The top 10 things to watch in the stock market Monday

The top 10 things to watch Monday, Dec. 11

1. U.S. stocks are muted Monday following last week’s push to a new 52-week high in the S&P 500, helped by a stronger-than-expected jobs report Friday. Good economic news is good news for the stock market, for now, with investors looking ahead to Tuesday’s consumer price index report. But we’ll learn what the Federal Reserve makes of the state of the labor market and inflation when the central bank convenes this week for its final meeting of the year.

2. Bank stocks like Club name Wells Fargo became “extraordinary performers” last week, according to Jim Cramer’s Sunday column. “The percentage gains for bank shares and the pretty stock charts, all wondrous, look like they are in their infancy,” he writes.

3. Health insurer Cigna abandons its pursuit to acquire Club holding Humana — a deal that was misguided from the start because it never would have received regulatory approval. Cigna announces a new $10 billion stock buyback. And shares of Humana rally roughly 2% in premarket trading.

4. Occidental Petroleum announces plans to buy privately held CrownRock for $12 billion in cash and stock, while raising its quarterly dividend by 4 cents, to 22 cents per share. Before the deal announcement, Morgan Stanley had upgraded Occidental to overweight from equal weight, with an unchanged price target of $68 a share.

5. More analysts are warming up to energy stocks after last week’s carnage. Citi upgrades Club holding Coterra Energy, along with EQT and Southwestern Energy, to a buy. Coterra is the firm’s top large cap pick, with a $30-per-share price target based on capital-efficiency improvements.

6. Goldman Sachs upgrades Abbvie to buy from neutral, with a $173-per-share price target. The firm cites revenue that has proved more resilient than expected, along with the drug maker’s recent deployment of capital to build out its pipeline. Over the past two weeks, Abbvie has shelled out nearly $20 billion in cash to acquire ImmunoGen and Cerevel Therapeutics.

7. JPMorgan raises its price targets on a handful of cybersecurity stocks, including CrowdStrike (to $269 a share from $230), Club name Palo Alto Networks ($326 from $272) and Zscaler ($212 from $200).

8. Citi upgrades Nike to buy from neutral, while raising its price target on the stock to $135 a share, up from $100. The firm sees margin recovery beginning in the second quarter of next year through 2025, helped by easing freight costs, leaner inventories and a shift to direct-to-consumer.

9. Jefferies upgrades Best Buy to buy from hold, while raising its price target to $89 a share, up from $69. Analysts at the bank think this call won’t take much to work, with expectations low and the stock cheap and yielding a 5% dividend.

10. Citi resumes coverage of Club holding Broadcom with a buy rating and $1,100-a-share price target. The firm sees the chipmaker’s artificial-intelligence business offsetting the cyclical downturn in the semiconductor business, along with strong accretion from its recent acquisition of VMware. We thought the company reported a better quarter last Thursday than what the market gave it credit for. 

(See here for a full list of the stocks at Jim Cramer’s Charitable Trust.)

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Rashmikant Patel: How I recovered after Imperial Bank collapse

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Rashmikant Patel: How I recovered after Imperial Bank collapse


Founder of Educational Scientific and Technical Equipment Company (ESTEC) Limited Rashmikant Patel pictured on November 20, 2023 at his office in Parklands, Nairobi.

Having come back from his studies in the UK in 1978, Rashmikant Patel joined a pharmaceutical firm as one of the partners. But as it turned out, one of his partners was also a partner at Educational Scientific and Technical Equipment Company (ESTEC).

In 1985, one of the owners of ESTEC Limited was relocating to the UK and offered Mr Patel the opportunity to manage the firm on a 25 percent profit-sharing basis, which he accepted.

“Unfortunately, our finances were quite low, and there was never enough money to import the equipment that I would have liked to import at that time,” says Mr Patel, the managing director at ESTEC, a supplier of analytical solutions to testing laboratories in East Africa.

In 1995, he purchased and took over the company, fully using the money he had borrowed from his father and selling his house.

“Slowly, I started running the business and retaining the profits generated in the business, unlike in the past when the other partner was still onboard,” recalls Mr Patel.

However, at the time, there was a flood of Chinese and Indian school equipment imports while ESTEC Limited was an agent of a British company, which was costly for schools, depressing his sales.

“I decided to look at the laboratory equipment market for manufacturing companies. One of our suppliers supplying us with medical equipment happened to be importing laboratory equipment too. So I decided to diversify to laboratory equipment for pharmaceutical manufacturers,” he says.

Mr Patel says it was a good time because the pharmaceutical sector was growing.

