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January 22, 2023 – rdspinvestments

January 22, 2023

Chinese pray for health in Lunar New Year as COVID death toll rises

Investing.com - Financial Markets Worldwide

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Coronavirus 5 hours ago (Jan 22, 2023 11:53AM ET)

Chinese pray for health in Lunar New Year as COVID death toll rises© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A patient lies on a bed at the emergency department of a hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China January 17, 2023. REUTERS/Staff

By Alessandro Diviggiano

BEIJING (Reuters) -China rang in the Lunar New Year on Sunday with its people praying for health after three years of stress and financial hardship under the pandemic, as officials reported almost 13,000 new deaths caused by the virus between January 13 and 19.

Queues stretched for about one kilometre (a half-mile) outside the iconic Lama temple in Beijing, which had been repeatedly shut before COVID-19 restrictions ended in early December, with thousands of people waiting for their turn to pray for their loved ones.

One Beijing resident said she wished the year of the rabbit will bring “health to everyone”.

“I think this wave of the pandemic is gone,” said the 57-year-old, who only gave her last name, Fang. “I didn’t get the virus, but my husband and everyone in my family did. I still think it’s important to protect ourselves.”

Earlier, officials reported almost 13,000 deaths related to COVID in hospitals between January 13 and 19, adding to the nearly 60,000 in the month or so before that. Chinese health experts say the wave of infections across the country has already peaked.

The death toll update, from China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, comes amid doubts over Beijing’s data transparency and remains extremely low by global standards.

Hospitals and funeral homes were overwhelmed after China abandoned the world’s strictest regime of COVID controls and mass testing on Dec. 7 in an abrupt policy U-turn, which followed historic protests against the curbs.

The death count reported by Chinese authorities excludes those who died at home, and some doctors have said they are discouraged from putting COVID on death certificates.

China on Jan. 14 reported nearly 60,000 COVID-related deaths in hospitals between Dec. 8 and Jan. 12, a huge increase from the 5,000-plus deaths reported previously over the entire pandemic period.

Spending by funeral homes on items from body bags to cremation ovens has risen in many provinces, documents show, one of several indications of COVID’s deadly impact in China.

Some health experts expect that more than one million people will die from the disease in China this year, with British-based health data firm Airfinity forecasting COVID fatalities could hit 36,000 a day this week.

As millions of migrant workers return home for Lunar New Year celebrations, health experts are particularly concerned about people living in China’s vast countryside, where medical facilities are poor compared with those in the affluent coastal areas.

About 110 million railway passenger trips are estimated to have been made during Jan. 7-21, the first 15 days of the 40-day Lunar New Year travel rush, up 28% year-on-year, People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, reported.

A total of 26.23 million trips were made on the Lunar New Year eve via railway, highway, ships and airplanes, half the pre-pandemic levels, but up 50.8% from last year, state-run CCTV reported.

The mass movement of people during the holiday period may spread the pandemic, boosting infections in some areas, but a second COVID wave is unlikely in the near term, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Saturday on the Weibo (NASDAQ:) social media platform.

The possibility of a big COVID rebound in China over the next two or three months is remote as 80% of people have been infected, Wu said.

After China re-opened its borders on Jan. 8, some Chinese also booked trips abroad. Asia’s tourist hotspots have been bracing for the return of Chinese tourists, who spent $255 billion a year globally before the pandemic.

“Because of the pandemic, we hadn’t been out of China for three years,” said tourist and business owner Kiki Hu, 28, in Krabi on Thailand’s southwest coast. “Now that we can leave and come here for holiday, I feel so happy and emotional”.

Young northern Europeans flock to Spain’s Malaga to work remotely

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Young northern Europeans flock to Spain's Malaga to work remotely© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People with their dogs enjoy the sun in front of the sea during unseasonably warm temperatures in Malaga, southern Spain, January 4, 2023. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

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By Charlie Devereux and Corina Pons

MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish city of Malaga and its Costa del Sol surroundings are seeing a surge in people moving in from the rest of Europe as lifestyle and working habits change after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to two of Spain’s largest homebuilders.

Aedas Homes said its sales to foreigners in Costa del Sol doubled last year, from 124 units sold in 2021 to 248 in 2022, while Neinor Homes SA said about 40% of young people taking on long-term rents in the city since they launched a rental division in 2020 were foreign. That compares with almost no international customers elsewhere in Spain.

Property purchases by foreigners increased by 62% from a year earlier in the region of Andalusia, which includes Malaga, in the first half of 2022, according to the Centre for Statistical Information of Notaries.

