Credit Suisse prepares for senior management changes after a year of crisis

Business

Ian Krysztofiak, Staff

Header Image: CNBC
Credit Suisse building in Zurich Switzerland.

The Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS) reportedly has plans to replace some of its senior management positions in the coming months after the chief financial officer, general counsel and Asia-Pacific head are set to step down. Chairman of the board, Axel Lehmann, is hoping to put the bank back on stable ground after recent losses and scandals. Credit Suisse was founded in the 1800s to fund the Swiss railway system, but has since grown into a double digit billion dollar holding company with reaches into nearly every international market.

Credit Suisse is planning to replace Chief Financial Officer David Mathers, Chief Legal Officer Romeo Cerutti and the CEO of the Asia-Pacific region Helman Sitohang. Mathers has been in this role since 2010 and Cerutti has been the bank’s top lawyer since 2009. The board has yet to make any decisions. 

Credit Suisse is expected to take a loss in the first quarter of 2022 after recent litigation provisions and losses on loans through Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Credit Suisse is looking to scale back its investment banking division and sharpen its focus on wealth management. They are also looking “to stabilize the bank through cultural and strategic changes,” said chairman Axel Lehmann.

Lehmann has only been at the helm of the board since January, as the former chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio resigned due to breaking COVID-19 quarantine requirements by attending football and tennis matches. Hort-Orsorio was at Credit Suisse for less than a year before he resigned from the board. 

Credit Suisse reported a net loss of 1.57 billion Swiss francs ($1.7 billion) for 2021. This comes after a 5.5 billion loss resulting from its risky exposure to the hedge fund Archegos Capital, which resulted in the firing of nine executives and disciplinary action against another 24 executives. They also suffered fines of $475 million for their role in the “tuna bond” scandal in the Republic of Mozambique. The firm helped arrange loans to Mozambique that were said to be used for a state owned tuna fishery and maritime commerce and security projects, but were aware that portions of he money would be used for military projects. Credit Suisse received $50 million worth of kickbacks for their bankers in exchange for better loan terms, while Mozambique officials used the funds to finance military expansion instead of the promised fishing fleet. 

Credit Suisse was unable to make a profit in 2021 during the most profitable years for financial institutions. Though with an increased focus on cultural changes, decreased investment banking activities and new management changes, only time will tell if they can rebound from their calamities.

Yen tumbles, as the Bank of Japan announces the purchase of 10-year bonds

Business

Ian Krysztofiak, Staff

The Yen has hit a seven-year record low of ¥124 when compared to the dollar on foreign exchange markets. Just 10 months ago, it was valued at ¥109. The Euro gained 1.17 percent to €135.79, a four-year high. The Yen is on track to be the worst performer in 2022 in the foreign exchange markets, next to the Swedish krona — while the U.S. dollar and the Australian dollar are currently the best performers of this year. The Yen has been commonly viewed as a “safe haven” currency when things are going wrong in markets.

On March 28, the dollar hit USD $125.09 against the Yen; it has since dropped two percent to around $122 on April 1. A weak Yen caused by low rates can make cost increases even worse for imports, but it should help Japan’s exporters. 

As the Bank of Japan (BOJ) moves to contain rising bond yields, they have announced the purchase of unlimited 10-year Japanese bonds for four straight days to curve bond yields. Inflation remains relatively quiet in Japan, as their estimate for 2022 is two percent, while they are currently at 0.9 percent. 

While Japan’s economy is already facing economic problems from surging energy costs and raw materials imports, confidence among Japan’s largest manufacturers declines as the Yen weakens. Japan has been primarily an export-driven economy, but in recent years production has been shifting overseas. Wage growth also remains relatively low and might not be able to keep up with overall inflation if the weak Yen pushes Yen-denominated energy prices up even higher.

Currently, the Yen is the third most heavily-traded currency, being used in trillions of dollars of highly leveraged trades. Hedge funds are fans of the Yen because they use it to invest in high yield bonds, and they use it to arbitrage differences in interest rates. These highly leveraged trades have the potential to fall apart quickly when the Yen makes upward or downward moves, forcing hedge funds to make margin calls and liquidate their safe bets.

While most central banks have been hiking interest rates to fight inflation, or at least discussing it, the BOJ has no plans to do either. Given Japan’s low inflation rates relative to the rest of the world, especially the United States, it makes sense that they wouldn’t need to hike interest rates to compensate. However, due to surging energy costs and raw materials imports, the Bank of Japan will likely have to exercise some type of monetary policy to strengthen the Yen back to its previous state.