He says his family was never in business and being a pharmacist, he too had never run any business. This was like being thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool.

He says the major hurdle he had at the beginning was financing equipment imports and having bagged his first big sale with one of the leading pharmaceutical companies locally.

“Financing was the biggest challenge because nobody will offer you credit terms unless you are well established or have been doing business with them for a long time, especially when the goods are expensive like the equipment we sell,” says Mr Patel.

“A lot of people have got into trouble in businesses and fallen by the wayside due to a lack of finances.”

Mr Patel says he has learned never to have partners in a core business unless it is a separate company because it allows you to make the decisions you want and divert resources to what is more important to the business.

He adds that when he had partners, the state of the cash flow was poor.

“There are two things I learned from my partners: one is to never draw money out of the business if you want to grow it, especially the profits. For the growth of a company, you need finances that I unfortunately didn’t have,” he says.

Mr Patel adds that 2015 was a dark year for him when the Imperial Bank collapsed with all the company’s finances, including his savings, and he had to start afresh as a new business.

“We also had to borrow money from private people and get back on track. That was one of the biggest faults that we had,” he says, adding that some of their customers also agreed to pay for the supplies earlier than the allowed credit period and sold some of the stock at a reduced profit margin to boost sales.

And with that, Patel advises against having all your finances in one bank.

He says he wished he kept his house instead of using it as collateral to get financing and had the finances to go into sectors like medical laboratory equipment, but that it takes a lot of finances and workforce to go into different lines.

“You can only get financing through bank loans or overdrafts but using bank money to do business is also not very good because you can get into deep trouble,” he cautions.

Growth and milestones

He adds that ESTEC’s business strategy is more about providing technical support and meeting clients’ and industry needs, picking from regulations and that the market has been growing from a regulatory point of view.

“Kenya was one of the fastest-growing economies at that time, and there was a desire for exports to the neighbouring countries, and we used that to position ourselves in building our strengths to meet international and regional standards and requirements to be competitive.”

With that, ESTCE Limited has grown in the pharma, food testing, environmental research, academics, and petroleum sectors, as well as with more partners and suppliers.

The company, he says, aims to ensure that every product on the market is safe for human use.

“There are a lot of gaps in standardisation within the East African Community. Our strategy involves building capacity competence in the area of analytical testing space,” he says.

The company has a presence in Uganda and Tanzania and aims to expand in the region.

“We are looking to grow, but growth is always a slow process in the current economic climate. We are looking into Ethiopia and Rwanda in the next 10 years and take the expansion further.”

The company is also considering venturing into areas such as clinical testing as technology advances, adding that they may be open to partnerships, private equity, or firms in a similar field for synergy rather than a merger to finance that growth and expansion.

Human resources

Mr Patel says it is difficult to find very good human resources, and the company is willing to pay for the right talent.

“Initially, we were just hiring good salespeople, but we realised that in the specialised field, skills and knowledge are important, so we hire technical people with a scientific background,” he says.

The entrepreneur adds that attracting talent is a big concern given that the sector has a high turnover rate, with some of the employees quitting to start their businesses.

“You can imagine growing from 5 people to 40 without human resource personnel. It was a big challenge, and we needed a human resource person to guide us on recruitment, people management, and other aspects of human resource management,” adds Mr Patel.

The entrepreneur says managing expenses is one of the biggest issues in running a business, and one needs to cut costs when the business is not doing well, maintain a reasonable profit, and set a limit on pricing.

“This year has been the toughest in the last ten years, with sales going down for the last two years, but we are still afloat, but profitability is not what it used to be,” he says.

Mr Patel concludes by saying he attributes the company’s growth to the pharma industry and the support of the government, especially the regulators setting the standards for testing, which they cannot ignore.

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UBS sees a raft of Fed rate cuts next year on the back of a U.S. recession

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell takes questions from reporters during a press conference after the release of the Fed policy decision to leave interest rates unchanged, at the Federal Reserve in Washington, U.S, September 20, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

UBS expects the U.S. Federal Reserve to cut interest rates by as much as 275 basis points in 2024, almost four times the market consensus, as the world’s largest economy tips into recession.

In its 2024-2026 outlook for the U.S. economy, published Monday, the Swiss bank said despite economic resilience through 2023, many of the same headwinds and risks remain. Meanwhile, the bank’s economists suggested that “fewer of the supports for growth that enabled 2023 to overcome those obstacles will continue in 2024.”

UBS expects disinflation and rising unemployment to weaken economic output in 2024, leading the Federal Open Market Committee to cut rates “first to prevent the nominal funds rate from becoming increasingly restrictive as inflation falls, and later in the year to stem the economic weakening.”