Malaga’s town council said a platform launched in February 2021 to help so-called digital nomads, www.malagaworkbay.com, had received more than 160,000 visits by the end of 2022.

Millions of workers were forced to work from home during lockdowns aimed at stalling the spread of COVID-19 in 2020 and many companies have allowed the shift to become permanent – with employees discovering they can now work from anywhere.Aedas CEO David Martinez said the homebuilder had seen a spike in sales to people from Poland and the Czech Republic, countries feeling the proximity to the Ukraine war, as well as Belgians, French and Nordics.

“I don’t think it’s just the war,” Martinez told Reuters. “I think it’s that lots of people have had a rethink about their lives post-COVID.”

TECH HUB

Malaga has been working to position itself as a tech hub that can attract foreign talent rather than just a gateway to the beaches and golf courses further south. The local government last year eliminated a wealth tax that obliges residents and non-residents to pay income tax on money held abroad.

The policy is bearing fruit. Google-owner Alphabet (NASDAQ:) Inc. chose the city as the location for a European cybersecurity hub because of the number of tech start-ups already based there, according to the Spanish government.

Citigroup (NYSE:) announced in March 2022 plans to open a hub for junior investment bankers in the city, offering what it said was “a better equilibrium between work and private life to attract young talent”.

The pull of southern Europe for northern Europeans was amplified by the pandemic, Neinor Homes CEO Borja Garcia-Egotexeaga told Reuters, as companies struggling to hold on to their best employees are giving them the freedom to work from sunnier climes.

“Companies in Europe could consider measures such as lowering the salary or paying less to those who seek to work remotely from other countries, because the employee will be happy because they have some freedom,” he said.

Energy & precious metals – weekly review and outlook

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Commodities Jan 22, 2023 03:55AM ET

Energy & precious metals - weekly review and outlook© Reuters

By Barani Krishnan

Investing.com — As oil bulls reveled last week in the end to COVID lockdowns in top crude importer China, inconspicuous remarks by Saudi and Moscow diplomats revealed the growing challenge for the OPEC+ heavyweights in finding a workaround to the G7 price cap on Russian oil.

Saudi Arabia was “engaging with Russia over keeping oil prices relatively stable”, Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud told a Bloomberg interview in Riyadh on Thursday.

The Saudi diplomat pointed out that it was the kingdom’s stewardship – and Moscow’s help – that enabled the 13-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its 10 allies to boost U.S. crude from minus $40 a barrel at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic breakout in 2020 to just above $130 after the Ukraine invasion in March last year. Global crude benchmark Brent went from under $16 to just below $140 in the same period.

Al-Saud noted oil’s “relative stability” since those highs, comparing them with the “significant price swings” in “other energy sources” – like natural gas, which lost 50% over the past month. But even as he took a victory lap on that, he said there was more to be done: “We have a very important partnership with Russia on OPEC+ … that has delivered stability [to] the oil market … we are gonna engage with Russia on that.”

Ahead of Al-Saud’s comments, that same day, some 1,600 miles away in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak was telling state news agency TASS that Moscow “is not discussing with OPEC+ possibility of its oil production cuts”.

Novak was responding to a question on whether the Kremlin will reduce oil output to demand a higher price for its Urals crude as the G7’s $60-per-barrel cap allows buyers to lowball the Russian product versus rival crude benchmarks such as the U.K. Brent, U.S. West Texas Intermediate, the Arab Light and Dubai Light.

“No, we are not discussing such issues,” Novak said.

At a glance, the Saudi and Russian positions seemed disparate and to be addressing different matters. Al-Saud spoke about engaging Russia to keep oil prices stable while Novak ruled out production cuts by his country. However, anyone who knows the workings of OPEC+ will know how connected the two were; in essence, they were one and the same.

“Uncoded, the Saudi message is that they want to sit with the Russians to tell them to stop selling Urals at prices that are so discounted that they are pulling Brent and Arab light down,” said John Kilduff, founding partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital.

“The Russians, in response, are basically saying ‘Don’t ask us to restrict our sales to help you.’ The big energy supply squeeze Russia had counted on this winter to pressure the West into paying more for oil and gas has evaporated with the warm weather we’ve had. The Kremlin probably needs whatever money it can get now for its oil. They’re also saying if they cut production now, they might not be able to get it back on.”

