The Stock Market’s Magnificent Seven Is Now the Fab Four - Kanebridge News
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The Stock Market’s Magnificent Seven Is Now the Fab Four

It is a bullish signal that the market is rallying without the likes of Apple and Tesla, some investors say

By HARDIKA SINGH
Tue, Apr 2, 2024 11:42amGrey Clock 4 min

The Magnificent Seven trade is beginning to fizzle—and yet, the stock market is still heading higher.

The S&P 500 climbed 10% in the first quarter, its best start to a year since 2019 , even though two of its biggest constituents suffered double-digit declines. Apple shares fell 11% in the first three months of the year, while Tesla dropped almost 30%. Alphabet shares sputtered for much of the period before making a run in the past three weeks and ending up 8%.

The other four big tech stocks in the group known as the Magnificent Seven— Nvidia , Meta Platforms , Microsoft , Amazon.com —continued their meteoric run and outpaced the broader market. Some market strategists have dubbed them the new Fab Four.

Some investors say it is a bullish signal that the market is still rallying without the likes of Apple and Tesla because it means other groups are taking part . All of the S&P 500’s sectors, except real estate, logged gains in the first quarter. Small caps, industrial and financial-services stocks are among those that jumped, fueling bets that the broader market might have more room to run.

Much of the enthusiasm is tied to hopes that the economy has escaped a deep recession and that the Federal Reserve will soon pivot to cutting interest rates , even if not at the pace some investors had previously hoped. A frenzy over the future of artificial intelligence has added to the zeal.

“If you’d have told me eight weeks ago that Apple and Tesla would be down as much as they are, oh and by the way, you’re punting when you’re going to do the rate cuts and you’re getting less rate cuts, I would have assumed the market would be down,” said Ryan Detrick , chief market strategist at Carson Group.

To be sure, some investors worry the divergence in the big tech stocks is a sign of exhaustion in the rally and question whether future gains will be harder to achieve from here. The S&P 500’s market value has swelled more than $9 trillion since late October, and the index has set 22 record closes in 2024.

In the coming days, investors trying to gauge the trajectory of the market and economy will parse the release of U.S. manufacturing data Monday and the monthly jobs report Friday.

Nvidia continues to be a stock-market star. The graphics-chip maker has indicated demand for the computing power that underlies AI remains astronomical . Its shares have jumped more than 80% to start the year, after more than tripling in 2023.

By some metrics, Nvidia has displaced Tesla as the most popular stock among individual investors . It is currently the biggest average holding in individual investors’ portfolios, at about 9%, VandaTrack data show.

Meta shares, meanwhile, have soared partly thanks to Meta’s investments in artificial intelligence that have made targeted ads smarter. The social-media company recently said it would pay its first shareholder dividend. Microsoft stole the crown of biggest U.S. company from Apple earlier this year, with a valuation that topped $3 trillion, and Amazon has sharply improved its profitability.

Despite their recent gains, some of the stocks look less pricey than they did last year. Nvidia is trading at 35 times its projected earnings over the next 12 months, below its peak of 62 in May of last year. Amazon’s multiple is 40, down from 2023’s high of 62. The S&P 500 is trading at 21 times future earnings, slightly up from last year’s highs of 19.

The Fab Four are responsible for nearly half of the S&P 500’s first-quarter advance, according to Howard Silverblatt , senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Joseph Ferrara , investment strategist at Gateway Investment Advisers, said he expects investors to rotate out of big tech stocks and funnel into other sectors as the year progresses. That is largely because the earnings of the other 493 companies in the index are expected to outperform those of the Magnificent Seven by the fourth quarter.

“The fact that the market is still holding these levels and trading up without that full force of the Magnificent Seven is actually a really positive thing,” he said.

Jonathan Golub , a strategist at UBS, said one reason Magnificent Seven’s earnings dominance could end is because it will be hard to top the explosive growth they posted at the end of last year. Those results looked like blockbuster beats when compared with 2022’s weaker numbers, he said in a recent research note.

Last year, any hint of weakness in the Magnificent Seven would have sent the broader market tumbling. In fact, for much of the year, those seven stocks were responsible for all of the S&P 500’s advance.

This year is a different story. Tesla is struggling on numerous fronts . The electric-vehicle maker is facing pressure from Chinese competitors, which have rapidly expanded their presence around the globe in recent years. It has also warned of notably slower growth in 2024, and its profit margins have taken a hit.

Apple’s woes have been mounting, too . The Justice Department recently sued the company, accusing it of monopolistic behaviour. European authorities are cracking down on its app store. Plus, it is facing another weak iPhone demand cycle, and investors are worried that Apple is behind in the current wave of excitement around AI.

Bespoke Investment Group data show Apple shares underperformed the S&P 500 over the 200 days through Tuesday by the widest margin since October 2013.



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Some chocolatiers and coffee makers say they will have to pass on the extra cost to consumers

By JOSEPH HOPPE
Sun, Apr 14, 2024 4 min

Global prices for cocoa and coffee are surging as severe weather events hamper production in key regions, raising questions from farm to table over the long-term damage climate change could have on soft commodities.

Cultivating cocoa and coffee requires very specific temperature, water and soil conditions. Now, more frequent heat waves, heavy rainfalls and droughts are damaging harvests and crippling supplies amid ever growing demand from customers worldwide.

