Coronavirus poses risks to ‘highly fragile’ recovery in global economy: IMF

The coronavirus epidemic has already disrupted economic growth in China and a further spread to other countries could derail a "highly fragile" projected recovery in the global economy in 2020, the International Monetary Fund warned on Wednesday.

In a note prepared for G20 finance ministers and central bankers, the global lender mapped out a plethora of risks facing the global economy, including the fast-spreading coronavirus and a renewed spike in US-China trade tensions, as well as climate-related natural disasters.

The impact of the coronavirus on the global economy could be longlasting, warns the IMF.Credit:Getty Images

Finance ministers and central bankers from the top 20 advanced industrialised economies will gather in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, later this week amid continued uncertainty about the impact of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

The IMF said it was sticking to its January forecast for 3.3 per cent growth in the global economy this year, up from 2.9 per cent in 2019, already a downward revision of 0.1 percentage points from its forecast in October.

But it said the recovery would be shallow and risks remained skewed to the downside. "The recovery could be derailed by a sharp rise in risk premia, triggered for example by a re-escalation of trade tensions, or a further spread of the coronavirus," the Fund said.

Chinese state television quoted President Xi Jinping as saying China could still meet its economic growth target for 2020 despite the epidemic. But the IMF note cast doubt on that.



"The coronavirus, a human tragedy, is disrupting economic activity in China as production has been halted and mobility around affected regions limited," the Fund wrote in the note. "Spillovers to other countries are likely — for example through tourism, supply chain linkages, and commodity price effects.

It said the impact of the virus was still unfolding, and while the current scenario assumed a quick containment of the virus and a bounce-back later in the year, the impact of the epidemic could be larger and longer-lasting.

"A wider and more protracted outbreak or lingering uncertainty about contagion could intensify supply chain disruptions and depress confidence more persistently, making the global impact more severe," the Fund said in the note.

Cyber attacks, an escalation of geopolitical tensions in the Middle East or a breakdown in trade negotiations between China and the United States could also impede the short-term global recovery, it said. And climate-related disasters, rising protectionism and social and political unrest triggered by persistent inequality posed further economic risks.

The Fund urged policymakers to maintain fiscal and monetary policy support. Low inflation required monetary policy to stay accommodative in most economies, it said.

Reuters

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Hard seltzer is king. Big beer owns it

New York (CNN Business)In 2019, White Claw was the law. The brand exploded in growth last year, raking in roughly $1.5 billion in sales, which made it America’s top-selling hard seltzer. It was so popular last summer that some distributors reported a White Claw shortage.

People crave convenient drinks that are low in calories, sugar and carbohydrates. White Claw, which is produced by Mark Anthony Brands, fits the bill because each 12-ounce can has 100 calories and just 2 grams of carbs.
Competitors took notice, leading to new entrants and flavors within the last year. Boston Beer (SAM) revamped its Truly line to be “more drinkable without any lingering bitterness.” Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) added Natural Light Seltzer to its growing lineup and Molson Coors (TAPA) announced a beverage called Vizzy. There’s also spiked seltzers from Smirnoff, Two Roads Brewing and other smaller companies. All these drinks have similar nutritional content and are aimed at young drinkers who want something different from traditional alcoholic beverages, like beer or wine.

    White Claw has remained dominant. But a growing number of competitors present the biggest challenge yet to White Claw. Nielsen predicts that the number of spiked seltzer brands will double this year.
    Americans' wine consumption dropped for the first time in 25 years
    Ready-to-drink cocktails, including spiked seltzer, are growing and will continue to grow for the forseeable future, according to a recent report from industry group IWSR. Sales for the category surged 50% last year. It’s now an $8 billion industry and sales are forecast to triple within the next three years.