Russia has historically maintained that oil wells drilled in permafrost could not be shut down easily, as they could freeze, requiring them to be drilled all over again when they are reopened. Oil analysts have called the cold weather claim one of the global oil industry’s biggest geopolitical bluffs. While Moscow did cut 20% of its output by teaming up with the Saudis in 2020, it has lately raised concerns again about the health of oil wells shuttered in the winter.

To the Saudis, of course, there is no greater tool to manage supply-demand in oil other than production cuts, although the kingdom’s state oil company Aramco (TADAWUL:) routinely tweaks the official selling price of Arab light to obtain desired revenue. With global demand for oil cratering after the global coronavirus outbreak, the Saudis led Russia and the rest of OPEC+ to slash tens of millions of barrels of supply a day. Relatively few hikes have been announced to replace those cuts. The psychological pressure applied by the Saudis on oil consumers has been a major support for crude prices over the past two years.

But the G7 price cap – which came into force on Dec. 5 – has been a game changer.

With Urals’ selling price limited at $60 a barrel versus Brent’s Friday close of $87.63, a discount of at least $25 on paper applies for each barrel of prompt loading for the Russian crude benchmark.

In the actual marketplace, the discounts are bigger, with the chief beneficiaries being India and China – the two biggest buyers of Russian crude.

India bought an average of 1.2 million barrels of Urals a day in December, which was 33 times more than a year earlier and 29% more than in November. Discounts for Urals at Russia’s western ports for sale to India under some deals widened to $32-$35 per barrel when freight wasn’t included, according to a Reuters report from Dec. 14.

The Indians even exported fuel produced from Russian crude to New York via a high-seas transfer at one point, despite U.S. sanctions prohibiting the import of Russian-origin energy products, including refined fuels, distillates, crude oil, coal, and gas.

Another Reuters report from Dec. 8 said China was paying the deepest discounts in months for Russian ESPO crude oil amid weak demand and poor refining margins. ESPO is a grade exported from the Russian Far East port of Kozmino and Chinese refiners are dominant clients for this.

At least one ESPO cargo for early December arrival was sold to an independent Chinese refiner at a discount of $6 per barrel against the February Brent price on delivery-ex-ship (DES) basis, Reuters said, citing four traders with knowledge of the matter. That discount compared with a premium of about $1.80 fetched by an ESPO barrel in China three weeks prior to the deal. Brent’s plunge to a one-year low of just above $75 by Dec. 9 exacerbated the discount for Russian crude, though the U.K. crude’s rebound to near $88 this week would have narrowed the difference.

The United States and its European allies – the chief proponents of the G7 price cap – are, meanwhile, delighted that Russian oil is going so cheaply and abundantly to the market.

The West’s original idea was to limit the Kremlin’s earnings from oil to slow the Russian military’s advance in Ukraine. That has begun working with the price cap.

And while Western countries have banned Russian crude imports, they want to ensure they have enough refined products for their consumers and industries. India and China have stepped up petrol and diesel production with their bumper Urals purchases and some of those are finding their way to Western destinations outside of the U.S. The United States itself appears sufficiently stocked with enough refined products for the winter.

Thus, when U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen toured Africa this past week, she took a victory lap on how well the G7 price cap was working. Aside from the West, some 17 of Africa’s net-oil importing countries could save a combined $6 billion annually from the price cap, which allowed them to use the discounted Russian oil as a basis for negotiating the purchase of any crude.

So, what can those opposed to the price cap do?

The Russians could demand a higher price for the oil they are selling to India and China. The question is how much more. If Brent continues to rally, an upward adjustment for Russian oil prices becomes natural. In the absence of that, Moscow might have to think about playing hardball with the only two countries it can conveniently sell its oil to amid the U.S. sanctions.

The Saudis could announce a significant production cut by OPEC+ which the kingdom itself would largely carry, to avoid protests from others in the cartel already upset over the loss of market share. The Saudis announced in November a 2 million barrel per day cut that would take effect in December. Brent hit a three-month high of almost $100 a barrel on that. But Bloomberg later quoted a Saudi official as saying the kingdom shipped 7.21 million barrels a day in December, unchanged from November. “If OPEC+ announces another ‘output cut’, it could be another lie,” said Kilduff of Again Capital. “Most of the alliance members are unable to meet even their production targets. This market trades on headlines and the Saudis know they have enough suckers with the megaphone they wield.”

And while China benefits from low Russian prices, it could save the day for OPEC if demand comes roaring back as projected in the world’s top oil importer. But the China rebound story is also contingent on how successful it is in clamping down on new COVID spikes among its billion-plus people. A U.S. and European recession have been forecast at some point this year as well, to offset the Chinese growth.

