Tag: news


News And Notes After Kofi Kingston Celebration


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The New Day battled The Bar and Drew McIntyre in the main event of SmackDown Live.

Credit: WWE.com

The New Day prevailed over The Bar and Drew McIntyre and the Hardy Boyz captured their first SmackDown Live Tag Team Championships on a relatively uneventful broadcast of the first SmackDown after WrestleMania 35.

SmackDown Live’s string of viewership increases ended last Tuesday, though #SmackDownAfterMania figures to be among the highest of 2019.

WWE SmackDown Live Viewership—Last Five Weeks
Air Date WWE SmackDown Live Viewership 
April 2, 2019 2.141 million viewers
March 26, 2019 2.393 million viewers
March 19, 2019 2.208 million viewers
March 12, 2019 2.198 million viewers
March 5, 2019 2.155 million viewers

From the Forbes WWE Vault:

WWE Total YouTube Viewership for SmackDown Live on Tuesday: 4,326,632 views (Down from 10,246,241)

  • Most-Viewed: Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan Sign their WrestleMania Contracts (952,776 views) 
  • Least-Viewed: Billie Kay and Peyton Royce Promise to Make WrestleMania IIconic (198,664 views)
  • Median Viewership: 264,360

Average Attendance for “A City“: 9,235

Average WWE SmackDown Live Ticket Price at the Barclays Center$161

Estimated Live Gate for SmackDown Live: $1,476,835

WWE SmackDown Live After WrestleMania 35: Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The New Day’s Championship Celebration is Interrupted by The Bar and Drew McIntyre 

Every second of this WWE Championship I’ll be paranoid that either Kofi is going to lose that championship immediately, the New Day will turn on him or all of the above.

Kofi Kingston had a golden opportunity to introduce a pancake-themed WWE Championship and he passed. That’s impressive growth.

This was one of the hottest SmackDown crowds of the year, but you would have never known it when Drew McIntyre was introduced.

Ali, Ricochet and Aleister Black def. Andrade, Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura 

Half of this field lost their first or last name, rendering first and/or last names an endangered species in WWE.

Randy Orton and Kevin Owens could make one helluva tag team as long as creative has nothing for them.

Samoa Joe Destroys R-Truth, Brawls with Braun Strowman 

If WWE let Samoa Joe win his next five matches in under one minute, I’m convinced he would immediately become WWE’s biggest star.

As much fun as Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman sounds, no one brand needs both of them.

The IIconics def. the Brooklyn Belles 

I just visited Cagematch.net and, no, there is no sign of the Brooklyn Belles.

Paige did not specify the gender of her impending tag team, so if anybody assumes she’s going to manage women…man, that’s messed up.

Shane McMahon in-Ring Promo 

Shane McMahon continued gloating about being the best in the world.

Credit: WWE.com

Greg Hamilton has a learning block. By now, he should know how to properly introduce Shane McMahon.

Shane McMahon dismissed a “CM Punk” chant with an apathetic “please,” rather than the snappy one-liners we’re accustomed to with Stephanie McMahon.

For an announcer with such a booming voice, Gret Hamilton’s regular voice is extremely disappointing.

Being threatened by Brooklynites in 2019 is like being threatened by the Muppet Babies in any era.

The Hardy Boyz def. The Usos—WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships 

The Hardy Boyz became SmackDown Tag Team Championships on SmackDown Live.

Credit: WWE.com

This was billed as a battle to determine the best tag team in WWE history, which isn’t accurate but close enough.

The pacing of this match early suggested it was going to go on until the end of the show.

Matt Hardy is in arguably the best shape of his life and now he wrestles half the match in a compression t-shirt?

Of all people, nobody was happier about The Hardy Boyz’ tag team title win than the Impractical Jokers, who were seated ringside.

Lars Sullivan Destroys the Hardy Boyz 

Lars Sullivan might be the smallest WWE Superstar to ever be booked like a giant.

Judging by his debuts on Raw and SmackDown, lars Sullivan is out to destroy the Attitude Era. The Big Show had better watch his back.

Becky Lynch is Attacked by Lacey Evans 

This crowd was so much better at chanting “Becky two belts!” than the #RawAfterMania crowd.

“The red-headed devil” has a nice ring to it.