Global stocks decline as more firms cut ties with Russia

Business

Jason Ryan, Staff

Global financial stocks tumbled on Monday, March 7 with increasing investor fears about the potential for economic damage and pressure on consumer spending as the price of oil soars following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lenders, investors and dozens of payment companies with links to Russia have been cutting ties with the country. These moves and news come amidst Western sanctions against Russia. While the United States’ sanctions have been aimed at limiting the flow of Western money and damaging Russia’s economy, Ukraine has called for the boycott of Russian energy exports.

Major accounting firms Deloitte and EY said on Monday they are cutting ties with Russia, mirroring moves by fellow Big Four accounting and consultancy firms KPMG and PwC. These firms and their work are often key to businesses obtaining international investor backing. 

Display shows financial information in a window of the headquarters Swiss bank UBS in Zurich

Global stocks drop more than two percent, hitting a bear market as oil prices briefly rise to $130 a barrel. 

U.S. stocks fell in morning trading after oil prices burst above $130 a barrel Sunday night, threatening to upset calculations for company costs, consumer behavior and the overall course of inflation. The losses for major indexes deepened on Monday afternoon as investors dialed back on risk by selling shares of companies across much of the economy, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite falling into a bear market by declining to 20 percent below its November high.  

S&P 500 banks (.SPXBK) fell 4.8 percent on Monday and the broader S&P 500 financial sector (.SPSY) closed down 3.7 percent as the yield curve — the difference between longer and shorter-dated U.S. Treasuries — narrowed, suggesting pressure on U.S. banks’ profitability. The bank index has fallen more than 10 percent since the conflict escalated on Feb. 24.  

Shares in U.S. payment companies tumbled on Monday with American Express Co. (AXP.N) closing down 8.0 percent after it said on Sunday it was suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus, joining Visa Inc. (V.N), which fell 4.8 percent and Mastercard Inc. which fell 5.4 percent after their similar announcements the previous day. Payments company PayPal Holdings Inc. (PYPL.O) is also down 6.3 percent.
Investors are growing fearful that the consequences of the war in Ukraine, now in its 14th day, could become increasingly dramatic for financial markets. This conflict has already  upset commodity markets, increased tensions between Moscow and the Western world and led to Russia being unplugged from much of the global financial system. It is also evident more economic sanctions are to come.

International sanctions decimate Russian economy

Business

Enrique Carrasco, Editor

As Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine goes on, various different countries across the world have decided to place sanctions on Russia, and oftentimes, refusing to do any business with anything Russian-related. Several companies, such as: Apple, ExxonMobil, Ford and many others, have decided to shut down all of their operations in Russia, something that has had detrimental effects on the Russian economy and the Ruble. 

According to various Kremlin officials, including spokesman Dmitry Pskov, “Russia’s economy is taking serious blows… But there is a certain margin of safety, there is potential, there are some plans, work is underway.”

Sberbank, Russia’s biggest lender, has decided to stop all operations within Europe, as various regulators and sanctions across Europe have caused depositors to withdraw all their money, in order to try and avoid the sanctions placed by the West on Russia. These sanctions only prove to be a bigger part of the response by the West in order to slow Putin’s plans of Ukraine’s invasion. Global experts have estimated that nearly $1 trillion of Russia’s assets have been frozen as a response to the invasion. As the invasion of Ukraine continues, so do the international sanctions placed on Russian businesses, banks and assets. Russian banks have been cut off from international trade, further tanking the economy and the price of the Ruble. At the time of writing this, the Russian ruble is valued at .0099 U.S dollars. That is to say, one Ruble is the equivalent to $.0099, less than a penny. Weeks ago, the Ruble was trading at $.013 per Ruble, a significant decrease in price. Experts have estimated that the Ruble has fallen by approximately 40 percent since the invasion started. In fact, the Ruble has gotten so low, that various other currencies are valued at a much higher price. Take for example, the “Robux.”Robux is an in-game currency for the kid’s game “Roblox. Robux, although having no use or value outside of the video game, is valued at approximately $.0125. One can buy 400 Robux for $4.99. This comes to show how decimated the Russian economy has become because of the invasion. Many experts believe that many more sanctions are to come to Russia if the invasion continues, and these sanctions will do anything but help the already struggling Russian economy.

Oil nears $100 a barrel amidst Russia-Ukraine tensions

Business

Jason Ryan, Staff

Header Image: Financial Times

On Monday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered forces into two regions of Eastern Ukraine. The rising tensions have sent jitters through markets. Oil, natural-gas and agricultural prices rose as pressures threatened to disrupt flows of natural resources from Eastern Europe to world markets.

