Wall Street Breakfast

Author: bmotrader   |   Latest post: Wed, 20 Jan 2021, 8:50 AM


Wall Street Breakfast: Chaos In Washington

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Congress has formally confirmed the election of Joe Biden as 46th president of the United States after rebuffing efforts by a small group of Republicans to object to the acceptance of Electoral College wins for Biden in Arizona and Pennsylvania. The House and Senate began the process of counting Electoral College votes Wednesday afternoon, but the proceeding was interrupted for about six hours by a mob that stormed the Capitol Building. The count resumed at about 8 p.m, but that was after a woman was shot and killed by Capitol Police, while three other people died from medical emergencies.

Terrifying day or historic day for American democracy? Maybe a bit of both. While the mob delayed presidential certification and led to horrible violence, it didn't stop the process or institutions, and lawmakers were able to reconvene later that night.

Some other happenings: The second of two runoff elections in Georgia was called in the Democrats' favor, handing Biden control of the Senate and solidifying his economic policy platform. Both Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock led their opponents by more than the 0.5 percentage-point threshold for a recount, triggering a blue wave to descend on Washington.

How did the market respond? Trading was largely unaffected by the chaos in the U.S. Capitol and ended the session mostly higher on expectations of a more robust stimulus package. Tech fell back on the possibility of antitrust legislation, though futures linked to the major averages all powered higher overnight. "I think the reason the markets aren't too flummoxed is it's not going to change the transition of power," said Tom Lee of Fundstrat Global Advisors. The 10-year Treasury yield also broke above 1% for the first time since the pandemic began in late March, sparking a rally in the banking sector.

Media - Censoring social media content

The disarray seen in Washington also shifted online as both Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) suspended President Trump from posting on their sites. It marked the social media industry's strongest actions to date to rein in controversial content, citing "risks of violence" and "repeated and severe violations" of their policies. Twitter, which locked Trump's account for 12 hours, also warned that further violations of its rules could lead to a permanent suspension.

What happened? The platforms have been labeling election-related tweets by Trump since November, which made declarations of victory and claimed there was a plot to steal votes. The final straw appeared to be a video circulated by Trump, in which he described those who showed up for the rally as "very special," called the election "fraudulent" and said he understands how the protesters "feel." "It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side," he added. "But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order."

Thought bubble: Censorship bias concerns over violence were raised during a recent U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing, when Twitter's Jack Dorsey was asked how Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran was allowed to glorify bloodshed in many of his tweets without any takedowns. His response: "We did not find those to violate our terms of service because we considered them 'saber-rattling' which is part of the speech of world leaders in concert with other countries. Speech against our own people, or countries on citizens, we believe is different and can cause more immediate harm."

Outlook: Some have pointed to Parler as a free-speech-focused alternative to the giants of Silicon Valley. The service leaves virtually all moderation decisions up to individuals, collects almost no data about its users and doesn't use content-recommendation algorithms (it shows users all the posts from everyone they follow, in reverse chronological order). However, many that have emigrated to the platform have continued posting on Twitter, raising questions of whether Parler will eventually fizzle, complement or replace larger platforms with much bigger audiences.

Outlook - Corporate America speaks out

Business leaders and trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and National Farmers Union, are calling for the peaceful transfer following the turmoil seen in the U.S. capital. Since the start of the week, we've already heard warnings. Prominent company leaders have cautioned about challenging election results and undermining economic stability, motivated in part by the desire to get members of Congress back to focusing on repairing an economy that's been shredded by the pandemic.

What they're saying: "The insurrection that followed the president's remarks today is appalling and an affront to the democratic values we hold dear as Americans. There must be a peaceful transition of power," said Blackstone (BX) CEO Stephen Schwarzman, one of Mr. Trump's most loyal allies on Wall Street. "This is not who we are as a people or a country," added JPMorgan (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon, while Apple's (AAPL) Tim Cook said it marked a "sad and shameful chapter" and called for those responsible to be held to account. The head of the National Association of Manufacturers, a group representing 14,000 companies in the U.S., even called on Vice President Mike Pence to "seriously consider" invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

Response: "Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted," President Trump tweeted through the account of Dan Scavino, White House director of social media. "While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it's only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!"

Earlier this week, an interesting study from the Yale School of Management found that more than 30 CEOs were considering pulling their financial support for the Republicans who plan to challenge the Electoral College results in Congress.

On The Move - Latest crypto milestone

The total value of the entire cryptocurrency market has surpassed $1T for the first time as Bitcoin (BTC-USD) skyrocketed through $37,700 overnight to hit a fresh record high. Bitcoin is already up about 30% since the start of 2021 and in the past 12 months has surged over 380%. It makes up about two-thirds of the crypto market value, followed by Ether (ETH-USD) at about 13%, according to data from CoinGecko.

Reasons behind the rally? Many large institutional investors have been piling into the market, looking to diversify even more of their assets to hedge against inflation and geopolitical risks. A large number of retail investors and trend-following quant funds have also joined the race recently due to FOMO on a quick and easy buck.

The bulls: Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou and the team at JPMorgan suggest Bitcoin could rise to $146K as an "alternative" currency if it were to match gold in terms of market capitalization. That's a mere 3.8x the current price, but about 35x from the level at which JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon called bitcoin a "fraud," and threatened to fire any bank employee dealing with it.

The bears: "The parabolic move in Bitcoin in such a short time period, I would say for any security, is highly abnormal," said David Rosenberg, economist and strategist at Rosenberg Research. He considers Bitcoin the biggest market bubble right now, but also sees stocks in bubble territory, and recommends investing in laggards like utilities and energy, as well as gold, which just completed its best year in a decade.

Economy - New York looks to fill budget gaps

Facing a projected budget deficit of more than $8.7B, New York is planning to raise revenue by increasing taxes on the wealthy as well as legalizing marijuana and sports betting. Members of the state Senate and Assembly gathered yesterday to discuss the initiatives in Albany, with many lawmakers attending virtually rather than visiting the chamber due to the coronavirus pandemic

Quote: "We need to get serious in making sure that everyone shares the burden. We need to make sure that more of the millionaires and billionaires who have gotten even richer step up during this pandemic," said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins from Yonkers, while Governor Andrew Cuomo began outlining his formal agenda before a presentation on Monday.

Stocks like DraftKings (NASDAQ:DKNG), Flutter Entertainment (OTCPK:PDYPF) and Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ:PENN) took off after he said his proposal to legalize online sports betting would run through the lottery system, instead of casinos to save more money for the state. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia already allow sports betting after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for states beyond Nevada to legalize the practice. Cuomo's budget director, Robert Mujica, estimated mobile sports betting could generate around $500M in annual revenue for the state.

Besides New York marijuana legalization, the Georgia Senate election could be a gamechanger for the cannabis industry. "We go from speculating what President-elect Biden could have done for cannabis reform via Executive Order (or by directives/'memos' from his incoming Attorney General) and if the Senate would have held a vote on the SAFE act (banking reform) would have even taken a vote, to a new world, in which the question is more about the timing and scope of much broader reform for the cannabis industry," wrote Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Pablo Zuanic.

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