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6 Most Important Things in Business Today

China says it did not make a huge trade offer mentioned in the press. According to Reuters:

China denied on Friday that it had offered a package to slash the U.S. trade deficit by up to $200 billion, hours after it dropped an anti-dumping probe into U.S. sorghum imports in a conciliatory gesture as top officials meet in Washington.

U.S. officials had said in Washington on Thursday that China was proposing trade concessions and increased purchases of American goods aimed at cutting the U.S. trade deficit with China by up to $200 billion a year.

This rumor is not true. This I can confirm to you, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news briefing

Cambridge Analytica, which was part of the Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) data use scandal, has gone bankrupt. According to Reuters:

Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the center of this years Facebook privacy row, filed for voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy in a New York court late on Thursday.

Cambridge Analytica LLC listed assets in the range of $100,001 to $500,000 and liabilities in the range of $1 million to $10 million.

The fight between CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) and the controlling owner Redstone family has escalated. According to The Wall Street Journal:

CBS Corp. and its controlling shareholder National Amusements Inc. are so entrenched in a power struggle that they cant even agree on the outcome of a board vote.

On Thursday, CBS said its board voted to strip National Amusements President Shari Redstone and her family of their voting control over the media company.

CBS said the 11 of the 14 board members not affiliated with National Amusements supported the proposal.

But that tally fell short of the threshold the Redstones believe is required for approval after they moved to amend the companys rules on Wednesday.

Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) is making a move into online shopping. According to The Wall Street Journal:

Kroger Co. has struck a deal with a British grocer known for its use of warehouse robots, as the biggest U.S. grocery chain aims to supercharge its online delivery business in the face of competition from Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc.

Kroger has agreed to raise its stake in Ocado Group PLC to more than 6%, and to license technology from the British company to run automated warehouses and process online orders. The companies said they will identify locations for three new warehouses this year and a total of 20 warehouses in three years.

Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) was hit by another scandal. According to The Wall Street Journal:

Some employees in a Wells Fargo & Co. unit that handles business banking improperly altered information on documents related to corporate customers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The behavior again raises questions about Wells Fargos risk-management practices and controls. The bank has been sanctioned in recent months by federal regulators for problems in these areas and as a result cant grow its balance sheet.

Asia has more billionaires than North America. According to CNBC:

Asia is now home to more billionaires than North America, according to the latest study from ultra high net worth research firm Wealth-X.

The region’s billionaire population shot up by almost a third last year (29.2 percent) to 784 individuals, Wealth-X’s Billionaire Census 2018 found. North America, meanwhile, experienced more modest gains of 11.2 percent, taking the number of billionaires who reside there to 727.

The uptick marks the first time Asia’s billionaire population has exceeded that of North America.

5 Stocks That Could Be the Next Amazon

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) has been one of the more impressive stocks of the past 25 years. In fact, AMZN now has returned nearly 100,000% from its IPO price of $18 ($1.50 adjusted for the company’s subsequent stock splits).

A large part of the returns have come from two factors. First, Amazon has vastly expanded its reach. What originally was just an online bookseller now has its hands in everything from cloud computing to online media to groceries. And its shadow is even larger. A potential entry by Amazon has rattled pharmacy stocks and medical distributors, among others.

Secondly, as a stock, AMZN has managed the feat of keeping a growth stock valuation for over two decades. I’ve long argued that investors can’t focus solely on the company’s high P/E ratio to value Amazon stock. But however wise an investor might the current multiple is, the market has assigned a substantial premium to AMZN stock for over 20 years now.

It’s an impressive combination — and one that’s likely impossible, or close, to duplicate. But these five stocks have the potential to at least replicate parts of the Amazon formula. All five have years, if not decades, of growth ahead. New market opportunities abound. And while I’m not predicting that any will rise 100,000% — or 1,000% — these five stocks do have the potential for impressive long-term gains.

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5 Stocks That Could Be the Next Amazon Stock: JD.com (JD) 5 Stocks That Could Be the Next Amazon Stock: JD.com (JD)Source: Daniel Cukier via Flickr

JD.com Inc(ADR) (NASDAQ:JD) is the company closest to following Amazon’s model. While rival Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd (NYSE:BABA) gets most of the attention, it’s JD.com that truly should be called the “Amazon of China,” as Will Healy pointed out in December.

Like Amazon (and unlike Alibaba), JD.com holds inventory and is investing in a cutting-edge supply chain. It, too, is expanding into grocery, like Amazon did with its acquisition of Whole Foods Market. A partnership with Walmart Inc (NYSE:WMT) should further help its off-line ambitions. JD.com even is cautiously entering the finance industry.