What was so special about Lacey Evans’ punch this week that Becky Lynch wasn’t able to recover?

The New Day def. The Bar and Drew McIntyre 

Sami Zayn is the early leader for the most intriguing gimmick of post-WrestleMania season.

Is Drew McIntyre “buddies” with The Bar or is he just “European”?

Now is a good time to reminisce on how terrible the League of Nations were.

The New Day had better not break up at the Superstar Shake-Up, if ever.

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News And Notes After Roman Reigns Joins The Blue Brand


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Roman Reigns joined SmackDown Live Tuesday night.

Credit: WWE.com

SmackDown Live’s Superstar Shake-Up featured the blue brand acquisitions of Lars Sullivan, Finn Balor, the tag team of Kairi Sane and Asuka, Ember Moon, Bayley and Buddy Murphy.

The broadcast built to a main event segment based on Vince McMahon’s announcement of acquiring the biggest talent acquisition in SmackDown history. That acquisition turned out to be Elias—who was then interrupted by Roman Reigns.

SmackDown Live viewership was up 2.7% from last week, but as was the case with Raw, the number represented a 25% drop in viewership from last year as WWE’s alarming trend of year-to-year declines in viewership continues into 2019. The combination of Vince McMahon appearing, the teased announcement of SmackDown’s biggest acquisition and the Superstar Shake-Up should allow this episode to rise before the inevitable post-WrestleMania dip in viewership.

WWE SmackDown Live Viewership—Last Five Weeks
Air Date WWE SmackDown Live Viewership 
April 9, 2019 2.199 million viewers
April 2, 2019 2.141 million viewers
March 26, 2019 2.393 million viewers
March 19, 2019 2.208 million viewers
March 12, 2019 2.198 million viewers

From the Forbes WWE Vault:

WWE SmackDown Live Key Competition: 

  • NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 2: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors

WWE Total YouTube Viewership for SmackDown Live on Tuesday: 7,341,372 views (Up from 4,326,632)

  • Most-Viewed: Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe Brawl Ahead of the Superstar Shake-Up (1,668,871 views) 
  • Least-Viewed: Sami Zayn has a Message for the WWE Universe (282,252 views)
  • Median Viewership: 655,839

Average Attendance for “A City“: 9,235

Average WWE SmackDown Live Ticket Price at the Bell Centre$65

Estimated Live Gate for SmackDown Live: $600,275

WWE SmackDown Live: Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Opening Segment Featuring The New Day and Kevin Owens 

I couldn’t understand what Kevin Owens was saying in French, but he did mention WrestleMania, so for his sake, I’m guessing it wasn’t all that positive.

The longer Kofi Kingston celebrates winning the WWE Championship, the more it feels like a novelty.

I can just hear the homogeneous podcasts complaining about Kofi Kingston doing comedy while wearing the WWE Championship. I suggest you skip them all.

Sidebar: It looks like Vince McMahon’s reveal of SmackDown’s biggest acquisition will be the main event segment. If it’s Roman Reigns—or any full-timer already on the WWE main roster—it could be viewed as a disappointment, especially to this crowd. Here’s to Ronda Rousey putting her pregnancy plans on hold, or Brock Lesnar putting his possible UFC fight camp on hold.

Finn Balor def. Ali 

Finn Balor in a midcard match on SmackDown Live sounds just about right.

Corey Graves noted a win by Ali would move him to the front of the line in the Intercontinental Championship picture. Andrade won for nothing last night.

Charlotte Flair def. Carmella 

Charlotte Flair needs something to do, and wrestling Carmella is definitely something.

The future of Charlotte Flair’s romance with Andrade is more interesting to me than anything that happened in this match.

Lars Sullivan Destroys R-Truth 

When Lars Sullivan teased getting physical with Carmella, I was half-expecting Corey Graves to hit the ring so it would seem more realistic.

Last night I noted Lars Sullivan list of victims was more impressive than the WWE Hall of Fame. I stand by that, even after his most recent attack against future WWE Hall of Famer R-Truth.

Becky Lynch Confronts Ember Moon, the IIconics and Bayley, Paige, Asuka and Kairi Sane 

Bayley was heavily booed, I’m guessing it was either because they’re committed to booing anything associated with the currently dormant Sasha Banks, or because after all these years, it was revealed that she screwed Bret.