Russia was the largest supplier of natural gas and oil to the European Union last year, and one of the world’s largest producers of oil and natural gas, accounting for 17 percent of the world’s natural gas and 12 percent of its oil. These tensions are contributing to increases in oil prices.

Crude prices recently crossed $90 per barrel, representing an increase of more than 20 percent this year and a pickup of more than 80 percent since the beginning of 2021. These gains, however, can also be credited to other factors such as tight supply. For instance demand for oil has surged since the early pandemic lows. Production, however, has not kept pace.

Moreover, U.S. crude surged more than three percent at one point to a high of $96. The contract ended the session 1.4 percent higher at $92.35 per barrel. Brent traded as high as $99.50, before settling at $96.84 per barrel for a gain of 1.52 percent.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 ended the day down one percent to its lowest closing level since late 2021, led lower by energy and consumer discretionary stocks. The decline on Tuesday brought the index into a correction, or 10 percent below its recent peak in January. Surging oil prices will benefit oil producers, but those producers will raise costs for everyone else. This will certainly depress economic activity, as consumers and companies alike respond to higher prices by cutting back. Gasoline prices in the U.S. are averaging more than $3.50 a gallon, the highest average since 2014. If crude prices should rise higher, gasoline prices would almost certainly climb more.The biggest burden for Americans would fall on lower-income families, since they spend a larger percentage of their household budget on gasoline (American Council for Energy Efficient Economy). In addition, rising natural gas prices could raise electricity and home heating bills. The increasing costs for transportation, power and heat would all contribute to inflation, which is already at its highest rate in 40 years in the U.S., though there is debate about how long the impact would be. All and all, it is clear that any rise in oil prices will affect the world markets in a negative manner.

Omicron variant: Stocks rebound after plunge

Business

Jason Ryan, Staff

Header Image: New York Times

The stock market rebounds after the temporary plunge as investors assess the economic risk from the new Omicron Variant of COVID-19. 

Confirmed cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant have on Friday continued to grow around the world, triggering the discovery as a strain on many countries to try and seal themselves off by imposing travel restrictions, while also sending stocks tumbling and causing oil prices to fall.

That being said, stocks have made a comeback Monday, bouncing back from the steep selloff last Friday where investors feared the Omicron COVID variant would disrupt the global economic rebound. Reports of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus brought back memories of last summer when the fast-spreading Delta variant put a major dent in the recovery of the stock market. This discovery spooked investors on a traditionally quiet day in the market following Thanksgiving, leading to one of the worst days for stocks this year.

The most powerful lift for stocks came from those that have been able to grow strongly almost regardless of the economy’s strength or pandemic’s pall. Gains for five big tech-oriented stocks — Microsoft, Tesla, Apple, Amazon and Nvidia — which alone accounted for more than a third of the S&P 500’s rise. The gains for tech-oriented stocks also helped to drive the Nasdaq composite up a market-leading 1.9 percent.

The S&P 500 rose 1.3 percent to recover more than half of its drop from Friday, which was its worst since February. Treasury bond yields, which fell Friday as investors were gunning for safety, reversed course and rose Monday. In particular, the 10-year U.S. government bond yielded 1.52 percent when the New York Stock Exchange closed.

Travel-related stocks started the day Monday with gains but fell back as more caution filtered into the market and as travel restrictions around the world remained in force. They closed mixed after President Joe Biden said he was not considering a widespread U.S. lockdown. He stated the variant was a cause for concern and “not a cause for panic.” That being said, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines closed slightly lower, while cruise line operators Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines actually notched gains.

While the market has steadied itself, uneasiness still hangs over it due to the discovery of the variant, as the virus appears to spread more easily, and countries around the world have put up barriers to travel in hopes of slowing it. Still to be seen is how effective currently available vaccines are for the variant, and how long it may take to develop new Omicron-specific vaccines. It is evident that the Omicron variant is hitting markets less hard than other COVID variants, but just as the market quickly bounced back from its Delta fears, history appears to be repeating itself: investors are taking a breath and sensing a buying opportunity.

       Ryanj21@lasalle.edu

U.S. hits 30-year inflation high; how it affects consumer spending

Business

Jason Ryan, Staff

Buckle Up: 3 Reasons Why Inflation Is Rising

Americans are paying more for consumer goods during the biggest surge in U.S. inflation in more than 30 years.

Header Image: Forbes

Americans across the country are seeing higher prices at grocery stores and gas stations, causing  even more pain for their wallets and pocketbooks right as the holiday shopping season is set to commence. 

