The Dow Jones News Today: The Dow Jones projected an 80-point decline after China and the United States concluded a three-day summit on trade. Each nation made concessions on technology transfers, setting the stage for additional negotiations before the March 1st deadline.
Markets are also paying close attention to retail numbers as companies report holiday sales results. This morning, shares of Macy's Inc. (NYSE: M) plunged more than 18% after the firm reported sales for November and December 2018.
The firm said that same-store sales increased just 1.1% during those months, a figure that included weaker-than-expected online sales. In addition, the firm slashed its sales and profit outlook for the fiscal year.
Here are the numbers from Wednesday for the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq:
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Now, here's a closer look at today's Money Morning insight, the most important market events, and stocks to watch.
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The Top Stock Market Stories for Thursday
- Holiday retail numbers are overshadowing chatter about global trade. Sears Holdings Corp. (OTCMKTS: SHLDQ) is on the brink of liquidation, while rival JCPenney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) just announced plans to close even more stores after a bleak 2018.
- U.S. trade officials reached the end of a three-day meeting with China after extending negotiations by another day. China said that the talks in Beijing have laid a "foundation" for a resolution to end the ongoing trade war between the two countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping committed to purchasing more U.S. farm, energy, and manufactured products as they aim to reach a consensus on trade. Both countries have set a March 1 deadline before each would raise tariffs to 25% on one another's exports. Wall Street analysts expressed positive sentiment after the trade talks, but most are still exercising caution.
- On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve released minutes from its December meeting on monetary policy. The minutes suggest the U.S. central bank will not raise interest rates during its March meeting and could wait even longer before hiking the benchmark level. The Fed raised the benchmark rate in December, the fourth hike of the year. Jitters about rate hikes and a slowing global economy fueled the worst December for the S&P 500 since the Great Depression. However, the minutes indicate that the Fed is far more cautious than assumed.
Stocks to Watch Today: SHLDQ, AMZN, TGT
- Macy's weak sales numbers are pulling down the rest of the retail sector. Shares of Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) were off nearly 2.7% despite a strong holiday sales report. The retailer saw both traffic and digital sales increase by 5.7% during the 2018 holiday season. That growth is more than 50% higher than the 3.4% growth rate that it saw in 2017.
- It appears that Eddie Lampert has one more chance to save the embattled retailer Sears Holdings Corp. (OTCMKTS: SHLDQ). Shares traded at $0.39 each after CEO Lampert revised his bid from $4.4 billion to nearly $5 billion to stop the company from heading to liquidation and to preserve roughly 50,000 company jobs. Should the company's advisers not accept the bid from Lampert's hedge fund ESL, an auction will take place. Lampert's bid is the only one that can save the Illinois-based firm, founded in 1893, from liquidation.
- Shareholders of Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) are paying close attention to news that Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos will divorce his wife of 25 years. Bezos, who is worth $137 billion, may need to give his wife half of his fortune, given Washington divorce laws. It is too early to speculate on whether Bezos may need to sell shares of the company in which he owns 16% of the stock. State law shows that all assets accumulated during their 25-year marriage are owned by both individuals, suggesting that a big split is possible. Of course, that depends on whether a prenuptial agreement existed prior to the marriage.
- Look for additional earnings reports from Revolution Lighting Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: RVLT) and SYNNEX Corp. (NYSE: SNX).