It’s going to be an interesting year ahead in oil.

Oil: Market Settlements and Activity

New York-traded West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, crude for delivery did a final trade of $81.96 on Friday after settling the session up $1.03, or 1.4%, at $81.64. For the week, it rose almost 2%.

London-traded Brent crude for settled up $1.47, or 1.7%, at $87.66, after a session peak at $87.75. Brent was up 2.8% for the week.

Oil: WTI Price Outlook

With WTI sustaining above the 5-Day Exponential Moving Average of $80.35, signs of further technical advances are emerging for U.S. crude, says Sunil Kumar Dixit, chief technical strategist at SKCharting.com.

“However, rebound towards the next major resistance of $93.74 requires a strong and sustained break above the 100-Day Simple Moving Average of $82.10 followed by a clearance through $84.70,” said Dixit.

“Meanwhile, a short-term pull back towards the $79 support and a follow-up drop to $75.70 cannot be ruled out,” he added. “This again would very likely attract buyers.”

Natural gas: Market Settlements and Activity

The front-month gas contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s Henry Hub did a final trade of $3.134 per mmBtu, or metric million British thermal units, on Friday. It officially settled the session at $3.174, down 10.1 cents, or 3%.

February gas fell to a 19-month low of $3.11 during the session, sending gas bulls up gasping for air on fears of the market tumbling to $2 levels. Fortunately, for the longs, the moment passed, with the $3 support holding.

Natural gas: Price Outlook

Natural gas could actually go on to break the much-watched $3 support in the coming week, though its drop below that could also be brief, said Dixit.

“The current bearish drop could pause at $2.989 and a short-term rebound towards the resistance zone of $4.75 could start. The rebound will have several twists and turns en route to the $4.75 destination.”

Dixit, however, said the upward projection was based on natural gas staying with its Fibonacci extension. “Natural gas is more of a weather-driven commodity now, where fundamentals rule, rather than technicals.”

Gold: Market Settlements and Activity

Gold for on New York’s Comex did a final trade of $1,927.70 an ounce on Friday after settling the official session at $1,928.20, up $4.30, or 0.2%. It earlier hit a nine-month high at $1,938.85.

Investing.com data shows that if February gold were to get past $1,950, its next major target would be the April 18 target of $2,003.

Aside from its advance on Friday, the benchmark U.S. gold futures contract rose 0.3% for the week, adding to its 6.7% gain over four prior weeks.

The , more closely followed than futures by some traders, settled down $6.02, or 0.3%, at $1,926.22 on the day. Spot gold peaked at $1,937.54 on Friday – its highest since the $1,955.93 attained on April 25. Spot gold’s bigger target would be the March 10 target of $2,009.57.

Gold: Price Outlook

For a second week in a row, gold has closed above the $1,896 level, which marks a 61.8% Fibonacci retracement of the $2,070 high and the $1,614 low, said Dixit.

“Prices are getting consistent support from the 5 Week Exponential Moving Average, which signals bullish continuation,” he said.

“Going forth, a sustained move above $1,920 indicates presence of strong momentum and a sustained break above the recent high of $1,937.72 will be needed for an advance towards the next major resistance and target of $1,972.76, which marks the 78.6% Fibonacci level.”

Dixit, however, said a drop below $1,920 would indicate a consolidation towards the $1915-$1905-$1896 support areas.

“A sustained break below $1,896 will put the brakes on the current bullish momentum and a short correction towards $1,880 may then be witnessed.”

Disclaimer: Barani Krishnan does not hold positions in the commodities and securities he writes about.

U.S. Justice Dept found more classified items in Biden home search

U.S. Justice Dept found more classified items in Biden home search© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks as he hosts mayors from the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Winter Meeting and other officials in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2023. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

By Nandita Bose and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A new search of President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware on Friday by the U.S. Justice Department found six more items, including documents with classification markings, a lawyer for the president said in a statement Saturday night. 

Some of the classified documents and “surrounding materials” dated from Biden’s tenure in the U.S. Senate, where he represented Delaware from 1973 to 2009, according to his lawyer, Bob Bauer. Other documents were from his tenure as vice president in the Obama administration, from 2009 through 2017, Bauer said.

The Department of Justice, which conducted a search that lasted over 12 hours, also took some notes that Biden had personally handwritten as vice president, according to the lawyer.

The president offered access “to his home to allow DOJ to conduct a search of the entire premises for potential vice-presidential records and potential classified material,” Bauer said.

Neither Biden nor his wife were present during the search, the attorney said. Biden is in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for the weekend.

