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US stock futures inch lower, PCE inflation test looms this week

Investing.com– U.S. stock index futures fell slightly in evening deals on Sunday after fears of high interest rates saw volatile swings on Wall Street, with focus this week turning to key PCE inflation data for more cues on rates. 

Trading volumes were muted ahead of the Memorial Day holiday on Monday.

S&P 500 Futures fell 0.1% to 5,316.25 points, while Nasdaq 100 Futures fell 0.2% to 18,837.50 points by 19:53 ET (23:3 GMT). Dow Jones Futures fell 0.1% to 39,122.0 points. 

PCE inflation awaited for more rate cues

PCE price index data- which is the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge- is due this Friday. 

While the reading is expected to show some cooling in personal spending and consumption, it also comes after a string of warnings from the Fed that sticky inflation will delay any potential interest rate cuts this year. 

These warnings saw investors steadily price out expectations for a rate cut in September, which was initially pegged as the point when the Fed will begin loosening policy. The CME Fedwatch tool now shows investors pricing in a greater chance that the Fed will keep rates steady in September.

Wall Street sees increased volatility near record highs

Wall Street indexes clocked some record highs last week on support from positive earnings, particularly from market darling NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA).

This helped the tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite also clock a record-high close on Friday. It also marked some gains last week. 

But most other stock sectors fell, with the S&P 500 andDow Jones Industrial Average seeing a mixed weekly performance. 

While the S&P ended last week largely flat, the Dow, which is seen as more economically sensitive, fell more than 2%. 

The S&P 500 ended up 0.7% at 5,304.72 points on Friday, while the Nasdaq closed up 1.1% at a record high of 16,920.79 points. The Dow ended flat at 39,069.59 points.

 

Israeli airstrikes kill at least 35 in Rafah, say Gaza authorities; Israel says struck Hamas commander

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) -Israeli air strikes killed at least 35 Palestinians and wounded dozens in an area in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah designated for the displaced, Palestinian health and civil emergency service officials said.

The Israeli military said its air force struck a Hamas compound in Rafah and that the strike was carried out with “precise ammunition and on the basis of precise intelligence.” It took out Hamas’ chief of staff for the West Bank and another senior official behind deadly attacks on Israelis, it said.

“The IDF is aware of reports indicating that as a result of the strike and fire that was ignited several civilians in the area were harmed. The incident is under review.”

The spokesman for the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza, Ashraf Al-Qidra, said 35 people were killed and dozens others, most of them women and children, were wounded in the attack.

The strike took place in Tel Al-Sultan neighborhood in western Rafah, where thousands of people were taking shelter after many fled the eastern areas of the city where Israeli forces began a ground offensive over two weeks ago.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its field hospital in Rafah was receiving an influx of casualties, and that other hospitals also were taking in a large number of patients.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri described the attack in Rafah as a “massacre”, holding the United States responsible for aiding Israel with weapons and money.

“The air strikes burnt the tents, the tents are melting and the people’s bodies are also melting,” said one of the residents who arrived at the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah.

Earlier on Sunday, the Israeli military said eight projectiles were identified crossing from the area of Rafah, the southern tip of the Gaza Strip where Israel kept up operations despite a ruling by the top U.N. court on Friday ordering it to stop attacking the city.

A number of the projectiles were intercepted, it said. There were no reports of casualties.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was convening his war cabinet later on Sunday to discuss continued operations in Rafah. Israel argues that the U.N. court’s ruling allows room for some military action there.

In a statement on its Telegram channel, the Hamas al-Qassam Brigades said the rockets were launched in response to “Zionist massacres against civilians”.

Rafah is located about 100 km (60 miles) south of Tel Aviv.

Israel says it wants to root out Hamas fighters holed up in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area, but its assault has worsened the plight of civilians and caused an international outcry.

On Sunday, Israeli strikes killed at least five Palestinians in Rafah, according to local medical services. The Gaza health ministry identified the dead as civilians.

Israeli tanks have probed around the edges of Rafah, near the crossing point from Gaza into Egypt, and have entered some of its eastern districts, residents say, but have not yet entered the city in force since the start of operations in the city earlier this month.

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said the rockets fired from Rafah “prove that the (Israel Defense Forces) must operate in every place Hamas still operates from”.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant held an operational assessment in Rafah where he was briefed on “troops’ operations above and below the ground, as well as the deepening of operations in additional areas with the aim of dismantling Hamas battalions”, his office said in a statement.