    Growth in the category will come from specialized seltzers, including drinks with higher-than-average alcohol content or drinks made with a health focus, according to Nielsen. Coors’ Vizzy, for example, will launch with an emphasis on the antioxidant vitamins that will be included in the drink’s ingredients.
    Danny Brager, senior vice president of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area, told CNN Business that the newer versions of spiked seltzers won’t be as popular as White Claw, but they will attract new drinkers and fuel growth for the beverage type.
    “We don’t expect growth rates for hard seltzer to match those of summer 2019, as the base of business grows substantially,” he said, but he doesn’t think we’ve reached “peak” seltzer just yet.
    “The entrance of new brands brings healthy competition to the industry,” he said. “Consumers will ultimately decide which brands will take the top spot.”
    Some notable, deep-pocketed competitors are set to take on White Claw in 2020.

    Bud Light Seltzer

    Bud Light Seltzer first hit shelves last week and comes in four flavors, including black cherry, lemon lime, strawberry and mango. One can has 100 calories, 2 grams of carbs and 5% alcohol by volume, similar to its competitors.
    To promote it, Anheuser Busch launched a humorous television campaign during the NFL playoff games, and the company has another planned for the Super Bowl. The ads are set in Seltzer, Pennsylvania, a real town. The mayor, however, is fake. The spots are meant to loyal Bud Light drinkers and new consumers.
    “If you like Bud Light like me, you’ll love Bud Light Seltzer,” the actor says in the first part of a 45-second ad. He then says “If you don’t like Bud Light, you’ll love Bud Light Seltzer. There’s no Bud Light in it.”

    Bud Light Seltzer comes in a variety of flavors.
    Andy Goeler, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, told CNN Business that the campaign is focused on helping people differentiate the seltzer from beer because it shares the Bud Light banner, which could cause some confusion.
    “We have a marketing campaign that’s really built and based on answering questions that people have about seltzer, particularly Bud Light seltzer,” he said. “Our campaign that we’re running is designed in a fun way to answer questions that people have,” he said. (Bud Light also set up a toll-free phone number for people to call if they’re still confused about the drink.)
    Anheuser Busch hopes that leveraging the Bud Light name makes it attractive to people who are looking for a spiked seltzer. “Bud Light’s got a lot of equity and a lot of awareness,” Goeler said. “Consumers have great respect for the brand name. They connect with it. So we’ve got a lot of equity that we can use by putting the Bud Light name on a seltzer product.”
    Bud Light Seltzer is the company’s third seltzer brand, joining a beer-and-fruit flavored Natural Light seltzer and its original Bon & Viv brand. Bud Light Seltzer is more expensive than Natural Light and cheaper than Bon & Viv. Bud Light Seltzer costs around $14 for a case, but varies depending on the region.
    The growth of those brands is helping Anheuser-Busch InBev diversify its portfolio away from solely relying on beer. Industry group IWSR reported last week that beer sales fell 2.3% last year, its fourth year of decreases. Sales of domestic beer brands fell sharply at 3.1% it said.

    Molson Coors’ Vizzy

    Molson Coors is also looking to tap into the spiked seltzer craze. The company recently said it’s “investing millions” to launch Vizzy, which will come in four flavors when it rolls out in March: black cherry lime, blueberry pomegranate, strawberry kiwi and pineapple mango.
    Similar to other competitors, each 12-ounce can will have 100 calories and 1 gram of sugar. Molson Coors is taking a healthy-ish approach to Vizzy to differentiate it from other spiked seltzers. Molson Coors is aiming to imitate non-alcoholic drinks that boast about positive additives, so it’s brewing Vizzy with acerola cherry, a fruit the company claims is high in antioxidants.
    “With Vizzy, we’re cutting through the sea of sameness in the hard seltzer category, where most products have a similar visual identity and proposition,” said Dilini Fernando, Molson Coors’ director of portfolio and brand strategy, in a release.
    Vizzy will be Molson Coors’ second brand, which also includes Henry’s Hard Sparkling. The drink is similar to other spiked seltzers on the market in terms of ingredients, nutrition and flavors.
    Molson Coors admitted that the little-known brand isn’t performing well enough for the company to capture a larger market share. Sofia Colucci, vice president of innovation for the company, said that having Henry’s is “simply not enough as we think of the trajectory and the opportunity in this category.”
    “We need to do more, and Vizzy is a key part of our plan to double down on seltzers and come in with differentiated and consumer-relevant propositions,” she said.

