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Markets News, April 4, 2024: Dow Drops 500 Points as Oil Surges to 5-Month High

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Equity Indexes Wrap: Indexes Tumble Amid Broad Sell-Off; Defense Stocks Rise as Middle East Tensions Simmer

April 04, 2024 04:14 PM EDT

The Dow

Chevron (CVX) ticked up 0.2%, one of only two issues in the index to advance as oil prices surged to a five-month high. 

Salesforce (CRM) led the index lower, falling 3.5% amid a broad sell-off that hit tech particularly hard. International Business Machines (IBM) and Intel (INTC) slid 1.6% and 1.5%, respectively. 

Tech giants Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT) were spared the worst of it, falling 0.5% and 0.6%, respectively. 

Boeing (BA) slid 0.9% amid reports it was in talks with competitor Airbus to divide the operations of contractor Spirit AeroSystems (SPR). 

The S&P 500

ConAgra Brands (CAG) rose 5.5% after beating quarterly earnings estimates as cost cuts offset weak demand. 

Ulta Beauty (ULTA) ticked up 2% after yesterday’s sell-off following its CEO’s warnings about a sales slowdown

Defense stocks advanced as tensions between Israel and Iran heated up. L3Harris Technologies (LHX) advanced 2.7% and Lockheed Martin (LMT) gained 1.5%. 

Lamb Weston (LW) tumbled 19.3% after reporting lower-than-expected quarterly earnings and lowering its full-year guidance. 

Paramount Global (PARA) slid 8.5% amid reports its acquisition by Skydance Media could require the company to raise as much as $3 billion in new equity. 

Alphabet (GOOGL) fell 2.8% amid reports it was considering moving some AI search features behind a paywall. It has also reportedly discussed with investment bankers the possibility of acquiring marketing software company HubSpot (HUBS).

The Nasdaq 100

Tesla (TSLA) gained 1.6% as Morgan Stanley lowered its price target on the stock but maintained its outperform rating, citing its potential to benefit from AI. 

Meta Platforms (META) rose 0.8% after analysts at Jefferies raised their price target on the stock, citing its competitive advantage with AI in the digital ad market. 

Chip stocks tumbled alongside risk sentiment. Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) fell 8.3%, while Nvidia (NVDA) and Broadcom (AVGO) each slid 3.4%.

Brent Crude Jumps to $90 as Middle East Tensions Escalate

April 04, 2024 03:09 PM EDT

Oil prices jumped on Thursday afternoon as Iranian and Israeli saber-rattling raised concerns that the Middle East could be engulfed in a regional war, jeopardizing the stability of global oil supplies. 

Brent crude futures soared above $90 a barrel for the first time since October, while West Texas Intermediate climbed to more than $86. 

Iran on Wednesday vowed to take revenge for an airstrike, widely believed to have been carried out by Israel, that killed several military officials at its embassy in Syria earlier this week.

And on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a security cabinet meeting, “Iran has been acting against us for years—directly and via proxies. And, therefore, Israel acts against Iran and its proxies—defensively and offensively.”

A direct conflict between Israel and Iran, one of the world’s largest oil producers, would significantly disrupt global oil supply and send prices spiking.

Meta Stock Gains as Jefferies Raises Price Target on Projected AI-Driven Ad Growth

April 04, 2024 02:26 PM EDT

Meta (META) shares rose Thursday as Jefferies analysts raised their price target for the stock, saying the company is well-positioned to outpace peers in the digital ad space as it leverages artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

Jefferies analysts said that Meta “could capture 50% of incremental industry ad dollars in 2024, which would be its highest ever and well above its 33% in 2023” as “scaling Gen AI ad tools supplement Meta’s already best-in-class Advantage+ product suite.”

The analysts noted Meta’s ad business in 2024 could also outgrow Amazon’s (AMZN) for the first time since 2015.

Jefferies analysts lifted their price objective to $585 from $550 and reiterated a “buy” rating.

Meta shares were up 3.1% trading at $522.75 Thursday afternoon. The stock has gained nearly 50% since the start of 2024.

Naomi Buchanan

Conagra Stock Jumps on Strong Earnings as Cost Cuts Offset Sluggish Demand

April 04, 2024 01:40 PM EDT

Conagra Brands (CAG) stock rose Thursday following the release of a quarterly earnings report that beat analyst estimates despite a 2% decrease in sales.

Conagra reported revenue of $3.03 billion for its fiscal 2024 third quarter, just above analyst estimates of $3.01 billion compiled by Visible Alpha. The snack and frozen foods maker reported adjusted net income of $328.9 million, or adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of 69 cents, compared to estimates of $310.2 million and 65 cents, respectively.

All three key figures decreased from the same quarter last year, when Conagra credited higher prices for its successful quarter. This quarter, Conagra Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sean Connolly said cost-cutting measures helped offset the decline in sales.

Conagra shares were up 5.7% at $30.71 Thursday afternoon. The stock has lost about 18% of its value over the past year.

Aaron McDade

Lamb Weston Stock Sinks After Software Issue Affects Q3 Results, FY Outlook

April 04, 2024 12:55 PM EDT

Shares of Lamb Weston Holdings (LW) plunged 20% in intraday trading Thursday as the potato processor posted lower-than-expected quarterly profit and sales, and warned about full-year results because of problems with a new software system.

