News Update

2022 hasn't been good for stocks. But the Biden market is still up 18%

A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here. You can listen to an audio version of the newsletter by clicking the same link.
The answer is pretty darn good. The S&P 500 has increased nearly 18% since Biden took office on January 20, 2021, hitting a slew of new record highs along the way. The Dow Jones industrial average is up more than 12%.
The Nasdaq’s performance has been less spectacular, especially in recent weeks, when rising bond yields helped push the index into a correction. Still, the tech-heavy index has gained over 6% since Biden took office.
Other indexes have also had a rough start to 2022. The S&P 500 and the Dow have both lost more than 4% so far this year.
Big picture: The strong first year of the Biden era adds to a run of market success under Democratic presidents — despite concerns about higher taxes.
How does Biden’s first year compare to that of former President Trump? The S&P 500 increased by nearly 24% in the first year of Trump’s presidency. The gains had reached 67% by the time he left office.
The economy has also made significant progress in some areas under Biden.
The unemployment rate, for example, dropped from 6.4% in January 2021 to 3.9% in December. Biden pushed Congress to approve his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which included big stimulus checks, help for the unemployed and aid for small businesses.
He also signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law, producing a bipartisan victory that unlocked billions for roads, ports and other projects.
But then there’s inflation, which soared to 7% in the final month of 2021, the highest level in nearly four decades.
The Fed is in a high-stakes race to catch up to inflationThe Fed is in a high-stakes race to catch up to inflation
Biden acknowledged Americans are struggling with the high cost of living during a press conference on Wednesday, throwing his weight behind the Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight rising prices.
“We need to get inflation under control,” Biden said.
“The critical job of making sure elevated prices don’t become entrenched rests with the Federal Reserve, which has a dual mandate: full employment and stable prices,” he added.
Biden noted that Americans are seeing rapid price increases at grocery stores, at the gas pumps and elsewhere.
“Given the strength of our economy and pace of recent price increases, it’s appropriate … as Fed Chairman Powell has indicated, to recalibrate the support that is now necessary,” he said.
What is the Fed planning, exactly? Tune back in next week, when the central bank is expected to hike interest rates at its February meeting.

China tries to avoid a major slowdown

China keeps slashing lending rates as authorities ramp up their efforts to stave off a sharp economic slowdown.
The People’s Bank of China on Thursday cut its one-year loan prime rate by 10 basis points to 3.7%, the second cut to the rate in a month, reports my CNN Business colleague Laura He.
The central bank also trimmed its five-year loan prime rate by five basis points to 4.6%, the first cut to that rate since April 2020.
China’s loan prime rate is the rate at which commercial banks lend to their best customers, and it serves as the benchmark rate for other loans. The five-year one, meanwhile, usually serves as a reference for mortgages.
The central bank’s decision to cut both rates is the latest in a series of steps that China has taken to loosen monetary policy, as authorities contend with a deepening slump in the real estate market and slowing economic growth.
The fear: China’s GDP expanded 8.1% in 2021, but the pace slumped in the final quarter. Analysts expect the country to struggle even more this year, as it tries to avoid coronavirus outbreaks with its strict zero-Covid policy, and as the property crisis continues to fester.
Warning the West: Even Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Western central banks earlier this week to avoid hiking interest rates too fast to fight inflation, as his country’s policies head in the opposite direction.

Why Netflix is raising prices

Netflix (NFLX) reports fourth quarter earnings on Thursday and all eyes will be on the streamer’s subscriber growth. But there’s also something new for investors and industry observers to wonder about: Netflix raising its prices.
The company boosted prices on Friday, a move that raised its stock price and eyebrows across the streaming world as well as the question, “why?”
“They clearly believe they still have the pricing power to do so and that they provide an exceptional value for the money,” Andrew Hare, a senior vice president of research at media consulting firm Magid, told CNN Business.
Hare believes Netflix sees that the US and Canadian markets are maturing and it’s trying to generate more revenue per user.
“Pressure is on to drive overall growth, generate positive cash flow, all while keeping up with rising product costs and competition,” he said. “Raising prices is just one lever they can continue to pull right now, though I’m not sure for how much longer.”
But as my CNN Business colleague Frank Pallotta reports, even modest price increases may be too much for consumers considering the influx of services in recent years from Disney+ to Peacock to HBO Max (which is owned by CNN parent’s company, WarnerMedia).
Still, as goes Netflix so goes the rest of streaming. That means the price hike could give its rivals room to raise their own prices at some point.
American Airlines, Baker Hughes, Travelers and Union Pacific report earnings before the opening bell. Netflix is up after the close.
Also today:
  • US jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET
  • US existing home sales at 10:00 a.m. ET
Coming tomorrow: Earnings from Schlumberger.

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