    Corona Hard Seltzer

    Just like Bud Light Seltzer, Corona is hoping its name recognition carries over into its upcoming seltzer line.
    Corona Hard Seltzer will get a $40 million marketing launch from owner Constellation Brands (STZ). It will come in four flavors: tropical lime, mango, cherry and blackberry lime. A 12-ounce can will have 90 calories, zero carbs and zero sugar.
    Bill Newlands, CEO of Constellation, said in the company’s most recent earnings call that it decided to use the Corona name because it has “unbelievably strong brand equity” with drinkers between the ages of 21 and 54.

    Corona Hard Seltzer rolls out in 2020.
    “The refreshment characteristics of seltzers perfectly match Corona refreshment DNA,” he said. “We believe that seltzers are here to stay.”

      Newlands said that Corona Hard Seltzer will be an “additive to our overall portfolio” and won’t cannibalize Corona’s other beers, including low-carb Corona Premiere. Constellation said that Corona and Modelo continue to be bright spots for the company because sales of its cheap wines are declining.
      — CNN Business’ Danielle Wiener-Bronner contributed to this report.
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      U.S. Stocks Reach New Record Highs As Coronavirus Worries Ease

      Stocks showed a strong move to the upside during trading on Wednesday, adding to the modest gains posted in the previous session. The upward move on the day lifted the major averages to new record closing highs.

      The major averages reached new highs late in the session but gave back some ground going into the close. The Dow jumped 275.08 points or 0.9 percent to 29,551.42, the Nasdaq advanced 87.02 points or 0.9 percent to 9,725.96 and the S&P 500 climbed 21.70 points or 0.7 percent at 3,379.45.

      The rally on Wall Street came as traders seem committed to continuing to push stocks to new record highs despite concerns about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

      While China’s National Health Commission reported 2,015 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 97 additional deaths, a recent slowdown in the rate of growth in new infections has led to optimism the outbreak is being contained.

      With traders consistently shrugging off concerns about the outbreak and a lack of major U.S. economic news to drive the markets, the path of least resistance for stocks still seems to be the upside.

      Traders also kept an eye on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.

      Powell’s prepared remarks mirrored those he delivered before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday.

      In his prepared remarks, Powell said the Fed is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak but also highlighted the resilience of the U.S. economy.

      Sector News

      Energy stocks fluctuated over the course of the session but closed significantly higher amid a sharp increase by the price of crude oil.

      Crude for March delivery jumped $1.23 to $51.17 a barrel despite the release of a report showing a much bigger than expected weekly increase in crude oil inventories.

      Reflecting the strength in the energy sector, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index surged up by 2.2 percent, the NYSE Arca Oil Index jumped by 1.7 percent and the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index rose by 1.2 percent.

      Substantial strength was also visible among computer hardware stocks, as reflected by the 1.9 percent gain posted by the NYSE Arca Computer Hardware Index.

      Semiconductor, telecom and transportation stocks also saw notable strength, while tobacco and gold stocks bucked the uptrend.

      Other Markets

      In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index climbed by 0.7 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index jumped by 0.9 percent.

      The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index advanced by 0.8 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.

      In the bond market, treasuries extended the pullback seen in the previous session. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, rose by 4 basis points to 1.630 percent.

      Looking Ahead

      Trading on Thursday may be impacted by reaction to any coronavirus news as well as the release of reports on consumer price inflation and weekly jobless claims.

      On the earnings front, Applied Materials (AMAT), Cisco (CSCO) and NetApp (NTAP) are among the companies releasing their quarterly results after the close of today’s trading.

      Alibaba (BABA), Kraft Heinz (KHC) and PepsiCo (PEP) are also among the companies due to report their results before the start of trading on Thursday.

