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Nasdaq Falls Into Bear Market After Volatile Day

Inflation data due Thursday will show whether the Fed’s rate increases are taming consumer prices

Wed, Oct 12, 2022 8:39amGrey Clock 3 min

U.S. stocks and the British pound turned lower Tuesday following Bank of England Gov. Andrew Bailey’s remark that the U.K. central bank’s plan to rescue pension funds hit by interest-rate increases will end as scheduled Friday.

Major U.S. stock indexes were mixed following the remarks, made at the Institute for International Finance’s annual meeting in Washington D.C., reversing a rally of about 0.8% in the S&P 500. The Dow was modestly higher and the Nasdaq Composite was down 1.1%, returning the tech-heavy index to a “bear market,” or a decline of 20% or more from a recent peak.

The comments were taken as negative on Wall Street because they raise the prospect of further asset sales by U.K. pension funds in the face of large interest-rate increases.

The program of bond buys launched Sept. 28 had been intended to give the funds a “window of opportunity” to sell assets in an orderly fashion, but Mr. Bailey said that opportunity would end on Oct. 14.

Stocks had opened lower, then turned higher at midday. They reversed course in the final hour of trading after Mr. Bailey’s comments.

“You’ve got three days left,” Mr. Bailey said in remarks addressed to pension funds. “You’ve got to get this done.”

The Dow’s performance was aided by big gains in Amgen Inc. The biotech stock jumped 6%, making it the best performer in the Dow on Tuesday. Shares of biotech companies helped power the other indexes higher, too, with the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index rising more than 2% in recent trading.

Investors have been grappling throughout the year with the effects of decades-high inflation and the Federal Reserve’s attempts to tame it with higher interest rates. For many, the concerns have grown deeper in recent weeks as inflation remains stubbornly high and traders worry that the Fed will cool the economy so much that it tips into a recession.

“The question now is not if there will be a recession, it’s when and how bad,” said Justin Wiggs, managing director in equity trading at Stifel Nicolaus. One week ago, traders were cheering the biggest two-day rally in the Dow and S&P 500 in two years, but stocks have fallen steadily since then. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 remain in bear markets.

U.S. inflation data due Thursday will show whether the Fed’s sizeable interest-rate rises are working to tame soaring consumer prices. A larger-than-forecast rise could bolster expectations that Fed officials will opt for another supersize 0.75 percentage point increase at their next meeting.

Meanwhile, investors are bracing for the first wave of major corporate earnings reports due this week, which are expected to show companies struggling with high rates and weakening consumer demand. PepsiCo reports Wednesday while financial titans such as BlackRock, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley report later in the week.

“First-quarter and second-quarter earnings came in remarkably well. The third quarter may be the pivot point at which we see earnings cannot keep growing to the sky, and that companies are subject to the economic headwinds we are facing from all kinds of directions,” said David Donabedian, chief investment officer at CIBC Private Wealth US.

And what’s even more important than third-quarter results, some investors say, is the guidance corporate leaders give about next year.

Some traders said Tuesday’s midday bounce higher was not so much a sign of strength, but rather a sign of so-called short covering. Some traders make money by betting that stocks are headed lower. To do so, they borrow shares and sell them, hoping to profit by buying these shares back at a lower price at a later date. When stocks start to climb, those gains can be accelerated by short sellers covering their bets by buying shares.

Yields on benchmark U.S. government bonds continued their ascent, coming within sight of the 4% level. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.938%, its second highest level of the year, from 3.883% on Friday. The U.S. bond market was closed Monday for the Columbus Day holiday.

In commodity markets, oil weakened as concerns about the economy returned to the fore. Prices rose last week after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its Russia-led allies agreed to slash their output. On Tuesday, Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, shed 2% to $94.29 a barrel.

Overseas indexes slumped. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell 2.6%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed 2.2% lower, hitting its lowest level in more than a decade.

In Europe, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.6%, led by losses among its oil-and-gas and chemicals companies.


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The Lipstick Index Is Back

Sales of the cosmetic product are a bright spot in an otherwise bleak discretionary-goods environment

Fri, Nov 25, 2022 2 min

Masks off, lipstick index on.

In a gloomy economy, consumers might cut back on other discretionary purchases but will keep shelling out for small luxuries such as lipstick—or so goes the theory. “When lipstick sales go up, people don’t want to buy dresses,” Leonard Lauder, then-chairman of Estée Lauder who is widely credited for coming up with the so-called “lipstick index,” told The Wall Street Journal in 2001.

L’Oréal Chief Executive Nicolas Hieronimus called this out during the company’s earnings call in October, noting that a luxury lipstick or mascara is only €30, making it an “affordable treat.” Sales at L’Oréal rose 9.1% in the third quarter compared with a year earlier despite slower sales in China due to Covid-related lockdowns. Coty, maker of CoverGirl makeup, said organic sales grew 9% over the same period.

Beauty sales have also been a rare bright spot for retailers: Target said beauty category sales grew roughly 15% in its quarter ended Oct. 29 compared with a year earlier, with Ulta Beauty shops in Target tripling their total sales volume over that period.

While Macy’s namesake stores saw comparable-store sales decline last quarter, its beauty-focused Bluemercury chain saw same-store sales grow 14% last quarter compared with a year earlier. Kohl’s locations with Sephora are outperforming the rest of the department-store chain.

Of the 14 discretionary categories that market research firm NPD Group tracks, prestige beauty—products you might find at a department store or a Sephora—is the only category that is seeing unit sales growth year to date. And lipstick, which suffered during the masked-up pandemic, is making up for lost time.

Lipstick sales have grown 37% through October this year compared with a year earlier, according to Larissa Jensen, beauty industry analyst at NPD Group. That is an acceleration from the 31% growth seen during the same period last year. Lip product is the only major category within prestige beauty where sales are actually up compared with pre-pandemic levels, according to Ms. Jensen.

Cosmetic companies have also called out strong sales in fragrances, calling it the “fragrance index.” Demand has been so robust that there is an industrywide fragrance component shortage, Coty said in a press release announcing third-quarter earnings earlier this month. CEO Sue Nabi said during the call that Coty hasn’t seen any kind of trade-down or slowdown, also noting that consumers are shifting away from gifting perfume to buying it for themselves.

“A big piece of it is just a shift in what wellness means to consumers,” NPD Group’s Ms. Jensen said. “Beauty is one of the few industries that are positioned to meet [consumers’] emotional need. It makes them feel good.”

While the lipstick effect could be observed in the recession in the early 2000s, that wasn’t the case during the 2007-09 recession, during which lipstick sales declined alongside other discretionary purchases. Part of this might have had to do with category-specific dynamics.

There was a lot of newness in the cosmetic industry in 2001, including lip gloss, a relatively nascent category back then. That tailwind simply wasn’t there starting in 2008, though nail polish turned out to be consumers’ small indulgence of choice in that period. This time around, consumers may be eager to show off a part of their face that was hidden behind a mask for so long during the pandemic.

In an otherwise bleak environment for companies selling discretionary goods, those in the business of selling cosmetics look well poised to come out of the holiday season looking freshened up.

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