That ability to both provide best-in-class logistics and satisfy a wide range of customer needs is what has made Amazon a success. And while JD may not rise to the scale of Amazon, at its current valuation it doesn’t have to. After a recent pullback, JD trades at less than 26x forward EPS. That’s despite 40% revenue growth in 2017, and expectations for a 30% increase in 2018.

And it sets up a scenario where JD stock could — if sentiment finally turns in its favor for good — appreciate for years, thanks to both strong bottom-line growth and an expanding multiple from optimistic investors.

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5 Stocks That Could Be the Next Amazon Stock: Square (SQ) 5 Stocks That Could Be the Next Amazon Stock: Square (SQ)Source: Chris Harrison via Flickr (Modified)

Admittedly, I personally am not the biggest fan of Square Inc (NYSE:SQ) stock. I like Square as a company, but I’ve questioned just how much growth is priced into SQ already.

Of course, skeptics have done little to dent the steady rise in AMZN stock. And valuation aside, there’s a clear case for Square to follow an Amazon-like expansion of its business. Back in January, Instinet analyst Dan Dolev compared SQ to AMZN and Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL, NASDAQ:GOOG), citing its ability to expand from its current payment-processing base:

In 10 years, Square is likely to be a very different company helped by accelerating share gains from payment peers and relentless disruption of services like payroll and human resources.

Just as Amazon used books to expand into e-commerce, and then e-commerce to expand into other areas, Square can do the same with its payment business. The small business space is ripe for disruption, as Dolev points out. Integrating payments into payroll, HR, and other offerings would dramatically expand Square’s addressable market – and lead to a potential decade or more of exceptional growth.

Again, I do question whether that growth is priced in, with SQ trading at ~about 12x the company’s 2018 guidance for “adjusted” revenue. But if — again, like AMZN — Square stock can combine a high multiple with consistent, impressive, expansion, it has the path to create substantial value for shareholders over the next five to 10 years.

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5 Stocks That Could Be the Next Amazon Stock: Shopify (SHOP) 5 Stocks That Could Be the Next Amazon Stock: Shopify (SHOP)Source: Shopify via Flickr

E-commerce provider Shopify Inc (NYSE:SHOP) probably doesn’t have quite the same opportunity for expansion as Square. And it too has a hefty valuation, along with a continuing bear raid from short seller Citron Research.

But I’ve remained bullish on SHOP stock — and here, too, a recent pullback presents a buying opportunity. Shopify is dominant in its market of offering turnkey e-commerce services to small businesses. That’s exactly where consumer preferences are headed: small and unique over large and bland. And because of offerings like Shopify (and Amazon Web Services), those small to mid-sized businesses can compete with the giants.

Meanwhile, Shopify does have the potential to expand its reach. Just 29% of revenue comes from overseas, a proportion that should grow over time. It’s moving toward capturing larger customers as well through its “Plus” program, picking up Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) as one key client. The development of an ecosystem for suppliers and the addition of new technologies (like virtual reality) give Shopify the ability to offer more value to customers — and to take more revenue for itself.

Like SQ, SHOP is dearly priced. But both companies have an opportunity to grow into their valuations. And given long runways for Shopify’s adjacent markets, it should keep a high multiple for some to come. As a stock, if not quite as a company, SHOP has a real chance to follow the AMZN formula for long-term upside.

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5 Stocks That Could Be the Next Amazon Stock: Roku (ROKU) 5 Stocks That Could Be the Next Amazon Stock: Roku (ROKU)Source: Shutterstock

Roku Inc (NASDAQ:ROKU) might have the best chance of any company in the U.S. market to follow Amazon’s strategic playbook. The ROKU stock price is a concern: I wasn’t thrilled about the price after a huge post-earnings gain back in November, and even near a five-month low ROKU isn’t close to cheap.

But — perhaps even moreso than Square — Roku now isn’t what Roku is going to be in ten years. The hardware business is a loss leader, but one that allows Roku to serve as the gateway to content for millions of customers. As the company pointed out after Q4 earnings, it’s already the third-largest distributor of content in the U.S. The Roku Channel is seeing increasing viewership. The company offers pinpoint targeting of advertisements — without the messy data problems afflicting Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB).

Roku is becoming increasingly embedded in TVs, though a deal between Amazon and Best Buy Co (NYSE:BBY) raised some fears about those software efforts going forward. It has a plan to roll out home entertainment offerings like speakers and soundbars, creating a long-sought integrated experience. It could even, as it grows, look to develop or acquire content itself, positioning Roku not as just a conduit to Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) but a rival.