Itamar Ben Gvir, a hardline public security minister who is not part of Israel’s war cabinet, urged the army to hit Rafah harder. “Rafah with full force,” he posted on X.

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry says. Israel launched the operation after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Fighting also continued in the northern Gaza area of Jabaliya, the scene of intense combat earlier in the war. During one raid, the military said it found a weapons storage site with dozens of rocket parts and weapons at a school.

It denied Hamas statements that Palestinian fighters had abducted an Israeli soldier.

Hamas media said an Israeli airstrike on a house in a neighborhood near Jabaliya killed 10 people and wounded others.

TRUCE TALKS

Efforts to agree a halt to the fighting and return more than 120 hostages have been blocked for weeks but there were some signs of movement this weekend following meetings between Israeli and U.S. intelligence officials and Qatar’s prime minister.

An official with knowledge of the matter said a decision had been taken to resume the talks this week based on new proposals from Egyptian and Qatari mediators, and with “active U.S. involvement.”

However, a Hamas official played down the report, telling Reuters: “It is not true.”

Netanyahu’s war cabinet would discuss the new proposals, his office said.

A second Hamas official, Izzat El-Reshiq, said the group had not received anything from the mediators on new dates for resuming talks as had been reported by Israeli media.

Reshiq restated Hamas’s demands, which include: “Ending the aggression completely and permanently, in all of Gaza Strip, not only Rafah”.

While Israel is seeking the return of hostages, Netanyahu has repeatedly said the war will not end until Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, is eliminated.

AID TRUCKS ENTER GAZA

Israel has faced calls to get more aid into Gaza after more than seven months of a war that has caused widespread destruction and hunger in the enclave.

Khaled Zayed of the Egyptian Red Crescent told Reuters 200 trucks of aid, including four fuel trucks, were expected to enter Gaza on Sunday through Kerem Shalom.

It follows an agreement between U.S. President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Friday to temporarily send aid via the Kerem Shalom crossing, bypassing the Rafah crossing that has been blocked for weeks.

Egypt’s state-affiliated Al Qahera News TV shared a video on social media platform X, showing what it said were aid trucks as they entered Kerem Shalom, which before the conflict was the main commercial crossing station between Israel, Egypt and Gaza.

The Rafah crossing has been shut for almost three weeks, since Israel took control of the Palestinian side of the crossing as it stepped up its offensive.

Egypt has been increasingly alarmed at the prospect of large numbers of Palestinians entering its territory from Gaza and has refused to open its side of the Rafah crossing.

Israel has said it is not restricting aid flows and has opened up new crossing points in the north as well as cooperating with the United States, which has built a temporary floating pier for aid deliveries.

 

This indicator suggests the S&P 500 could hit 5800 by end of 2024

The S&P 500 is up more than 11% year-to-date with major brokerage firms on Wall Street raising their price targets in recent days.

Historical data suggests that when the S&P 500 experiences a 10% or more increase over the first 100 days of the year, it tends to continue rising.

The average return for the remainder of such years is 7.1%, with a median of 9.3%, according to Bank of America analysis.

“This equates to SPX 5640 to 5750 into yearend 2024. The average and median rest of year returns for all years going back to 1928 of 5.0% and 7.3%, respectively, point to SPX 5530 to 5650 into yearend,” the report said.

The S&P 500’s performance in the first 100 days of 2024 is particularly important as it occurs during a Presidential election year, which typically sees more modest gains.

Historically, the index is up 63% of the time during such periods, with an average return of -0.9% and a median return of 0.8%.

The 10.4% YTD gain for 2024 ranks as the second-best start in an election year since 1928, which saw a 12.5% increase.

Further strengthening the positive outlook, when the S&P 500 has risen in the first 100 days of a Presidential election year, the rest of the year has followed suit 93% of the time. The average return for these periods is an impressive 10.1%, with a median return of 8.9%.

In terms of the S&P 500, this could translate to a year-end target of 5800 and 5730, respectively.

Overall, historical patterns for all election years show the index up 88% of the time, with average and median returns of 8.8% and 8.5%, indicating a potential range of 5730 to 5700 for the S&P 500 by the close of 2024.

 

Asian stocks edge higher from weekly losses, more rate cues awaited

Investing.com– Most Asian stocks advanced on Monday, recovering some ground from losses seen last week although anticipation of more cues on U.S. inflation and interest rates later this week. 

Regional markets took some positive cues from a strong close on Wall Street on Friday, as gains in technology stocks helped the NASDAQ Composite mark a record-high close.