A Kairi Sane-Asuka tag team is the most WWE idea I’ve ever heard. WWE is like that well-intended, yet middle-aged, man who introduces me to his friend Jamal and swears we’ll hit it off because we have so much in common.

Bayley, Ember Moon, Asuka and Kairi Sane def. The IIconics, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville 

Kairi Sane and Asuka should be a lot of fun together. Even against the IIconics.

To this point, this is not a Superstar Shake-Up befitting of a primetime show on the big Fox network, but there’s still time.

Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods def. Cesaro, Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura

If Kevin Owens isn’t turning heel after all this tomfoolery, it does not bode well for the rest of the year. Especially after missing WrestleMania while perfectly healthy.

Given how past due Rusev Day is, the “Rusev Day” chants from bizarro world came off as extra ironic.

There may be no bigger hometown advantage in professional wrestling than Kevin Owens in Montreal.

As much as this crowd loved Kevin Owens, they also distributed a lot that love to Kofi Kingston.

Vince McMahon Introduces Elias as SmackDown’s Biggest Acquisition in History. Roman Reigns Interrupts.   

Roman Reigns is the newest member of SmackDown Live.

Credit: WWE.com

With less than five minutes left for Vince McMahon’s segment, he pretty much only has enough time to say the two words of this acquisition’s name. These are the times where WWE cutting somebody’s name in half makes sense.

Vince McMahon briefly basked in the boos from Montreal before quickly soldiering through. He could have at least added “Bret screwed Bret!” or “ring the damn bell!”

Hardcore fans are typically happy to see Elias. Not in this scenario.

Roman Reigns was a much bigger babyface in Montreal on this night than I anticipated.



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BioWare Is Hiring People To Redesign Anthem’s Loot, Which Is Good News And Bad News


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I have been on vacation for two weeks, and I’ve returned to find that in that time, not all that much has changed or even been announced with Anthem, the game I stubbornly refuse to fully give up hope for. The silence is about to be broken with a livestream tomorrow detailing a new Stronghold coming to the game, but it has been eerily quiet. It’s not just that we don’t hear much from the once-chatty devs anymore, it’s things like how the official Anthem account hasn’t even tweeted in almost a week.

That has left it to fans to do some digging themselves about what’s going on, and they’ve unearthed a number of job postings from BioWare to work on Anthem specifically, and positions like Senior Systems Designer (Loot) have been particularly eye-catching. Here’s part of thsy listing:

“BioWare is looking for a creative and passionate Senior Systems Designer with experience in Loot Systems to join our studio in either Austin or Edmonton to work on our newest IP Anthem. Building a truly great server side loot system, that is scalable, has modern concepts like streak-breaking, and easily modifiable data formats. A great loot system ensures that the players have predictable experiences that can be measured with data.”

This loot designer joins other advertised roles from item creation to the store and reward pipeline to combat balance, things that you know, are pretty key to a loot shooter.

These listings suggest some good news and bad news to me. First, the good.

I don’t agree with the notion that it’s worrisome that BioWare is hiring loot and reward loop people for Anthem right now. I’m hearing things like “shouldn’t they have done this already???” with the implication being that they don’t already have people working on this stuff. These listings show that they want to bolster those teams and perhaps bring in a fresh perspective to redesign some of the areas in which Anthem is weak. That’s a good thing.

It’s also a good sign that BioWare really is committed to the long haul. It took games like Diablo and Destiny and The Division anywhere from months to a year or more to get loot right, and it seems Anthem is following on that same path. As much as it would have been nice to get things right at launch, it stands to reason that BioWare would not be expanding its core design team for Anthem if it was not going to be working on the game for a long while to come, which suggests a different trajectory to say, Mass Effect Andromeda, which was quickly dropped like a hot rock after its underwhelming launch.

The bad news?

I mean, it isn’t great that you have a loot/reward system in the first place that needs to be redesigned, and even if it’s good to know that BioWare, and presumably EA by proxy, is in this for the long haul, the emphasis is on the word “long” there. BioWare has a roadmap that runs out of runway pretty soon and we really have very little idea what comes after, given that the game is not releasing traditional DLC packs.