The bull case for Roku stock is that its players are like Amazon’s books — a way to garner customers and get a foot in the door of the exceedingly valuable media business. What Roku does now that it has entered will determine the fact of ROKU stock. But the amount of options and a reasonable valuation (Roku’s market cap is barely $3 billion) mean that betting on its strategy could be a lucrative play.

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5 Stocks That Could Be the Next Amazon Stock: Nvidia NVIDIA Corporation Stock (NVDA) Won't Stay Down Long After Shocking Analysts Source: Shutterstock

In the context of the stocks chosen here, Nvidia Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) doesn’t seem particularly expensive. But in the context of the traditionally cyclical — and low-multiple — semiconductor space, a ~34x multiple to 2018 consensus EPS estimates, even backing out net cash, is awfully pricy.

And with NVDA up a whopping 1,550% in just the past five years, investors would be forgiven for thinking the run might come to an end. Indeed, NVDA stock hasn’t really moved over the past four-plus months.

But the huge amount of secular tailwinds behind Nvidia suggest that the company should be able to drive torrid growth for years to come – and to maintain a multiple that looks rather high on a historical basis. The company’s automotive business gets a fair amount of press, given its potential applications to autonomous driving. But that growth likely won’t come in earnest until the next decade.

It’s the datacenter business that looks most appealing in the near term. Revenue in that category more than doubled in 2017. Thanks to cloud providers like AWS, demand should continue for years to come. And with Nvidia taking share from Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), its growth should be even better than that of the market. High-end gaming demand should rise, and virtual reality will add another tailwind there.

Unlike, say, Roku (or early-days Amazon), Nvidia’s growth opportunities are mostly known. But at $223, even with a high multiple, they’re not fully priced in. I still see an easy path to $250 for NVDA in the near term. Longer-term, its presence (if not outright dominance) of key markets should lead Nvidia stock to double, at least.

As of this writing, Vince Martin has no positions in any sec

Tuesdays Vital Data: Micron Technology, Inc. (MU), Facebook Inc. (FB) and AT&T Inc. (T)

U.S. stock futures are headed higher this morning, pointing toward a positive open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is on track to break its four-session losing streak, but corporate earnings have yet to play out.

stock market today

In fact, Dow members The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) and United Technologies Corporation (NYSE:UTX) release their quarterly reports today.

Against this backdrop, Dow Jones futures are up 0.63%, S&P 500 futures have gained 0.58% and Nasdaq-100 futures are higher by 0.55%.

Turning to the options pits, volume was exceedingly low on Monday. Only about 15.7 million calls and 13.6 million puts changed hands on the session. The CBOE single-session equity put/call volume ratio fell to a two-week low of 0.61. The 10-day moving average held at 0.63.

Leading Monday’s activity, Micron Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:MU) call options were active following another broadside from analysts at UBS. Elsewhere, Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) options activity was the lowest in years heading into tomorrow’s quarterly report. Finally, AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is dealing with a collusion probe from the Justice Department ahead of earnings.

Tuesday’s Vital Options Data: Micron Technology, Inc. (MU), Facebook Inc. (FB) and AT&T Inc. (T)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/04-24-2018-Top-Ten-Options-300×131.png 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/04-24-2018-Top-Ten-Options-200×88.png 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/04-24-2018-Top-Ten-Options-400×175.png 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/04-24-2018-Top-Ten-Options-116×51.png 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/04-24-2018-Top-Ten-Options-100×44.png 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/04-24-2018-Top-Ten-Options-114×50.png 114w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/04-24-2018-Top-Ten-Options-78×34.png 78w” sizes=”(max-width: 566px) 100vw, 566px” />

Micron Technology, Inc. (MU)

Back on April 5, UBS initiated MU stock with a “sell” rating and a $35 price target. The initiation hit MU shares hard, sending them down more than 10% in the next two day. Yesterday, UBS reiterated its “sell” stance on MU stock, with predictable results.

MU stock dropped more than 3% to roughly $49. According to UBS, Micron could lose share in the DRAM and NAND markets in 2019 due to shifts in production and technology.

MU options traders favored calls in the midst of the decline. Volume was light, arriving at 277,000 contracts, or about 93% of MU’s daily average. But, calls made up 69% of all contracts traded.

There are signs that this renewed attention to MU call options may be bulls cutting their losses. Specifically, the May put/call open interest ratio has risen to 0.67 from last Thursday’s reading of 0.60. Rising pessimism amid weak price action is is a bearish signal for MU stock. Traders should keep a close eye on the situation.