U.S. stock index futures fell slightly in Asian trade, with volumes expected to remain low with the Memorial Day holiday.

China edges higher, industrial profits improve 

China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes rose about 0.1%, recovering mildly from losses seen last week. 

Data on Monday showed Chinese industrial profits grew at a steady pace in April from the prior month, signaling steady improvement in one of the country’s biggest industries.

But cooling optimism over recent stimulus measures from Beijing kept gains in Chinese markets limited. While the government announced a slew of supportive measures for the economy, particularly the housing market, analysts questioned just how these measures will be executed and funded.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.4% on losses in mainland stocks. 

Asian stocks see limited gains, PCE data awaited 

Gains across most Asian markets were limited, as anticipation of key U.S. inflation data later this week kept investors on edge. 

PCE price index data- the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge- is on tap this Friday, and is expected to factor into the outlook for U.S. rates.

Dwindling expectations of U.S. interest rate cuts were a key weight on Asian stocks last week, as traders largely priced out bets on a cut in September. 

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.3%, as did the broader TOPIX index. Key inflation, retail sales and industrial production data from Japan is also due later this week.

South Korea’s KOSPI added 0.7%, buoyed by some gains in technology stocks. Hype over artificial intelligence, especially after blowout results from AI darling NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA), drove memory chip maker SK Hynix Inc (KS:000660) up 4% to a record high.

China, Japan and South Korea were also seen starting trilateral trade talks. 

Australia’s ASX 200 rose 0.7% as it rebounded from losses last week.

Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a mildly positive open, with the index remaining in sight of recent record highs.

 

Zelenskiy, from ravaged Kharkiv, urges Biden and Xi to join peace summit

By Dan Peleschuk

KYIV (Reuters) -President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed to U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Sunday to attend his peace summit as Ukraine struggles to stave off unrelenting attacks by Russia in its 27-month-old invasion.

Ukraine hopes to host as many countries as possible at Kyiv-led talks in Switzerland next month aimed at uniting global opinion on how to halt the war and piling pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has not been invited.

Zelenskiy spoke in an English-language video recorded in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, inside the charred remains of a printing house that was destroyed on Thursday in a Russian missile strike. He said more than 80 countries would attend.

But it was unclear whether Biden would be there, nor has Beijing, which maintains close ties with Moscow, said whether it would attend.

A U.S. official said on Sunday that the United States will participate in the summit, but declined to say who or at what level.

“I am appealing to the leaders of the world who are still aside from the global efforts of the Global Peace Summit – to President Biden, the leader of the United States, and to President Xi, the leader of China,” said Zelenskiy.

“Please, show your leadership in advancing the peace – the real peace and not just a pause between the strikes,” he said.

Zelenskiy added that the summit would “show who in the world really wants to end the war.”

Kyiv, in its peace plan, calls for a full withdrawal of Russian troops and a restoration of its internationally recognised borders, something Moscow considers a non-starter.

Last week, Russian sources told Reuters that Putin was ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognises the current battlefield lines.

In response, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that the Russian leader was “trying to derail” the Switzerland event because he was “scared of its success.”

“His entourage sends these phony signals of alleged readiness for a cease-fire despite the fact that Russian troops continue to brutally attack Ukraine while their missiles and drones rain down on Ukrainian cities and communities,” he wrote on X.

Russia has previously said it sees no point in Ukraine’s conference.

RUSSIAN ADVANCES

In recent months Moscow’s forces have made slow but steady gains along several parts of the sprawling eastern front and are attempting to push deeper into the northeastern Kharkiv region after a ground incursion launched earlier this month.

The regional capital has been repeatedly hit by Russian bombs and missile strikes, including the attack on the printing house that killed seven and another on a DIY hardware store on Saturday that killed at least 14.

In his video address, Zelenskiy also said that Moscow was gathering troops for new “offensive actions” further northwest of Kharkiv along the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Ukraine’s army chief last week said his forces were preparing for a possible Russian assault on the Sumy region that neighbours Kharkiv.

 

Taiwan president extends goodwill after China drills, US lawmakers arrive

By Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan President Lai Ching-te extended goodwill towards and offered cooperation with China on Sunday following two days of Chinese war games near the island, as a group of U.S. lawmakers arrived in Taipei.

China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, carried out the military drills on Thursday and Friday, calling them “punishment” after Lai’s inauguration speech on Monday which Beijing called another push for the island’s formal independence.