Data released by the Labor Department earlier this week indicates inflation has risen at its highest rate in over three decades. Consumer prices soared by 6.2 percent compared to the same period last year. This is the biggest one-year jump seen in the government’s consumer price index since 1990.

The increase in prices is surpassing wage gains and forcing Americans to dedicate a bigger share of their income to necessities such as food and gas. In particular, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data: meat, chicken, dairy, eggs, sugar and coffee are among the products that have seen especially large price gains in the past year. 

Additionally, in the past year, energy costs have jumped a stunning 30 percent, with gasoline soaring by nearly 50 percent. A gallon of gas, on average, was $3.42 nationwide on Tuesday, according to AAA — up from $2.11 a year ago. The energy index climbed by some 4.8 percent last month alone and the gasoline index gained 6.1 percent. This marks the fifth consecutive monthly increase in gasoline prices.

Prices for natural gas and heating oil are also on the rise. For instance, the Energy Information Administration has predicted that Americans could spend up to 30 percent more on natural gas and 43 percent more on heating oil this coming winter. 

Economists predict high inflation will subside sometime next year once the widespread shortages of supply and labor begin to ease, but it’s very unclear how much or how quickly price pressures will fade. In the meantime, inflation will continue to eat up American households in terms of consumer spending. 

Coke pays $5.6 billion for control of BodyArmor

Business

Gibson McMonagle, Staff

PepsiCo Outpaces Coca-Cola 3-to-1 in Sports Drink | PYMNTS.com

PYMNTS

After Coke’s initial investment in the startup company BodyArmor, they decided to take full control with a $5.6 billion buyout. 

Prior to this week, the Coca-Cola Company owned 15 percent of BodyArmor. One of the leading rivals to Gatorade, BodyArmor was a startup company that began in 2011. The company promotes their drink to contain natural flavors and sweeteners with no colors from artificial sources. Their first big investor was Kobe Bryant in 2013. He paved the way for more athletes like James Harden and Mike Trout to help support the small company grow larger. Starting in 2018, the Coca-Cola Company became their second largest investor behind the creator of BodyArmor Mike Repole. 

On top of BodyArmor having their original sports drink, they also introduced BodyArmor Lyte. This drink is said to have the same nutrients of a regular bottle of BodyArmor but has only 20 calories and two grams of sugar per bottle. They also have released BodyArmor Sports water. This drink was said to be created for those who have an active lifestyle with a performance pH of 9+ and electrolytes for exercise. These two drinks plus the original BodyArmor sports drink allowed for high sales throughout the year. 

It is now being announced that the Coca-Cola Company is fully buying BodyArmor for $5.6 billion. This company went from a small startup to a multibillion-dollar company within 10 years. For context, Kobe Bryant initially invested $6 million back in 2013, and his investment today is worth over $400 million.  

Coke’s biggest rival, Pepsi, has been dominating the sports drink market due to Pepsi owning Gatorade. Gatorade in the past year had a 64 percent market share of U.S. sports drinks according to the Wall Street Journal. BodyArmor had 18 percent of sales, and Powerade had 13 percent. Coca-Cola now owns both Powerade and BodyArmor. 

Coke is always trying to increase their product line to compete with Pepsi. They are trying to challenge Gatorade with the purchase of BodyArmor. An editor of Beverage Digest, Duane Stanford, states, “Coke can try to sandwich Gatorade between BodyArmor, a more premium brand, and Powerade, which is more of a value brand.” 

The purchase of BodyArmor, in addition to their already owned brands like Powerade, Dasani water and Gold Peak tea brings a different strategy for Coke. They no longer have to be reliant on just the sodas they own like Fanta, Sprite and their very own Coca-Cola. They have branched off to other drinks, expanding their product line — this to compete with their largest competitor, PepsiCo.

Shiba Inu gets in top 10 cryptocurrencies, surpasses dogecoin

Business

Jason Ryan, Staff

Dogecoin struggles to keep pace with shiba inu's record-breaking surge even  as Elon Musk boosts his favorite cryptocurrency | Currency News | Financial  and Business News | Markets Insider

Market Insider

Digital cryptocurrency token Shiba Inu has jumped into the top 10 most valuable digital assets by market value, surpassing its inspiration, Dogecoin. 

The recent trading frenzy over a digital token called Shiba Inu — commonly promoted as a “meme” or joke coin in the crypto world — has jumped the canine-themed cryptocurrency into the top 10 most valuable digital assets by market value, hitting over $39 billion and surpassing its cousin and apparent inspiration, Dogecoin.

