Transcript: Nightly Business Report – September 18, 2019

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


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN:  Today, we decided to lower interest rates.  We took this step to help keep the U.S. economy strong in the face of some notable developments.  


SUE HERERA, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR:  The Federal Reserve cuts interest rates again but central bankers are split over the outlook.  And
stocks went on a wild ride.  

BILL GRIFFETH, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR:  Raise the roof.  Home construction surged in August.  A welcome sign for a market that has seen sluggish sales.  

HERERA:  Emissions fight.  President Trump is taking on the state of
California, and caught in the middle is the auto industry.  

Those stories and more ton on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Wednesday,
September 18th.  

GRIFFETH:  And we do bid you good evening, everybody.  And welcome.  

Yes, the Federal Reserve today did cut interest rates by a quarter of a
percentage point for the second time since July.  While the decision was
expected, it was not unanimous.  Three officials voted not to cut rates.  
And there was a split over the outlook for future cuts.  

Immediately following the decision today, stocks fell sharply as you see
there, but then later in the afternoon, those losses were pared and stocks
closed little changes.  The Industrial Average rose by 36 points to 27,147.  
Nasdaq lost just 8.  The S&P was up just 1.  

Steve Liesman starts us tonight from the Federal Reserve in Washington.  


STEVE LIESMAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  A divided Federal Reserve cutting interest rates by a quarter point, bringing its new overnight lending rate down to the range of 1.75 to 2 percent.  It`s now taking back two of the last year`s four rate hikes.  But the vote was seven to three, with two dissenters opposing and one favoring a full half
percentage point cut.  

The result the Fed is not definitive forecasting any more cuts to come as
the market hopes but instead taking it meeting by meeting.  

POWELL:  It`s an unusual situation because we — you know, the U.S. economy itself, the largest part of it, the consumer part is in strong shape.  The difference here is we have significant, really, risks to that outlook from
not just the geopolitical events but also from slowing global growth and
trade policy uncertainty.  

So, we`ll be looking at that and also financial market conditions and how
they are affecting the outlook.  

LIESMAN:  As it stays now, ten members of the committee forecast no
additional rate cuts this year and seven forecast one more.  

But Powell noted that the committee has changed the views over the course
of the year as the economic data has changed, as the risks changed and the
circumstances have required.  

POWELL:  The beginning of the year, we — we were looking at further rate
increases, and then we were patient and then we cut once and then we cut
again.  And I think you`ve seen us being willing to move based on data,
based on the evolving risk picture.  I have no reason to think that will

LIESMAN:  In the wake of the decision, President Trump once again tweeted out critical comments of Powell whom he chose for the top Fed job.  The president said Powell had no guts and was a bad communicator.  

Powell, once again, refused to take the bait, saying the independence of
the Fed has served the public well, that the Fed will continue to make
policy without regard to politics.  

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


HERERA:  Joining us to discuss the Fed decision is Scott Brown.  He is the
chief economist at Raymond James.  

Scott, great to see you.  Welcome back.  


HERERA:  So, we have a divided Fed.  And the jury is out as to whether or
not we are going to get more cuts by the end of the year.  What is your

BROWN:  Well, in isn`t anything new.  We saw the Fed divided early in the
June meeting, where there was about a 50/50 split between those expecting
to stand pat over the course of the year and the remainder looking for
probably about half a percent cut.  We know from minutes of the July
meeting that a lot of the officials were reluctant to lower short-term
interest rates.  

And this time, you know, we`ve got a three-way split in terms of the dot
plot, the dots in the dot plot signal the expected federal funds target or
the appropriate funds target for each of the 17 senior Fed officials.  But
not of those officials get to vote on policy.  

GRIFFETH:  Right.  

BROWN:  We`ve got five that were really didn`t want a rate cut at all,
another five that want to stand pat the rest of the year.  And seven who
are looking for maybe another 25 basis points cuts.  

So, those divisions are still going to be there.  It`s not a huge range of
opinions here.  But it does suggest, you know, there is a lot of
uncertainty.  And the general view still is that this is more or less a
mid-cycle adjustment, not really the start of a full easing cycle.  

GRIFFETH:  But we are in a world where other central banks are easing in
various ways.  The European Central Bank just did.  The Chinese, the
People`s Bank of China has been doing the same thing.  In Japan, they`ve
been doing that.  

Does that put pressure on our Fed to do more down the road?  

BROWN:  Well, not necessarily.  I think the Fed has got to do what the Fed
has to do in terms of the U.S. economy.  It does have to take into account
implications of what it does on the rest of the world.  