China has repeatedly lambasted Lai as a “separatist”. Lai rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims and says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future. He has repeatedly offered talks but been rebuffed.

Speaking at a meeting of his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the southern city of Tainan, Lai called on China to “share the heavy responsibility of regional stability with Taiwan”, according to comments provided by his party.

Lai, who won election in January, said he also “looked forward to enhancing mutual understanding and reconciliation with China via exchanges and cooperation, creating mutual benefit and moving towards a position of peace and common prosperity”.

He thanked the United States and other countries for their expressions of concern about the Chinese exercises.

“The international community will not accept any country creating waves in the Taiwan Strait and affecting regional stability,” Lai added.

The first group of U.S. lawmakers to visit Taiwan since Lai took office arrived on the island on Sunday for a four-day visit, led by Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

McCaul, joined by a bipartisan group of five other lawmakers, will meet Lai on Monday morning to “exchange views on peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific”, Taiwan’s presidential office said.

“Taiwan is a thriving democracy. The U.S. will continue to stand by our steadfast partner and work to maintain the status quo across the Taiwan Strait,” McCaul said in a statement.

Taiwan’s government has condemned China’s war games.

Over the past four years, China has staged regular military activities around Taiwan as it seeks to pressure the island’s government.

On Sunday, Taiwan’s defence ministry said the garrison on Erdan islet, part of the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen islands that sit next to China’s Xiamen and Quanzhou cities, had discovered a “crude” cardboard box containing paper with political slogans on it, written in the simplified Chinese characters used in China.

The ministry said the box was suspected of being dropped by a drone outside the line of sight, adding, “It is a typical cognitive operation trick.”

In 2022, Taiwan shot down a drone off Kinmen after complaining of days of harassment.

China’s defence ministry did not answer calls outside of office hours.

China’s military has kept up a barrage of propaganda videos and animations directed at Taiwan since the exercises began.

Its Eastern Theatre Command, which ran the drills, showed a video on Sunday of rockets firing in what it referred to in English as “cross-strait lethality”.

 

Macron heads to Germany in first French presidential state visit in 24 years

By Michel Rose and Sarah Marsh

PARIS/BERLIN (Reuters) -French President Emmanuel Macron landed in Germany on Sunday for a three-day state visit followed by a bilateral cabinet meeting as the European Union’s two biggest powers seek to show unity ahead of next month’s EU parliamentary elections.

Macron’s trip to the capital Berlin, Dresden in the east and Muenster in the west is the first French presidential state visit to Germany in 24 years.

The visit will be watched as a checkup on the health of the German-French relationship that drives EU policymaking, at a time of major challenges for Europe – from the Ukraine war to the possible election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in November.

“This state visit comes at a key moment for Europe,” Macron said, pointing to the war in Ukraine among other challenges. “We have to face an imperialist desire in Europe … this supposes boosting the Franco-German relationship,” he told journalists after he was received by his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the presidential palace, Schloss Bellevu.

Steinmeier, who holds a largely ceremonial role, said Germany and France can get through the geopolitical challenges Europe is facing, such as Russia’s war in Ukraine, the war in Gaza, and the U.S. presidential election if the two countries work together.

Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have very different leadership styles and have publicly clashed on issues from defence to nuclear energy since the latter took power in late 2021. However, they have reached compromises on various fronts of late, from fiscal reform to changes to power market subsidies, allowing the EU to strike deals, and put on a more united front.

“There are tensions in the German-French relationship but in part precisely because they have dealt with some difficult topics,” said Yann Wernert at the Jacques Delors Institute in Berlin, noting the two countries had also converged on the need to expand the EU eastwards.

The visit is “an attempt at the highest political level to demonstrate that the relationship is working,” said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at the Eurasia Group think tank. “But there are still fundamental gaps on major questions that are looming over the EU.”

One key such gap is on European defence, in particular if Trump wins the Nov. 5 U.S. presidential election. Defence experts view him as a much less predictably reliable ally for Europe than his Democratic rival, President Joe Biden.

Earlier this year the Republican former president not only said he would not protect NATO members from a future attack by Russia if those countries’ contributions to the defence alliance were lagging, but that he would encourage Russia “to do whatever the hell they want.”

France, which has nuclear weapons, has pushed for a more self-reliant Europe on defence matters and has been aggrieved by Germany’s decision to buy mostly American gear for its European Sky Shield Initiative air defence umbrella.