Between March 2022 and July 2023, the FOMC enacted a run of 11 rate hikes to take the fed funds rate from a target range of 0%-0.25% to 5.25%-5.5%.

The central bank has since held at that level, prompting markets to mostly conclude that rates have peaked, and to begin speculating on the timing and scale of future cuts.

However, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said last week that he was “not confident” the FOMC had yet done enough to return inflation sustainably to its 2% target.

UBS noted that despite the most aggressive rate-hiking cycle since the 1980s, real GDP expanded by 2.9% over the year to the end of the third quarter. However, yields have risen and stock markets have come under pressure since the September FOMC meeting. The bank believes this has renewed growth concerns and shows the economy is “not out of the woods yet.”

“The expansion bears the increasing weight of higher interest rates. Credit and lending standards appear to be tightening beyond simply repricing. Labor market income keeps being revised lower, on net, over time,” UBS highlighted.

“According to our estimates, spending in the economy looks elevated relative to income, pushed up by fiscal stimulus and maintained at that level by excess savings.”

The bank estimates that the upward pressure on growth from fiscal impetus in 2023 will fade next year, while household savings are “thinning out” and balance sheets look less robust.

“Furthermore, if the economy does not slow substantially, we doubt the FOMC restores price stability. 2023 outperformed because many of these risks failed to materialize. However, that does not mean they have been eliminated,” UBS said.

U.S. Treasury yield curve will likely continue to steepen, analyst says

“In our view, the private sector looks less insulated from the FOMC’s rate hikes next year. Looking ahead, we expect substantially slower growth in 2024, a rising unemployment rate, and meaningful reductions in the federal funds rate, with the target range ending the year between 2.50% and 2.75%.”

UBS expects the economy to contract by half a percentage point in the middle of next year, with annual GDP growth dropping to just 0.3% in 2024 and unemployment rising to nearly 5% by the end of the year.

“With that added disinflationary impulse, we expect monetary policy easing next year to drive recovery in 2025, pushing GDP growth back up to roughly 2-1/2%, limiting the peak in the unemployment rate to 5.2% in early 2025. We forecast some slowing in 2026, in part due to projected fiscal consolidation,” the bank’s economists said.

Worst credit impulse since the financial crisis

Arend Kapteyn, UBS global head of economics and strategy research, told CNBC on Tuesday that the starting conditions are “much worse now than 12 months ago,” particularly in the form of the “historically large” amount of credit that is being withdrawn from the U.S. economy.

“The credit impulse is now at its worst level since the global financial crisis — we think we’re seeing that in the data. You’ve got margin compression in the U.S. which is a good precursor to layoffs, so U.S. margins are under more pressure for the economy as a whole than in Europe, for instance, which is surprising,” he told CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche on the sidelines of the UBS European Conference.

Signs of a recession may be on the horizon, says fmr. Fed economist Claudia Sahm

Meanwhile, private payrolls ex-health care are growing at close to zero and some of the 2023 fiscal stimulus is rolling off, Kapteyn noted, also reiterating the “massive gap” between real incomes and spending that means there is “much more scope for that spending to fall down towards those income levels.”

“The counter that people then have is they say ‘well why are income levels not going up, because inflation is falling, real disposable incomes should be improving?’ But in the U.S., debt service for households is now increasing faster than real income growth, so we basically think there is enough there to have a few negative quarters mid-next year,” Kapteyn argued.

A recession is characterized in many economies as two consecutive quarters of contraction in real GDP. In the U.S., the National Bureau of Economic Research Business Cycle Dating Committee defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months.” This takes into account a holistic assessment of the labor market, consumer and business spending, industrial production, and incomes.

Goldman ‘pretty confident’ in the U.S. growth outlook

The UBS outlook on both rates and growth is well below the market consensus. Goldman Sachs projects the U.S. economy will expand by 2.1% in 2024, outpacing other developed markets.

Kamakshya Trivedi, head of global FX, rates and EM strategy at Goldman Sachs, told CNBC on Monday that the Wall Street giant was “pretty confident” in the U.S. growth outlook.

“Real income growth looks to be pretty firm and we think that will continue to be the case. The global industrial cycle which was going through a pretty soft patch this year, we think, is showing some signs of bottoming out, including in parts of Asia, so we feel pretty confident about that,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

Trivedi added that with inflation returning gradually to target, monetary policy may become a bit more accommodative, pointing to some recent dovish comments from Fed officials.

