U.S. stock futures are marginally higher in early morning trading today. This comes after indications of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive plan to reel in surging inflation. After all, yesterday’s readout of the Fed’s latest policy-setting session points toward a rapid reduction in the central bank’s $9 trillion balance sheet. While policymakers have yet to decide on a date, some are already speculating that the process could begin in May 2022.
Commenting on this is U.S. Bank’s (NYSE: USB) SVP, Lisa Erickson. She says, “When those minutes were actually released this afternoon, I think what you really saw was the solidification around the news that the Fed is very intent on combating inflation.” Nonetheless, as investors continue to navigate the choppiness in markets, there remains plenty of stock market news to consider today. As of 6:27 a.m. ET, the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq futures are trading higher by 0.08%, 0.27%, and 0.50% respectively.
HP Jumps Following News Of Berkshire Hathaway Stake In Company
In the news today, we have HP (NYSE: HPQ), a multinational IT company. Through its vast array of tech offerings, the company provides organizations with cutting-edge hardware and software. All of which serve to improve office environments across the board. More importantly, HP is likely coming into focus today thanks to news of a new shareholder. Namely, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A) now holds an outstanding 121 million shares of HP. This information comes from Berkshire’s latest filings with the U.S. SEC.
For a sense of scale, the current round of investments adds up to a whopping 11.4% stake in HP. As of Wednesday’s closing price of $34.91, this translates to a $4.2 billion position in the office tech goliath. Safe to say, Buffett seems to be keen on this long-standing name in the tech scene. This news comes just after a month since Berkshire’s annual shareholder letter. In which Buffett noted that there were few firms that excite Berkshire in equity markets at the time. Despite all this, it is not that hard to see why the Oracle of Omaha is making this move.
To point out, HP’s services, like it or not, will likely remain relevant. Even as the gradual return to offices takes place, businesses will still rely on HP’s personal computing and printing solutions. Not to mention, the company is actively anticipating a long-term adoption of hybrid work trends. As of last week, HP is buying Poly (NYSE: POLY), an office headset developer, for $3.3 billion. On top of its forward-facing strategy, HP also offers a sizable quarterly dividend of $0.25 per share. This adds up to an annual yield of about 2.86%. As such, it is understandable why investors are eyeing HPQ stock today.
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Levi Strauss Beats Estimates At Top And Bottom Lines Thanks To Strong Denim Pricing Power
Meanwhile, leading denim retailer Levi Strauss (NYSE: LEVI) is coming into focus today as well. For the most part, the company’s latest financial release is likely the cause of all this. Diving in, Levi posted solid results across the board for its fiscal first quarter. Notably, the company is looking at earnings of $0.46 on revenue of $1.59 billion. To put things into perspective, this is above Wall Street’s estimates of $0.42 and $1.55 billion respectively. Because of these commendable results, the company is reaffirming its current annual guidance.
Weighing in on Levi’s current momentum is CEO Chip Bergh. He says, “We started the year with strong consumer demand and solid momentum across geographies, channels, and categories.” Bergh continues, “Our teams’ disciplined execution of our strategic priorities enabled us to deliver strong top and bottom-line growth as we capitalize on structural tailwinds and successfully manage a dynamic operating environment. The strength of our brands and strategy position us to deliver sustainable growth well into the future.” Overall, it seems that Levi is efficiently navigating the current uncertainty in global economies now.
Moreover, the company also notes that consumers are willing to purchase its denim offerings even at higher price points. Levi highlight’s its 35% year-over-year increase in global direct-to-consumer sales as evidence of this. As it stands, the company is eyeing an annual earnings per share of between $1.50 to $1.56. This would be in line with consensus projections of $1.54. Looking forward, CFO Harmit Singh notes that Levi is still seeing persisting demand in March. The likes of which it believes could continue throughout 2022. With all this in mind, investors may be considering LEVI stock at today’s market open.
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Walgreens Grows On-Site Medical-Care Services Towards Massive California Markets
Walgreens (NASDAQ: WBA) remains hard at work on expanding the range of services now. Accordingly, the retail pharmacy chain operator is looking to bring medical consultation solutions to more of its locations. In detail, this will see more of its Health Corner (HC) branch of services opening in Los Angeles and San Francisco. For those uninitiated, HC is essentially a section in Walgreens stores where medical professionals consult customers. Through this, said customers can access procedure scheduling and screenings for certain conditions. According to Walgreens, this expansion is to cover “health-care deserts,” where fewer doctors are operating.
While it may not be a complete substitution for hospitals, HC mainly caters to patients with chronic conditions. To point out, the HC expansion is also part of Walgreens’ current partnership with Blue Shield of California, a health insurer. So far, the company has already opened 12 HC locations in California. By the middle of 2022, it hopes to grow this figure to 20. At the same time, Walgreens is actively working with Clover Health (NASDAQ: CLOV) to open 100 HC locations in New Jersey by the end of the year. All in all, the company is seemingly teaming up with health insurers nationwide as it looks to maintain its current operational momentum post-pandemic. The real question now is whether this means long-term gains for WBA stock moving forward.
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On the tech front, Meta Platforms (NASDAQ: FB) is reportedly looking to expand into the fintech space. In essence, a report from the Financial Times (FT) suggests that Meta is considering to make a virtual currency. According to the report, employees are currently referring to it as ‘Zuck Bucks’. While most immediately assume that this will be another type of cryptocurrency, FT notes that the Facebook parent company is taking another route with Zuck Bucks.
To quote the article, “Meta is leaning towards introducing in-app tokens that would be centrally controlled by the company, similar to those used in gaming apps.” This would be similar to the ‘Robux’ currency used in Roblox’s (NYSE: RBLX) main gaming platform. In theory, Meta could be looking to achieve the similar success Roblox is seeing with Robux via its in-game economy. As a result of this, investors could be tuning in to FB stock in the stock market now.
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