If these are roles that are just being recruited for now, it is likely that whatever changes these new team members implement, whatever they design or redesign will not hit the game for many, many months to come. I’ve said before that it’s probably in Anthem’s best interest to have its own Reaper of Souls/Taken King moment that everyone can point to as a place when it turns a clear corner. 2-5% improvements every few weeks or so are probably less impactful than a huge, 100% improvement in a year or however long it takes. But until the biggest changes do arrive, the playerbase is kind of in limbo. It’s hard to know whether or not it’s at all worth it to currently keep playing Anthem assuming the kinds of big changes that are probably coming. Is it worth trying to farm sparse legendaries when BioWare could triple the drop rate tomorrow? Is it worth hunting down the perfect build when BioWare could end up scrapping and changing the entire loot/gear system? I don’t know, which is why other games with fewer things up in the air may feel like better alternatives right now.

I hope Anthem gets the new team members and fixes that it needs. Ultimately, the game will be better for it. It’s just not clear when exactly this better version is going to get here in full.

Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Read my new sci-fi thriller novel Herokiller, available now in print and online. I also wrote The Earthborn Trilogy.



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News And Notes After Miz, Usos And AJ Styles Are Drafted Via Superstar Shake-Up


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AJ Styles was drafted to Raw via the Superstar Shake-Up.

Credit: WWE.com

Night 1 of The Superstar Shake-Up emanated from a hot crowd in Montreal Quebec, Canada. The Usos, The Miz, Naomi, Andrade, Zelina Vega, Rey Mysterio, the War Raiders—now controversially known as the Viking Experience—Curtis Alexander and Naomi switched brands.

The show-long tease was dedicated to a mystery opponent who would be teaming with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. That mystery turned out to be longtime SmackDown Live Superstar AJ Styles.

WWE Raw was up 11% from last week with a 2019-high of 2.923 million viewers, but more concerningly, it was down 25% from the Raw after WrestleMania in 2018.

WWE Raw Viewership—Last Five Weeks
Air Date WWE Raw Viewership 
April 8, 2019 2.923 million viewers
April 1, 2019 2.639 million viewers
March 25, 2019 2.589 million viewers
March 18, 2019 2.695 million viewers
March 11, 2019 2.819 million viewers

WWE Raw Key Competition: 

  • NBA Playoffs, Round 1: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers
  • NBA Playoffs, Round 1: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors

From the Forbes WWE Vault:

WWE Total YouTube Viewership for Raw on Monday: 28,833,620 views

  • Most-Viewed: The Shield Say Goodbye to Dean Ambrose After Raw Goes off the Air (11,471,934 views) 
  • Least-Viewed: Dana Brooke Congratulates Becky Lynch (191,548 views)
  • Median Viewership: 532,317

Estimated Attendance for “A City“: 9,235

Average WWE Raw Ticket Price at the Bell Centre$64

Announced Live Gate for WWE Raw: $591,040

WWE Raw: Monday, April 15, 2019

Opening Segment Featuring Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and The Miz 

Heel Shane and Stephanie McMahon have a hateable Donnie and Marie vibe and it worked like a charm in front of a hot Montreal crowd.

I’m beginning to feel like the Superstar Shake-Up isn’t a draft as much as it is who backstage is willing to switch brands to beat up the person in the ring at that moment.

The Miz is too tenured to get permanently lost in the shuffle on Raw, but there will definitely be a lower ceiling.

The Revival and The Viking Experience (The War Raiders) def. Ricochet, Aleister Black, Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins 

Earlier this month I watched the War Raiders knock another NXT TakeOver opening match out of the park and I hypothesized there’s no way WWE could screw them up on the main roster. After hokey new names for both the individuals (Erik and Ivar and the team (the War Raiders), WWE responded with “challenge accepted.”

I just hope the, um, Viking Experience remains relevant on the main roster long enough to have a sweet entrance at WrestleMania.

Andrade def. Finn Balor 

I’m glad Andrade had the opportunity to showcase his skill set on a larger platform, but a quicker victory over Finn Balor would have been more encouraging.

Andrade should be very nervous about how far he can go on Raw.

Elias is Interrupted by Rey Mysterio, Who Gets Destroyed by Lars Sullivan  

Elias’ list of interruptions is quickly becoming more impressive than the WWE Hall of Fame.