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      Is Domino’s Poised to Take Off With Q4 Results Thursday?

      Domino’s Pizza Inc. (NYSE: DPZ) is scheduled to release its fourth-quarter financial results before the markets open on Thursday. The consensus estimates are $2.98 in earnings per share (EPS) and $1.12 billion in revenue. In the same period of last year, it said it had $2.62 in EPS and $1.08 billion in revenue.

      In its third quarter, Domino’s saw its Global retail sales increase 5.8%, or 7.5% without the negative impact of changes in foreign currency exchange rates. This increase was primarily due to an increase in worldwide store counts during the trailing four quarters, as well as U.S. and international same-store sales growth, resulting in higher supply chain and global franchise revenues.

      U.S. same-store sales grew 2.4% from the prior-year quarter, and international same-store sales grew 1.7%.

      At the same time, Domino’s said that the new two-year to three-year outlook calls for global retail sales growth in the range of 7% to 10%, U.S. same-store sales growth of 2% to 5% and international same-store sales growth 1% to 4%.

      Overall, Domino’s stock has underperformed the broad markets with a gain of about 5% in the past 52 weeks. In the past quarter alone, the stock is up closer to 6%.

      A few analysts weighed in on Domino’s ahead of the report:

      • Goldman Sachs has a Buy rating with a $320 price target.
      • Wells Fargo has an Equal Weight rating and a $294 price target.
      • Maxim Group’s Buy rating comes with a $315 price target.
      • Guggenheim has a Buy rating with a $327 price target.
      • Cowen rates it as a Buy with a $325 price target.

      Domino’s stock traded at $297.44 on Wednesday, in a 52-week range of $220.90 to $302.05. The consensus price target is $300.23.

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      Evelo Biosciences (EVLO) Building Momentum

      Evelo Biosciences Inc. (EVLO), which touched $6.82 in early trading, up 23% from the previous day’s close, is one of the top gainers of the day as the Company continues to build on the momentum, with multiple clinical readouts planned across its inflammation and oncology portfolio this year.

      The Company’s lead investigational asset is EDP1815, which is expected to enter into phase II study in mild to moderate psoriasis in the second quarter of 2020, with interim data expected by the end of this year.

      EDP1815 in a new formulation is also under a phase Ib trial in mild to moderate psoriasis and in phase Ib study in mild to moderate atopic dermatitis. Initial clinical data from the two phase Ib trials are expected in the second quarter of 2020.

      Also in the pipeline are:

      — EDP1867, which is expected to move into a phase Ib clinical trial in individuals with asthma in the second half of 2020.

      — EDP1503 in combination with Merck’s KEYTRUDA in phase I/II clinical trial in individuals with microsatellite colorectal cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, or other tumor types who have relapsed on prior PD-1/L1 inhibitor treatment. Additional data from this study is expected in the first half of 2020.

      Recent Quarterly Scorecard:

      Net loss attributable to common stockholders for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2019, widened to $22.6 million or $0.70 per share from $15.44 million or $0.49 per share in the year-ago quarter. No revenue has been generated to date.

      As of December 31, 2019, the Company had cash and cash equivalents of $77.8 million.

      EVLO has traded in a range of $3.58 to $10.09 in the last 1 year. As of this writing, the stock is up 13.38% at $6.27.

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      Google is taking a stand against cookies. But it's not that simple

      London (CNN Business)Europe knows it fell behind the United States and China on the technologies that dominated the past decade. Now it has a plan to catch up.

      On Wednesday, the European Union unveiled plans to create a single market for data that will help its companies compete on the next round of tech innovations and curb the power of data giants such as Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOGL). Officials also released a paper on artificial intelligence, proposing first-of-their-kind rules to govern the technology’s use.
      “Whoever does business [here] needs to respect our rules and values,” Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner leading the charge on tech issues, said at a press conference.