Germany says there is no credible alternative to the U.S. military umbrella and that Europe does not have time to wait for a homegrown defence industry to be prepared for threats such as Russian hostility.

POMP AND BUSINESS

After meeting Steinmeier, Macron, accompanied on his trip by his wife Brigitte, will walk through the landmark Brandenburg Gate with the city’s mayor, Kai Wegner.

On Monday, he will head to Dresden, where he will make a speech in front of the Frauenkirche which was destroyed by Western allies during the Second World War, before heading on Tuesday to Muenster.

But perhaps the most significant part of his trip will be the cabinet meeting on Tuesday in Meseberg, just outside Berlin, where the two governments will then get down to business seeking to find common ground on the two main issues they have struggled to see eye-to-eye on, namely defence and competitiveness.

The two countries will also try to find common ground on the EU agenda for the next five years, in view of the expected strong showing for the far-right in the parliamentary elections on June 6-9, making EU decision-making more difficult.

Rahman said the EU would have a clear window to push forward with more ambitious plans – between the parliamentary elections and establishment of the new leadership, and next summer before the German elections. This would be especially important if Trump won the election, he said.

 

Trump booed and heckled by raucous crowd at Libertarian convention

(Please note language in paragraph 18 that readers may find offensive)

By Tim Reid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Presidential candidate Donald Trump was booed and heckled by many in a raucous audience at the Libertarian National Convention on Saturday night, a marked change from the adulation he receives at rallies from his fervently loyal supporters.

Libertarians, who believe in limited government and individual freedom, blame Trump, a Republican, for rushing through the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine when he was president and for not doing more to stop public health restrictions on the unvaccinated during the pandemic.

When Trump took to the stage in Washington, there were loud boos and jeers. A smaller section of the crowd, Trump supporters, cheered him.

Shortly before he appeared, one Libertarian Party member shouted: “Donald Trump should have taken a bullet!”

Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the hostile reception.

Trump, who was president between 2017 and 2021, immediately mentioned the total 88 felony charges he faces in four federal and state prosecutions.

“If I wasn’t a libertarian I am now,” he said. He denounced the administration of President Joe Biden, his challenger in the Nov. 5 election rematch, and Biden’s fellow Democrats as being part of a “rise in left-wing fascism”.

Trump was trying to appeal to libertarians, who have more in common with Republican policy positions than Democrats on issues including taxes and the size of government, in what is expected to be a closely fought election.

He added: “We should not be fighting each other.” He asked libertarians to work with him to defeat Biden, an appeal which was greeted by many boos, although the vast majority in the crowd were fiercely opposed to Biden and his administration.

Libertarians garnered only 1.2% of the national vote in 2020, or about 1.8 million votes, but November’s election could be decided by just tens of thousands of votes in a handful of battleground states, so Trump is seeking to peel away some libertarian support.

Trump’s appearance at the libertarian gathering, unusual for a Republican White House candidate, also signaled how seriously he and his campaign take the threat of third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has long opposed vaccines and mandates, and who spoke to the convention on Friday.

Trump has been ramping up attacks on Kennedy, who is running as an independent, recently calling him a “fake” anti-vaccination proponent.

Opinion polls suggest Kennedy will siphon votes away from both Trump and Biden, but it is not yet clear which of the major-party candidates will be hurt more by Kennedy’s long-shot White House bid.

Libertarian Party organizers said Biden was also invited to speak to the convention but he declined to attend.

“The Libertarian Party can make a big difference. If we unite we will be unstoppable,” Trump said to a mix of applause and jeers.

Trump said he was a “libertarian without even trying to be one,” and that the Libertarian Party should endorse him, another line greeted by boos and jeers.

Undeterred, Trump poked fun at the crowd, saying if they did not back him, they would continue to garner just a tiny portion of voter support in national elections.

He pledged to put a libertarian in his cabinet if he wins the election, which was met by cries of “bullshit!”

Trump did get huge applause for one promise. A rallying cry for libertarians is the case of Ross Ulbricht, who is serving a life sentence for creating and operating the website Silk Road, which allowed users to secretly buy and sell drugs and other illegal products.

Libertarians believe Ulbricht’s 2015 sentence represents government and judicial overreach. In front of a crowd holding “Free Ross” signs, Trump promised to commute Ulbricht’s sentence if he wins back the White House.

 

Street calls of the week: Upgrades for Micron, Magnite and GoodRx Holdings

Investing.com — Here is your Pro Recap of the top takeaways from Wall Street analysts for the past week: upgrades for Micron, Magnite and GoodRx Holdings; downgrade for Him Hers Health.