Since Wednesday, both Dogecoin and Shiba have frequently swapped places in the rankings, competing in what many would call a rivalry between the two. In fact, the Shiba Inu community actually refers to the crypto token as the “Dogecoin killer”.

As of Monday afternoon, Dogecoin, which was launched in 2013 as a joke, ranks No. 10 in cryptocurrencies with a market value of over $35 billion, according to CoinGecko.  Likewise, Shiba Inu, which launched in 2020 to poke fun at dogecoin, now ranks at No. 9 with a market value of over $39 billion. Shiba Inu hit an all-time high of $0.00008990 this past Monday.

Moreover, Shiba is up another 10 percent at midday this past Monday after its leap last week which had more than doubled in value. With this, most of that gain came in a flurry of trading last Wednesday, when it gained a whopping 66 percent. Besides, Shibu is in fact up about 900 percent in the past month.

Each Shiba coin costs just a tiny fraction of one cent; however, to put in simpler terms: if you were to have bought $1,000 worth of Shiba Inu in late September, your value of 20 million coins would now be worth around $9,000.

Both Shiba’s and Dogecoin’s growth can be largely credited to supporters hyping them up. It is the power of the people who are intensifying them that drives the performance of the coin a lot of the time, including celebrity supporters like billionaire Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. Musk often tweets about different cryptocurrencies, and in doing so, has seemingly impacted their prices.

For example, a few times throughout 2021, Shiba has appeared to leap after Musk repeatedly posted images of his Shiba Inu puppy on Twitter; however, interestingly enough, on Oct. 24, Musk did clarify that he does not own any Shiba Inu tokens and that he only owns bitcoin, etherium and Dogecoin.

Overall, the current surge in Shiba Inu can be seen as very much community-driven, and it is clear to see any token or coin out there has the opportunity to run up like this if someone with a big microphone is amplifying it — case in point is Shiba Inu. Created in August 2020, it  has taken less than two years to become a contender for a top 10 cryptocurrency spot.    

U.S. set for highest Halloween spending in five years

Business

Jason Ryan, Staff

  Header Image: USA Today

Despite ongoing pandemic concerns, U.S. consumer spending on Halloween is set to be higher than ever within the past five years. 

An estimated two thirds or 65 percent of Americans intend to celebrate Halloween or participate in Halloween activities this year, up from 58 percent in 2020 and more comparable with 68 percent in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend demonstrates that Halloween is back on the schedule this year and plenty of Americans want trick-or-treaters, decorations and new costumes. 

According to research from the National Retail Federation, U.S. consumer seasonal spending this year is forecasted to be $10.14 billion, up from $8.05 billion last year in 2020, $8.78 billion in 2019, $8.97 billion in 2018 and $9.09 billion in 2017. The top ways consumers are planning to celebrate the holiday include handing out candy (66 percent), decorating their home or yard (52 percent), dressing in costumes (46 percent), carving a pumpkin (44 percent) and hosting or attending a party (25 percent). 

The association’s annual survey was carried out on its behalf by Prosper Insights and Analytics and analyzed celebration plans. Its findings presented 93 percent of millennial parents would be seeking to go all out for the holiday, particularly after last year in which many celebrations were restricted amid the pandemic; however, caution has been urged by health authorities, with the U.S. having the highest death toll from the pandemic in the world, with over 750,000 lost to Covid-19 since the start of the crisis that began early last year.

With more Americans celebrating Halloween this year, average spending is also up. For example, on average, consumers plan to spend $102.74 on costumes, candy, decorations and greeting cards – $10 more than what was planned last year. In addition, households with children are estimated to spend more than twice the amount than households without children ($149.69 compared with $73.57) this Halloween holiday. Likewise, the number of Americans planning to decorate for Halloween differentiates with last year’s spike in interest, with spending on decorations forecasted to climb to $3.17 billion, up from last year’s $2.59 billion. Total spending on costumes is the highest it has been since 2017 at $3.10 billion.

Of those planning to dress up for Halloween, nearly 69 percent of adults already know what their costume will be this year. More than 4.6 million adults plan to dress like a witch, more than 1.6 million as a vampire, more than 1.4 million as a ghost, more than 1.1 million as a cat and another 1.1 million as a pirate. Notably, more than 1.8 million children plan to dress as Spiderman, more than 1.6 million as their favorite princess, more than 1.2 million as Batman and more than 1.2 million will dress as one of their other favorite superheroes. All in all, it is very apparent that Halloween forecasts this year prove Americans want to spend way more on trick-or-treaters, decorations and new costumes.

       ryanj21@lasalle.edu