And here, you know, the real reasons for the cut were exactly the same that
we had in late July, that is, you know, there is trade policy uncertainty
which is having an effect on growth, slower global growth is having affects
on U.S. exports, and in turn still pose some degree of downside risk going

HERERA:  Uh-huh.  

BROWN:  So, as long as that continues, you are likely to see the Fed moving
to lower rates again either mid-or late October meeting or mid-December.  

HERERA:  We saw volatility as the fed chief was speaking.  And so given
what we have just laid out, what are your expectations for the equity
markets into the end of the year?  

BROWN:  Well, while — the Federal Reserve officials are split.  A lot of
economists, a lot of market participants are split on what the Fed should
be doing.  Some see you know a real reason to ease more.  

So, I think, you know, we`re seeing some degree of volatility here.  I
think we`re still relatively optimistic that the economy is going to
maintain positive momentum, no recession, at least through the end of the
year, the early part of next year.  But it really gets a bit more clouded
as you look to next year.  So, I think we`re cautiously optimistic I think
at this point.  

HERERA:  OK.  Scott, thank you.  Scott Brown with Raymond James.  

GRIFFETH:  Clearly, CEOs have a unique perspective on the economy.  And
today, the chief executives of America`s biggest companies lowered their
growth forecasts for the year and they`re most blaming trade tensions for
their downbeat assessment.

Ylan Mui has more for us.  


YLAN MUI, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  America`s most powerful CEOs are growing cautious about the economy.  A survey from the Business Roundtable found that its members now expect growth to clock in at 2.3 percent this year, down to an estimate of 2.6 percent last quarter.  

The BRT blames the slowdown in global growth and trade tensions for the
more downbeat assessment.  The group also surveyed its members on the
impact of the trade war over the past year.  It found that more than half
of CEOs says sales have taken a hit.  Forty percent of manufacturing CEOs
say there is an impact on capital investment and a third said a damper on

The outlook for sales, capital investment and hiring over the next six
months goes on decline as well.  

The BRT chairman and J.P. Morgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon, said he doesn`t believe the recession is imminent mainly because consumer spending is still strong.  But he told reporters today that he`d spoken with President Trump about the toll the trade war is taking on businesses and supply chains and that he is skeptical the White House will reach a deal with China before 2020.  Dimon said he doesn`t think the central bank`s interest rate cut will affect the impact of trade tensions.  But he said he believes in the independence of the Federal Reserve and he called Fed Chairman Jay Powell a quality human being.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Ylan Mui in Washington.


HERERA:  Speaking before today`s Fed decision, respected long time bond
investor Jeffrey Gundlach said that even though parts of the economy appear strong, the odds of a recession are rising.  


JEFFREY GUNDLACH, DOUBLELINE CAPITAL CEO AND FOUNDER:  The economic data has gotten a bit better, yet I still think when we put it all together, looking at all indicators for recession, it seems that there is an
increasing probability of recession before the 2020 election.  Obviously,
the yield curve being flat and even inverted from Fed funds at least at the
moment out through the curve, you know, that`s clearly something that is a precursor of potential recession.


HERERA:  Gundlach also said that he is closely watching consumer sentiment and activity in the manufacturing sector.  

GRIFFETH:  But there was some positive news today out of the housing
industry of all places.  Home building surged to a 12-year high last month,
thanks to an increase in both single and multifamily home construction.  

According to the Commerce Department, housing starts which measures new home construction rose by 12.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 1.4 million units.  Permits for future construction also climbed
to levels we have not seen in about 12 years.  The report suggests that
lower mortgage rates and strong jobs market have finally helped give the
housing market a lift.  

But for how long?  

Back with us tonight to talk about that is Odeta Kushi.  She`s the deputy
chief economist at First American (NYSE:FAF) Financial.  

Welcome back.  


GRIFFETH:  Now, one of the big problems for the housing market for the last few years has been low supply.  Now we get this bump in construction in August.  Is that a sign of hope?  Or what do you make of this?

KUSHI:  Absolutely.  This is great news for the housing market, not elbow
this month`s bump but the upward revision of last month`s.  That`s two good prints on housing starts which are great leading indicator of future
supply, which the housing mechanic is in desperate need of.  

HERERA:  And we have lower interest rates.  They picked up a bit in the
last few weeks.  But overall, we were approaching near record lows.  

KUSHI:  Record low mortgage rates and the labor market continues to be
strong and this is really boosting not only consumer confidence but builder
confidence, which we are finally seeing reflected in the housing starts

GRIFFETH:  But we`ve had low mortgage rates for a while.  We`ve had a
strong jobs market a while.  Why now?  Why, all of a sudden, do you think
home builders are suddenly starting to break new ground here?  

