Southwest Airlines suffered its largest loss ever in the third quarter as it continued to burn cash while the coronavirus pandemic kept travelers off planes.
The Dallas-based carrier on Thursday blamed its $1.2 billion net loss for the July-to-September quarter on the virus keeping demand for air travel in a chokehold that’s not likely to loosen any time soon.
While there’s been a modest improvement in leisure passengers since July, passenger traffic and booking trends are expected to “remain fragile” until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said.
But Southwest didn’t end the quarter as deep in the red as Wall Street thought it would. The company’s net loss of $1.96 per share and revenues of $1.8 billion beat analysts’ expectations for a $2.57-per-share loss and about $1.7 billion in revenues, according to Bloomberg data.
Southwest’s average core cash burn for the quarter also improved from some $23 million a day in the prior quarter to roughly $16 million a day, a number the company expects to fall to about $11 million in the final three months of the year.
Southwest shares climbed as much as 5.3 percent to $41.98 Thursday before paring the gain to 4.8 percent as of 1:51 p.m.
Southwest plans to start filling middle seats on its planes again in December after keeping them empty for months as a social-distancing precaution. The change was made based on scientific research showing the risk of breathing in COVID-19 particles on an airplane is “virtually non-existent,” Kelly said.
“This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now,” Kelly said in a statement.
Customers on fuller flights will still have the option to re-book their ticket if they want, Kelly added.
Southwest announced plans for pay cuts earlier this month aimed at staving off the mass furloughs like those imposed by rivals American and United after the expiration of federal payroll aid. Kelly said the airline would not be able to “maintain full pay and employment” without another round of support from the government.
President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have expressed support for lending airlines another hand, but it’s unclear whether Congress will pass a new stimulus bill before the November presidential election.
With Post wires
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Goldman Sachs is finally settling charges related to its role in Malaysian corruption scandal that has dogged the bank for years — and the resulting pain will spread to the C-Suite.
The megabank’s Malaysian unit said in a Thursday court hearing it will plead guilty to US Department of Justice charges that it violated the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for its role in creating the 1MDB fund for the Malaysian government that was used for a stunning litany of corrupt purposes.
As part of the agreement, Goldman will pay more than more than $2.3 billion and forfeit $606 million more. More regulators will also take a cut as Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission announced early Thursday that it has fined Goldman $350 million.
Goldman will also enter into a deferred prosecution agreement on a separate but related charge. That deal will allow the bank to avoid criminal charges for 3 and a half years if it demonstrates good conduct during that time period.
Adding in the settlement Goldman reached earlier in 2020 with the Malaysian government, the bank will pay more than $5 billion for its Malaysian misadventure, a vast sum that is equal to almost a full year’s profit.
That number has also prompted Goldman to take some internal disciplinary measures.
Senior executives past and present will have tens of millions of dollars clawed back by the bank, including penalties for current chief David Solomon and his predecessor Llloyd Blankfein, who oversaw the bank during the 1MDB deal. Bonuses for this year are also reportedly in danger.
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Snap Inc.'s (SNAP) dramatic breakout lit a fire under other social media stocks on Wednesday, lifting Facebook, Inc. (FB), Twitter, Inc. (TWTR), and "visual discovery engine" Pinterest, Inc. (PINS) into strong upticks. All three companies report third quarter 2020 earnings next week, so this price action signals the start of a speculative period that could translate into longer-term market leadership if quarterly results fire on all cylinders.
- The Snap rally ignited buying interest in other social media stocks.
- Twitter and Pinterest look like the best bets, while Facebook carries greater risk due to the election.
- Facebook could hit new highs after political headwinds evaporate.
Twitter stock completed the rally outlined on Oct. 2 in Twitter (TWTR) at Cusp of Major Breakout during Wednesday's session, while Pinterest added to a long series of new highs. That leaves Facebook, which topped out in August and entered an intermediate downturn. Unfortunately for bulls, the platform continues to attract unwelcome attention during the presidential race, with complaints of anti-conservative bias from members of Congress. In addition, foreign powers are once again hard at work, attempting to persuade public opinion through bots and fake news.
