Stocks cling to gains as Big Tech comes to DC; Kodak skyrockets

Stocks were higher Wednesday afternoon, after the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released its July monetary policy decision and reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the virus-stricken economy. Executives of some of the largest tech companies in the US testified before Congress, and a host of quarterly corporate earnings results continued to flow.

[Click here to read what’s moving markets heading into Thursday, July 30]

Wednesday afternoon, the FOMC announced its decision to keep the benchmark interest rate unchanged at its current near-zero level, as had widely been expected by market participants.

“The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus,” the FOMC said in its statement. “The ongoing public health crisis will weigh heavily on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term.”

The central bank doubled down on its commitment to use “its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy during this challenging time,” and added that it will increase its holdings of Treasury securities and residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities “at least at the current pace.”

Elsewhere, Amazon (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook, Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google-parent Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) CEO Sundar Pichai began their appearance before the House Judiciary Committee shortly after 1 p.m. ET to discuss a number of concerns over their market power and business practices, some of which have been scrutinized for antitrust issues. Many have argued that these issues have been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic, which has wiped out competitors and pushed business further toward the already-strong major tech companies.

Shares of each of the tech companies appearing before Congress traded higher with the hearing under way, with investors shrugging off concerns over any near-term tightening of tech regulation.

“While fundamentally FAANG stalwarts have navigated these choppy waters better than many had feared, with Amazon in particular a clear beneficiary of this current lockdown, the anti-trust storm clouds appear to be building in the Beltway against Big Tech looking ahead into the rest of 2020,” WedBush analyst Dan Ives wrote in a note Monday.

“We note that much of the States’ investigation has focused on Google’s online advertising with the Justice Department focusing more broadly on concerns that Google uses its dominant search business to stifle competition,” he added. “Apple remains in the cross-hairs around its App Store (30% fee) dominance both in the US and especially in the EU, with a more intense investigation of its business practices in focus later this week as Cook appears in front of the committee.”

4:02 p.m. ET: S&P 500 adds 1.3% for best gain in two weeks after Fed holds policy steady

Here were the main moves in markets as of 4:02 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +40.17 (+1.25%) to 3,258.61

  • Dow (^DJI): +162.76 (+0.62%) to 26,542.04

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +140.85 (+1.35%) to 10,542.94

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.22 (+0.54%) to $41.26 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$14.30 (+0.74%) to $1,958.90 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.2 bps to yield 0.5790%

3:26 p.m. ET: Fed Chair Powell says decision on forward guidance hasn’t been made yet

Fed Chair Powell, during his press conference Wednesday afternoon, told reporters that the central bank has not yet come to a decision when it comes to forward guidance, or stating the circumstances under which the Fed would consider changing the current policy stance or tying future asset purchases to economic outcomes or dates.

“We haven’t made any decision on that,” Powell said. He added that “there’s attraction in all of those depending on the situation,” when it comes to implementing either outcome-based or date-based forward guidance.

3:14 p.m. ET: ‘No surprises in Fed Chair Powell’s statement,’ economist says

The FOMC’s hold decision on rates Wednesday and continued cautious stance on the path forward for the virus-stricken economy was largely expected by economists, and reflected the Fed’s trepidation to shift policy to anything other than the ultra-supportive stance it has maintained since the start of the pandemic in the US.

Here’s what Rubeela Farooqi, chief US economist for High Frequency Economics, had to say of the decision:

No surprises in Fed Chair Powell’s statement. He reiterated the Fed is committed to using its tools for as long as it takes to provide relief and stability, to ensure the recovery is as strong as possible and to limit lasting damage to the economy. Mr. Powell said the policy stance is a good one though the Fed is ready to adjust it as needed.

On enhanced support for individuals, Mr. Powell noted that in response to the biggest shock to the U.S. economy, fiscal response was strong, fast and broad and appropriately so. There will be a need for more support from both fiscal and monetary policy. People employed in industries that are now subject to new rules will find it hard to return to employment. Those people will need ongoing support to pay bills, rents and to continue spending money.

Net, a lot of uncertainty surrounding the outlook that is dependent on the path of the virus. Economic activity seems to have slowed in response to rising infection cases. The Fed will continue to monitor and provide support. Fiscal support will also be necessary going forward.

2:08 p.m. ET: Stocks climb to session highs after Fed decision

The three major indices jumped to session highs shortly after the FOMC released its July statement, wherein officials reaffirmed their commitment to using their full toolkit to support the economy and left rates unchanged at near zero.

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 2:09 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +29.92 points (+0.93%) to 3,248.37

  • Dow (^DJI): +99.16 points (+0.38%) to 26,478.44

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +111.3 points (+1.07%) to 10,515.00

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.18 (+0.44%) to $41.22 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$8.10 (+0.42%) to $1,952.70 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +0.3 bps to yield 0.584%

1:06 p.m. ET: Big Tech hearing before the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee begins

Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline, Chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee, kicked off the antitrust hearing with executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google shortly after 1:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

In his opening remarks, Cicilline said the subcommittee had received “millions of pages of evidence” from each of the tech firms testifying Wednesday since September last year, when the subcommittee issued requests for information.

“Many of the practices used by these companies have harmful economic effects. They discourage entrepreneurship, destroy jobs, hike costs, and degrade quality,” Cicilline said, reading prepared remarks. “Simply put: They have too much power.”

