I’ve got to make an early breakfast in the city this morning, so I will keep this note short.
All eyes today are on the Federal Reserve, again, which will do nothing, again. They may hold to the notion that rates are going to rise before the end of the year, again, but that likely will be disrupted by further evidence of economic turbulence, again. For those of us on the outside, it is getting a little tedious.
Inside the marble walls, though, I suspect things have gotten tense. Fed officials are clinging to that flimsy reed known as the Phillips curve, which posits lower unemployment will lead to higher inflation and lies at the core of the Fed’s approach to policy. They can’t let go because they aren’t sure what to grab in its stead. We are in uncharted monetary policy waters, heading on seven years of zero interest rates, and no clear end in sight. There will be financial and economic consequences; we just don’t know yet what they are or when they will appear. Remarkable how hazy the “science” of macroeconomics remains.
More news below. And if you are looking for alternatives to the Fed, check out this story about Barry Silbert’s new effort to fund bitcoin and other blockchain technologies.
• Walgreens to buy Rite Aid
Walgreens Boots Alliance has agreed to pay $9.4 billion to buy smaller rival Rite Aid, as well as assume all of its debt, a deal that will make the combined entity larger than CVS Health. Walgreens is paying $9 per share, a 48% premium to Rite Aid’s closing price on Monday and also far above the trading price of $1 where Rite Aid sat just a few years ago after it was stung with high debt after some pre-financial crisis acquisitions. Fortune
• Twitter investors want results
Shares of Twitter took a dive after the social media company reported dismal user growth and lowered guidance in its third-quarter earnings report. And commentary from CEO Jack Dorsey and two other top executives avoided revealing new details for investors to get excited about regarding a possible turnaround. “We want to balance investment in growth opportunities in front of us, but not invest blindly,” said CFO Anthony Noto. Fortune
• Volkswagen stung by quarterly loss
The German auto maker – hurt by an emissions scandal that led it to book a steep charge – swung to its first quarterly loss in over 15 years in the third quarter. Volkswagen reported underlying operating profit rose at all of its largest brands, including VW and Audi, though it is important to note these figures were helped by the weakness of the euro and not yet hurt by the emissions scandal that broke late in the quarter. Investors were encouraged by Volkswagen’s cash pile: it had $30.7 billion on hand at the end of last month. Fortune
• Apple’s holiday forecast disappoints
Apple can certainly claim to be one of the most consistent tech companies: for 12 straight quarters, it has beat Wall Street expectations. CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday said fiscal 2015 was Apple’s most successful year ever, with revenue jumping 28% to almost $234 billion. But investors were disappointed in a holiday quarter forecast that didn’t blow past expectations. There has been concern that stellar sales of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus last year will be too hard to top this year with new models for those devices. USA Today
• Chinese firms battling for Starwood
The Wall Street Journal has reported at least three large Chinese firms are battling to win Beijing’s approval to bid for Starwood Hotel & Resorts Worldwide, aiming to scoop up a chain that has more than 1,200 properties world-wide. A deal for Starwood wouldn’t exactly be a surprise, as the hotel operator’s board earlier this year said it would be open to a sale amid worries it wasn’t growing as fast as rivals. Because of the size of the deal, the Chinese government wants only one domestic firm to make a bid, WSJ reports, so they don’t drive up the price by placing rival bids. WSJ (subscription required)
Around the Water Cooler
• Apple Pay partners with AmEx
Apple Pay is set to expand into new international markets this year and in 2016 by partnering with American Express to bring the mobile payments service into several nations abroad. Currently available in the U.S. and U.K., the technology lets users upload payment card information and then use their iPhone or Apple watch to pay for purchases at retailers. The AmEx pact helps Apple distance itself from Android Pay. But Apple still lacks two other credit card providers – Visa and MasterCard. Fortune
• Northrop Grumman wins big contract
The Pentagon has awarded a contract worth more than $20 billion to Northrop Grumman to build new long-range bombers for the U.S. Air Force, following the most fiercely fought weapons contest in over a decade, according to the Wall Street Journal. The defense contractor won the bid over Boeing and Lockheed Martin to build the first 21 jets to replace aging planes, and observers believe the contract could eventually be worth $80 billion and provide 100 planes in total. Shares of Northrop Grumman rose on the news, though some observers say Boeing would likely protest the decision. WSJ (subscription required)