Wall Street consensus is steadfastly bullish on Facebook despite the controversies, with a "Strong Buy" rating based upon 32 "Buy," 3 "Hold," and just 1 "Sell" recommendation. Price targets currently range from a low of $195 to a Street-high $335, while the stock is set to open Thursday's session more than $20 below the median $300 target. Political headwinds are obviously contributing to this placement, with strong odds that they'll evaporate between November and January.
A consensus estimate is a forecast of a company's projected earnings based on the combined estimates of equity analysts covering a public company. Generally, analysts give a consensus for a company's forecasted earnings per share (EPS) and revenue numbers; these figures are most often made for the quarter, fiscal year, and next fiscal year.
Facebook Daily Chart (2018 – 2020)
A multi-year uptrend topped out at $218.62 in July 2018, ahead of a deep slide that posted a two-year low in the $120s at year end. A two-legged recovery completed a round trip into the prior high in January 2020, ahead of a pandemic-driven decline that carved a higher low in the $130s in March. The stock completed a bounce into the prior peak in May and broke out, testing new support for more than two months before ejecting into a rally that hit an all-time high at $304.67 in August.
Aggressive sellers took control into September, dropping the stock through the 50-day exponential moving average (EMA) before remounting that level near the month's end. Price action stuck like glue to the trading floor until Wednesday, when it took off and rallied to a seven-week high. The on-balance volume (OBV) accumulation-distribution indicator has also turned the corner after a brief distribution phase, adding a measure of support to the uptick.
Facebook Short-Term Outlook
However, Bollinger Bands® highlight hidden resistance that is already coming into play. A one-day uptick reversed at the barrier earlier this month, and a similar turnaround could unfold after this week's buying surge. In addition, the rally stalled at the .618 Fibonacci selloff retracement level, predicting limited upside into next week's earnings report. Relative strength readings follow this mixed theme, with a monthly sell cycle competing with a weekly buy cycle.
Taken together, Facebook could test the summer high after a strong report, but a sustained uptrend will be a tough chore, especially with the presidential election just five days after the release. As a result, it makes sense to stick with Twitter and Pinterest for now because they've already overcome the forces of gravity and political intrigue. Even so, the "F" in the legendary FAANG quartet is likely to post new highs prior to year end.
FAANG is an acronym that refers to the stocks of five prominent American technology companies: Facebook, Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), Apple Inc. (AAPL), Netflix, Inc. (NFLX), and Alphabet Inc. (GOOG, formerly known as Google).
The Bottom Line
Snap's high-percentage rally has triggered strong buying interest throughout the social media space.
Disclosure: The author held no positions in the aforementioned securities at the time of publication.
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Today’s Daily Dose brings you news about FDA denying approval to Zosano Pharma’s migraine treatment; CRISPR Therapeutics’ CARBON trial results; and the progress in NantKwest’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
1. CRISPR Therapeutics’ CARBON trial Proves a Point but Stock gets Whacked
CRISPR Therapeutics (CRSP) announced positive top-line results from its ongoing phase I trial of CTX110, an investigational allogeneic CAR-T cell therapy, in adult patients with relapsed or refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma, dubbed CARBON.
Data reported were from 11 patients spread across 4 dose levels of CTX110. Dose Levels 1 & 2 had 3 patients each, Dose Level 3 had 4 patients and Dose level 4 had 1 patient.
The primary endpoints of the CARBON trial include safety as measured by the incidence of dose-limiting toxicities (DLTs) and overall response rate. Key secondary endpoints include the duration of response, progression-free survival, and overall survival.
According to the trial results, CTX110 has shown dose-dependent efficacy and response rates.
Complete response (CR) was achieved at Dose Levels 2, 3, and 4 – with the rates being 33%, 50%, and 100%, respectively. In other words, 1 out of the 3 patients in Dose Level 2; 2 out of the 4 patients in Dose Level 3, and the lone patient in Dose Level 4 achieved a complete response.
