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Week in review: A big bite
Apple became the first trillion dollar company in history this week. The tech giant reported strong results for its fiscal third quarter, driven by sales of is latest, top-of-the-range iPhone X model.
The numbers were impressive. Revenues rose by 17% in the quarter to $ 53.3 billion, while profits surged by 32% to $11.5 billion. In fact, iPhone unit sales only increased by a modest 1% to 41.3 million units, but revenues and profits were boosted by considerably more because of the famously aggressively pricing of the most popular X model, which pushed up the average iPhone sale price by 20% to $724 per unit.
A real turn off
Apple’s performance contrasted sharply with that of fellow US tech heavyweight, Netflix, whose share price fell by a further 5% on Monday to add to the 10% decline seen in the preceding two weeks. The latest decline was in response to a Wall Street Journal article, which claimed that US retail giant Walmart was considering launching a video streaming service of its own that would compete head-to-head with Netflix as well as Amazon’s Prime Video offering. Given that the article failed to pin down any firm dates for the Walmart venture, it probably falls in the camp of ‘speculation’ for the time being - but this is something that Netflix has become more vulnerable to having reported disappointing subscriber numbers earlier in July.
Netflix’s poor performance of late somewhat mirrors that of fellow US tech giant and FAANG stock, Facebook, whose share price has declined by over a fifth since mid-July. However, it is probably too early to make any broad extrapolations from this and also worth remembering the bigger picture - since the start of 2017, the shares of Facebook and Netflix are both still up by 50% and 180% respectively.
Take a hike
In a move that was widely expected, the Bank of England increased interest rates on Thursday by a quarter of a percent to 0.75% - the highest level in almost a decade. The minutes of the Bank’s monetary policy meeting showed that members of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) feel the UK economy is more vulnerable to higher inflation given the backdrop of reduced spare capacity, low productivity and reduced net migration in the post-Brexit environment.
In terms of the outlook, MPC members predicted strong labour market conditions would continue to push wage growth up, thereby likely requiring further rate hikes in order to bring inflation back to the Bank’s 2% target rate. At the same time however, the Bank was also keen to stress that rate rises will proceed in a measured and controlled manner – taking all this on board, the latest financial market expectations are for one, or perhaps two, further rate rises of 0.25% before 2020.
China warns against US ‘blackmail’
Chinese officials reacted with predictable forthrightness to revelations on Wednesday that US President Donald Trump had asked his advisers to consider imposing tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports. A foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing advised the US to “correct its attitude and not to try to engage in blackmail”, while China’s commerce ministry threatened “countermeasures to defend the country’s dignity and the interests of the Chinese people”. In turn, the threat of an escalating US/China trade war hit global investor sentiment leading to losses in some Asian markets.
Overall, the S&P 500 index finished the week to the close on Thursday up by 0.3%, though most other global markets ended lower. The FTSE 100 index declined by 1.6% and the FTSE World Europe (ex-UK) fell by 1.1%.
To finish this week in review, a stranger-than-fiction story from San Antonio, Texas ….a man visiting an aquarium here was caught on CCTV camera snatching a shark from a tank and smuggling it out in a pram. Thankfully, the 16-inch female grey horn shark, called Miss Helen, was soon recovered and returned to her usual abode. Fortunately no serious damage was inflicted to Miss Helen, barring the indignity of being dressed like a three-year old child. And the culprit’s suspected motivation in stealing the shark? To replace a similar model in his private collection, which had sadly passed away. What a chum-p.
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