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Tumbling oil prices slam profit at Exxon Mobil, Chevron

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© Reuters. A sign advertising gas prices is seen at a Chevron station in Los Angeles

By Ernest Scheyder and Anna Driver

(Reuters) – Weak oil prices shriveled quarterly profit at Exxon Mobil Corp (N:) and Chevron Corp (N:) on Friday, compelling both companies to rethink operations and plan for what many expect to be a sustained period of cheap crude.

Earnings at U.S. oil majors Exxon, which were the worst in a decade, and Chevron missed analysts’ expectations, adding to concerns that perhaps executives had not acted quickly enough to mitigate the impact of an over-50-percent drop in oil prices since last summer.

The results highlight how smaller and more nimble U.S. shale oil companies have slashed costs faster and more aggressively than global majors. Some shale producers have cut back drilling by 60 percent or more.

Evan Calio, an analyst with Morgan Stanley (N:), said on Exxon’s earnings conference call that the oil giant appeared to be less vocal than its peers about cutting costs.

Jeff Woodbury, Exxon’s head of investor relations, responded that the company was constantly focused on capital efficiency and cost management.

Still, Exxon is sticking for now with its plans to spend $34 billion this year, although that figure has a downward bias because of cost savings and efficiencies, Woodbury said.

Chevron also still plans to spend $35 billion this year, but said it would spend less in 2016 and 2017 as several mega projects come online.

CUTS AT EUROPEAN RIVALS

Exxon and Chevron’s European peers such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc (L:) have taken more aggressive action. BP Plc (L:) cut its budget for the second time this year, while Shell said it would lay off 6,500 workers.

Exxon’s profit fell by more than half, with the biggest drop in its exploration and production business, where earnings slumped by nearly $6 billion

Chevron’s profit plunged 90 percent, a starker drop and one exacerbated by a $2.22 billion loss in its exploration and production division.

Pat Yarrington, Chevron’s chief financial officer, seeking to head off complaints about cost management, said the company had slashed about $3 billion in spending so far this year, and wasn’t done. Still, analysts peppered her throughout the earnings call for details.

Though production grew at both companies, they missed the estimates of many analysts who had expected the energy giants to pump more.

Shares of both slumped more than 3 percent in afternoon trading.

BRIGHT SPOT

To be sure, the two companies benefited from their refining divisions, which make gasoline and other fuels.

Refining units tend to be far more profitable when oil prices are low, providing Chevron and other integrated energy companies with an internal hedge during times when core operations, such as oil production, are weighed down by weak prices.

Both companies stressed their ability to weather the price doldrums and emerge stronger.

Chevron’s Chief Executive John Watson, for instance, bluntly described the results as “weak.” He laid off 2 percent of its staff earlier this week.

“I think in general the industry is putting a sharper pencil to cost cutting,” said Brian Youngberg, senior oil company analyst at Edward Jones in St Louis. “I think they are realizing the days of $100 a barrel (oil) are over.” Exxon also said Friday it would slow its share repurchase program. The company purchased $1 billion of its own stock in the second quarter, but expects to spend roughly half of that on repurchases in the third quarter.

Chevron earlier this year scrapped its entire repurchase program.

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Stock Market Gains This Pandemic

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Stock Market Gains This Pandemic

Last Monday’s market opened with a new round of confidence as stock market gains this pandemic Tech stocks continued their surge, adding $291.66 billion in combined market valuation. Investors also celebrated promising developments in the race for a coronavirus vaccine.

The Nasdaq Composite gained 2.5% and established a new record high of 10,767.09. S&P 500 rose 27.11 and managed to gain 0.8%. The Dow Jones hovered at a potential loss but managed to close the day with an additional 8.92 points, equal to less than 0.1% gain.

The slew of corporate earnings announcements scheduled for this week kickstarted the trading activity Monday. John Ham of the New England Investment & Retirement Group, says this week is all about earnings. While there is interest in large-cap tech stocks, the market will need “actual money managers” to help drive up lesser names. Ham noted that there are still “a lot of people sitting on the sidelines.”

Related Article: As Earnings Season Begins, Prepare For A Bumpy Ride

TECH Stocks Leads the Way

NASDAQ Rides High

Nasdaq reached an all-time high of 10,767.09, a surge of 263.90 points or 2.5% gain. This peak is Nasdaq’s 28th for the year. Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX), Google (GOOGL), Tesla (TSLA), Microsoft (MSFT) and Facebook (FB) all shot up, adding a total $291.66 billion in market valuation overnight.