Complete response refers to the disappearance of all signs of cancer in response to treatment. This does not always mean the cancer has been cured. (Source: National Cancer Institute).
In Dose Levels 1 to 3, no dose-limiting toxicities were observed. In these levels, Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS) occurred in three patients all of which were resolved. Two additional serious adverse events that occurred after CTX110 infusion were determined to be unrelated to disease progression or CTX110 and they too were resolved.
The lone patient in Dose Level 4 also experienced Cytokine Release Syndrome which resolved in 5 days and as mentioned above he had also achieved a complete response. However, on Day 26, the patient was hospitalized with febrile neutropenia and developed symptoms of short-term memory loss and confusion. In due course, he also developed serious complications like HHV-6 encephalitis and succumbed to death a few days later.
Commenting on the trial results, Joseph McGuirk, investigator in the CARBON trial, said, “While longer follow-up is required, these early data support the potential for CTX110 to become an effective off-the-shelf CAR-T therapy for patients with relapsed or refractory B-cell malignancies.”
CRSP closed Wednesday’s trading at $92.22, down 13.57%.
2. NantKwest’s COVID-19 Vaccine on Track
NantKwest Inc. (NK) and ImmunityBio a privately-held immunotherapy company, announced that the first patient has been dosed in their phase I clinical trial of hAd5-COVID-19, a novel COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
hAd5-COVID-19 targets the inner nucleocapsid (N) and the outer spike (S) protein and uses a second-generation adenovirus that delivers multiple proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 with the potential for long-term immunity through memory T cells.
The phase I trial of hAd5-COVID-19, which is being conducted at the Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California, is designed to enroll 35 healthy adults aged 18 to 55 years old.
NK closed Wednesday’s trading at $7.61, down 9.94%.
3. Zosano plunges as FDA gives Thumbs Down To Migraine Drug Candidate
Shares of Zosano Pharma Corporation (ZSAN) plunged more than 27% on Wednesday, following the FDA’s refusal to approve Qtrypta, proposed for the acute treatment for migraine.
Qtrypta is a proprietary formulation of Zolmitriptan, administered via the company’s intracutaneous microneedle-array drug-delivery system. Zolmitriptan as a tablet and an orally disintegrating tablet (tablet that dissolves quickly in the mouth) is already used to treat acute migraine headaches in adults.
Last month, in a preliminary communication related to Qtrypta, the FDA had raised questions regarding unexpected high plasma concentrations of Zolmitriptan observed in five study subjects from two pharmacokinetic studies and the differences in Zolmitriptan exposures observed between subjects receiving different lots of Qtrypta in the company’s clinical trials.
The reasons cited in the complete response letter for denying approval to Qtrypta are consistent with FDA’s preliminary communication in September.
ZSAN closed Wednesday’s trading at $0.44, down 27.74%.
4. Stocks That Touched New Highs/Lows
ProPhase Labs Inc. (PRPH) closed at a new 52-week high of $7.96, up 12.75%.
Phreesia Inc. (PHR) closed at an all-time high of $36.28, up 11.56%.
Tarsus Pharmaceuticals Inc. (TARS) closed at a new high of $24.50, up 15.51%.
Codiak BioSciences Inc. (CDAK) closed at a new low of $9.75, down 16.02%.
Baudax Bio Inc. (BXRX) closed at an all-time low of $1.42, down 10.13%.
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Oil billionaire Harold Hamm: Biden presidency could run up gas prices, double electric bills
Oil billionaire Harold Hamm discusses the presidential election’s impact on the energy sector and the state of the U.S. economy.
ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Darren Woods warned that job cuts are coming for employees in the U.S. and Canada as part of an ongoing plan announced earlier this year to "redesign work processes and improve cost competitiveness."
