentiated from this particular case, but he also says he’s alert to the ruling and watching.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Diana Olick in Washington.
HERERA: The White House is reportedly considering a package of economic sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals behind a series of data breaches against U.S. companies.
Eamon Javers is here to tell us what all of this means.
Good to see you, Eamon.
And how are the Chinese to react to these package of sanctions?
EAMON JAVERS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That’s one of the big questions here, and one of the big unknowns and it might be why the White House is proceeding very, very cautiously with this.
You might remember that back earlier this year, the president signed an executive order which sort of laid the legal groundwork for enacting sanctions against foreign actors. That is companies or individual business people who are involved in cyberattacks here in the United States. Whether or not the United States could actually go forward with this will depend really on how willing the United States to identify those people in China who’ve been part of the hacking and really reveal what U.S. intelligence knows about their activities so far.
HERERA: You mentioned that the White House is going slowly on this. But there must be some challenges for the government here.
JAVERS: Yes. The big one being that the president of China is scheduled to come to the United States for a state visit in October. So, presumably, if they are going to do this, they would want to do this relatively soon, early in September or well after that trip. Doing that while that visit is ongoing would be seen as a huge snub to the Chinese and, of course, that question that you asked about how the Chinese are likely to react is a big question here.
The United States has been reluctant to push China too hard on this although last year, they did indict five members of the Chinese military for hacking-related activities but in general they kind of soft-pedaled this, fearing provoking a bigger Chinese reaction. Of course, there could be huge blow back for American companies and corporations if the Chinese decide they need to take their own retaliatory action and it becomes a series of tit for tat actions and reaction.
HERERA: You know, moving ahead to when the Chinese does come to Washington, I would assume also on the agenda, Eamon, will be the market turmoil in China and their move to devalue their currency. The treasury secretary weighed in on that and the president has weighed in on that. That might be kind of thorny issue as well.
JAVERS: Yes, and that’s another area where the Chinese don’t like to take a lot of guidance from the United States. They feel like they know how to operate their economy just fine, thank you very much. Of course, the treasury secretary has said that he thinks that devaluing the currency was not enough.
What the United States wants to see is a real free-flowing currency that response to global exchange rate and not something that’s controlled by the Chinese government. But the Chinese government is not just likely to let go that lever of power that they control and they wield over their economy.
HERERA: It’s going to be a fascinating visit. Eamon, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
JAVERS: Thank you.
HERERA: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) are teaming up and that’s where we begin tonight’s “Market Focus”. The two Dow components are joining forces to help bring more iPhones and iPads to business users.
The collaboration will allow apple devices to work more efficiently in workplaces that use Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) technology. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was off a fraction to $112.76. Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) Systems fell slightly to $25.88.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced its Android watches are now compatible with Apple’s operating system. Separately, Google’s Life Sciences division is teaming up with the European drug maker Sanofi on new ways to monitor and treat diabetes. Shares were off nearly 2 percent to $647.82.
Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) announcing today that it was granted the exclusive rights to buy a privately held company called Promedior and its experimental fibrosis treatments. The purchase will cost more than $1 billion. Shares were off almost 2 percent to $59.47.
FedEx (NYSE:FDX) has moved a step closer to a final agreement with pilots. This after the union’s executive council voted to approve a tentative labor contract. Pilots will vote on the agreement in just a couple of weeks. Shares were off more than 1 percent to $150.61.
The streaming video awards are heating up between some of the biggest players, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Hulu, as big movies, including “The Hunger Games” and “Transformers” leave one and head for another.
Julia Boorstin has a look at the digital content battle.
JULIA BOORSTIN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: If you want to watch “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” or “Transformers: The Age of Extinction” on Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), you only have until the end of September. Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) announcing it’s not renewing its contract with Epix, the cable channel and digital content service, for the rights to stream its films from Epix’s parent companies Paramount, Lionsgate, and MGM, films that have also been available on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) for the past three years.
Analysts say it’s no loss for Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX).
BEN SWINBURNE, MORGAN STANLEY: To write a big check, a couple million dollars for movies that are a year old and not exclusive to Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) doesn’t really do much for them from an investment perspective. I think they are better off allocating their capital elsewhere. And you don’t have to believe me. I mean, if you look at what they’ve been doing the last three or four years, that’s been the strategy and survivor growth sort of speaks for itself.