“I think that combination of things — the lessening drag from policy, stronger industrial cycle and real income growth — makes us pretty confident that the Fed can stay on hold at this plateau,” he concluded.

Correction: Between March 2022 and July 2023, the FOMC enacted a run of 11 rate hikes to take the fed funds rate from a target range of 0%-0.25% to 5.25%-5.5%. An earlier version misstated the range.

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As U.S.-China tensions rumble on, fintech unicorn Airwallex pushes into Latin America with Mexico deal

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approvals, marks a major push from Airwallex into Latin America.

Airwallex

Global fintech giant Airwallex on Thursday said it has agreed to acquire MexPago, a rival payments company based out of Mexico, for an undisclosed sum to help the firm expand its Latin America footprint.

The company, which competes with the likes of PayPal, Stripe, and Block, sells cross-border payment services to mainly small and medium-sized enterprises. Airwallex makes money by pocketing a fee each time a transaction is made.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions, marks a major push from Airwallex into Latin America, a market that has become more attractive for fintech firms thanks to a primarily younger population and increasing online penetration.

Jack Zhang, Airwallex’s CEO, said the company was looking at Mexico as something as a hedge as it deals with geopolitical and economic uncertainty going on between the U.S. and China.

“U.S. people export to Mexico to sell to the consumer there,” Zhang told CNBC. “Because of the supply chain, you can also export out of Mexico to other countries like the United States.”

“You get both the inflow and outflow of money,” he added. “That’s really what we like the most. We can take a global company to Mexico and also help the global companies making payments to the supply chain.”

U.S.-China trade tensions have escalated in recent years, as Washington seeks to address what it sees as China’s race to the bottom on trade.

The U.S. alleges China has been deliberately devaluing its currency by buying lots of U.S. dollars, thereby making Chinese exports cheaper and U.S. exports more expensive, and worsening the U.S. trade deficit with China.

China has sought to address these concerns, agreeing to “substantially reduce” the U.S. trade deficit by committing to “significantly increases” its purchases of American goods, although it’s struggled to make good on those commitments.

“Mexico is one of the largest populations in Latin America,” Zhang added. “As the trade war intensifies in China and the US, a lot is shifting from Asia to Mexico.”

“[Mexico] is very close to the U.S. Labour is cheaper compared to the U.S. domestically. A lot of the supply chain is shipping there. There’s a lot of opportunity from e-commerce as well.”

A maturing fintech

Airwallex operates around the world in markets including the U.S., Canada, China, the U.K., Australia, and Singapore. The Australia-founded company is the second-most valuable unicorn there, after design and presentations software startup Canva, which was last valued at $40 billion.

The company, whose customers include Papaya Global, Zip, Shein and Navan, processes more than $50 billion in a single year. It has also partnered with the likes of American Express, Shopify and Brex, to help it expand its services internationally.

It has been a tough environment for fintech companies to operate in lately, given how interest rates have risen sharply. That has made it more costly for startup firms to raise capital from investors.

For its part, Airwallex has raised more than $900 million in venture capital to date from investors including Salesforce Ventures, Sequoia, Tencent and Lone Pine Capital. The company was last valued at $5.6 billion.

At this stage we are still expanding against our mission, which is to enable those smaller businesses to operate anywhere in the world and keep building software on top.

Zhang said that the company is at a stage where it has reached enough maturity to consider an initial public offering — the company says it now processes more than $50 billion in annualized transactions. However, Airwallex won’t embark on the IPO route until it gets to a certain amount of annual revenue, Zhang added.

Zhang is targeting $100 million of annual recurring revenue (ARR) for its software the business within the next year or two. Once Airwallex reaches this point, he says, it will then look at a public listing.

“At this stage we are still expanding against our mission, which is to enable those smaller businesses to operate anywhere in the world and keep building software on top … to protect our margins [and] grow our margins from a cost point of view, not just infrastructure,” Zhang said.

MexPago offers much of the same services as Airwallex — multi-currency accounts for small and medium-sized businesses, foreign exchange services, and payment processing — but there are a few more payment methods it has on offer which Airwallex doesn’t currently provide.

Why Latin America?

A big selling point of the MexPago deal, Zhang said, is the ability to obtain a regulatory license in Mexico without having to embark on a long process of applying with the central bank. The company has secured an Institution of Electronic Payment Funds (IFPE) license from MexPago.

Why Americans are relocating to Mexico City for a better life

That will allow Airwallex’s customers, both in Mexico and around the world, to gain access to local payment methods such as SPEI, Mexico’s interbank electronic payment system, and OXXO, a voucher-based payment method that lets shoppers order things online, get a voucher, and then fulfill their order with cash.