InvestingPro subscribers always get first dibs on market-moving rating changes.

Micron

What happened? On Monday, Morgan Stanley upgraded Micron (NASDAQ:MU) to Equalweight with a $130 price target

What’s the full story? Morgan Stanley acknowledges that maintaining a negative stance on Micron for an extended period was a misstep. While they are not yet optimistic, they concede that they should have anticipated the fundamental and narrative implications of the strength in AI specialty memory.

Three key errors were made by the research team according to their research report. First, they placed too much emphasis on recent losses. When they initially became pessimistic about MU two years ago, they predicted significant cash burn, financial losses, and a substantial erosion of book value. When losses turned out to be quite large – $7.1 billion of GAAP over a five-quarter downturn leading to a 14% reduction in book value – they expected this to have a greater impact on valuation than it did.

Second, Morgan Stanley underestimated the significance of High Bandwidth (NASDAQ:BAND) Memory (HBM) to the narrative. HBM has emerged as a critical technology for AI, and while Micron is just now beginning to reap the benefits of this, having missed the HBM3 phase of the market, they have a robust 3e product that will firmly place them in second place. This was known six months ago, and despite some concerns that current wafer commitments are too high, this still propelled Micron directly into the winners’ camp during a phase when proximity to AI drove most of the alpha generation in the space.

Third, the bank wrote they underestimated the importance of HBM in turning around the base business. While they believe their Total Addressable Market (TAM) analysis of HBM remains reasonable, they are now seeing Trendforce project 15% of wafer starts going to HBM by 4Q24, and Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) suggesting they are already at 20%. This is too high, at least relative to the consumption suggested by even the NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) bull case, but the impact on non-HBM is having more of a negative impact on industry supply than they had anticipated.

With these factors driving near-term fundamentals – they could see a positive preannouncement in upcoming conferences – and a positive view on AI semis, Morgan Stanley is moving to Equalweight on MU

Equalweight at Morgan Stanley means “The stock’s total return is expected to be in line with the average total return of the analyst’s industry (or industry team’s) coverage universe, on a risk-adjusted basis, over the next 12-18 months. “

How did the stock react? Micron opened the regular session at $127.30 and closed at $129.00, a gain of 2.96% from the prior day regular close.

Penn Entertainment

What happened? On Tuesday (actually Monday after-hours), Raymond James started new coverage on PENN Entertainment (NASDAQ:PENN) at Outperform with a $20 price target.

What’s the full story? The first quarter of this year presented a challenging environment for PENN, characterized by several factors. These include weakness in the land-based business, primarily influenced by weather conditions, higher-than-expected losses in the digital sector, and a significant selloff due to management-related issues.

Despite these setbacks, the core land-based gaming business remains relatively robust. In 2023, PENN achieved record revenue and EBITDAR (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, Amortization, and Rent) levels. Furthermore, there is an anticipated improvement in EBITDAR throughout 2024. However, it’s important to note that the stock’s performance continues to be impacted by the company’s interactive business, which has accumulated significant EBITDA losses.

Raymond James’ positive stance on PENN’s stock is not solely based on the belief that ESPN BET (the interactive business) will capture a significant market share or generate positive EBITDA in the near term. Instead, the brokerage recognizes that PENN stock can still perform well to a certain extent. Specifically, Raymond James believes that the market is undervaluing the digital business, attributing negative equity value to it. Additionally, the fair value for the land-based business is estimated to be north of $20 per share.

It’s worth noting that PENN shares have not traded at this price level since May 2020, a period when all casinos in the United States were closed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges posed by PENN’s interactive strategy and an over-leveraged balance sheet, Raymond James identifies value in the land-based operations. The brokerage contends that current market conditions may not fully reflect this underlying value.

Outperform at Raymond James means “The security is expected to appreciate or outperform the S&P 500 over the next 12-18 months.”

How did the stock react? Penn Entertainment opened the regular session at $16.39 and closed at $16.41 a gain of 0.86% from the prior day regular close.

Him Hers Health

What happened? On Wednesday, Citi downgraded Hims Hers Health Inc (NYSE:HIMS) to Neutral with a $20 price target.

What’s the full story? Citi has expressed encouragement by HIMS’ thoughtful approach to their new program, which was initially a cause for concern due to potential regulatory and legal risks. The bank is convinced that HIMS is operating above-board, partnering with a large 340B manufacturer that is directly producing Semaglutide, using API, processes, and expedients very similar to Novo. According to management, the production of Semaglutide is relatively straightforward, and HIMS’ manufacturing partner should be able to produce enough product to meet what is expected to be significant demand, as there seems to be no shortage of API.