Lars Sullivan vs. Rey Mysterio almost makes too much sense.

The Usos def. Chad Gable and Bobby Roode 

The Usos might be the only team talented enough to restore any semblance of value to the dunce caps otherwise known as the Raw Tag Team Championships.

Corey Graves noted the Uso Penitentiary is a nice place to visit. Though this made no sense, there is a chance Corey Graves is speaking from the standpoint of somebody who has been institutionalized in the system.

Moment of Bliss Featuring Sami Zayn 

If Sami is able to get this adoring Montreal crowd to legitimately boo him for a sustained amount of time, I’ll cop to him being the greatest heel of all time.

If Sami Zayn’s dancing became any more obnoxious he would be Vince McMahon.

Sami Zayn was actively acknowledging these Canadians are sheep for him and they were more than happy to prove him right.

Bayley and Naomi def. The IIconics

Sasha Banks is potentially being written out of WWE storylines by (kayfabe) not answering her phone.

When you are a tag team champion in WWE, or any champion for that matter, your chief job is to lose to random contenders.

Braun Strowman Destroys EC 3 

EC 3 almost got his full entrance prior to the commercial but when Michael Cole seemed more enthusiastic about his mystery opponent, I knew his main roster struggles were bound to continue.

Despite intense competition, EC 3 is quickly making his case for the worst call-up in NXT history. Seriously.

Becky Lynch def. Ruby Riott 

Will somebody please tell Becky Lynch she doesn’t have to act more like Conor McGregor now that she’s a big-time Irish-born star?

I’ll bet when WWE was rewriting Raw this morning, they reached out to the Riott Squad and asked “who did we have you losing to? Okay, scratch that, you’ll be losing to Becky Lynch now.”

Lacey Evans def. Natalya 

Natalya’s presence reminded me that WWE still hasn’t pulled the trigger on a Natalya-Ronda Rousey feud that essentially writes itself.

Now that she has both belts, Becky Lynch’s list of challengers is endless, and it too is more impressive as the WWE Hall of Fame.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time Lacey Evans spoke on WWE television. They could have made a bigger deal about it.

If Lacey Evans is going to portray an unsavory character who implies that she is sleeping her way to the top and using her “lady influence” to get ahead, Michael Cole has no business reminding the viewing audience of her military credentials.

Michael Cole noted Lacey Evans called Natalya a “classless has-been” and Renee Young retorted with “Natalya is anything but classless!” Your homework is to find the diss in Young’s response.

Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and AJ Styles def. Bobby Lashley, Baron Corbin and Drew McIntyre

With the airing of The Shield’s Final Chapter, Dean Ambrose’s swan song is beginning to compete with Thirty Seconds to Mars for longest tour ever.

A part of me thought the mystery man would be Bray Wyatt. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case because these creepy vignettes are getting more entertaining by the hour.

At some point, AJ Styles will be called upon to be on the losing end of a feud with Lars Sullivan.

Nobody will ever admit just how much joy they take in despising Baron Corbin.

AJ Styles sold the Claymore Kick better than anybody in the brief history of that finisher.



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Awaiting Key Developments, Market Appears Pensive Ahead Of News


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Markets are on the cusp of a lot of news, but none has broken yet. This week brings a Brexit deadline, a European Central Bank (ECB) meeting, Fed minutes, and the start of earnings season, but for now, that’s all in the future and stocks don’t appear to be moving too far one way or another.

The ECB meeting and Fed minutes are Wednesday, while earnings season begins in earnest on Friday. In the meantime, stocks might chop around a bit looking for direction in continued low-volume trading (see more below). Last Friday’s strong U.S. jobs report appeared to spark some buying that day, but the firmness didn’t really carry through into the new week.

Brexit is another thing that’s out there, but it’s had a limited impact on U.S. stocks recently, maybe in part because people tend to be more focused on the China tariff situation. China trade is still the number one issue, even if there aren’t any new headlines about it. The U.K. is asking for another delay on Brexit, and if the European Union says no, that could potentially bring some volatility back to the U.S. markets as investors look at possible ramifications. The current Brexit deadline is Friday.

