Retail Sales Expected to Rise as Americans Stock Up: Live Updates

Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

Even as the broader economy weakened and federal stimulus money ran out, Americans continued to stock up on food and buy new and used cars, and that’s meant retail sales have held up better than just about anyone expected during the pandemic.

On Tuesday morning, the Commerce Department will report sales for October, which many economists expect to have increased slightly. That would be the sixth consecutive month of gains. An earlier holiday shopping season, with Black Friday deals beginning many weeks before Thanksgiving, is likely to have driven October’s increase. Amazon also moved its “Prime Day” from July to October, which is also expected to have bolstered sales.

“Even as we enter the fourth month with no additional fiscal stimulus, elevated political uncertainty and unprecedented levels of new Covid-19 cases, American households continued to spend,” Morgan Stanley economists wrote in a research note last week.

The economists, who expect an 0.7 percent increase in “core” retail sales in October, excluding auto and gas purchases, said an improving job market and growing savings rate has enabled Americans to keep spending.

But just as they have every month since retail sales began to rebound in May, economists again warned that rising infections and new lockdowns could stall the recovery that seems, at times, to have defied reality.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Airbnb revealed declining revenue and growing losses in a prospectus for an initial public offering on Monday.

The offering, which could value Airbnb at more than $30 billion and raise as much as $3 billion, will test investors’ appetite for hospitality-related stocks in a year when the industry has been battered and its future is uncertain, The New York Times’s Erin Griffith reports.

The company provides a marketplace for people to rent their homes, taking a percentage of the fees, and facilitates bookings for activities. Here are some highlights:

  • In total, Airbnb brought in $2.5 billion in revenue in the first nine months of the year, down from $3.7 billion a year earlier.

  • Its net loss more than doubled during that period to $697 million. The company’s shrinking revenue means it cannot pitch Wall Street on the typical tech start-up narrative of soaring growth.

  • Airbnb was valued at $31 billion before the pandemic, but some investors bought shares valuing it at $18 billion after travel ground to a halt.

  • Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs will lead Airbnb’s public offering, which will list on Nasdaq.

  • S&P Dow Jones Indices said on Monday that it would add Tesla to the S&P 500 next month. The addition had been expected by investors after Tesla met profitability requirements to be added to the index earlier this year, but the shares still jumped more than 9 percent in after-hours trading on Monday. The stock is up nearly 400 percent this year.

  • Universal Pictures and Cinemark, the third-largest cinema chain in North America, said on Monday that they reached a deal to bring new movies to homes a mere three weeks after their theater debuts. The agreement guarantees that Universal will give Cinemark at least 17 days (three weekends) to play movies exclusively — down from roughly 90 days. After that, even as films continue to play in Cinemark theaters (as long as there is demand), Universal has the option of simultaneously making them available on premium video-on-demand.

The beleaguered Chinese tech giant Huawei said on Tuesday that it would sell its budget smartphone brand, Honor, to a Chinese state-owned entity, in a sign of the strain the company is under as the Trump administration’s restrictions on its business start to bite.

Huawei did not disclose the size of the sale. The company said that once the transaction was complete, it would not hold any shares in the new Honor business or be involved in its management.

The Trump administration has long called Huawei a threat to American national security, and it now effectively dictates the company’s ability to buy many of the components and software in its smartphones and telecommunications gear. Huawei is one of China’s most revered tech success stories. Yet its products have used a range of specialized parts made by American companies, as well as computer chips manufactured using American software and equipment. Many of Huawei’s suppliers now need licenses from the U.S. government to sell to it.

“Huawei’s consumer business has been under tremendous pressure as of late,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday announcing the Honor sale. “This has been due to a persistent unavailability of technical elements needed for our mobile phone business.”

Honor, created in 2013, is Huawei’s youth-oriented gadget brand. The company that is buying it, Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology, is owned mostly by an entity backed by the government of the city of Shenzhen, where Huawei is headquartered. Once Honor is in new hands, it would likely not be subject to the U.S. export restrictions that bind Huawei.

Huawei was the world’s second biggest smartphone seller in the latest quarter, according to the research firm Canalys. But the company’s uncertain future has caused its sales in key markets outside China, such as Europe, to fall sharply.

Credit…Toby Melville/Reuters

WPP, one of the largest advertising companies in the world, is further condensing its sprawling operations by folding its Geometry agency into its VMLY&R agency.

The arrangement is part of WPP chief executive Mark Read’s attempt to streamline the ad giant into what he has called “fewer, stronger companies,” a strategy that has become particularly important as the industry attempts to recover from a slump in demand during the pandemic. Last week, WPP merged its AKQA and Grey agencies.

The combination between Geometry and VMLY&R, which is expected to be announced publicly on Tuesday, also aims to address a surge of interest in online shopping that has intensified during global lockdowns. The retail industry, a focus for Geometry, is “going through massive amounts of change,” said Beth Ann Kaminkow, Geometry’s current chief executive.

“Every single one of our clients right now is rethinking their commerce strategies, and Covid has just been a massive accelerator of this,” she said.

Geometry’s 3,500 employees will be absorbed into VMLY&R’s 7,000-person work force in January and Geometry will be renamed VMLY&R Commerce. VMLY&R itself was formed in 2018 through the merger of the VML agency with the renowned advertising company formerly known as Young & Rubicam. Its clients include companies such as Ford, PepsiCo and Pfizer.

“The best and most relevant agencies are being asked not just to do advertising, but to handle brand experience and customer experience,” said Jon Cook, the chief executive of VMLY&R. “This is about the ability to incorporate communications with commerce, where the line for the consumer between shopping, being entertained and being communicated to is going to blur.”

Credit…Peter Cziborra/Reuters
  • Global stocks sagged on Tuesday, with Wall Street poised for a downbeat open, a day after markets were propelled by more optimism that an effective vaccine against the coronavirus was within reach.

  • There was no single sector weighing on the markets as they drifted lower. It appeared that investors were taking a breather in a frenetic month that has forced them to balance the relentless toll of the virus versus the likelihood of a turnaround next year. The prospect of a new White House administration that will seek additional fiscal stimulus, and positive news from drugmakers developing vaccines to halt the raging pandemic, have pushed the S&P 500 up more than 10 percent in November.

  • But on Tuesday, stock indexes lost ground. The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 was down 0.2 percent, and the FTSE 100 in Britain fell 0.7 percent. Asian markets were more mixed; the Shanghai Composite in China slumped 0.2 percent, while the Nikkei in Japan gained 0.4 percent.

  • Futures indicated that the S&P 500 would slip 0.4 percent when trading started.

  • Oil was up slightly, the price of U.S. 10-year Treasury notes rose, and gold was unchanged.

  • EasyJet, the Britain-based discount airline that primarily serves vacation travelers, reported a loss of 1.27 billion pounds ($1.68 billion) for the year ending in September, the carrier’s first annual loss in its 25-year history. EasyJet said it expected to carry no more than 20 percent of normal capacity into 2021. Its shares were down about 2 percent.

  • Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is said to be making a bid for Simon & Schuster, the powerhouse publisher that has been put up for sale by ViacomCBS. One of the five largest book publishers in the United States, Simon & Schuster is home to prominent authors like Stephen King and Hillary Clinton, and recently attracted attention for publishing a raft of best-sellers critical of the Trump administration.

  • On Monday, stocks rallied on Wall Street. The S&P 500 rose 1.2 percent, after having ended last week at its highest ever close. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 1.6 percent, crossing above its record high, set Feb. 12.

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