Justice Department investigators coordinated the search with Biden’s lawyers ahead of time, Bauer said, and the president’s personal and White House lawyers were present at the time.

Other classified government records were discovered this month at Biden’s Wilmington residence, and in November at a private office he maintained at a Washington, D.C., think tank after ending his tenure as vice president in the Obama administration in 2017.

On Saturday, Bauer did not make clear in his statement where in the Wilmington home the documents were found. The previous classified documents were found in the home’s garage and in a nearby storage space.

The search shows federal investigators are swiftly moving forward with the probe into classified documents found in Biden’s possession. This month, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland named a special counsel to probe the matter.

Special counsel Robert Hur, who was appointed during the process, is investigating how the president and his team handled Obama-era classified documents that were recently found in Biden’s private possession.

Biden’s lawyers found all the documents discovered before Friday’s search by the DOJ, according to the White House. The latest search was the first time federal law enforcement authorities have conducted a search for government documents at Biden’s private addresses, according to information released publicly.

Republicans have compared the investigation to the ongoing probe into how former President Donald Trump handled classified documents after his presidency. The White House has noted that Biden’s team has cooperated with authorities in their probe and had turned over those documents. Trump resisted doing so until an FBI search in August at his Florida resort.

The search escalates the legal and political stakes for the president, who has insisted that the previous discovery of classified material at his home and former office would eventually be deemed inconsequential.

Biden said on Thursday he has “no regrets” about not publicly disclosing before the midterm elections the discovery of classified documents at his former office and he believed the matter will be resolved.

“There is no there, there,” Biden told reporters during a trip to California on Thursday.

Since the discovery of Biden’s documents, Trump has complained that Justice Department investigators were treating his successor differently.

“When is the F.B.I. going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump said in a social media post earlier this month.

ECB set to raise rates by 50 bp in Feb and March, Knot says

ECB set to raise rates by 50 bp in Feb and March, Knot says© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Central Bank (ECB) board member Klaas Knot appears at a Dutch parliamentary hearing in The Hague, Netherlands September 23, 2019 REUTERS/Eva Plevier/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -The European Central Bank (ECB) is set to raise interest rates by 50 basis points in both February and March and will continue to raise rates in the months after, ECB governing council member Klaas Knot said in an interview with Dutch broadcaster WNL on Sunday.

“Expect us to raise rates by 0.5% in February and March and expect us to not be done by then and that more steps will follow in May and June,” Knot said.

In a separate interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa published on Sunday, Knot said it was “too early to tell” if the ECB could slow down the pace of its rate increases by the summer.

“At some point, of course, the risks surrounding the inflation outlook will become more balanced,” he said.

“That would also be a time in which we could make a further step down from 50 to 25 basis points, for instance. But we are still far away from that.”

PayPal stock forecast darkens: The week’s biggest analyst moves

Stock Markets 4 hours ago (Jan 22, 2023 05:52AM ET)

PayPal stock forecast darkens: The week's biggest analyst moves© Reuters.

Last week saw some big analyst moves, among them a PayPal downgrade and a raised price target for Coinbase. Here are all of this past week’s most significant analyst rating changes, covered first on InvestingPro. Sign up for comprehensive, rapid-fire coverage of market-moving analyst moves.

PayPal cut to Underperform

Midweek, PayPal (NASDAQ:) slid on a downgrade to Underperform from Neutral at SMBC Nikko.

The firm placed a $75 target on the equity noting “…when juxtaposing a digital payments industry defined by innovation with a growing focus on the ability to deliver margin expansion, we believe PayPal has never been more vulnerable to branded share losses.”

Shares fell from roughly $80 to $76 during the session on the downgrade before rebounding the rest of the week and finishing at $79.09, up 0.94%.

Coinbase price target bumped up

On Friday, Coinbase (NASDAQ:) got a price target increase by JPMorgan to $60 from $53, with the bank keeping its rating at Neutral. JPMorgan wrote, “…the meaningful depreciation of cryptocurrency prices will make it much harder for Coinbase to return to profitability.”

Crypto-anything is popular around the world, and even a simple PT increase, with JPMorgan staying sidelined, sent the equity flying in the premarket session. The strength continued throughout the day and Coinbase closed Friday up nearly $6, or 11.61%, at $55.16.

Positive estimate revisions seen at Valero

Earlier in the week, BMO Capital upgraded Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE:) to Outperform with a $160 PT.

