Stocks fell on Wednesday, erasing most of Tuesday’s gains, led by a steep decline in retail stocks that was spurred by bad news from Macy’s out before the market open.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 17,711.7, -216.7, (-1.2%)
- S&P 500: 2,064.5, -19.9, (-0.9%)
- Nasdaq: 4,760, -49, (-1%)
- WTI crude oil: $46.10, +3.2%
Look: retail is a hard business.
On Wednesday, Macy’s submitted its own testimony on this topic, announcing a massive cut in its expectations for this year and saying that basically everything it sees in the retail business is lining up against it.
Here’s Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, giving some of the bleakest commentary on a business and industry you’re likely to find in any press release anywhere (emphasis ours):
We are seeing continued weakness in consumer spending levels for apparel and related categories. In particular, our sales trend relative to expectations meaningfully slowed beginning in mid-March, and first quarter results are below our original outlook.Headwinds also are coming from a second consecutive year of double-digit spending reductions by international visitors in major tourist markets where Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s are key destinations, as well as a slowdown in some center core categories — further intensifying the challenges associated with growing topline sales revenue.
As for its first quarter results, Macy’s reported earnings that modestly beat expectations while sales fell a fifth straight quarter and sales at Macy’s stores open for at least a year were down 6.1%.
Macy’s shares fell 14% on the news.
Perhaps most damning was Hayley Peterson’s assessment of the company: Macy’s is now officially the next Sears.
The rest of the retail sector also took a beating on Wednesday, with ‘XRT’ ETF that tracks the sector losing 4%, while Macy’s peers like Nordstrom, Target, and Sears all lost more than 4%.
Also in the retail space, Bob Bryan noted that in Fitch’s downgrade of Gap’s debt to junk territory, the ratings agency nailed everything that’s difficult about the business is one clean paragraph.
On Tuesday night, Disney reported its first earnings miss in five years.
Shares of the media giant fell 4% on Wednesday.
Cable-network revenues were down 2% compared the prior year as were consumer-product sales, with Disney attributing these declines to a shift in timing for the College Football Playoff at ESPN and this same quarter last year being a big one for sales of “Frozen” merchandise.
The shift in the College Football Playoff — which this year played only game in Disney’s fiscal second quarter instead of all seven contests — also impacted ad revenue at ESPN, which declined 13% in the quarter.
ESPN, we’d note, is basically seen as ground zero for where signs in the cable bundle will really begin to show. Disney CEO Bob Iger was asked quite a bit on the company’s conference call about ESPN’s placement inside so-called “skinny bundles” — things like Sling TV, for example — and his tone was basically, “We’re happy with ESPN’s distribution.”
Ben Swinburne at Morgan Stanley said the cable results were better than they appear, and so while Disney will certainly continue to capture the attention of investors, this quarter didn’t reveal any major changes in progress or decline at the company.
The SkyBridge Alternatives conference, better known as the SALT Conference, got underway today out in Las Vegas.
This hedge fund conference caps what’s been a busy couple weeks for the industry with the Sohn Conference in New York last week, the Milken Conference in Los Angeles, and Monday night’s Robin Hood Foundation gala.
And Wednesday’s takes came in hot.
Billionaire oil magnate T. Boone Pickens and Sam Zell, himself a billionaire who made his fortune in real estate, took aim at Elon Musk’s electric car company Tesla on Wednesday.
“Tesla is this big car company,” Zell said. “You and I are subsidizing millionaires to buy these cars … I don’t understand.” Pickens admitted that Musk has “got something that’s very interesting,” but said he’s not much interested in it.
So, not that interesting?
Elsewhere at SALT, Larry Summers made some choice (read: negative) comments about the “carried interest” tax loophole, which gets lots of political play and is basically an advantage that allows private-equity and hedge fund managers an ability to have performance fees taxed at the capital gains rate rather than income tax rate.
Some argue these fees are, you know, the income.
David Rubenstein, co-CEO of private equity giant Carlyle Group who was on stage with Summers, wasn’t, you know, like super happy about it.
Robert Rubin, who like Summers was also once Treasury Secretary, said he’s really worried about China.
Also at SALT, Roslyn Zhang, managing director of fixed income and absolute-return investments at China Investment Corp., said that hedge funders spend two minutes researching an idea about China and then charge a bunch of money for it, according to Bloomberg.
What’s worse is that Zhang said these hedge funds all came up with the same idea.
Hillary Clinton’s son-in-law is shutting down one of his funds, which lost a bunch of money betting on Greece.