Business

Oil down again; Black Friday; Ghosn out

Posted November 23, 2018 5:29 a.m. EST

— 1. Oil prices slump: There's no relief in sight for oil companies hurting from a 30% crash in prices in recent weeks. US oil futures fell about 2.5% to around $53 per barrel early Friday, and global benchmark Brent crude futures were down by about 1% at levels not seen since December 2017.

Fear of a supply glut and signs of weakness in the global economy are continuing to weigh on prices, despite expectations that OPEC and its partners will trim production when they meet next month.

There was more evidence of a slowdown in Europe, with a survey of purchasing managers showing business activity in the eurozone grew at its weakest rate in nearly four years during November.

"The survey data suggest that the weakness of GDP in the third quarter may not have been a blip, and that the underlying trend is one of slower economic growth," said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

2. Black Friday: Retailers will be hoping for a lift from the annual shopping bonanza. The early signs are positive.

Spending on Thanksgiving Day shopping was running way ahead of last year, and Adobe projected that online sales would hit a new record of $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion on the same day in 2017.

"As consumers turn their focus to Black Friday, we expect them to take full advantage of the many discounts available, driving new records for online sales," said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights.

But there lies a potential problem.

Wall Street is worried that winning the holiday shopping season will be costly for some companies. Retailers have reported strong sales for the third quarter but some stocks have been punished because of disappointing margins.

3. Ghosn out: Nissan (NSANY) ousted Carlos Ghosn as chairman on Thursday, ending his reign at the top of the company that lasted nearly two decades. The unanimous board decision followed his arrest in Japan earlier this week on suspicion of breaching financial reporting laws and personal use of company assets.

The scandal is straining a global autos alliance that Ghosn forged with France's Renault (RNSDF), and Mitsubishi Motors (MMTOF), whose board is also expected to remove him as chairman when it meets on Monday.

4. Ad execs beware: Italian luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana is learning just how damaging an advertising misstep can be, particularly when it relates to China.

Thousands of D&G goods have disappeared from platforms run by Alibaba (BABA) and JD.com (JD) amid a backlash against the company after it launched video ads featuring a Chinese woman struggling to eat pizza and other Italian food with chopsticks. D&G has been accused of racism and there have been calls for celebrities to boycott the brand.

The furor forced D&G to cancel a high-profile fashion show in Shanghai hours before it was due to start on Wednesday. Chinese consumers account for more than a third of global spending on luxury products.

5. Global market overview: US stock futures were slightly weaker, pointing to a cautious open to Friday's shortened trading session.

The Dow closed fractionally lower on Wednesday, ending at session lows. The index had been up more than 200 points earlier in the day. The Nasdaq climbed 0.9%, while the S&P 500 advanced 0.3%. All three major indexes remain down by more than 3% on the week. Markets were closed for Thanksgiving on Thursday.

European markets opened firmer, while stocks in Asia retreated.

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6. Earnings and economics: Shares in Meituan Dianping plunged nearly 12% in Hong Kong trading Friday after the Chinese internet company posted lackluster earnings. The company's app offers a one-stop shop for services where people can make lunch reservations, buy movie tickets, book vacations or hail car rides.

Meituan's operating losses tripled to $497 million in its first set of quarterly results since the firm, which is backed by Tencent (TCEHY), raised $4.2 billion in its September IPO.

Germany confirmed that its economy — Europe's biggest — stalled in the third quarter. GDP was 0.2% lower than in the previous quarter as exports of goods and services fell by 0.9%.

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7. Coming this week:

Friday — Black Friday; US markets close at 1 p.m. ET