After Goldman Sachs adjusted Amazon’s price target to $3,800 per share, its stock rose 7.93%. This added $116.92 billion in the company’s valuation. Amazon’s total market cap is now $1.59 trillion. Owner Jeff Bezos added #13 billion to his net worth overnight.

Tesla gained 9.47% as investors anticipated the company’s June earnings announcement. The automaker added $26.36 billion to its market cap. Microsoft gained 4.3% and added $66.82 billion. Apple closed with a 2.11% gain, added $35.53 billion. Google (Alphabet) was up 3.1% and added $32.08 billion. Facebook closed 1.40% higher and added $9.67 billion. Netflix gained 1.91% and increased its value by $4.28 billion.

S&P 500 Gains As Well

S&P 500 ended up with 3,251.84 points, or 0.8% higher than previous. Tech stocks also blazed the trail, with big gains in Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google.

Investors took notice of recent developments in the race for a coronavirus vaccine. The big winner was UK Biotech firm Synairgen, who shot up 552%.

Investors also digested a mix of news from trials of coronavirus drugs and vaccines. Shares of the UK biotech firm, Synairgen shot up to 552%. The company announced last Monday that its experimental drug prevented serious coronavirus symptoms. This meant that the chances of a patient dying or requiring a ventilator lowered.

AstraZeneca shares dropped 4%, despite the announcement of good results. Early-stage trials show that the company’s experimental vaccine-induced antibody and T-cell production. While share prices increased 10% in London, the NYSE trades brought them back to earth. Analysts noted that trial results were only preliminary and below expectations.

With the US still dealing with outbreaks, the prospects for recovery get dimmer.  Jason Pride, Private Wealth Chief Investment Officer, sees the market reacting to pharma. He said: “Renewed outbreaks in the U.S. highlight the reality that a return to normal economic activity may be very difficult, if not impossible, without a widely available cure/vaccine. As a result, markets are likely to remain sensitive to developments from this leading vaccine candidate.”

Holding its Breath for Stimulus Packages

Investors are also on alert for any changes in the political landscape.

People are on standby for the conclusion of the European Union meeting in Brussels. Leaders are discussing a $2.1 trillion budget that aims to serve as a coronavirus recovery fund.

People are also monitoring updates for the anticipated next round of stimulus aid in the US. What the final form of the bill is unknown at this point, as the two parties are worlds apart. Republicans want to limit the budget to $1.5 trillion while Democrats want it much higher. The only thing certain at this point is that both parties agree that relief will be much needed right now.

Watch this video as Heath Terry speaks about the Stock Market Gains This Pandemic:

With the surge of activity in the market, especially Big Tech and Big Pharma, where is the market headed? Will the market continue to rise, or are we headed to a bubble?

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Buffett Has Had A Terrible Year, And It’s Part of His Plan

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Market Rally Highlights ‘Longstanding Concerns’ Over Buffett Stock Picking

It hasn’t been easy being Warren Buffett in 2020.

In late May, Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square hedge fund dumped its stake in Berkshire Hathaway. He said that he felt he could be more “nimble” at deploying capital than the typically ‘slow and steady” approach by Berkshire.

In June he became a bit of a punching bag for Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports and now a day trader. Portnoy said he was “better at the stock market” than Buffett. He even added, “I’m better than he is. That’s a fact.”

The most recent knock against Buffett comes from a tweet by Roundhill Investments CEO and co-founder Will Hershey. He listed the five companies that have lost the most value this year. Berkshire Hathaway is fifth on the list, having seen $90 billion in value disappear. To compound the difficult year for Berkshire, two of the companies that have lost even more value this year, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan are two of the four largest Berkshire holdings.

Most of the criticisms aimed at Buffett have been similar to why Pershing Square pulled its investment: a lack of buying activity, particularly during the market correction from February through late March.

With a reported $137 billion in cash, Berkshire was nowhere to be found during the market swoon. It only recently dipped its toes back into the buying pool. When it did, it spent $10 billion for a stake in Dominion Energy’s natural gas assets.

According to one Buffett follower, this is all part of his plan.

Shane Parrish, who writes the heavily followed Farnam Street blog, said during a recent interview with Business Insider, “You have to be willing to look like an idiot in the short term to get the best long-term results. I’d suggest that because the future has become increasingly uncertain, he’s preparing for the widest range of possible futures.”

Parrish says that during the February to late-March correction, no investors really knew what was going on. Part of Buffett’s plan, says Parrish, is to do nothing until you know the best course of action.