        By leveraging the massive amounts of data generated within its borders, the European Union hopes to foster a fresh wave of development in industries such as transportation and health care, while leveling the playing field for the smaller companies currently unable to compete with large US and Chinese firms.
        “We recognize that we missed the first wave or the first battle,” Commissioner Thierry Breton told reporters. But Europe has the tools required to “win” the next phase, since the region hosts “the strongest and largest industrial base,” he continued.

        Plus, Europe has regulatory teeth. It’s already investigating how Google, Facebook and Amazon (AMZN) use data and has fined Google €8.2 billion ($8.9 billion) since 2017 for antitrust violations. Its data protection rules enacted in 2018 have set a new global standard.
        The European Union also intends to jumpstart a debate on regulating AI. The bloc said that it intends to scrutinize AI applications that are deemed to be high risk in the same way it ensures cars, toys and cosmetics meet certain standards.

        EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks at a press conference following the release of the bloc's strategy on data and a white paper on artificial intelligence.
        The paper stopped short of proposing a temporary ban on facial recognition technology in public spaces. But the European Union did pledge to launch a “broad” debate on what circumstances, if any, justify the use of AI that processes biometric data in public. The paper suggests that companies operating in Europe will need to ensure their AI systems aren’t biased and involve human oversight.
        The announcements come just days after Mark Zuckerberg visited Brussels to meet with EU leaders. The Facebook CEO said he supported increased regulations from governments on data use, privacy and managing content.
        But the question of who is legally accountable for the content posted on tech platforms remains contentious. In a paper released this week, Facebook said it does not support laws that seek to hold platforms liable for content posted by users.
        That could set the company on a collision course with the European Union, which plans to roll out legislation by the end of the year compelling US tech giants to better address issues such as hate speech and election interference.
        “It is very clear that we have the ambition to say you have a responsibility when you are a content provider, one way or another,” Vestager said Wednesday.

          Guntram Wolff, the director of Bruegel, an economic think tank based in Brussels, said the challenge for the European Union will be to move beyond regulation into the industrial policy space. With no spare room in the bloc’s budget, it will need to rely on coordinated action from member states, he said.
          “I have no doubt the European Union can deliver on regulation,” he said. “But I think that’s only part of the story. There is the investment side. There is the enforcement side. There is the entrepreneurship side.” These areas, Wolff said, are “not the traditional strengths of the European Union.”
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          Varney: Trump rallies while Democrats debate, 'nobody's done that before'

          Varney: We’ve never seen a presidency like this

          FOX Business’ Stuart Varney on President Trump’s unique approach to politics and the upcoming Democratic debate which will include billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

          While Democrats debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, President Trump will be holding a rally in Phoenix, Arizona. This is the president’s style—fascinating and gripping, FOX Business’ Stuart Varney argued in his latest “My Take.”

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          We have been told voters have been turned off by politics—Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s speech-ripping didn’t play well—but now, Americans will have the opportunity to watch the presidential election on live TV, Varney said.

          ECONOMY MUCH BETTER UNDER TRUMP THAN OBAMA: ART LAFFER

          “The president is deliberately going head-to-head with his opponents," Varney said. "Nobody’s done that before. He’s putting on a show."

          The combined ratings from the Democratic debate and Trump’s rally will be huge, according to Varney. He added former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg will be making his debate stage debut on the debate stage. Bloomberg will be “in the thick of it” for the first time, Varney noted.

          BLOOMBERG CAMPAIGN ZEROES IN ON SANDERS, CASTS OFF BIDEN

          “As the $60-billion newcomer man, he’s got a target on his back," Varney said. "He has to perform. It’s must-see TV. He can buy his way into the debate, but he can’t buy a winning performance."

          Americans have not seen a presidency like Trump’s before, Varney argued. Trump’s rallies are new in presidential politics. The rallies are made for TV, according to Varney, and the president is a very good television producer.

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          “We’ve never seen a Democratic debate like this [either]," Varney said. "The eight previous debates were restrained, rather boring affairs with steadily declining TV ratings, but tonight, one of the richest men in the world is on the Democratic stage."