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Facebook, Inc. (FB)

Typically, stocks make the most active options listing for the popularity of their underlying options activity — its inherent in the filter after all. Facebook, however, managed to make the list while posting the lowest daily average volume I’ve seen since I began writing this column. And it did so with earnings on tap tomorrow.

Total options volume for Facebook stock came in at about 189,000 contracts yesterday, volume that would be impressive for other stocks. But this activity made up only 37% of FB’s daily average. In other words, Facebook options volume was typically higher two-thirds of the time in the past year.

Despite the low total, call volume made up an average 62% of yesterday’s take, arriving in-line with typical call activity for Facebook.

Facebook is expected to post a profit of $1.36 per share on revenue of $11.41 billion tomorrow. Those figures are up roughly 30% and 42%, respectively, year over year. EarningsWhispers.com puts the whisper number at $1.48 per share.

As for weekly April 27 options, implieds are pricing in a post-earnings move of about 6%. The upper bound lies at $175.75 and the lower at $156. Given that the April 27 put/call OI ratio has fallen from 0.66 last Wednesday to 0.53 today, it appears that FB options traders are betting on a post-earnings rally.

AT&T Inc. (T)

AT&T is set to report earnings after the close tomorrow. Analysts are expecting Wall Street is looking for an 18% jump in earnings to 88 cents per share and a 0.2% drop in revenue to $39.29 billion. That said, the Justice Department is casting a long shadow over the event.

We all know that AT&T is in a battle for approval of its acquisition of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX). However, the company is now facing an investigation into potential collusion with Verizon Communications, Inc. (NYSE:VZ).

According to reports, the DOJ is looking at whether the two companies colluded on wireless-standards to make it harder for people to switch to new phone carriers. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) was among those who reportedly asked the DOJ to look into the issue.

The recent negative attention has had a chilling effect on T options. For instance, the April 27 put/call OI ratio has risen from 0.41 last Tuesday to today’s reading of 0.48. Calls dominated yesterday’s volume, making up 60% of the overall activity. This may be a sign that T options traders are ditching calls in favor of less exposure ahead of what could be a volatile earnings report.

As of this writing, Joseph Hargett held no positions on any of the aforemen

Upcoming Earnings: Industrial Conglomerate GE Reports Friday Morning

Industrial conglomerate General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) is scheduled to report earnings before market open on Friday, Apr. 20.

CEO John Flannery has faced plenty of challenges since he took over in August 2017, working to streamline the massive company and improve transparency. In recent quarters, GE’s issues have been numerous and well publicized.

In the time that Flannery has been at the helm, GE has halved its dividend; it took a surprise $6.2 billion after-tax charge in Q4 2017 related to GE Capital’s insurance portfolio, while adding $15 billion to its reserves  for future payouts over the next seven years; and recently restated 2016 and 2017 financials, reducing earnings by $0.30 per share. The restated financials also included adjustments related to pensions, cash flows and income taxes.

Clearly, the company’s turnaround efforts, which include a multi-year plan to improve GE Power as well as exiting more than $20 billion worth of business over the next several years, are going to take time.

There have been some signs of progress from Flannery’s plan so far. When GE reported Q4 2017 results, it generated $9.7 billion in adjusted cash flow from operating activities for fiscal 2017, compared to guidance of $7 billion.

Since announcing plans to exit $20 billion in business, it has sold its industrial solution business in a $2.6 billion deal to ABB (ABB) and recently announced a $1.05 billion deal to sell healthcare IT businesses to private equity firm Veritas.  And Bloomberg reported that several companies are considering a bid for GE’s Jenbacher unit for more than $3 billion.

On tomorrow’s calls, analysts are likely to be digging in to get a better idea of restructuring progress.

GE Earnings

For Q1 2018, GE is expected to report adjusted EPS of $0.11 on revenue of $27.88 billion, according to third-party consensus estimates. In Q4 2017, revenue missed estimates, coming in at $31.4 billion versus expectations for $32.7 billion, and earnings also came up short by a penny at $0.27 per share after removing charges and one-time items.

GE previously lowered its earnings guidance for all of fiscal 2018 to a range of $1.00 to $1.07, but analysts seem to think that’s a little optimistic given they have an average estimate of $0.95. Out of 17 analyst ratings, earnings estimates range from $0.87 to $1.04 per share.