“Adverse weather conditions, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, have played an important role in sending several food commodities sharply higher,” said Ole Hansen , head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

The spikes in prices are a threat to coffee and chocolate makers across the globe.

Swiss consumer-goods giant Nestlé was able to pass only a fraction of the cocoa price increase to customers last year, and it may need to adjust pricing in the future due to persistently high prices, a spokesperson said.

Italian coffee maker Lavazza reported revenue of more than $3 billion for last year, but said profitability was hit by soaring coffee bean prices, particularly for green and Robusta coffee, and its decision to limit price increases.

Likewise, chocolatier Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Spruengli said in its 2023 results that weather and climate conditions played a major role in the global shortage of cocoa beans that led to historically high prices. The company had to lift the sales prices of its products and said it would need to further raise them this year and next if cocoa prices remain at current levels.

Hershey ’s chief executive, Michele Buck , said in February that historic cocoa prices are expected to limit earnings growth this year, and that the company plans to use “every tool in its toolbox,” including price hikes, to manage the impact on business.

In West Africa, where about 70% of global cocoa is produced, powerhouses Ivory Coast and Ghana are facing catastrophic harvests this season as El Niño—the pattern of above-average sea surface temperatures—led to unseasonal heavy rainfalls followed by strong heat waves.

Extreme heat has weakened cocoa trees already damaged from heavy rainfall at the end of last year, according to Morningstar DBRS’s Aarti Magan and Moritz Steinbauer. The rain also worsened road conditions, disrupting cocoa bean deliveries to export ports.

The International Cocoa Organization—a global body composed of cocoa producing and consuming member countries—said in its latest monthly report that it expects the global supply deficit to widen to 374,000 metric tons in the 2023-24 season, from 74,000 tons last season. Global cocoa supply is anticipated to decline by almost 11% to 4.449 million tons when compared with 2022-23.

“Significant declines in production are expected from the top producing countries as they are envisaged to feel the detrimental effect of unfavourable weather conditions and diseases,” the organisation said.

While the effects of climate change are severe, other serious structural issues are also hitting West African cocoa production in the short- to medium-term. Illegal mining poses a significant threat to cocoa farms in Ghana, destroying arable land and poisoning water supplies, and the problem is becoming increasingly relevant in the Ivory Coast, according to BMI.

The issues are being magnified by deforestation carried out to increase cocoa production. Since 1950, Ivory Coast has lost around 90% of its forests, while Ghana has lost around 65% over the same period. This has driven farmers to areas less suited to cocoa cultivation like grasslands, increasing the amount of labor required and bringing further downside risks to the harvest, the research firm said.

The Ivory Coast’s cocoa mid-crop harvest—which officially starts in April and runs until September—is expected to fall to 400,000-500,000 tons from 600,000-620,000 tons last year, with weather expected to play a crucial role in shaping the market balance for the season, ING analysts said, citing estimates from the country’s cocoa regulator. Ghana’s cocoa board also forecasts a slump in the harvest for this season to as low as 422,500 tons, the poorest in more than 20 years, according to BMI.

Neither regulator responded to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, extreme droughts in Southeast Asia—particularly in Vietnam and Indonesia—are resulting in lower coffee bean harvests, hurting producers’ output and global exports. Coffee inventories have recovered somewhat in recent weeks but remain low in recent historical terms. Robusta coffee has seen a severe deterioration in export expectations, while Arabica coffee is expected to return to a relatively narrow surplus this year, said Charles Hart, senior commodities analyst at BMI.

The global coffee benchmark prices, London Robusta futures, are up by 15% on-month to $3,825 a ton. Arabica coffee prices have also surged 17% over the last month to $2.16 a pound in lockstep with Robusta—its highest level since October 2022. Cocoa prices have more than tripled on-year over these supply crunch fears, and risen 49% in the last month alone to $10,050 a ton.

“Cocoa trees are particularly sensitive to weather and require very specific conditions to grow, this means that cocoa prices are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as drought and periods of intense heat, as well as the longer-term impact of climate change,” said Lucrezia Cogliati, associate commodities analyst at BMI.

Cogliati said global cocoa consumption is expected to outpace production for the third consecutive season, with intense seasonal West African winds and plant diseases contributing to significant declines.

Consumers hoping for a return to cheaper prices for life’s little luxuries in the midterm may also be in for a bitter surprise.

“There is no sugarcoating it—consumers will ultimately be faced with higher chocolate prices, products that contain less chocolate, and/or shrinking product sizes,” Morningstar’s Magan and Steinbauer said in a report.

“We anticipate consumers could respond by searching widely for promotional discounts, trading down to value-based chocolate and confectionary products from premium products, switching to private-label from branded products and/or reducing volumes altogether.”

The record-breaking rally for cocoa and coffee is likely more than just a flash in the pan, according to Citi analysts, as adverse weather conditions and strong demand trends are likely to support prices in the months ahead. The U.S. bank estimates Arabica coffee futures in a range of $1.88-$2.15 a pound for the current year, but said projections could be lifted if the outlook for 2024-25 tightens further.

At the heart of it all, climate change is set to play a major role, as the impact of extreme weather events could exacerbate the pressure on cocoa and coffee supplies, according to market watchers.

“I don’t expect prices to remain at these levels, but if we continue to see more unusual weather as a result of global warming then we certainly could see more volatility in terms of cocoa yields going forward, which could impact pricing,” said Paul Joules, commodities analyst at Rabobank.