          The debate, Varney argued, will be hard not to watch. At 9 p.m. ET, Democrats will debate and President Trump will simultaneously hold a rally. Varney concluded this is must-see TV.

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          Bloomberg called transgender people ‘it’ and ‘some guy wearing a dress’

          Bloomberg remarks ‘taken out of context:’ Pollster Doug Schoen

          Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pollster Doug Schoen discusses Bloomberg’s status in the presidential race.

          As Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has surged in the polls, unearthed videos of controversial statements he’s made in the past have haunted him.

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          In the latest resurfaced video from last spring, the three-time New York City mayor referred to transgender people as “he, she or it” and suggested that Democratic hopefuls could hurt their cause by spending time on the campaign trail addressing the rights of “some guy wearing a dress.”

          Bloomberg made the eyebrow-raising comments during a forum sponsored by the Bermuda Business Development Agency in March 2019. BuzzFeed News first reported the video.

          BLOOMBERG SAYS ‘ENORMOUS COHORT’ OF BLACK AND LATINO MEN ‘DON’T KNOW HOW TO BEHAVE IN THE WORKPLACE’ IN RESURFACED 2011 VIDEO

          “If you go to the middle of the country, people would say, if your conversation during a presidential election is about some guy wearing a dress, and whether he, she or it can go to the locker room with their daughter, that’s not a winning formula for most people,” he said in the video. “They care about health care, they care about education, they care about safety and all those kinds of things.”

          The Republican-turned-Democrat went on to say Democrats are “so far left” and should avoid talking about transgender people while on the campaign trail, suggesting that President Trump won the election in 2016 because of those stances.

          “You can understand where somebody like Trump comes from; you can understand when you look at the Democratic Party, they are so far left that two years ago there was nobody on their side who would take these positions, and today virtually all the candidates for president of the Democratic Party have been so progressive,” he said.

          Bloomberg’s comments sparked a swift condemnation from the president of the Human Rights Campaign, Alphonso David, who urged the 78-year-old billionaire to apologize for “using language that demoralizes and dehumanizes members of our community.”

          “Transgender women aren’t ‘he-she or it,’ they’re women. LGBTQ people are human and deserve to be treated with respect,” David said in a statement.

          TRUMP, BLOOMBERG TWEET WAR HEATS UP AHEAD OF NEVADA DEBATE

          The video emerged the same day that Bloomberg unveiled a new 60-second ad that features fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi touting the ex-mayor as a major proponent of “LBTBQ+” youth.

          “I will always stand with the LGBTQ+ community,” Bloomberg wrote in a tweet accompanying the ad.

          The remarks come just one week after Bloomberg came under fire for two separate resurfaced audio clips that revealed him defending "stop and frisk," the controversial policing strategy that disproportionately targeted men of color, and blaming the end of redlining, a discriminatory policy that cut off certain neighborhoods and potential homebuyers from mortgage lending opportunities, for the financial crisis.

          He’s expected to face fierce criticism from his Democratic rivals at the Wednesday debate in Las Vegas, which he qualified for early Tuesday.

          According to an aggregate of polls by RealClearPolitics, Bloomberg is in third nationally, behind former Vice President Joe Biden and frontrunner Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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          Square Earnings: What to Look for

          Square Inc. (SQ), the financial services company co-founded by Twitter Inc. (TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey, has posted dramatic growth since going public more than four years ago, now boasting a market value of about $35 billion. The stock has rallied more than 30% alone since November, when it announced its first profitable quarter in a year, driven by surging gross payments volume. Investors will closely focus on gross payments volume, which is the total volume of payments the company processes, when Square reports earnings for Q4 2019 after the closing bell on February 26. Analysts expect Square to post the first Q4 profit in its history on rising revenue. 

          In the last 12 months, Square's stock has underperformed the S&P 500 by a wide margin, rising 7.4% compared with the S&P 500, which has gained nearly 21%.

