Pen and calendar on a wooden table

U.S. retail sales continue to decline

25th February 2023 – 3rd March 2023 | Another week in the markets

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Source: MarketWatch 

Hello Saturday,

This week, Salesforce sweeps the market off its feet with strong earnings, Tesla’s Investor Day fails to live up to the buzz, and retail sales continue to decline. 

  • Tesla’s first-ever Investor Day fails to make any major announcements or give the specifics investors expected; the stock falls 7% after the presentation failed to live up to the hype 
  • Q4 earnings of major US big-box retailers warn of higher price sensitivity, consumer spending cutbacks, and flat economic growth in 2023 
  • Stock buybacks by corporations are set to cross $1 trillion in value this year, and may offer the price support certain stocks need; the Biden administration’s tax hike on buybacks is yet to pass
  • Salesforce delivers astonishingly strong Q4 earnings and 2024 guidance; its stock surges almost 12% as the company turns a corner 
  • Starbucks rolls out a new range of drinks, named ‘Oleato’, in Italy; these drinks contain a spoonful of extra virgin olive oil, and will soon launch in the US, the UK, Japan, and other markets 

Taking stock | All Musk, no fragrance | No retailwinds | Buybacks are back | More sales forced | Olive twist | Invest wisely

Taking stock

Wall Street closes the week in the green as US Treasury yields ease. All major indices notched up a winning week, and the Dow broke its four-week losing streak: while it rose 1.75%, the S&P gained 1.90% and the Nasdaq climbed 2.58%.

All Musk, no fragrance

This Wednesday, Tesla held its first-ever Investor Day in Austin, Texas, where CEO Elon Musk outlined his vision for the company’s future. The presentation mainly focused on the company’s long-term plans and past achievements, and fell short on the specifics that investors wanted about Tesla’s new products and services. Since Musk failed to announce anything particularly momentous, Tesla stock fell 7% on Thursday.

A graph on how Tesla shares react after company events

Source: Reuters

Tesla stock has been wildly volatile since last year — it lost about two-thirds of its value in 2022, but has rebounded more than 60% this year. Most investors expected Musk to announce something major during the Investor Day presentation, like a new, more affordable model. Unfortunately for them, however, the event failed to live up to the hype.

Nevertheless, here are some of the highlights from Tesla’s Investor Day:

  • Tesla reported 2022 full-year deliveries of around 1.31 million vehicles, and reiterated its goal to produce 20 million EVs by 2030.
  • The company is going to build its next Gigafactory in Monterrey, Mexico, making it the company’s fifth EV car assembly plant. While specifics weren’t revealed, this plant is expected to produce Tesla’s next-generation, low-priced EV.
  • Tesla plans to offer some customers a monthly at-home charging subscription plan. It will launch this plan in Texas for $30 a month for unlimited at-home overnight charging. 
  • The automaker plans to cut its use of silicon carbide transistors by 75%; this announcement sent chipmaker shares down.

No retailwinds

Last week, Amazon, Walmart, and Home Depot put out conservative outlooks for 2023 in light of flat economic growth and higher price sensitivity among shoppers. The retailers warned that consumers are behaving as if the economy is already in a recession, and are spending less and less on non-essential goods and services. 

This week, the Q4 earnings of nine major US retailers, including Best Buy, Costco, Nordstrom, Kroger, and Macy’s, showed declining sales and echoed such warnings. Sales during the holiday season, which is the busiest time of the year for these retailers, were sluggish as consumers cut back spending on electronics and apparel. Macy’s Q4 profit fell 32% from a year earlier, and Best Buy’s US sales fell almost 10%; meanwhile, Kroger’s same-store sales, excluding fuel, rose 6.2%.

Several smaller retailers have filed for bankruptcy in the recent past, and others, like Bed Bath & Beyond, are on the verge of going under. Declining retail sales are a cause for concern, as consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the US GDP

Buybacks are back

Though the stock market has been volatile this year, it is receiving support from an unexpected source — stock buybacks by companies. In 2022, S&P 500 companies purchased about $930 billion worth of their own shares, and in 2023, stock buybacks are projected to top $1 trillion.

Some of the biggest stock buybacks announced include Chevron Corp’s $75 billion buyback plan, Meta’s $40 billion plan, Exxon’s $35 billion plan, and Goldman Sachs Group’s $30 billion plan. 

Stock buybacks by corporations have supporters as well as critics. Stock buybacks reduce the number of outstanding shares, giving existing shareholders a greater ownership stake. The price of the stock also tends to increase in the stock market due to increased demand, and so stock buybacks give price support and increase shareholder value. 

However, critics argue that this is just a method of funnelling profits into corporate pockets instead of the economy. Biden has called for increasing the tax rate to 4% on buybacks, up from its current 1%, as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

More sales forced 

Thanks to a robust Q4 earnings report that came out on Wednesday, Salesforce stock surged almost 12% on Thursday, recording its best single-day rally since August 2020. Salesforce’s earnings, as well as its 2024 guidance, came in significantly stronger than analysts’ estimates. 

  • Q4 earnings per share at $1.68, 23% higher than estimates
  • Q4 revenue of $8.38 billion, with 14% year-over-year growth 
  • Earnings forecast for 2024 22% higher than expected 

With this, Salesforce looks like it might have turned a corner after plunging over 48% last year. 

Olive twist

Your Starbucks coffee might soon come with a shot of an unexpected ingredient: olive oil! Starbucks’ new beverage line, called ‘Oleato’, contains a spoonful of extra virgin olive oil, and was rolled out in Italy last week. It will soon be available in the US, and later in the year in the UK, Japan, the Middle East, and other markets. 

So, what does adding olive oil to coffee do? Other than an additional 120 calories, it sparks curiosity among consumers, might provide some health benefits, and might just boost global olive oil sales. But is this launch a wise decision amidst Starbucks’ union issues, shaky supply chains, and consumer spending cutbacks? Well, Q4 2022 saw a 5% jump in Starbucks sales globally for stores open for at least 13 months. Since consumers see Starbucks as an affordable luxury, and because the target audience is one that enjoys novel concoctions, this might just work out for the coffee behemoth.

Invest wisely 

Whether you want to benefit from the record-high stock buybacks announced by US corporations or add promising growth stocks like Salesforce to your portfolio, Appreciate is the way to go. With Appreciate’s seamless investing platform and AI-based recommendations, you can effortlessly build a well-diversified portfolio with international exposure. Download the app today!

Warm regards,
Another week
in the markets

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