KUSHI:  A little bit of seasonality and it takes some time to show up in
the data and in the confidence.  But I think seeing multiple months of
lower mortgage rates and sustained healthy labor market is giving them the confidence they need.  

Ultimately, builders want to know when they build the home will sell.  And
I think consecutive months of the strong economy is giving them that

HERERA:  Yet at the same time, we just ran a bite of bond investor — a big
bond investor who says the odds of recession are rising.  How does that
trickle down through housing?  

KUSHI:  So, right now, we`re not necessarily seeing an immediate recession
concern.  There is certainly some global economic slowdown.  But what
matters for us really is that — and for housing particularly is that the
consumer feels confident and is strong.  And by strong I mean that wages
continue to rise and consumers continue to spend.  

And we see both wages rising and consumer spending.  We just saw positive retail data last month.  And so, ultimately, when the consumer is strong, the housing market is strong as well.  

GRIFFETH:  One other problem we have seen with the housing market has been the affordability issue.  Prices have been higher than some of the first-
time buyers especially could afford.  Where does that stand right now?  Are
you keeping tabs on that?  

KUSHI:  Absolutely.  Nominal house prices obviously are still rising.  But
consumers are really gaining the benefit of lower mortgage rates and higher income.  Ultimately, it`s all about the purchase power, what you can afford to buy.  And that`s not just a function of house prices.  But also how much can you afford to borrow.  And that`s where the low mortgage rates are coming in.  

HERERA:  So, very quickly what do you see as the biggest challenge?

KUSHI:  I still see supply as the biggest challenge in the housing market
despite the fact that inventory has been increasing and obviously we are
building more homes.  We`re still near quarter century lows in terms of
inventory and so, I would like to see some more months of positive gains
in-housing construction.  

GRIFFETH:  Odeta Kushi with First American (NYSE:FAF) Financial — again,
thanks for joining us tonight.  

KUSHI:  Thank you.  

HERERA:  It is time to look at some of today`s “Upgrades and Downgrades”.  

FedEx (NYSE:FDX) was downgraded by a number of firms, including Deutsche Bank, which lowered its rating on the stock to hold from buy.  The analyst cites the company`s downbeat outlook which we told but last night.  The price target is $142.  The shares today of FedEx (NYSE:FDX) fell nearly 13 percent to $150.91.  

Whirlpool (NYSE:WHR) was downgraded to sector weight from overweight at KeyBanc.  The analyst cites weakening earnings momentum.  The firm does not have a price target on the stock.  The shares fell 2 percent to $149.03.  

GRIFFETH:  Also at KeyBanc, Lennar (NYSE:LEN) was downgraded to sector
weight from overweight with the analyst citing a lack of catalyst to move
that stock any higher.  The firm also noted a slowdown in earnings
momentum.  Despite the downgrade, though, stock rose about 2 percent to
$54.15, probably on that home construction number.  

Square was upgraded from hold from sell at Craig-Hallum.  The analyst says softer revenue was already priced in to that stock.  Price target now is
$63.  Shares were up a fraction to $59.75.  

HERERA:  Still ahead, who gets to sell the rules?  California or President


HERERA:  There are reports tonight that AT&T (NYSE:T) is exploring ways to part ways with DirecTV.  This was first reported by “The Wall Street
Journal.”  DirecTV has been losing customers about 2.5 million subscribers
last year alone.  AT&T (NYSE:T) is the target of activist investor Elliott
Management which has called on the company to unload DirecTV.  

GRIFFETH:  Earlier in the program, we mentioned that CEOs have lowered
their growth expectations for the economy.  Well, it turns out the same is
true for chief financial officers.  And they`re the ones who control the

Bob Pisani has more for us from the New York Stock Exchange.  


BOB PISANI, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  Despite the recent spate of stronger economic data we`ve seen in the U.S., pessimism is high and it appears to be growing.  The latest quarterly Duke University survey of CFOs shows pessimism over the U.S. economy has grown this year, despite record low unemployment and a healthy consumer.  

Of 225 CFOs taking part in this survey, a majority, 53 percent, believe
that the country will be in recession by the end of the third quarter next
year, 67 percent say we will be in a recession by the fourth quarter of
next year.  Those are very high numbers.  

The results align with a similarly glum outlook for the monthly Bank of
America (NYSE:BAC) Merrill Lynch Global Fund Manager Survey from Tuesday.  These are fund managers around the world.  That survey found that about 40 percent expect a recession next year.  That`s the highest level of pessimism since August of 2009.  Fund managers continue to expect low
growth and low rates, and they think central bank stimulus will continue to
be needed.  