GE Options Trading Activity

Around GE’s upcoming report, options traders have priced in a 4.8% share price move in either direction, according to the Market Maker Move indicator on the thinkorswim® platform. Implied volatility was at the 76th percentile as of this morning. 

general-electric-ge-stock-chart-q1-2018.png
GE 1-YEAR CHART. GE shares have dropped from a 52-week high of $30.54 all the way to a new 52-week low of $12.73 on March 26. The stock has bounced a little bit off that level and has been trading around the mid-$13 range for the past few sessions. Chart source: thinkorswim® by TD Ameritrade.  Not a recommendation. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

In short-term trading at the Apr. 20 monthly expiration and the next several weekly expirations, a lot of the activity has been concentrated at the 14 strike for both puts and calls, just out of the money. At the May 20 expiration, trading has also been heavier at the 14-strike call, while activity on the put side has been mostly at the 13 and 14 strikes. 

Overall during yesterday’s session, trading was heavier on the call side, with a put/call ratio of 0.476.

Note: Call options represent the right, but not the obligation, to buy the underlying security at a predetermined price over a set period of time. Put options represent the right, but not the obligation to sell the underlying security at a predetermined price over a set period of time.

What’s Coming Up

Next week brings results from many of the largest companies in the tech sector:

Google-parent Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG) reports after the close Monday, Apr. 23
Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) reports before market open Wednesday, Apr. 25 and Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) reports after the close the same day
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) report after the close Thursday, Apr. 26

In addition to the tech-heavy week, some of the other companies on the docket are Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F), General Motors Company (NYSE: GM), Caterpillar Inc (NYSE: CAT), Boeing Co (NYSE: BA), Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) and Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM). If you have time, make sure to check out today’s market update for a look at what else is going on.

Information from TDA is not intended to be investment advice or construed as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular investment or investment strategy, and is for illustrative purposes only. Be sure to understand all risks involved with each strategy, including commission costs, before attempting to place any trade.

Earnings: 3 Tech Stocks to Watch This Month

It’s earnings season again — and tech giants are readying their latest quarterly releases. This month, in particular, is packed with action, including earnings reports from Alphabet(NASDAQ:GOOGL)(NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook(NASDAQ:FB), andMicrosoft(NASDAQ:MSFT).The three will report earnings on April 23, 25, and 26, respectively.

For Alphabet, investors will want to see strength in search and more sharp growth from the company’s “Google other” segment. In Microsoft’s report, they’ll be watching for sustained momentum in commercial cloud revenue. Finally, Facebook’s guidance will come into focus amid the company’s public image challenges.

Google Home speakers lined up in seven colors

Image source: Alphabet.

Here’s a preview of each company’s earnings report:

1. Alphabet

Alphabet’s year-over-year quarterly revenue growth rates accelerated throughout 2017, setting the bar high going into the company’s first-quarter earnings report.

In Alphabet’s fourth quarter of 2017, the Google parent reported a 24% higher revenue and 15% higher operating income compared to the fourth quarter of 2016. Earnings per share increased 28% year over year when excluding the impact of the Tax Act.

Though Alphabet’s strong performance was helped by a nice 21% increase in advertising revenue from its core search business, Alphabet’sGoogle other segment, which is primarily driven by the Android app store, Google Cloud, and Google-branded hardware, is playing an increasingly larger role in the company’s results. Google other revenue jumped 38% year over year in Q4. Look for a similar trend in Q1.

2. Microsoft

In its second quarter of fiscal 2018 (the fourth calendar quarter of 2017), Microsoft continued to reap the benefits of its ongoing transformation to a cloudcentric business model. Revenue and operating income were both up double digits on a year-over-year basis, climbing 12% and 10%, respectively.

But the biggest highlight from the quarter was arguably Microsoft’s 56% year-over-year increase in commercial cloud revenue. Surging to $5.3 billion during the period, commercial cloud revenue now represents a meaningful 18% of revenue. Investors should expect this catalyst to keep its momentum in Q3.

3. Facebook

Social network Facebook has been forced into the spotlight recently. Its press release in March about user data that had been mishandled by a third-party developersent shockwaves in the media, as pressure mounted for the CEO to testify before Congress about the company’s user data and privacy policies. The CEO has cooperated with requests to testify and has taken responsibility for the company’s shortfalls in its efforts to mitigate abuse, fake news, hate speech, and foreign influence in elections.

With most of this negative media attention occurring toward the end of Q1 and the beginning of Q2, the company’s first-quarter results won’t likely be materially impacted by any headwinds with users or advertisers. But it will be interesting to see how the scandal will impact the social network’s guidance, particularly its outlook for spending on user data and privacy protection. Facebook had already committed to a 45% to 60% jump in operating expenses in 2018 compared to 2017, driven in part by “sizable security investments in people and technology to strengthen our systems and prevent abuse.”

Will Facebook forecast an even larger increase in expenses after its user data scandal?