“When you don’t understand with a certain degree of certainty, you sit out until you do.”

He added “People always seem to want the optimal solution for the moment, and thus he ends up looking out of touch at times. But you have to be willing to do something different to get different results.”

Buffett is sitting on cash to protect his investors and to be ready for whatever the market brings, said Parrish.

“You can’t win if you don’t finish… you can’t compound if you zero out,” Parrish said. “In periods of high uncertainty, you want to ensure you have the most possible options.”

If we see another leg down in the market, and Buffett is able to buy good, quality businesses at an even cheaper price than during the recent correction, there will be a lot of naysayers eating crow.

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Unemployment Rate Declines to 11.1%

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Coming at the heels of a surprising May performance, the US economy showed tenacity as it beat analyst predictions once again. The Bureau of Labor Statistics yesterday reported that the US added 4.8 million non-farm payrolls to the job market in June. This is 1.8 million more jobs than expected. This shows unemployment rate decline to 11.1%.

Related Article: Trump Says Economy ‘Roaring Back’ in June As 4.8 Million Jobs Added

Us Generated 4.8 Million Jobs Last June, Unemployment Declines to 11.1%

The majority of new jobs came from the private sector. The hospitality and leisure industry led the way with 2.1 million payrolls or 44%. Restaurants and bars recorded the most gains in the industry, posting 1.5 million new jobs. Meanwhile, government jobs remain few, with only 33,000 new ones during the month.

The increase in jobs so pulled down the unemployment rate to 11.1% in June, which is 2.2% lower than last month’s rate of 13.3%. Meanwhile, April’s 14.7% unemployment rate was the highest since the Depression Era of the 1930s. The 11.1% is still a high number, considering that the previous highest unemployment rate since 1941 is 10.8% in 1982.

While the new jobs showed efforts to reopen the economy, the recent spike in coronavirus cases now threatens any further progress. In a Washington Post report, the US set a new record of single day coronavirus cases, posting 55,220 cases on July 2. Establishments that opened last June have started closing again as a precaution.

Unemployment Also Rises

The US also reported 1.4 million workers filing for unemployment benefits for the first time. This brings the total number of Americans filing for unemployment at least two weeks in a row up to 19.3 million.

The current government stimulus package (CARES Act), provides an extra $600 unemployment insurance. This provision expires by July 31, after which Congress will debate on new rules and amounts. This also allows even self-employed workers to file for claims. Regular unemployment benefits before the coronavirus pandemic remain in effect.

Bars and restaurants in particular, who accounted for 30% of the increase in jobs last June, are in danger of laying off workers again, as states are rethinking their strategy of reopening their economies. This could lead to re-closing open establishments and delaying the reopening of outlets about to open. Either way, the industry is still affected by the ongoing health crisis. Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner William Beach noted that “After two months of job gains…that sector is still down 3.1 million jobs since February.”

Mixed Reactions, Uncertainty for July

While the news garnered positive reactions from various sectors, there were causes for concern among analysts. Glassdoor Chief Economist Andres Chamberlain looks at the report as a sign of good things to come: “Today’s positive jobs report does provide a powerful signal of how swiftly US job growth can bounce back and how rapidly businesses can reopen once the nation finally brings the coronavirus under control — a reason for optimism in coming months.”

Some are fearing the worst is yet to come. The rising number of infections hampered economic recovery efforts. Businesses and state governments have begun reconsidering plans for their gradual reopening. The effects of the second wave on unemployment will most likely show up in the July and August reports. Michael Pearce, the senior US economist at Capital Economics, believes that a full job market recovery will be more difficult while the US remains in recession. The fresh outbreaks have hampered efforts to jumpstart economic activity as “we expect the recovery from here will be a lot bumpier and job gains to be more muted.”

Goldman Sachs analysts believe that over half the United States is now reconsidering their reopening plans and will bring back restrictions on public activities. They estimated that among the states, only Vermont and New Hampshire are safe to reopen.

Watch this video about Unemployment Rate in US last June:

In the fifth month of the outbreak, new infections keep sidetracking the US’s plans to reopen the economy. Despite the rising coronavirus cases, many Americans insist on going back to work. This explains the increasing numbers in the labor market.

Given the resurgence of the virus, do you think the economy will still be on the rise ?

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Given the resurgence of the virus, do you think the economy will still be on the rise and unemployment rate will continue to decline? Let us know in the comments section below!

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