So, why is everybody so pessimistic?  You could blame it on extreme global
growth uncertainty.  But trade wars, which is the main part, are only part
of the equation.  

So, CFOs are also worried about Germany, for example, which is one of the
largest economies in the world, having flat or negative growth, plus fears
of a broader slowdown in China.  They seem to be saying that a strong U.S.
by itself may not be enough to save the day.  It`s just not clear right now
what other part of the world economy is strong enough to pull the rest of
the world along with it?  

Elsewhere, FedEx (NYSE:FDX) echoes those concerns on Tuesday.  The shipping giant missed the mark on earnings and it cut the guidance for the rest of the year, citing the U.S.-China trade tensions and overall slowdown in the global economy.  That stock is down more than 10 percent.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Bob Pisani at the New York Stock Exchange.  


HERERA:  President Trump today said he is ordering new sanctions on Iran. The decision comes after the U.S. accused Iran of carrying out the attacks on Saudi Arabia`s oil industry and the world`s biggest crude oil processing facility.  Iran has denied involvement.  Responsibility was claimed by Yemen`s Iran-aligned Houthi group.  

The price of domestic crude was down about 2 percent in today`s session.  

GRIFFETH:  General Motors (NYSE:GM) is temporarily laying off 1,300 workers in Canada because the factory where they work ran out of parts, because of the UAW strike here in the United States.  Speaking of which, a UAW spokesperson said today that the talks with GM are moving slowly but they are progressing.  

More than 49,000 workers walked off the job on Monday.  At issue, better
pay, health insurance coverage and job security.  

HERERA:  President Trump says he is revoking California`s power to set
vehicle emissions standards.  It`s the start of a legal battle and the auto
industry is caught in the middle.  

Phil LeBeau has the details.  


PHIL LEBEAU, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  It`s President Trump versus the state of California, over who should set fuel economy standards for new vehicles.  The current rules which call for average of just over 54 miles a gallon by 2025 are being revised to require a more gradual increase.  

California has long held a waiver to set its own mileage target.  But
President Trump doesn`t like that.  He wants one national fuel economy
standard that would be far lower than what California would target.  The
president tweeted: Automakers should seize in opportunity because without in alternative to California you will be out of business.  California

MARY NICHOLS, CALIFORNIA AIR RESOURCES BOARD:  This is the fight of a lifetime for us.  We have to win this.  And I believe we will.  

LEBEAU:  Caught in the middle, automakers.  They want one national standard for fuel economy.  So everything they build and sell in the U.S. would have the same requirements.  

ROBERT NARDELLI, FORMER CHRYSLER CEO:  I think there has to be a really effective compromise between the administration, the automakers and California.  And get this arbitrarily — arbitrary fight off the table.  

LEBEAU:  This fight between the state of California and the Trump
administration will ultimately be settled in court.  And it could drag on
for years, which means the current fuel economy standards will not be
changing any time soon.  



GRIFFETH:  Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) raises its dividend and that`s where we begin tonight`s “Market Focus” with the company hiking its quarterly payout by 11 percent to 51 cents a share.  They also announce a new buyback up to $40 billion of the company stock.  

Shares initially rose in after-hours trading tonight.  They close the
regular session up a fraction at $138.52.  

After the bell, U.S. Steel cut its earnings outlook as it feels the impact
of falling steel prices and a larger than expected decline in scrap prices.  
Shares initially dropped in after hours, a close regular session down
nearly 4 percent to $12.45.  

General Mills (NYSE:GIS) topped earnings estimates but they did fall short
on revenue, thanks in part to slumping sales of its snack bars.  The
company did see sales growth in the pet foods division.  General Mills
(NYSE:GIS) was off a fraction today to $54.53.  

And Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) said it`s planning to raise its revenue
forecast after experiencing what it called solid demand and strong
passenger yield trends.  The airline is still dealing with the grounding of
the Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737 MAX fleet and it plans to keep those planes out of
the schedule at least until next year.  The stock was up a fraction today
to 56.23.  

HERERA:  Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NYSE:CCS) says it will provide free
service of its Xfinity Flex streaming box to its Internet-only subscribers.  
The streaming box collects a wide range of content from Netflix
(NASDAQ:NFLX), YouTube, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Prime, and will compete with Roku`s set top boxes.  

Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NYSE:CCS) shares rose a fraction to $46.94.  Roku shares fell nearly 14 percent to $129.88.  

Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NYSE:CCS) is the parent company of NBCUniversal which produces this program.  