However, with the stock up 20% since the announcement, HIMS has effectively added approximately $760M of enterprise value on limited new information, leaving little room for upside, in Citi’s view. As a result, the bank is downgrading HIMS from Buy/High Risk to Neutral/High Risk as they await further detail on GLP-1 economics and durability. Despite the downgrade, Citi remains attentive to HIMS’ future moves and potential in the market.

Neutral at Citi means “For stocks rated Neutral (2), if an analyst believes that there are insufficient valuation drivers and/or investment catalysts to derive a positive or negative investment view, they may elect with the approval of Citi Research management not to assign a target price and, thus, not derive an ETR.”

How did the stock react? Hims & Hims Health opened the regular session at $16.90 and closed at $16.17, a lost of 7.84% from the prior day regular close.

GoodRx Holdings

What happened? On Thursday, RBC Capital upgraded Goodrx Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:GDRX) to Outperform with a $10 price target.

What’s the full story? GDRX’s recent ISP and DC initiatives, along with the continued scaling of its MfgSolns business, provide it with several new and meaningful growth opportunities. These initiatives also enhance the durability of its core Rx transaction business. Much of the required upfront selling/contracting is now complete—GDRX has signed five PBMs and seven top-10 pharmacies. The ramping of these provides GDRX with a good line-of-sight on a 3-year mid-teens+ EBITDA CAGR.

RBC Capital believes that execution here will help re-rate GDRX’s current 10x ’25 EBITDA valuation to something more in line with its growth rate and 14x peer average. The analysts have raised the price target to $10, up from $8.

Outperform at RBC Capital means “Expected to materially outperform sector average over 12 months.”

How did the stock react? GoodRx Holdings opened the regular session at $7.74 and closed at $7.24, a gain of 0.56% from the prior day regular close.

Magnite Inc.

What happened? On Friday, BofA Securities upgraded Magnite (NASDAQ:MGNI) to Buy with a $15 price target.

What’s the full story? RBC’s upgrade of MGNI is bolstered by the firm’s heightened assurance in MGNI’s trajectory to ascend as the premier supply-side technology solution in CTV advertising—a sector anticipated to grow at a mid-teens rate over the medium term. This optimism is rooted in the industry’s shift toward more automated, or programmatic, ad execution—a niche where MGNI excels. The company is increasingly recognized as the preferred ad tech collaborator for both buy-side entities, such as agencies and DSPs, and sell-side participants like publishers. This is largely due to its leading-edge programmatic technology, which has been underscored by its recent exclusive partnerships with industry giants Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and MediaOcean.

The analysts highlight MGNI’s unique product mix that marries an ad server with an SSP, establishing it as a pivotal hub for publishers’ programmatic frameworks regardless of the purchasing pathway. This integration renders MGNI significantly less susceptible to disintermediation compared to standalone SSPs. Furthermore, insights from Disney and Paramount indicate that the move toward programmatic methods is progressing swiftly, with projections of reaching approximately 50% by the end of 2024 within premium streaming services. This trend underpins a narrative of sustained market share growth for MGNI, as viewed by the analysts at RBC Capital.

Buy at BofA means “Buy stocks are expected to have a total return of at least 10% and are the most attractive stocks in the coverage cluster.”

How did the stock react? Magnite opened the regular session at $12.03 and closed at $12.57, a gain of 13.55% from the prior day regular close.

 

5 big analyst AI moves: iPhone demand at a turning point amid AI-driven supercycle

Investing.com — Here are the biggest analyst moves in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) for this week.

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iPhone ‘turning the corner with AI-driven supercycle’ – Wedbush

Wedbush analysts said recent Asia supply chain checks indicate stabilization for Apple’s iPhone, which has been grappling with a slowdown in sales for months.

In their note, the investment firm raised its price target for Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock from $250 to $275, noting that the stabilization is a very positive sign as the company approaches a significant iPhone 16 upgrade cycle.

Specifically, iPhone demand is “turning the corner into an AI-driven iPhone 16 supercycle,” which is now on the horizon, wrote Wedbush.

“We believe AI technology being introduced into the Apple ecosystem will bring ample monetization opportunities on both the services as well as iPhone/hardware front and adds $30 to $40 per share to the Cupertino growth story as the vision starts to play out within the golden installed base of 2.2 billion iOS devices.”

