Business

Investors are shrugging off coronavirus. Businesses aren't

Posted February 6, 2020 7:18 a.m. EST

— A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business' Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here.

Global stocks are higher for the third day in the row, rebounding from a sell-off triggered by fears about the coronavirus outbreak in China and pushing toward new records. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq both finished Wednesday at all-time highs even as the virus continues to spread.

What gives: The US economy, at least, is showing renewed signs of strength on the heels of a "phase one" trade between with China. Data from the Institute of Supply Management this week showed that the manufacturing sector expanded in January after contracting for five straight months. The US services sector also looks the strongest it has been since August, according to data released Wednesday.

This helps, too: China said Thursday that it will reduce tariffs on US imports worth $75 billion, boosting market sentiment. Add supportive moves from Asian central banks into the mix, and investors are finding little reason to hold on to the doom and gloom.

"It is the expectation that central banks and governments are ready to ease monetary and fiscal policies which is contributing the most to the latest surge in risk assets," Han Tan, market analyst at FXTM, told clients.

A growing number of companies, however, are expressing concern about the impact of the disease and the extraordinary steps taken to contain it. Disney, Nike, Adidas, Qualcomm and Capri Holdings, which owns Versace, Jimmy Choo and Michael Kors, are among the companies this week that have cautioned investors that sales and profits could take a hit.

"The situation in China and the measures being taken to protect the population are having a material impact on our business," John Idol, the CEO of Capri Holdings, said Wednesday.

The situation could get worse before it gets better as the arteries of global trade clog up. Shipping companies that carry goods from China to the rest of the world say they are reducing the number of seaborne vessels, as measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus crimp demand and threaten to disrupt global supply chains, my CNN Business colleague Hanna Ziady reports. Air cargo services are also being disrupted.

The drumbeat of warnings shows that risks to investors remain. JPMorgan is telling clients to stay cautious and recommends that they trim their exposure to stocks.

"Despite this week's equity market rebound we are reluctant to chase short-term momentum," strategists including John Normand, head of cross-asset fundamental strategy, wrote in a note Wednesday.

Casper's IPO is already a disappointment

Casper shares begin trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. But the IPO already looks like a letdown.

The company offered 8.35 million shares for $12 apiece, with an option for the mattress startup's bankers to nab an additional 1.25 million shares. Just one week ago, the company said it planned to price its shares between $17 and $19.

At $12 per share, Casper notches a valuation of less than $500 million. In the private market, it was once valued above $1 billion.

What happened: Investors are increasingly fed up with companies that want to tap public markets but don't yet turn a profit (the WeWork fiasco wasn't that long ago, after all). Casper's revenue last year jumped 23% — but it still lost more money than in 2018 as it tried to grow its business.

The road ahead for Casper could be equally tough. Just look at Peloton, whose shares tumbled 11% below its $29 IPO price on the company's first day of trading in October. Its stock closed Wednesday at $32.70, but it's down more than 8% in premarket trading after reporting deeper losses.

On a similar note: Uber reports earnings for the last three months of 2019 after US markets close. The company's shares are trading below $37 (they debuted at $45 per share in May).

Macy's just dealt a big blow to the American mall

Hundreds of American malls are struggling. Their problems just got worse, my CNN Business colleague Nathaniel Meyersohn reports.

Macy's, for decades a reliable anchor tenant for mall owners and a draw for shoppers, said this week that it will close 125 stores — or roughly one-fifth of its portfolio — within the next three years. The company plans to pull out of "lower-tier" malls and focus on developing small, freestanding stores.

The closings could damage weaker malls, which are losing shoppers to Amazon and digital brands, while facing pressure from discount chains and big-box stores like TJMaxx, Target and Walmart.

"Macy's is the primary draw," Ken Perkins, president of research firm Retail Metrics, told Nathaniel. "Layer on top of this vacancies from JCPenney, Sears and other regional department store closures, and it's difficult to see how many of these malls go forward."

Investors in Macy's like the news, however. Its shares have rallied 6% since the announcement on Tuesday.

Up next

Talk about a busy day for earnings. ArcelorMittal, Dunkin, Estee Lauder, Fiat Chrysler, Kellogg, New York Times, Philip Morris, Tapestry, Twitter, Tyson Foods, Vista Outdoor and Yum! Brands report results before US markets open.

Also today:

Activision Blizzard, Lions Gate Entertainment, Pinterest, Uber and Wynn Resorts follow after the close.The Reserve Bank of India makes a decision on interest rates amid concerns about the country's slowing economy.

Coming tomorrow: Time for the January US jobs report. Economists polled by Reuters predict that the economy added a healthy 160,000 positions last month.

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