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While ExxonMobil is exceeding targeted spending reductions, deferring more than $10 billion in capital and cutting 15% of cash operating expenses, Woods said the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a "devastating" cut to oil demand by about 20%, roughly five times the decline of the 2008 financial crisis.
"I wish I could say we were finished, but we are not. We still have some significant headwinds, more work to do and, unfortunately, further reductions are necessary," Woods wrote Wednesday in an email to the company's workforce of nearly 75,000 employees. "Our plan is to continue to stage project execution and spending, and preserve the value of investments while offsetting inefficiencies and costs associated with deferrals."
PIONEER NATURAL TO BUY SHALE RIVAL PARSELY FOR $4.5 BILLION IN ALL-STOCK DEAL
He explained that the move to make the organization "more efficient and more nimble will reduce the number of required positions and, unfortunately, reduce the number of people we need."
"These are difficult times. We are making tough decisions, some of which will result in friends and colleagues leaving the company," Woods added. "Our core values have never been more important. We will maintain our focus on doing what is right. We will continue to care for the well-being of our communities and our people – and providing appropriate support for our colleagues who leave our organization."
According to the email, ExxonMobil is "very close" to completing its jobs review and expects to give U.S. employees an update following a discussion with the company's board of directors.
CONOCOPHILLIPS TO BUY CONCHO RESOURCES FOR $9.7 BILLION
The cuts to the company's workforces in the U.S. and Canada come after ExxonMobil was forced to borrow $23 billion earlier this year in order to stay afloat, nearly doubling its outstanding debt. In July, the company posted its first back-to-back quarterly losses ever, reporting a loss of $1.08 billion, or 26 cents a share, compared with a profit of $3.13 billion, or 73 cents a share, in the comparable quarter last year.
|XOM||EXXON MOBIL CORPORATION||33.16||-0.54||-1.60%|
|RDS.A||ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PLC||24.83||-0.49||-1.94%|
ExxonMobil isn't the only oil company being slammed by the pandemic. Royal Dutch Schell said it would cut up to 9,000 jobs, or over 10% of its workforce last month as part of a major overhaul to shift the oil and gas giant to low-carbon energy. BP also said it would trim its workforce by 10,000 jobs in June. Meanwhile, Chevron Corp. employees worldwide are being asked to reapply for positions as part of a cost-cutting program expected to eliminate up to 15% of its workforce, according to Reuters.
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However, Woods remained hopeful that "industry under-investment today will increase the need for our products in the near future."
Woods said that as of today oil and gas make up about 60 percent of the global energy mix and that despite "increasing investments in renewables and concerns with emissions," oil and gas are still projected to make up about 50 percent of the global energy mix in 2040.
"Today’s alternatives don’t consistently offer the energy density, scale, transportability, availability – and most importantly – the affordability required to be widely accepted," Woods said. "While society will move towards lower-carbon sources of energy as technology improves, oil and gas will continue to play an important role in the long-term energy mix."
According to ExxonMobil's outlook, oil demand is expected to grow at 0.6% per year while gas demand is expected to grow by 1.3 %. Woods added that with depletion rates, new oil production needs to increase by nearly 8% per year and natural gas by 6%, supporting the need for "significant investments."
"Even accounting for the short-term demand impact of Covid-19, the investment case is still clear. There is a direct link between energy consumption and a growing and more prosperous population," Woods said. "As people become more prosperous, society will need more energy. The available alternatives for our existing energy system is incomplete, and – given the size, complexity and existing infrastructure – the energy transition will require significant time. This is a compelling investment case for the industry and our company – and is foundational to our long term strategies and plans."
ExxonMobil shares fell about 1.6% during Wednesday's trading session as oil prices declined on worries that cases of the coronavirus are on the rise globally. The stock is trading near an 18-year low.
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For the first time in more than two years, more money is flowing into hedge funds than is being pulled out of them as smart-money investors look to protect themselves from growing uncertainty around the world.
The third quarter of 2020 saw net inflows of $13 billion for the hedge fund industry as a whole, marking the first time since the first quarter of 2018 that asset managers attracted more from investors than they lost, according to data from Hedge Fund Research.