“The ability to access the license for the native infrastructure over there will give us a significant advantage with our global proposition,” Zhang told CNBC.

Airwallex has seen huge levels of growth in the Americas in the past year — the company reported a 460% jump in revenues there year-over-year.

Airwallex isn’t the only company seeing the potential in Latin America.

SumUp, the British payments company, has been active in Latin America since 2013, opening an office in Brazil back in 2013. The firm’s CFO Hermione McKee told CNBC in June at the Money 20/20 conference that it plans to ramp up its expansion in the region.

“We’ve had very strong success in Latin America, in particular, Chile recently,” McKee told CNBC in an interview.

“We are looking at launching new countries over the coming months.”

More than 156 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are between the ages of 15 and 29, accounting for over a fourth of its population. These consumers tend to be more digital-native and mistrusting of established banks.

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Interest rates take center stage with banks set to report quarterly results

A combination file photo shows Wells Fargo, Citibank, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.

Reuters

Bank stocks remain under pressure due to high interest rates as financial firms like Club holdings Wells Fargo (WFC) and Morgan Stanley (MS) get ready to kick off earnings season.

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What a stressed commercial real estate market means for these exposed bank stocks

Collin Madden, founding partner of GEM Real Estate Partners, walks through empty office space in a building they own that is up for sale in the South Lake Union neighborhood in Seattle, Washington, May 14, 2021.

Karen Ducey | Reuters

Banks are facing mounting uncertainty as the commercial real estate (CRE) sector continues to struggle. But, tailwinds in our financial names should help safeguard their bottom lines.

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Small business confidence is tanking again, especially when it comes to banks and Biden

As President Biden begins to more forcefully build a reelection case citing Bidenomics, Wall Street forecasts and actual GDP data are supportive, as are recent improving sentiment scores from consumers and CEOs. But on Main Street, small business owners remain a difficult group for Biden to win over.

Small business confidence is back at an all-time low, according to the just-released CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey for the third quarter. That’s nothing new for Biden, as small business confidence has hung around a low throughout his presidency. In fact, the latest decline in the confidence index to a score of 42 out of 100 matches the all-time low from exactly one year ago.

With a business owner demographic that skews conservative, the twin economic issues of inflation and rising interest rates have compounded the general concerns about a Democratic administration. But at a time when signs are pointing to progress in the fight against inflation and a potential though by no means certain end to Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, the Q3 data presents more specific — and potentially more troubling — concerns for the president.

Even with a resilient economy, with interest rates at a multi-decade high, the number of small business owners who say they can easily access the capital needed to operate their firms continues to decline, now at under half (48%) versus 53% last quarter. This should not come as a surprise, as higher interest rates make banks stricter when it comes to lending requirements, a dynamic that tends to disproportionately punish small businesses, and linger or even intensify the longer a higher rate environment persists. Even for businesses that can secure loans, double-digit percentage rates are a cash flow challenge.

Data released on Monday from small business trade group NFIB reported similar difficulty among business owners attempting to access capital, with over half (58%) who borrowed or tried to borrow reporting high interest rates as their biggest complaint, and 40% of owners saying interest rates were a significant issue in the ability to access capital.

Wall Street banks and Main Street lending

The latest monthly report from alternative lending firm Biz2Credit from earlier this month shows small business loan approval percentages at banks with over $10 billion in assets at 13.3% in July, an approval rate that has been falling steadily and, pre-pandemic, had been as high as 28.3% in February 2020.

Rohit Arora, CEO of Biz2Credit, noted in a release on his firm’s data that as regulators raise capital requirements at some large banks in the years ahead, steps being taken today to prepare include more hesitancy to lend to smaller companies, since these loans can often range from five to seven years in term length.

Beyond recent concerns about the stability of regional banks, rating agencies say that even the largest Wall Street banks are on downgrade watch, not a situation in which banks are likely to be more accommodating to the capital needs of small firms, and in fact, the CNBC|SurveyMonkey data recorded a sharp drop in financial system confidence among business owners who work with large banks.

When it comes to accessing capital, small firms that hold accounts with large banks recorded the largest drop quarter-over-quarter, a 10% decline, from 59% saying it was easy for them to access business capital down to just 49% now. That was a much larger decline than among business owners who bank with a regional bank (down 2% quarter over quarter) and those who work with a community bank (down 4%). The largest group of small businesses (41%) conduct their business with large banks.

SurveyMonkey’s analysis of the data pointed to a gap between business owners who express confidence and a lack of confidence in banks that has widened from just 1 percentage point in Q2 (49% confident, 50% not confident) to 9 points now (45% confident, 54% not confident) this quarter.