The bank noted, “We see positive consensus estimate revisions and are 18% above on 2023 EPS. We expect mid-cycle cracks to be above historical levels, and even on 2024 estimates, shares trade at 12.1% FCF, 4.2x EV/EBITDA, and 9.0x P/E.”

Share rose on the upgrade and closed the week up 5.30% as energy names continue to have appeal.

Philip Morris upgraded on M&A move

And Jefferies upgraded tobacco distributor Philip Morris (NYSE:) to Buy with a $118 price target.

The brokerage said it is now incorporating Philip Morris’ recent deal to expand its stake to more than 90% in tobacco outfit Swedish Match, which PM is moving to acquire outright.

It added, “On a longer-term basis, we have consistently been constructive on PM because it is leading the shift over to the tobacco model of the future, both RRP (reduced-risk products) and beyond nicotine. … Our previous near-term caution on PM had been based on an assumption of an unfavorable European Tobacco Tax Directive (EU TTD) for RRP taxes, and then PM’s lack of current RRP exposure to US, and potential share and cost implications around this.”

PM shares jumped on Thursday, making up lost ground from the previous session, and closed nearly even for the week.

***

If you’re interested in upgrading your search for new investing ideas, check out InvestingPro

PayPal stock forecast darkens: The week’s 4 biggest analyst moves

PayPal stock forecast darkens: The week's 4 biggest analyst moves© Reuters.

Last week saw some big analyst moves, among them a PayPal downgrade and a raised price target for Coinbase. Here are all of this past week’s most significant analyst rating changes, covered first on InvestingPro. Sign up for comprehensive, rapid-fire coverage of market-moving analyst moves.

PayPal cut to Underperform

Midweek, PayPal (NASDAQ:) slid on a downgrade to Underperform from Neutral at SMBC Nikko.

The firm placed a $75 target on the equity noting “…when juxtaposing a digital payments industry defined by innovation with a growing focus on the ability to deliver margin expansion, we believe PayPal has never been more vulnerable to branded share losses.”

Shares fell from roughly $80 to $76 during the session on the downgrade before rebounding the rest of the week and finishing at $79.09, up 0.94%.

Coinbase price target bumped up

On Friday, Coinbase (NASDAQ:) got a price target increase by JPMorgan to $60 from $53, with the bank keeping its rating at Neutral. JPMorgan wrote, “…the meaningful depreciation of cryptocurrency prices will make it much harder for Coinbase to return to profitability.”

Crypto-anything is popular around the world, and even a simple PT increase, with JPMorgan staying sidelined, sent the equity flying in the premarket session. The strength continued throughout the day and Coinbase closed Friday up nearly $6, or 11.61%, at $55.16.

Positive estimate revisions seen at Valero

Earlier in the week, BMO Capital upgraded Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE:) to Outperform with a $160 PT.

The bank noted, “We see positive consensus estimate revisions and are 18% above on 2023 EPS. We expect mid-cycle cracks to be above historical levels, and even on 2024 estimates, shares trade at 12.1% FCF, 4.2x EV/EBITDA, and 9.0x P/E.”

Share rose on the upgrade and closed the week up 5.30% as energy names continue to have appeal.

Philip Morris upgraded on M&A move

And Jefferies upgraded tobacco distributor Philip Morris (NYSE:) to Buy with a $118 price target.

The brokerage said it is now incorporating Philip Morris’ recent deal to expand its stake to more than 90% in tobacco outfit Swedish Match, which PM is moving to acquire outright.

It added, “On a longer-term basis, we have consistently been constructive on PM because it is leading the shift over to the tobacco model of the future, both RRP (reduced-risk products) and beyond nicotine. … Our previous near-term caution on PM had been based on an assumption of an unfavorable European Tobacco Tax Directive (EU TTD) for RRP taxes, and then PM’s lack of current RRP exposure to US, and potential share and cost implications around this.”

PM shares jumped on Thursday, making up lost ground from the previous session, and closed nearly even for the week.

***

If you’re interested in upgrading your search for new investing ideas, check out InvestingPro

Top 5 things to watch in markets in the week ahead

Top 5 things to watch in markets in the week ahead© Reuters

By Noreen Burke

Investing.com — The standoff over the U.S. debt ceiling looks likely to loom large over financial markets as earnings season continues. Markets will get an update on U.S. fourth quarter growth which is expected to remain solid despite more recent signs of a slowdown. The Eurozone is to release PMI data while inflation data from Japan will also be closely watched. Here’s what you need to know to start your week.

  1. Debt ceiling standoff

The U.S. government hit its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit on Thursday amid a row between hardline Republicans and President Joe Biden’s Democrats over raising the country’s debt ceiling.