BOORSTIN: Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) has a range of films in the works, including projects from Adam Sandler and Sophia Coppola, plus a sequel to “Crunching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. This as it looks to compete with HBO and lure more subscribers with can’t miss content.
Meanwhile, Hulu, which until now has been focused on TV shows, is also shifting gears to step up the competition. It’s snapping up those epic films to round out its catalog starting October 1st. Owned by Disney (NYSE:DIS), FOX and CNBC’s parent NBC Universal (NYSE:UVV), Hulu is broadening its appeal as it looks to grow its subscriber base beyond the 10 million it has now.
SWINBURNE: These kind of rights don’t come up very often and I think it’s not a surprise, given the investment that Hulu has made recently. You look at the Seinfeld deal they did. They are spending more money than they have historically.
BOORSTIN: Hulu is stepping up its game as Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) also ramps up its investment in its own original shows, plus other content rights. This after the company invested $1.3 billion in time instant video last year. And traditional TV channels, including HBO, are fighting back with their streaming video apps, as media companies, digital and traditional, look to capitalize on the new opportunity as faster broadband speeds drive an explosion of digital streaming.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Julia Boorstin in Los Angeles.
HERERA: As you know, starting a business is never easy. When we come back, though, we’ll take you to a Texas town that averages more than 500 new entrepreneurs a month. That’s coming up next.
HERERA: Looking to start a new business? Well, you may want to head deep into the heart of Texas where one study named Austin as the top-ranked metro for start-ups.
Kate Rogers (NYSE:ROG) tells us why.
KATE ROGERS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Austin, Texas, may be known for live music and barbecue but these days, it’s gaining steam for something else, its vibrant startup team.
At age 14, Isabella Rose Taylor is one of Austin’s rising small business stars. This year, she was awarded emerging women-owned business of the year by Governor Greg Abbott.
Taylor launched her company at age 10, graduated high school at 11, and went on to show at New York and Austin fashion weeks, even landing her clothes in Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) stores.
ISABELLA ROSE TAYLOR, ENTREPRENUER: It all started with art for me. I’ve been painting since a very young age and that led me to fashion through way of sewing. I was doing a lot of mixed media, incorporating fabric into my art and that led me into an interest in sewing. I took a sewing class and I fell in love with the world of fashion and haven’t stopped since.
ROGERS: Her fashion week debut was thanks in part to Austin-based tech powerhouse Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and its women entrepreneur network.
Start-ups are launching at record rates here in Austin. In fact, in 2015, there were an average of 550 new entrepreneurs per month in the metro, according to the Kauffman Foundation.
Technology companies like Spiceworks which has raised a total of $111 million in capital venture funding so far are laying a groundwork for an alternative tech scene to rival both Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley. In fact, the social network for I.T. pros just snatched a big hire in new CFO Amir Movafaghi, a former Twitter executive.
JAY HALLBERG: Austin is absolutely achieved critical mass on at least our scale in terms of the number of companies that are hiring people. I think producing good business leaders. We’ve always had good tech talent here. I think we’re now developing new business tech leaders as well.
So, I think there’s critical mass not only for the companies that are here now but also those that have come that hopefully and maybe some of us are producing sort of the Austin style of managing tech companies.
ROGERS: And for new we are startups, there’s a Capital Factory, an incubator accelerator and fund all rolled into one. At any given time, they are up to 400 start-ups in residents, working and hoping to become the next big thing.
MELLIE PRICE: There’s a lot of overlap in what has historically been the live capital music of the world, has a lot of creators. And so, I think by nature, we have a culture very innovative as a city. We have university that has a lot of great talent. We’ve been blessed with some extraordinary successes that have created an ecosystem where there’s other angel investors that are willing to invest at an early stage.
And I think Austin has sold itself over the years. Where else can you eat breakfast tacos?
ROGERS: For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, in Austin, Texas, I’m Kate Rogers (NYSE:ROG).
HERERA: And finally tonight, when is winning the lottery not winning the lottery? Well, according to the “Chicago Tribune”, a Chicago couple was thrilled when they won a quarter of a million dollars from the Illinois lottery last month. But instead of a check, they got an IOU, because since lawmakers haven’t passed a budget, disbursements of winnings of more than $25,000 have been halted. So, for now, the big winners are a bit out of luck.
That’s it for NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT. I’m Sue Herera. Have a great evening. We’ll see you tomorrow.
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) 2015 CNBC, Inc.