“These data are a good reminder that the general economy for small business owners can often be very different from the economy that consumers on one side or large corporations on the other are experiencing,” said Laura Wronski, research science manager at SurveyMonkey.

The CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey was conducted among over 2,000 small business owners across the U.S. between August 7-August 14.

While concerns across the economy about the banking crisis have lessened since the last quarter, that is not reflected in the conditions that small businesses are facing.

“Banking concerns have become even more top-of-mind for small business owners now, with their confidence in the U.S. banking system weakening and their ability to access needed capital hampered,” Wronski said.

Biden’s business supporters are increasingly negative

The CNBC|SurveyMonkey quarterly confidence index includes a series of core sentiment indicators related to policy that contributed to the decline back to the all-time low, with more small business owners saying they expect immigration policy and tax policy to be a negative. 

That’s notable, according to SurveyMonkey analysis of the results, with these index components that had the largest drag on the overall scores not those tied to hiring or economic conditions, but “two factors that fall squarely within the remit of the president and Congress.”

Business owner expectations for revenue and hiring were largely unchanged, and the percentage that describe economic conditions as “good” changed only slightly, from 40% to 38%. More describe conditions as “middling,” up from 43% to 46% this quarter. But only 15% describe business conditions as “bad.”

“Small business owners seem to be more heavily factoring the political environment into their confidence estimations than the economic environment. The economy has shown promising growth over the last quarter, with fewer concerns about a recession economy-wide now and less immediate threat from a banking crisis,” Wronski said.

In the confidence index scoring, rather than broader survey questions, there was a notable drop for Biden. According to SurveyMonkey, overall approval of the president now matches the same level as Q3 2022 survey, with 31% saying they approve and 68% saying they disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president. The small business survey data matches the overall trend in the recent FiveThirtyEight polling average.

But Wronski said, “What’s really surprising is that general confidence among small business owners is falling now for the first time among Biden’s supporters.”

With the overall confidence index back at the all-time low of 42, the gap in confidence index scoring specifically between Biden’s supporters and his detractors is now a record-low 18 points, according to SurveyMonkey (55 versus 37). Among survey respondents who identify as Democrats, the quarterly confidence score declined from 58 to 52, the lowest it has been since Biden became president. Among independents, the decline was from 49 to 42, the lowest it has been among these respondents since the first quarter of 2021. Republican confidence moved the least, declining from a score of 39 to 37.

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These non-tech stocks are ‘back from the dead.’ Here’s where we stand

Workers walk towards Halliburton Co. “sand castles” at an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. hydraulic fracturing (fracking) site north of Dacono, Colorado, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014.

Jamie Schwaberow | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A number of Club stocks that were unloved on Wall Street earlier in the year have seen their fortunes rebound in recent months, including oilfield-services firm Halliburton (HAL) and industrial Caterpillar (CAT) — creating potential opportunities to lock in gains.  

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The American banking landscape is on the cusp of a seismic shift. Expect more pain to come

The whirlwind weekend in late April that saw the country’s biggest bank take over its most troubled regional lender marked the end of one wave of problems — and the start of another.

After emerging with the winning bid for First Republic, a lender to rich coastal families that had $229 billion in assets, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon delivered the soothing words craved by investors after weeks of stomach-churning volatility: “This part of the crisis is over.”

But even as the dust settles from a string of government seizures of failed midsized banks, the forces that sparked the regional banking crisis in March are still at play.

Rising interest rates will deepen losses on securities held by banks and motivate savers to pull cash from accounts, squeezing the main way these companies make money. Losses on commercial real estate and other loans have just begun to register for banks, further shrinking their bottom lines. Regulators will turn their sights on midsized institutions after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank exposed supervisory lapses.  

What is coming will likely be the most significant shift in the American banking landscape since the 2008 financial crisis. Many of the country’s 4,672 lenders will be forced into the arms of stronger banks over the next few years, either by market forces or regulators, according to a dozen executives, advisors and investment bankers who spoke with CNBC.

“You’re going to have a massive wave of M&A among smaller banks because they need to get bigger,” said the co-president of a top six U.S. bank who declined to be identified speaking candidly about industry consolidation. “We’re the only country in the world that has this many banks.”

How’d we get here?

To understand the roots of the regional bank crisis, it helps to look back to the turmoil of 2008, caused by irresponsible lending that fueled a housing bubble whose collapse nearly toppled the global economy.