Wedbush said its recent checks in Taiwan imply that April results for Apple’s supply chain were 2% ahead of historical linearity, while consensus remained unchanged.

“Outperforming during April was perhaps helped by inventory build ahead of China’s holidays in May and June, though analysts have also seen a slight lift in Chinese handset build projections for the June quarter,” says the firm.

Wedbush also expects Apple to lay the foundation for an AI App Store at the WWDC event in June, leading to significant Services growth over the coming years.

Microsoft to shape wider GenAI adoption – Goldman Sachs

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) continues to lead in democratizing Gen-AI adoption, Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note this week, commending the company’s innovations across the tech stack following the Build event.

Goldman highlighted that Microsoft’s extensive offerings for both businesses and consumers position the company “to define how AI evolves into a more broadly used technology.”

Over the last 18 months, Microsoft has expanded its early innovations, putting a greater emphasis on cost efficiency from infrastructure to applications and hardware.

Analysts believe that the Windows maker is laying the foundational components to ensure the long-term relevance of new technologies.

“For this reason, the company’s announcements – from Copilot extensions, to the distillment of foundation models and AI-enabled PCs – we expect Microsoft to be able to sustain its first-mover advantage to continue to be a dominant player in the age of Gen-AI,” analysts wrote.

Morgan Stanley upgrades Micron stock, says staying negative was ‘a mistake’

In a note to clients released Monday, analysts at Morgan Stanley raised their rating on Micron (NASDAQ:MU) shares, hinting that the memory chipmaker could issue “a positive preannouncement” this quarter.

The Wall Street firm upgraded MU stock from Underweight to Equal Weight, acknowledging that they had overestimated the impact of significant losses in 2023 on the company’s valuation and underestimated the economic and narrative aspects of AI memory.

“Remaining negative for too long on MU was a mistake. We still are not positive, but we should have foreseen the fundamental and narrative implications of the strength in AI specialty memory,” analysts wrote.

The analysts also raised their 12-month target price for the stock from $98 to $130.

“We still see MU as fundamentally overvalued on long term DCF metrics But HBM continues to drive sentiment from memory buyers, leading to sustained pricing strength; could see positive preannouncement this quarter HBM supply may prove excessive in the end but we are still in ramp phase.”

Nvidia has ANET in its sights with its AI-optimized Ethernet solution – Rosenblatt

Last month, analysts at Rosenblatt Securities downgraded shares of Arista Networks (NYSE:ANET) to Sell, voicing concerns that Nvidia would emerge as a key Ethernet competitor to the networking company.

Although Arista recently said it still does not view NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) as a direct threat, analysts at Rosenblatt believe that the AI chipmaker has established itself as a significant Ethernet player during its latest earnings call.

“Nvidia began shipping Spectrum X Ethernet Networking in 1Q25. The solution is optimized for AI and, like Infiniband, is designed for the network to be a key part of the AI compute fabric,” analysts wrote.

“This is fundamentally different from what networks have been asked to do in the past, likely providing Nvidia with performance and competitive advantages over network-centric Ethernet players like ANET and Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO),” they added.

Moreover, Rosenblatt said that Spectrum-X, Nvidia’s advanced networking platform designed to enhance data center performance for AI workloads, continues to gain traction with multiple customers, including a 100,000 GPU cluster.

The investment firm anticipates that this platform will evolve into a multibillion-dollar product line within a year.

AI PC war seen as positive for ARM, says BofA

Bank of America this week discussed the implications of the AI PC war on chipmakers, pointing out potential positive outcomes for some companies.

To be specific, the bank’s analysts see benefits for Arm Holdings ADR (NASDAQ:ARM), while the implications are neutral for Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and AMD (NASDAQ:AMD).

They explained that combining new ARM-based CPUs with greater power efficiency and high NPU TOPS count, along with new Windows software specifically optimized for ARM, Microsoft claims their new Copilot+ PCs are 58% faster than the current ARM-based MacBook Air and significantly more power efficient than Intel and AMD-based PCs.

“While next iterations of Intel/AMD processors should catch up in AI/NPU performance, we flag increased competition for PC CPUs overall, with Arm expected to take share (12% unit share in CY26E vs. just 2% in CY20) from x86 incumbents INTC/AMD,” analysts wrote.

“Still, we expect AI PCs to carry ~10% ASP upliſt, or 20% upliſt for core component (like CPUs) vendors, offsetting some of the share loss.”