          For Q4, analysts expect Square to post profits for the second straight quarter after reporting quarterly losses in 11 of the 12 quarters between Q3 2016 and Q2 2019. Still, the earnings will be small. Square is expected to post GAAP earnings per share (EPS) of only $0.01 in Q4, which is far less than the $0.06 posted in Q3 2019. Although expectations are lower for Q4, that would mark sequential growth compared to the $0.07 loss reported in Q4 2018.

          Square's quarterly revenue grew 51% from Q4 2017 to Q4 2018 and has continued to grow on an incremental basis in the last three quarters. However, analysts expect this positive trend to slow in Q4 2019, with a 27% year-over-year increase.

          Square Key Metrics
            Estimate for Q4 2019 Actual for Q4 2018 Actual for Q4 2017
          Earnings per share $0.01 -$0.07 -$0.04
          Revenue (in millions) $1,185.0 $932.5 $616.0
          Gross payments volume (in billions) $28.5 $23.0 $17.9

          Source: Visible Alpha

          As competition has heated up across the payments space, an important measure of Square's success is its gross payments volume. This figure grew significantly on an annual basis between Q4 2017 and Q4 2018. During that period, Square witnessed strong stock growth as it enjoyed elite status as a leader in revolutionizing payments and financial services. Now, rivals like PayPal Holdings Inc. (PYPL) as well as established credit card outfits Visa Inc. (V) and Mastercard Inc. (MA) are threatening Square's technological dominance. As a result, investors should look at gross payments volume in the upcoming earnings report to see whether Square has been able to sustain its growth in this area year-over-year.

          Investors should also note that Square has posted its biggest gains in annual gross payment volume on a sequential basis between Q1 and Q2 in previous years. An increase in gross payments volume of almost 19% from Q1 2019 to Q2 2019 is the latest big jump. While analysts expect little growth in gross payments volume in Q4 2019 compared to Q3 2019, current consensus for $28.5 billion would mark a healthy 24% increase over Q3 2018.

          Article Sources

          1. TradingView. "Financial Data,' Accessed Feb 18, 2020.

          2. Visual Alpha. "Visual Alpha," Accessed Feb 18, 2020

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          Amazon MBA hires to come from broader range of schools

          Amazon gets some good news; Wayfair cuts jobs

          Fox Business Briefs: Small win for Amazon as a federal judge agrees to temporarily block Microsoft from beginning work on the Pentagon’s multi-billion dollar cloud computing contract; online retailer Wayfair cuts 550 jobs.

          Amazon is hiring fewer MBA graduates from top colleges and more from a broader range of business schools in an effort to expand its management base, the company said.

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          The tech giant has hired as many as 1,000 employees from about a dozen of the country's most elite business graduate schools in recent years, but that's about to change, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

          JEFF BEZOS COMMITS $10B TO CLIMATE-CHANGE FIGHT

          Ticker Security Last Change Change %
          AMZN AMAZON.COM INC. 2,174.99 +19.32 +0.90%

          "At Amazon, we are excited to offer graduate students the opportunity to launch into big careers with limitless possibilities. We know searching for a full-time role is as much about finding a company where you can picture yourself being successful as it is about finding the right role," the company's website reads.

          AMAZON GETS A WIN AS JUDGE FREEZES WORK ON PENTAGON CONTRACT

          Amazon now plans to hire more than 1,000 MBA employees and interns in 2020 from as many as 80 North American schools in its attempt to find more recruits with a combination of business and tech skills, Amazon spokesperson Jaci Anderson told the Journal.

          Albert Kim, Amazon's student programs in the Americas, told the Journal that the tech giant has "worked hard to scale" its "recruiting efforts" to help the company "engage and assess talent around the world."

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          Amazon employs more than 400,000 U.S. citizens as of October, and all of its hires make a minimum wage of $15-per-hour while some of its software engineers have six-figure salaries.

          As of February 2020, the tech giant is only reviewing MBA applications for its "Retail Leadership Development Program" and openings for a number of "Senior Product Manager of Technical Products" jobs, according to its website.

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