US stocks are mixed as investors digest another strong round of retail earnings results, Bank of America announces inflation with a hefty increase to the minimum wage, and as the Biden administration inches closer to an infrastructure deal.
BoA to raise minimum wage
The key to inflation will be if we see enough wage growth as the labor market recovery continues to bring back many low-paying jobs. Bank of America’s announcement to raise the minimum wage to USD25 an hour by 2025 shows that the need to lure talent might keep delivering upward pressures on wages.
This wage growth trend could have some momentum as corporate America will have to provide more incentives to fill vacancies. Even if the outlook for wage growth accelerates higher throughout the summer, the Fed will stand by their belief that inflation will be transitory.
Infrastructure Counteroffer Time
Republicans will take another stab at a counteroffer to Biden’s USD2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal. The GOP’s first offer was USD568 billion and this latest offer should be around USD900 billion. Republicans don’t want tax increases, but support user fees that would penalize electric vehicles, unspent federal funds, and state and local governments. Biden would love to have a bipartisan infrastructure deal, but that probably won’t happen. The next two weeks, his administration will exhaust every avenue possible to get a deal, but in the end he can’t lose support from the left by compromising with the Republicans on the size of the deal or on how to pay for it. This will likely end up as a very progressive infrastructure spending deal.
This could be as good as it gets for Home Depot. First-quarter comps came in at 31%, much better than the consensus estimate of 20.2%. EPS delivered a seventy-eight cent beat at USD3.86, with revenue coming in at USD37.5 billion, largely higher than the USD34.96 billion forecast. Home Depot has been a favorite trade during the pandemic, but going forward it will be a lot harder.
Lowes is on deck tomorrow and investors might be cautious after Home Depot set a high bar to beat. Lowes is a cheaper stock than Home Depot and that might be good enough of a reason for some investors.
Walmart posted very strong first quarter results. The retailer is more optimistic than they were at the start of the year. The first quarter had strong ecommerce sales growth, led by growth in store pickup, delivery, and marketplace. Walmart noted that they will adjust prices as appropriate to manage costs. Wall Street gets another nod for pricing pressures.
Just like the others, Macy’s delivered a strong performance on both the top and bottom lines. The raised guidance was expected and according to CEO Gennette, it won’t be a short-term pop. The key for Macy’s might be the return of international travel, but that won’t happen until next year.
The dollar had a good run. The first quarter short squeeze is long over and now FX markets are believing that the Fed won’t budge anytime soon on their belief that inflation will be transitory. The Fed will likely be the last major central bank to move and that is why the dollar index just saw the 90-floor break.
Bitcoin traders are trying to get back on the saddle after falling hard over the past month. A promising sign for Bitcoin is that despite the 30% drop from record highs, institutional interest seems committed for their longer-term bets.
MicroStrategy bought an additional USD10 million in Bitcoin with an average price of USD43,663, an incremental increase to their portfolio, but still a positive sign that fresh money is buying the dip.
Galaxy Digital CEO Novogratz remained upbeat about Bitcoin in a CNBC interview, touting the fresh wave of wealth managers that will bring more money into cryptocurrencies. Novogratz identified the USD40,000 level as probably a good spot to go back into bitcoin. He is also looking for bitcoin to trade between the USD40,000 and USD50,000 trading range.
Given the current ESG problem and rise of other altcoins, it seems difficult to get excited about a sharp rebound for bitcoin. Bitcoin is not going to fix its carbon footprint overnight, so we could be in for an extended consolidation.
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