Lamb Weston reported third-quarter adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.20, with revenue up 16% to $1.46 billion. Both were short of forecasts.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tom Werner blamed the shortfall on a slower-than-anticipated transition to a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system in North America, which he said “negatively impacted our financial results in the quarter by more than we expected.” 

Lamb Weston said the residual effects led the company to revise its outlook. It now sees full-year adjusted EPS in a range of $5.50 to $5.65, down from the previous estimate of $5.70 to $6.15. It predicts revenue of $6.54 billion to $6.60 billion, lowered from the earlier estimate of $6.80 billion to $7.00 billion.

The news sent Lamb Weston shares tumbling 20% to about $81, their lowest level in a year and a half.

Bill McColl

Levi Strauss Stock Pops as Jeans Maker Lifts Earnings Guidance

April 04, 2024 12:14 PM EDT

Shares in Levi Strauss & Co. (LEVI) jumped Thursday after the maker of jeans delivered a better-than-expected quarterly earnings report and raised its full-year profit guidance as it ramps up its direct-to-consumer (DTC) business.

For the three months ending Feb. 25, the company’s first quarter, Levi reported adjusted earnings of 26 cents per share, a nickel ahead of the 21 cents a share expected by analysts.

The company’s DTC sales through its website and namesake branded stores grew 7% from a year earlier and made up 48% of the apparel maker’s total revenue, reducing reliance on its wholesale business, which saw sales decline 18% in the quarter.

Turning to the outlook, the company lifted its bottom-line forecast and now expects to earn between $1.17 and $1.27 per share on an adjusted basis, up from its earlier projection of $1.15 to $1.25 a share. By comparison, Wall Street had forecast earnings of $1.21 a share.

Levi shares were up 16% at $21.63 as of midday Thursday. With today’s gains, the stock has risen more than 30% so far this year.

Timothy Smith

HubSpot Stock Jumps Amid Reports Alphabet Considering Acquisition

April 04, 2024 11:01 AM EDT

Shares of HubSpot (HUBS) jumped in early trading Thursday amid reports Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) was considering making an offer to buy the marketing software company. 

Alphabet has met with investment bankers at Morgan Stanley in recent days to discuss a potential offer, Reuters reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the discussions. The company has also discussed with advisors whether antitrust regulators would be likely to challenge an acquisition. 

The deal, if offered, would be one of the few examples of a tech giant attempting a tie-up under the enhanced scrutiny of President Joe Biden’s tech-skeptical regulators. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan has made going after big tech a cornerstone of her tenure. 

Regulators aggressively fought Microsoft’s (MSFT) acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which ultimately took nearly two years and major concessions to complete. And in August, the FTC along with 17 states sued Amazon (AMZN), alleging it used illegal monopolistic practices to stifle competition and inflate prices.

HubSpot shares jumped nearly 8% to a more than two-year high of about $676 Thursday morning. Alphabet shares were down about 1%.

Google Reportedly Considering Putting Some AI Search Features Behind Paywall; Stock Slips

April 04, 2024 10:07 AM EDT

Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google is reportedly considering charging for some artificial intelligence-powered (AI) search features, in what would mark the first time the tech giant has moved its core search product behind a paywall.

Some of Google’s products have premium features like increased cloud storage or more advanced models of the Gemini AI chatbot, but selling ads has long been the primary revenue draw for its search engine. Now, the tech giant is considering trying to take advantage of its search dominance by adding certain AI search features to its existing premium subscription programs, according to a Financial Times report.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told the FT that the company is “not working on or considering” creating an ad-free search experience, but that it will “continue to build new premium capabilities and services to enhance our subscription offerings across Google.”

Alphabet’s stock price was down about 1.4% in early trading Thursday. Shares have gained 9% so far this year, and 46% in the last 12 months as it has benefitted from the AI boom.

Aaron McDade

Stocks Making the Biggest Moves Premarket

April 04, 2024 09:18 AM EDT

Gains:

  • Levi Strauss & Co. (LEVI): Shares of the jeans maker jumped 13% after it reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings and raised its full-year profit guidance.
  • Conagra Brands Inc. (CAG): Shares of the packaged food maker rose more than 4% after beating earnings estimates on slightly higher-than-expected sales. 
  • Ford Motor Co. (F): Shares of the carmaker rose nearly 2% after it said it would delay some electric vehicle production to focus on hybrids, after reporting yesterday a 7% increase in deliveries thanks to robust hybrid and SUV demand. 

Losses:

  • Lamb Weston Holdings Inc. (LW): Shares of the packaged food company fell 11% after its quarterly earnings fell short of Wall Street estimates. 
  • Block Inc. (SQ): Shares of the fintech slipped 3% after analysts at Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock to underweight. 
  • Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL): Shares slid about 1% amid reports subsidiary Google is considering putting some artificial intelligence search features behind a paywall.

Stock Futures Climb After Rough Start to Q2

April 04, 2024 08:57 AM EDT

Futures contracts connected to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.4% in premarket trading on Thursday.

S&P 500 futures rose 0.5%.

Nasdaq 100 futures traded 0.6% higher about an hour before markets opened.

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