House Republicans want cuts to government spending before they will approve a higher ceiling; a similar demand in 2011 prompted S&P to cut the U.S. credit rating for the first time and caused chaos in financial markets.

The high-stakes deadlock is widely expected to last for months and could come down to the last minute as each side tests the other ahead of June – the date beyond which the Treasury will likely have exhausted emergency maneuvers to stave off default.

“From both an economic and a financial perspective, a failure to raise the debt ceiling would be an unmitigated disaster,” said David Kelly, Chief Global Strategist for JPMorgan Chase & Co funds.

  1. Tech earnings

Earnings results in the coming week will test the recent bounce in technology stocks amid questions over whether megacap companies can increase revenue and profits while cutting costs, as the U.S. economy shows signs of a slowdown and a possible recession.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:), the second biggest U.S. company by market value, reports on Tuesday followed by Elon Musk’s Tesla (NASDAQ:) on Wednesday, and Intel (NASDAQ:) on Thursday.

Earnings season has had a lukewarm start. companies are expected to post an overall 2.9% drop in fourth quarter earnings versus the year-ago period, according to Refinitiv data. compared with a 1.6% decline in the beginning of the year.

Alphabet (NASDAQ:) said Friday it is cutting about 12,000 jobs, or 6% of its workforce, the latest tech giant to announce layoffs. Microsoft on Wednesday said it would eliminate 10,000 jobs while Amazon (NASDAQ:) started notifying employees of its own 18,000-person job cuts.

  1. U.S. economic data

The U.S. is to publish a first estimate of fourth quarter gross domestic product on Thursday with analysts expecting the economy to have expanded by an annualized , after 3.2% in the third quarter.

While this appears strong, more recent economic data have pointed to the economy losing momentum at the end of 2022 – retail sales fell by 1% or more in the last two months, industrial production declined for the past three and residential construction has posted six straight monthly declines.

GDP is expected to weaken in the coming quarters as the Federal Reserve’s aggressive continue to hit demand.

The economic calendar also includes data on , and on Thursday and the on Friday.

  1. Eurozone

Several European Central Bank officials are due to make appearances before policymakers enter their traditional pre-policy meeting blackout period on Thursday. The ECB’s next policy meeting is on Feb. 2.

ECB President , who last week pushed back against market bets that it would slow the pace of rate hikes given recent falls in inflation, is scheduled to make two appearances.

Meanwhile, Eurozone data may give further indications of the health of the economy.

The bloc is to release flash PMI data on Tuesday that is expected to tick higher, while the closely watched German on Wednesday is expected to improve for a second month.

  1. Inflation watch

Japan is to release consumer price inflation data for the region Friday that will be closely watched after the Bank of Japan last week defied market expectations for a more hawkish policy shift when it maintained the rate of yield curve control.

Japanese inflation is running at a four-decade high and is double the BOJ’s 2% target but the BOJ is pushing back against market bets that the end of its long-standing, ultra-loose monetary policy is near.

Meanwhile, and are both due to release inflation data on Wednesday as the Reserve Bank of Australia contemplates whether it’s time to pause rate hikes and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand considers how much more to tighten monetary policy.

–Reuters contributed to this report

California shooting suspect kills himself after Lunar New Year massacre

California shooting suspect kills himself after Lunar New Year massacre

By Tim Reid and Jonathan Allen

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (Reuters) -A 72-year-old gunman killed himself when approached by police on Sunday, about 12 hours after he had carried out a Lunar New Year massacre at a dance club that left 10 people dead and another 10 wounded.

The gunman tried to carry out another shooting at a separate club just minutes after the first one on Saturday night, but authorities said two bystanders wrestled the man’s weapon away from him before any shots could be fired. He fled that scene.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna identified the suspect as Huu Can Tran, a septuagenarian he said used a high-capacity magazine pistol to shoot up a ballroom dance venue popular with older patrons in Monterey Park, about 7 miles (11 km) east of downtown Los Angeles.

Investigators did not yet know a motive, although gun violence is frequent in the United States. Luna did not identify any of the victims but said the five men and five women appeared to be in their 50s, 60s and beyond. The sheriff said the pistol Tran used appeared to be illegal in California, where state laws ban any magazine holding more than 10 rounds.

“We want to know, we want to know how something this awful can happen,” Luna told reporters.

After police say Tran carried out the shooting in Monterey Park at about 10 p.m. PST Saturday (0600 GMT on Sunday), he was confronted by bystanders at a second dance club in the neighboring city of Alhambra about 20 minutes later, Luna said.