Adding to the list of stuff to watch across the Atlantic is a renewed tiff between the U.S. and E.U. over tariffs. Both sides are barking at each other this week as the U.S. considers new tariffs, and that’s not necessarily helpful when you consider all the trade between them. If things get more tense, it could conceivably have an impact on some of the multinational U.S. companies that sell lots of product in Europe. These include pharma, agriculture, machinery, and aircraft makers. There’s also a big intellectual property trade.

Slow Go

If there’s something the market’s had trouble scrounging up lately, it’s volume. Even during last week’s solid rally, trading was light, and sometimes a rally amid light volume might raise questions about just how much conviction the rally holds.

Slow trading continued Monday as the new week began, even with catalysts like Friday’s jobs report, initial public offerings (IPOs) hitting the market, and the excitement of earnings season just ahead. We’ll have to wait and see if things pick up once earnings season begins in earnest with the big banks reporting this Friday.

If last week’s jobs data didn’t push volume much higher, it seems unlikely that any of this week’s less impactful data would do the trick. Today is pretty light on the data calendar, with February job openings the only number that might get more than a glance. Inflation data tomorrow (see more below) could be something that gets a closer look.

Some Investors Flee FAANGs

Monday did bring some news in the form of the Investor Movement Index®. The  Investor Movement Index® measures what TD Ameritrade clients are actually doing and their exposure level to markets. TD Ameritrade clients increased exposure to equity markets during the March  Investor Movement Index® period, with the  Investor Movement Index® increasing to 4.65, up 1.31% from the previous period. Some of the stocks that saw investor interest included electric car and cannabis companies.

What’s interesting about  Investor Movement Index® last month is that it showed retail investors selling shares of Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, and Apple. That’s four of the five “FAANGs.” The Amazon selling was especially notable, because clients had been buyers of Amazon for eight straight months while also showing immense interest in Netflix in recent periods.

A lot of the momentum in the market over the last few years has come from the FAANGs, so the question might be, if they were the momentum stocks, where will the new momentum come from? None of the FAANGs have made it back to their recent highs, which might call into question whether they can regain all the mojo they had a year ago.

Some think semiconductors could make up for part of the lost FAANG enthusiasm, but semis had kind of a mixed day Monday. Some went up, others went down. It was just one session, however, and the whole sector has been on a roll lately.

The stock that had been on a roll until Monday was Boeing, which fell 4% and basically took the Dow Jones Industrial Average along with it. By this point, there’s really no mystery about what’s ailing Boeing, but an analyst downgrade might have clipped the stock’s wings after it mounted a comeback last week from recent lows.

The company reports earnings later this month, and at that point maybe investors can get more insight into Boeing’s long-term plans around its embattled 737 MAX program. Boeing said last week it’s temporarily cutting production of the plane by 20% as it deals with issues surrounding two fatal crashes.

Crude Capers

One thing to consider watching is the creeping price of crude, now above $64 a barrel in the U.S. Prices have been climbing steadily most of the year, but got new energy Monday amid concerns about violence in Libya and how that might affect supply. OPEC is keeping a tight lid on production as it tries to soak up excess stockpiles, but U.S. rig counts have started to rise lately. High prices often tend to encourage U.S. production, and it’s worth wondering how long OPEC can remain disciplined if crude is going for more than $70 in Europe, as it currently is.

The other thing to wonder is whether $3 a gallon gas in many U.S. cities might be enough to have consumers get worried about costs and start to hurt transport companies. If investors are worried about high gas prices’ impact on transports, it isn’t showing in the Dow Jones Transportation Average. That index is up sharply over the last month and managed slight gains Monday.

Speaking of sectors, leaders in the sector race Monday included Energy (not surprisingly considering the crude rally), along with Info Tech, Consumer Staples, and Consumer Discretionary. The BA weakness helped put pressure on Industrials, and so, apparently, did an analyst downgrade of General Electric.

Two arguably positive factors Monday were Treasuries and the dollar, which both fell. Yields crawled up to 2.52% for the 10-year Treasury by the end of the day, and the dollar eased a bit.

Figure 1: New Traction for Transports: Despite rising crude and gasoline prices, the Dow Jones Transportation Average (candlestick) has executed a sharp u-turn from last month’s weakness, as this chart shows. Meanwhile, the Russell 2000 Index (purple line) of small-caps is also moving higher, but bank earnings in coming weeks could pose a test for the index, which has a heavy exposure to banks. Data Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, FTSE Russell. Chart source: The thinkorswim® platform from TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Data Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, FTSE Russell. Chart source: The thinkorswim® platform from TD Ameritrade.