India has banned the sale and production of electronic cigarettes, calling
it an epidemic among its young people.  It is the latest move globally to
take on vaping amid health concerns and it impacts the businesses of major tobacco companies like Altria which own a stake in Juul.  And late today, CVS (NYSE:CVS) said it was dropping all e-cigarette advertising.  Altria shares down more than 1 percent to $40.84.  

A report out of “The Wall Street Journal” was enough to knock the winds of
shares of McDermott.  The report said the engineering and construction firm reached out to a turn-around consulting firm.  The company says it
routinely hires external advisers to evaluate opportunities.  But the
shares plunged more than 63 percent to $216.  

And dental products company Envista made its trading debut after it was
spun out from science and technology company Danaher (NYSE:DHR) earlier in the year.  The IPO was priced at $22 a share and opened at nearly $26. Shares closed up about 27 percent to $27.95.  

GRIFFETH:  Coming up, the changing travel industry.  


SEEMA MODY, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  A softening U.S. economy and slowdown in China has put travelers on notice.  A look at what it means for the hospitality industry when NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT returns.



GRIFFETH:  Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill
tomorrow.  It`s first visit there since he testified last year about
privacy issues during the Cambridge Analytica scandal.  This time, he`s
scheduled to meet with lawmakers to discuss future Internet regulation.  

HERERA:  A House panel has formally asked Boeing (NYSE:BA) CEO to testify on the grounded 737 MAX at the end of October.  Boeing (NYSE:BA) said it is reviewing the invitation and will continue to cooperate with Congress and regulatory authorities.  As you know, that plane has been grounded since March, following two deadly crashes that killed more than 300 people.  

GRIFFETH:  Finally tonight, global tourism is a multitrillion dollar
industry but very sensitive to economic trends.  When the economy is good
people travel more for business and pleasure.  When the economy is not
good, travel is one of the first industries to feel it.  

Seema Mody went to a conference in New York today to talk to hospitality
executives about the state of the business right now.  


MODY:  Global headwinds coupled with a softening economy is starting to
affect how consumers travel.  

Hundreds of hotel and travel company executives gathered at the SKIFT
Global Forum in New York to discuss the outlook for the travel industry, in
the midst of geopolitics, a trade war and slowing global economies.  

CHRISTOPHER NASSETTA, HILTON CEO:  Business and consumers broadly have caution flags out.  They`re reading about — you know, there is an election cycle gearing up.  They`re reading about trade wars.  They are reading about, you know, things happening in Saudi Arabia, you know, issues with Iran and broadly in the Middle East.  

STEPHEN KAUFER, TRIPADVISOR CEO:  Where there is elections, where there are terrorist attacks, where there are things like Brexit.

MODY:  Experts point to softening hotel occupancy rates in select markets,
and revenue per available room, which is a hotel industry`s key performance indicator.  It dropped below 2 percent this year for the first time since 2010.  Yet, new hotels pop up across the country, weakening the pricing power of hotel owners.  With lower rates incentivizing developers to build more hotels, experts say it will be a while before there`s a turn around.  

NASSETTA:  Objectively, right now, it`s more choppy.  There are some weeks that are weak.  Some months that are weak.  

MODY:  And a long-lasting impact of the trade war.  Last year, Chinese
tourism to the States dropped for the first time in 15 years, dampening a
key source of revenue for the hospitality industry.  Analysts say the trade
dispute and a slowing Chinese economy are behind the decline.  

GLENN FOGEL, BOOKING HOLDINGS CEO:  It`s not necessarily that travelers from China are not traveling.  They`re still going to travel, maybe a little bit less because of problems with the economy.  But they`re still
traveling.  But many times thinking, I`m not sure I want to go to U.S.
right now.

MODY:  Executives at TripAdvisor are betting the softer economy will change how Americans travel.  

KAUFER:  At any point when consumers are a little more concerned about that taking that bigger trip, they just take a smaller trip.  And so, sometimes
that`s closer to home.  Sometimes, it`s cutting a day off.  It tends not to
be cancelling the major vacations.  

MODY:  While the industry is cautious as demand may soften, none are saying they see a recession hitting the U.S. economy any time soon.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Seema Mody, New York.  


HERERA:  And here is another look at the day`s final numbers from Wall
Street.  The Dow rose 36 pinpoints to 27,147.  The Nasdaq lost 8 and the
S&P 500 was up just 1.  

And that is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight.  I`m Sue Herera.  Thanks for joining us.  

GRIFFETH:  I`m Bill Griffeth.  Have a great evening.  We will see you


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