“Institutions globally are making forward-looking allocations to hedge funds,” HFR president Kenneth J. Heinz said in a statement. They are doing this, he said, because they are “anticipating and positioning for the near-term uncertainties of both the virus and the US election, as well as intermediate-term macroeconomic uncertainties of the US, European and Asian economies into 2021.”
The hedge fund industry had been rocked by widespread poor performance in recent years, leading clients to pull their money and even forcing some funds to return everything before they shut down entirely. In fact, more hedge funds have closed than have opened in the past five years, cutting the entire industry almost in half.
That winnowing down of hedgies has also allowed the big to get bigger, a trend that is reflected in HFR’s data.
Between June and August of 2020, funds managing more than $5 billion netted $11.2 billion in new investment while funds running between $1 billion and $5 billion saw a reverse result with net outflows of $810 million.
One example of the rich getting richer is Larry Fink’s behemoth BlackRock, which manages $7.8 trillion. It reported net inflows of $129 billion in the third quarter alone, a 7 percent increase in the firm’s vast asset base.
But in a signal that the industry is poised for a rebirth with new investors taking the lead on boutique strategies, HFR found that funds managing less than $1 billion saw net inflows of $2.6 billion.
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China's economy is back-ish and the world can exhale. Without this rebound, the nascent global recovery would be on even thinner ice.
The expansion reported is close to the numbers China chalked up before COVID-19 tore through national and global commerce. Gross domestic product rose 4.9 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier. While that's less than economists expected, it was an acceleration from 3.2 per cent in the previous three months. The contraction of 6.8 per cent between January and March, terrible as it was, is fading in the rearview mirror.
China’s rebound is helping to prop up the global economy. Credit:Bloomberg
The numbers underscore projections last week from the International Monetary Fund that China will be the only major economy to advance in 2020. Absent such momentum, any prediction that the world is poised to resume growth next year would be fanciful.
The IMF's forecast of a 5.2 per cent expansion is heavily dependent on Beijing not making mistakes and avoiding another sweeping shutdown. The brawny nature of the comeback buttresses struggling countries in China's regional orbit; one bright spot in Singapore's otherwise challenging economic performance is exports to the mainland.
Given all these nice numbers, is it possible that China could be pulling off that hallowed V-shaped recovery? Factories are humming, exports are up and property sales in big cities exceed pre-COVID levels. After a slow start, rising consumer confidence is finally beginning to translate into higher spending. Retail sales jumped 3.3 per cent in September from a year earlier, a separate report Monday showed. Any drop-off would leave China's revival lopsided and more exposed to exports. That's a dicey prospect when recoveries in the US, Europe and Japan are proceeding with caution. Another qualifier is the role that China's authoritarian political system played in locking down nationwide activity hard and early. The government also pursued reopening aggressively.
While the US is often derided abroad for prevaricating on masks, squabbling about fiscal stimulus and its thicket of national and local politics, democracy is never going to be perfect. The US remains the world's largest economy, which has deployed a significant pile of assets to the globe's benefit. The Federal Reserve led major central banks in flooding the financial system with liquidity, shoring up markets and unleashing a raft of special lending facilities. The Fed's dollar swap programs with counterparts in the West and some important emerging markets eased a troubling shortage of greenbacks.
Important as China's steps to stimulate its economy have been, they don't come close to packing the same punch.
In fact, the People's Bank of China has been pretty neutral, a considerable factor behind the yuan's appreciation. The PBOC's relative discretion is partly thanks to the stability the Fed brought to markets.
This comeback is welcome, and with it, the repudiation of skeptics who asserted Beijing had finally met its match with the virus. Yes, COVID-19 taught us that its four-decade expansion wasn't infallible. China's economy is mortal. Long live China's recovery.
Daniel Moss is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian economies. Previously he was executive editor of Bloomberg News for global economics, and has led teams in Asia, Europe and North America.
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