“This power staves off new forms of competition, creativity, and innovation,” he added. “And while these dominant firms may still produce some new innovative products, their dominance is killing the small businesses, manufacturing, and overall dynamism that are the engines of the American economy.”

12:13 p.m. ET: Trump threatens to ‘bring fairness to Big Tech’ if Congress fails to act

President Donald Trump said in a Twitter post Wednesday afternoon that he will “bring fairness to Big Tech” with executive orders, if Congress hangs back after Wednesday’s hearing with the CEOs of major tech companies.

10:45 a.m. ET: Say cheese: Kodak’s suddenly an investor darling

Close-up of logo for Kodak on scanning equipment, San Ramon, California, June 22, 2020. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/.)

Kodak, a brand that’s largely been left by the wayside amid advances in photo technology and smart phones, has found a friend in President Trump — and Wall Street. On Tuesday, the Trump administration used the Defense Protection Act (DPA) to fund initiatives for Eastman Kodak (KODK) and FUJIFILM (FUJIY) to manufacture much-needed medical supplies.

Under the DPA, Kodak has received a $765 million loan to pivot to producing generic drug active ingredients — a product that largely produced in overseas facilities in India and China.

The end result is that Kodak’s stock has rallied five-fold in early Wednesday trading. Not bad for a company largely forgotten in a world of smart phones and digital technology.

10:00 a.m. ET: Pending home sales top expectations, rise for second straight month

Pending home sales in the US rose for a second straight month in June and by a larger than expected margin, according to the National Association of Realtors on Wednesday.

Pending home sales advanced 16.5% in June after a record 44.3% surge in May.The level of contract-signings also rose over last year, in a sign of sustained recovery in the housing market.

“It is quite surprising and remarkable that, in the midst of a global pandemic, contract activity for home purchases is higher compared to one year ago,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement. “Consumers are taking advantage of record-low mortgage rates resulting from the Federal Reserve’s maximum liquidity monetary policy.”

9:31 a.m. ET: Stocks open slightly higher, drifting before Fed meeting

Here were the main moves in markets as of 9:31 a.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +11.92 points (+0.37%) to 3,230.36

  • Dow (^DJI): +22.49 points (+0.09%) to 26,401.77

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +69.52 points (+0.67%) to 10,471.57

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.27 (+0.66%) to $41.31 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$10.40 (+0.53%) to $1,955.00 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.2 bps to yield 0.579%


7:30 a.m. ET: Boeing, GM post ugly quarter

The coronavirus took a heavy toll on the world’s largest plane maker and the top U.S. automaker — both of which posted grim Q2 figures. Boeing’s 737 MAX woes continued to hamper its operations, and will cut production on 2 separate lines. The mess helped to blow a nearly $2.4 billion operating hole in Boeing’s (BA) bottom line. However, the company said it was making “steady progress” in getting the flagship plane back into the sky.

Meanwhile, GM swung to a loss as COVID-19 related production shutdowns led to a net loss of $806 million for the quarter. The stock (GM), however, surged by over 4% in pre-market action.

7:18 a.m. ET: Stock futures cling to gains before opening bell

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:18 a.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,218.75, up 5.75 points or 0.18%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 26,309.00, up 12 points, or 0.05%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 10,588.75, up 48.75 points, or 0.46%

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.40 (+0.97%) to $41.44 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$8.20 (+0.42%) to $1,952.80 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +1.1 bps to yield 0.592%

7:00 a.m. ET: Weekly mortgage applications decline for the first time in a month: Mortgage Bankers Association

An index tracking mortgage application volume fell during the week ended July 24 for the first time in four weeks, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Applications for purchases fell 2%, seasonally adjusted, during the week, but still remained 21% higher than the same week last year on an unadjusted basis. Refinances fell 0.4%, but were 121% higher than the same time last year.

Taken together, the headline market composite index fell 0.8%, seasonally adjusted, to mark a deceleration after a 4.1% gain during the prior week.

“Mortgage rates remained near record lows for conventional loans last week, and refinances in the conventional sector continued to slightly increase. However, rates on FHA loans rose, leading to an almost 18% drop in FHA refinances,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist.

“Homebuyers stepped back slightly, and there was a larger drop in purchase application volume for FHA, VA, and USDA loans,” he added. “This trend, along with the fact that average loan sizes are increasing, indicate that prospective first-time buyers are being impacted more by the rising economic stress caused by the resurgence in COVID-19 cases, as well as the uncertainty on how the next round of government support will take shape.”

6:01 p.m. ET Tuesday: Stock futures open higher after regular-session declines

Stock futures kicked off the overnight session slightly higher following a drop during the regular session on Tuesday. Here were the main moves in equity markets, as of 6:01 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,216.75, up 3.75 points or 0.12%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 26,305.00, up 8 points, or 0.03%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 10,566.5, up 26.5 points, or 0.25%

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 26: The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) stands in lower Manhattan on the first day that traders are allowed back onto the historic floor of the exchange on May 26, 2020 in New York City. While only a small number of traders will be returning at this time, those that do will have to take temperature checks and wear face masks at all times while on the floor. The Dow rose over 600 points in morning trading as investors see economic activity in America picking up (Photo by Spencer Platt/.)

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