The aftermath of that earlier crisis brought scrutiny on the world’s biggest banks, which needed bailouts to avert disaster. As a result, it was ultimately institutions with $250 billion or more in assets that saw the most changes, including annual stress tests and stiffer rules governing how much loss-absorbing capital they had to keep on their balance sheets.

Non-giant banks, meanwhile, were viewed as safer and skirted by with less federal oversight. In the years after 2008, regional and small banks often traded for a premium to their bigger peers, and banks that showed steady growth by catering to wealthy homeowners or startup investors, like First Republic and SVB, were rewarded with rising stock prices. But while they were less complex than the giant banks, they were not necessarily less risky.

The sudden collapse of SVB in March showed how quickly a bank could unravel, dispelling one of the core assumptions of the industry: the so-called stickiness of deposits. Low interest rates and bond-purchasing programs that defined the post-2008 years flooded banks with a cheap source of funding and lulled depositors into leaving cash parked at accounts that paid negligible rates.

“For at least 15 years, banks have been awash in deposits and with low rates, it cost them nothing,” said Brian Graham, a banking veteran and co-founder of advisory firm Klaros Group. “That’s clearly changed.”

‘Under stress’

After 10 straight rate hikes and with banks making headline news again this year, depositors have moved funds in search of higher yields or greater perceived safety. Now it’s the too-big-to-fail banks, with their implicit government backstop, that are seen as the safest places to park money. Big bank stocks have outperformed regionals. JPMorgan shares are up 7.6% this year, while the KBW Regional Banking Index is down more than 20%.

That illustrates one of the lessons of March’s tumult. Online tools have made moving money easier, and social media platforms have led to coordinated fears over lenders. Deposits that in the past were considered “sticky,” or unlikely to move, have suddenly become slippery. The industry’s funding is more expensive as a result, especially for smaller banks with a higher percentage of uninsured deposits. But even the megabanks have been forced to pay higher rates to retain deposits.

Some of those pressures will be visible as regional banks disclose second-quarter results this month. Banks including Zions and KeyCorp told investors last month that interest revenue was coming in lower than expected, and Deutsche Bank analyst Matt O’Connor warned that regional banks may begin slashing dividend payouts.

JPMorgan kicks off bank earnings Friday.

“The fundamental issue with the regional banking system is the underlying business model is under stress,” said incoming Lazard CEO Peter Orszag. “Some of these banks will survive by being the buyer rather than the target. We could see over time fewer, larger regionals.”

Walking wounded

Compounding the industry’s dilemma is the expectation that regulators will tighten oversight of banks, particularly those in the $100 billion to $250 billion asset range, which is where First Republic and SVB slotted.

“There’s going to be a lot more costs coming down the pipe that’s going to depress returns and pressure earnings,” said Chris Wolfe, a Fitch banking analyst who previously worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“Higher fixed costs require greater scale, whether you’re in steel manufacturing or banking,” he said. “The incentives for banks to get bigger have just gone up materially.”

Half of the country’s banks will likely be swallowed by competitors in the next decade, said Wolfe.

While SVB and First Republic saw the greatest exodus of deposits in March, other banks were wounded in that chaotic period, according to a top investment banker who advises financial institutions. Most banks saw a drop in first-quarter deposits below about 10%, but those that lost more than that may be troubled, the banker said.

“If you happen to be one of the banks that lost 10% to 20% of deposits, you’ve got problems,” said the banker, who declined to be identified speaking about potential clients. “You’ve got to either go raise capital and bleed your balance sheet or you’ve got to sell yourself” to alleviate the pressure.

A third option is to simply wait until the bonds that are underwater eventually mature and roll off banks’ balance sheets – or until falling interest rates ease the losses.

But that could take years to play out, and it exposes banks to the risk that something else goes wrong, such as rising defaults on office loans. That could put some banks into a precarious position of not having enough capital.

‘False calm’

In the meantime, banks are already seeking to unload assets and businesses to boost capital, according to another veteran financials banker and former Goldman Sachs partner. They are weighing sales of payments, asset management and fintech operations, this banker said.

“A fair number of them are looking at their balance sheet and trying to figure out, `What do I have that I can sell and get an attractive price for?'” the banker said.

Banks are in a bind, however, because the market isn’t open for fresh sales of lenders’ stock, despite their depressed valuations, according to Lazard’s Orszag. Institutional investors are staying away because further rate increases could cause another leg down for the sector, he said.

Orszag referred to the last few weeks as a “false calm” that could be shattered when banks post second-quarter results. The industry still faces the risk that the negative feedback loop of falling stock prices and deposit runs could return, he said.