Careful Approach? Past isn’t always prologue, but if recent market action is any guide at all, the road to new highs for the S&P 500 Index might not be linear. The most recent times the S&P 500 pushed toward key psychological levels, it tended to chop around a bit as it came near. For instance, in February it  jumped back and forth as it negotiated a new challenge to the 200-day moving average for the first time in several months. The climb toward 2800 also had its slips and slides along the way, including a week back in early March when the S&P 500 and the two other major U.S. indices all recorded lower closes every single day.

Back on Sept. 20, the S&P 500 Index posted an all-time intraday high just above 2940 after closing the previous session at an all-time high settlement just above 2930. As of six months later, both of those remain all-time intraday and closing peaks. The first psychological test for the S&P, if it’s going to re-challenge those summits, is 2900, and Monday’s failure to really test the 2900 level could be a sign of investor hesitation to chase things much higher for now. Last Friday’s better than expected jobs report, however, could be a helpful catalyst for bulls as the week advances.

After Jobs Data Impress, Factory Orders Slump: The bearish counterpoint to last week’s jobs report, however, might be Monday’s factory orders report for February. The number fell 0.5% from the previous month, not far from the negative 0.6% Briefing.com estimate. Also, the government downwardly revised January’s figure to a flat performance. We’ve been talking for awhile now about the soft business investment environment, and this report might offer more evidence of that. However, it’s not the best idea to directly compare the weak factory orders to the strong jobs data, because the jobs data were for March and the factory orders were for February, when winter weather and the government shutdown were still front and center. When more March data starts working its way in, it might be interesting to see if it shows signs of a spark the way jobs did.

Inflation Expectations Still Subdued: Later this week, the key economic reports look like they’ll probably be tomorrow’s consumer price index (CPI), Thursday’s producer price index (PPI), and Friday’s Michigan sentiment report. For March CPI tomorrow, Briefing.com consensus stands at 0.3%, up from 0.2% in February. Investors might want to keep a closer eye on year-over-year CPI, which was hardly even noticeable at 1.5% overall in February and 2.1% for core CPI. The Fed has pledged patience with rates, and inflation has generally stayed at or below the central bank’s 2% goal. It would likely take a surprisingly high number tomorrow to get anyone worried about the Fed, and even if the number did come in high, it might be marked off as an anomaly. No one month is ever a trend.

TD Ameritrade® commentary for educational purposes only. Member SIPC.

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Trade Progress, Brexit News In Focus Ahead Of Earnings Season Ramp Up


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As investors appear to be awaiting the ramp-up of earnings season with bank quarterly reports tomorrow, they have some incremental geopolitical news to digest.

Trade negotiations between the United States and China continue. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that the U.S. and China have “pretty much agreed” on an enforcement mechanism, and the Wall Street Journal reported that China has sweetened an offer to open its cloud-computing sector to foreign investment.

In Brexit news, the deadline for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has been delayed until October, averting a potentially economically messy no-deal exit that has been one of the geopolitical uncertainties hanging over Wall Street for some time. Still, the news doesn’t appear to bring the UK closer to actually figuring out a deal for the divorce.

Much like the generally unsurprising Fed minutes from yesterday, the news doesn’t appear to be moving the U.S. market too much as investors and traders are probably looking for resolutions to two of the thorny issues that have caused worries about global economic growth.

Volumes have been on the light side recently as investors and traders wait for earnings season to ramp up in earnest tomorrow with big banks reporting quarterly results. Ahead of that, it appears that market participants don’t want to commit too much either way.

In economic news, initial claims for unemployment benefits came in lower than expected at 196,000 versus the 215,000 forecast in a Briefing.com consensus. That marked the lowest level for initial claims since October 1969, the Labor Department said. When people are employed, that can bode well for consumer spending, which supports a huge chunk of the economy. We’ll also have to see whether strong employment trickles down to help the housing market.

Mining the Minutes

Yesterday, each of the main three U.S. indices ended in the green after the minutes of the Fed’s last meeting showed pretty much what the market was expecting and reiterated the central bank’s dovish stance. The dovish pivot has helped the market move higher this year by allaying fears that monetary policy makers would be too aggressive in cutting rates even as inflation is muted.