“I can tell you that the suspect walked in there, probably with the intent to kill more people, and two brave community members decided they were going to jump into action and disarm him,” Luna said.

The sheriff said that Tran turned a handgun on himself on Sunday as police approached a white van he was driving in Torrance, about 20 miles (34 km) from the site of the shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park. Officers heard a single gunshot from the van as they approached, then fell back and called for a SWAT team.

Of the 10 people injured, seven remained hospitalized Sunday night, with at least one person in critical condition.

The shooting took place around the location of a two-day Chinese Lunar New Year celebration where many downtown streets are closed for festivities that draw thousands of people from across Southern California.

A CLOSE-KNIT COMMUNITY

Residents stood gazing at the many blocks sealed off with police tape on Sunday in Monterey Park. Chester Chong, chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, described the city of about 60,000 people as a quiet, peaceful, beautiful place where everybody knows each other and helps each other.

The city has for decades been a destination for immigrants from China. Around 65% of its residents are Asian, according to U.S. Census data, and the city is known for its many Chinese restaurants and groceries. 

“People were calling me last night, they were scared this was a hate crime,” Chong said at the scene.

The Star Ballroom Dance Studio opened in 1990, and its website features many photographs of past Lunar New Year celebrations showing patrons smiling and dancing in party clothes in its large, brightly lit ballroom.

Most of its patrons are middle-aged or seniors, though children also attend youth dance classes, according to a teacher at the studio who asked to not be named.

“Those are normal working people,” the teacher said. “Some are retired and just looking for an exercise or social interaction.”

A flyer posted on the website advertised Saturday night’s new year party, running from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

The gunshots were mistaken by some for new year fireworks, according to Tiffany Chiu, 30, who was celebrating at her parents’ home near the ballroom.

“A lot of older people live here, it’s usually really quiet,” she said. “This is not something you expect here.”

President Joe Biden condemned the killings in a written statement and said he had directed his Homeland Security adviser to mobilize federal support to local authorities.

The attack in Monterey Park was the deadliest since May 2022, when a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas. The deadliest shooting in California history was in 1984 when a gunman killed 21 people at a McDonald’s (NYSE:) restaurant in San Ysidro, near San Diego.

Box office haul for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ tops $2 billion

Stock Markets 4 hours ago (Jan 22, 2023 11:36AM ET)

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Box office haul for 'Avatar: The Way of Water' tops $2 billion© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Zoe Saldana attends a premiere for the film Avatar: The Way of Water, at Dolby theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 12, 2022. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Pricey movie sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water” topped $2 billion in global box office receipts on Sunday, sealing its spot as another hit franchise for the Walt Disney (NYSE:) Co.

Director James Cameron had said the movie needed to reach the $2 billion mark just to break even. “The Way of Water” debuted in late December, 13 years after the original “Avatar” introduced the lush world of Pandora (OTC:) and became a worldwide phenomenon.

Box office sales for “The Way of Water” totaled $2.024 billion on Sunday, according to Disney estimates. After six weekends in theaters, it ranks as the sixth-highest grossing movie of all time. Roughly $1.4 billion of ticket sales have come from international markets outside the United States and Canada.

“It’s an unqualified success,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “Any time you are in the billions you are in the pantheon of top franchises.”

Disney has not disclosed the movie’s budget, but the Hollywood Reporter said it cost at least $350 million to produce plus marketing costs. Studios split ticket sales with theaters.

The strong reception for the film also should help attract crowds to a Pandora area at Walt Disney World in Florida, analysts said, and spark merchandise sales for years to come.

“Avatar” was touted as one of the jewels in Disney’s $71 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox assets in 2019, a property it could elevate alongside Marvel and Star Wars. Activist investor Nelson Peltz, who is seeking a seat on the Disney board, has argued that the company paid too much for Fox.

A third “Avatar” movie, which Cameron has already filmed, is scheduled to debut in December 2024. The fourth and fifth installments are slated for December 2026 and December 2028.

The original “Avatar” enchanted audiences with groundbreaking visuals that told the story of Pandora’s blue, 9-foot-tall Na’vi people. The 2009 movie remains the highest-grossing film in history with $2.9 billion in global ticket sales.

In “The Way of Water,” actors Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana return as Jake Sully and Neytiri 10 years later, now parents of five children. When humans return to go after Jake, the family takes refuge with an oceanic clan.

Cameron has directed three of the top six films of all time – the two “Avatar” movies and 1997 drama “Titanic.”

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