“All you need is one or two banks to say, ‘Deposits are down another 20%’ and all of a sudden, you will be back to similar scenarios,” Orszag said. “Pounding on equity prices, which then feeds into deposit flight, which then feeds back on the equity prices.”

Deals on the horizon

It will take perhaps a year or longer for mergers to ramp up, multiple bankers said. That’s because acquirers would absorb hits to their own capital when taking over competitors with underwater bonds. Executives are also looking for the “all clear” signal from regulators on consolidation after several deals have been scuttled in recent years.

While Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has signaled an openness to bank mergers, recent remarks from the Justice Department indicate greater deal scrutiny on antitrust concerns, and influential lawmakers including Sen. Elizabeth Warren oppose more banking consolidation.

When the logjam does break, deals will likely cluster in several brackets as banks seek to optimize their size in the new regime.

Banks that once benefited from being below $250 billion in assets may find those advantages gone, leading to more deals among midsized lenders. Other deals will create bulked-up entities below the $100 billion and $10 billion asset levels, which are likely regulatory thresholds, according to Klaros co-founder Graham.

Bigger banks have more resources to adhere to coming regulations and consumers’ technology demands, advantages that have helped financial giants including JPMorgan steadily grow earnings despite higher capital requirements. Still, the process isn’t likely to be a comfortable one for sellers.

But distress for one bank means opportunity for another. Amalgamated Bank, a New York-based institution with $7.8 billion in assets that caters to unions and nonprofits, will consider acquisitions after its stock price recovers, according to CFO Jason Darby.

“Once our currency returns to a place where we feel it’s more appropriate, we’ll take a look at our ability to roll up,” Darby said. “I do think you’ll see more and more banks raising their hands and saying, `We’re looking for strategic partners’ as the future unfolds.”

Two financial experts discuss the Fed's next steps and the future of the U.S. banking system

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Jim Cramer’s top 10 things to watch in the stock market Tuesday

My top 10 things to watch Tuesday, May 2

1. DuPont (DD) delivers a first-quarter earnings beat Tuesday, with adjusted earnings-per-share (EPS) of 84 cents, compared with analysts’ forecasts of 80 cents per share. But the materials giant cut its full-year revenue forecast, sending shares nearly 5% lower in premarket trading. DuPont also says it’s agreed to buy Spectrum Plastics Group from AEA Investors for $1.75 billion, in a deal that should be immediately accretive.

2. Club holding Morgan Stanley (MS) is planning to cut 3,000 jobs in the bank’s second round of layoffs in six months, Reuters reported Monday.

3. Tesla (TSLA) raises prices on some models of its electric vehicles in the U.S., China, Japan and Canada. The news come after several rounds of price cuts earlier this year.

4. Citi calls SoFi Technologies‘ (SOFI) post-earnings sell-off “unwarranted,” while reiterating a buy rating and $10-per-share price target. Meanwhile, Wedbush downgrades SOFI to neutral from outperform and lowers its price target to $5 per share, from $8.

5. TD Cowen raises its price target on health insurer Humana (HUM) to $616 per share, from $581, while reiterating an outperform rating. The Club holding last week delivered a first-quarter earnings beat and raised its guidance.

6. Uber Technologies (UBER) reports a first-quarter revenue beat of $8.82 billion, ahead of analysts’ forecasts for $8.72 billion, sending the stock soaring by nearly 10% in premarket trading. The company reports an EPS loss of 8 cents, compared with expectations for a 9 cent-per-share loss, while guiding for gross bookings of $33 billion to $34 billion in the second quarter.

7. BP reports stronger-than-expected first-quarter profits on Tuesday, with its underlying replacement cost profit coming in at $4.96 billion on the back of strong oil-and-gas trading. The British oil major expects to deliver share buybacks totaling $4 billion for the year, at the lower end of its capital expenditure range of $14 billion to $18 billion. Shares of BP were down roughly 5% in premarket trading.

8. Morgan Stanley raises its price target on Exxon Mobil (XOM) to $122 per share, from $118, while reiterating an overweight rating on the stock. The bank cites the U.S. oil major’s record first-quarter profit, which it reported last Friday.

9. Bank of America raises its price target on Brinker International (EAT) to $33 per share, from $29, reflecting a higher market multiple. But the firm maintains its underperform, or sell, rating on EAT stock.

10. The CEO of International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Arvind Krishna, said the company plans to pause hiring for back-office roles that could be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) in the coming years. “I could easily see 30% [roughly 7,800 jobs] of that getting replaced by AI and automation over a five-year period,” Krishna told Bloomberg.

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