Now, with softer economic data coming in and the Fed having lowered its gross domestic product forecast for the United States, the central bank has stood pat on interest rates and signaled that will continue.

“A majority of participants expected that the evolution of the economic outlook and risks to the outlook would likely warrant leaving the target range unchanged for the remainder of the year,” the minutes said Wednesday.

Still, the Fed appears to be willing to rely on whatever data comes in, with some central bankers striking a decidedly neutral tone saying they could go either way on interest rates.

Again, from the minutes: “Several participants noted that their views of the appropriate target range for the federal funds rate could shift in either direction based on incoming data.”

Growth Worries are Global

The dampened outlook on the economy echoed what’s coming in from across the pond. The European Central Bank held interest rates steady Wednesday, with its president citing “slower growth momentum” amid risks that are “tilted to the downside.” But it appeared that the market paid more attention to the Fed’s more neutral stance than the ECB’s more pessimistic view.

The ECB’s statement comes after the International Monetary Fund cut its outlook for 2019 global growth on Tuesday, due in part to trade issues. The fund now sees the global economy growing by 3.3% this year compared to its previous forecast of 3.5%.

A big reason for the dour economic prognosis continues to be the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, which has affected hundreds of billions of dollars of goods from the world’s largest economies.

On Wednesday, news on that front appeared to be promising, but it was still generally in line with what the market has been expecting for some time, and it lacked the punch of a really big breakthrough.

Eye on the Banks

In corporate news, bank executives were in Washington to testify before Congress, but there didn’t seem to be too many surprises there to move the market.

JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo kick earnings season into higher gear Friday. Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs are all expected to report earnings next week. The Financials sector has been flagging in the face of a dovish Fed and a slowing economy.

Figure 1: Oil futures rose after U.S. government data showed a large drawdown in gasoline inventories, outweighing a larger-than-expected buildup in crude stocks. The gains in oil prices come as people are expected to be driving more during warmer months and amid support from supply cuts from OPEC and its allies and U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. Data Source: CME Group. Chart source: The thinkorswim® platform from TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Data Source: CME Group. Chart source: The thinkorswim® platform from TD Ameritrade.

Inflation Muted: It seems that inflation numbers continue to play into the Fed’s hand. Although the headline Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.4% month-over-month in March – a larger than expected jump and the highest increase since January 2018 – inflation was much more tame when you take out volatile food and energy prices. The so-called core CPI, which does just that, rose only 0.1%, which was less than the 0.2% gain a Briefing.com consensus had expected. “The key takeaway from the report is that the core rate of inflation moderated on a year-over-year basis to 2.0% from 2.1% in February, which is a trend that should keep the Federal Reserve comfortable with its position of being on hold,” Briefing.com said.

Resuming Treasury Buying: While there generally wasn’t too much unexpected in the Fed minutes Wednesday, there was one point that seemed to stand out as a bit of a surprise. It turns out that some central bankers want to resume purchases of Treasury securities after the Fed’s balance sheet reduction program ends in September. While the market has cheered the dovish pivot by the Fed, it’s conceivable that the market might not welcome such a move, which would essentially be another way for the Fed to keep pressure on interest rates without an outright cut. Such a move might not be well-received because the market probably thinks the Fed needs to keep some dovish tools undeployed in case something unexpected goes wrong with the economy. After all, low growth combined with low interest rates can be challenging. Just ask Japan.

Fun and Games: One way market participants seem to have been playing the U.S.-China tariff drama has been with international industrial stocks Caterpillar and Boeing (notwithstanding Boeing’s recent crash-related travails). With significant exposure to the Chinese market, investors appear to buy and sell them according to however the trade winds are blowing. Turns out, there are other companies that also appear to have been acting as trade proxies, and they’ve perhaps not been as noticed by investors: casino stocks. MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts all have exposure to the Chinese gambling mecca of Macau, and it seems that investors have been doubling down on the names in hopes that a trade deal will help boost their revenues from China. As Barron’s put it: “Many are betting that if the trade war ends, China will bounce back, taking casinos with it.”

TD Ameritrade® commentary for educational purposes only. Member SIPC.

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