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Cramer calls this stock market ‘the most speculative’ he’s ever seen

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Jim Cramer

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Tuesday that some of the stock gains in the market are “insane,” with investors recently buying certain names from Tesla to Royal Caribbean seemingly without regard for fundamentals or the state of the coronavirus pandemic and holding onto them.

“Where are the profit takers” after these dizzying moves higher? the “Mad Money” host asked.

Cramer called the current environment “the most speculative market I’ve ever seen,” hitting on a recent theme in which he’s been dumbfounded by the kinds of moves in so-called Robinhood stocks, names being gobbled up on the online trading platform favored by younger investors.

“You can’t lose in that market,” he said, adding “it’s like a slot machine” that always pays out. “I’ve not seen this in my career,” stressed Cramer, who came to Wall Street in the mid-1980s after joining Goldman Sachs and later became a hedge-fund manager before becoming a financial journalist.

Cramer questioned how this type of buying can continue, pointing out that in the past such speculation has been met with a big sell-off. However, he pointed out that such a downturn has not happened yet despite coronavirus cases in the U.S. and around the world hitting record after record, which could threaten the nascent economic recovery from the depths of the pandemic in the spring.

In the case of Tesla, Cramer called it a technology company not just an automaker. He said that Tesla’s more than 500% gain this year alone could not be justified any other way.

Cramer has been a fan of Tesla for a while, even buying one of the electric vehicles. “These are ridiculous” moves, he said but added it’s not 1999, referring to the dotcom bubble that later burst. “Investors just like Tesla,” he argued. The strong move in Tesla shares Tuesday pushed the company to a $500 billion stock market value.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened about 300 points higher Tuesday, with the Trump administration approving Joe Biden‘s transition and the president-elect set to pick former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary. A day earlier, the Dow soared 327 points after AstraZeneca and Oxford said their Covid-19 vaccine was up to 90% effective, in a third straight Monday of encouraging late-stage trial data.

Tuesday’s trading featured so-called reopening stocks like airlines and cruise lines getting another boost. Tech stocks — seen as beneficiaries of the pandemic stay-at-home economy, which would abate in a post-vaccine world — were steady after a rough Monday that put a cap on the Nasdaq’s gains.


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American Airlines surges after better-than-expected earnings, squeezing short sellers

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An American Airlines Airbus A321-200 plane takes off from Los Angeles International airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California.

Mike Blake | Reuters

American Airlines shares jumped by more than 14% on Thursday after posting a smaller-than-expected loss and higher sales than analysts projected.

Analysts were quick to say the move is not based on the state of American’s business. The carrier and its competitors are struggling to gain their footing in the coronavirus pandemic. American booked a record net annual loss of $8.9 billion.

The carrier is the most-shorted U.S. airline, according to FactSet, and the big move comes after explosive rallies in other heavily shorted stocks GameStop and AMC Entertainment Holdings.

Those stocks have shown up in “Wallstreetbets” Reddit chat room where a wave of at-home traders bought up heavily shorted stocks, sending shares soaring and squeezing out short-selling hedge funds. Short positions are bets that stocks will fall, where an investor or trader sells a share with an agreement to buy them later when they think the price will drop and they can pocket the profits.

The percentage of short interest in American Airlines shares far outpaces that of its competitors. Short interest in American was 25% of the company’s float, according to FactSet, compared with 14% of Spirit Airlines‘ and about 5% of United Airlines‘.

“We do not believe the move is fundamentally driven as American’s outlook is similar to others we have heard during this earnings cycle,” said Cowen & Co. airline analyst Helane Becker. “We believe the move is due to the de-risking going on in the market and American remains one of the most consensus short airlines in our coverage universe.”

She said American could use this rally for a stock offering. American’s gains in premarket trading had topped 80% at one point during in premarket trading.

-CNBC’s Yun Li contributed to this report.


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American Airlines (AAL) and Southwest (LUV) results Q4 2020

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Southwest Airlines flight 1117 from St. Louis lands at Boston Logan International Airport on March 13, 2019. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

John Tlumacki | The Boston Globe | Getty Images

American Airlines on Thursday reported a record quarterly loss and faces difficult months ahead as new travel restrictions and a slow rollout of vaccines cloud hopes for a near-term recovery.

American posted a net loss of $2.2 billion in the fourth quarter. Revenues tumbled more than 64% to $4.03 billion, compared with $11.3 billion a year earlier. Sales were above analysts’ forecasts for $3.88 billion for the quarter. Shares were up 30% in premarket trading amidst the frenzy of retail buying of stocks with large short interests. American has much more short interest in its shares than other U.S. carriers.

The airline said it expects capacity in the first quarter of 2021 to be down 45% compared with 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic sapped travel demand. It expects revenues to be off 60% to 65% lower for the first quarter compared with the same months of 2019.

Here’s how American performed in the fourth quarter, compared with what Wall Street expected, based on average estimates compiled by Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted EPS: a loss of $3.86 versus an expected loss of $4.11.
  • Revenue: $4.03 billion versus expected $3.88 billion in revenue.

Earlier Thursday, Southwest Airlines reported its first annual loss since 1972 and said it would remain conservative with capacity through March citing weak demand.

Southwest expects average core cash burn of about $17 million a day in the first quarter “as a result of continued softness in demand and a seasonally weaker travel period in January and February 2021, as well as rising fuel prices.” That’s up from the $12 million a day in in the last three months of 2020.

It forecast January revenue will be down 65% to 70% compared with 2019, slightly better than a decline of as much as 75% it previously forecast after cancellations stabilized. Southwest said February revenues will likely fall 65% to 75% compared with the same month of 2019.

Its share price was up 3% in Thursday’s premarket.


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10,000 stores set to close in 2021, Covid keeps pummeling retailers

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A man passes by a Banana Republic store, which is going out of business, in New York, January 10, 2021.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

One retail research and advisory group is forecasting there could be as many as 10,000 store closures announced by retailers in the United States this year, which would set a new record, as the Covid pandemic continues to take a toll on the industry and companies rethink how many locations they’re able to keep open.

10,000 closures would represent a 14% uptick from 2020 levels, Coresight Research said in a report released Thursday. Coresight is also forecasting retailers will announce 4,000 store openings in 2021, driven by growth from grocery discounters and dollar store chains.

Last year, in the thick of the pandemic, Coresight predicted in the June that there were going to be as many as 25,000 closures announced by retailers in 2020. But it ended up tracking just 8,741, along with 3,304 openings. That was a deceleration from the 9,832 closures it tracked in 2019 — the highest number Coresight has seen as long as it has been following retail closings and openings.

The reason for the large gap between the final tally and its initial prediction, Coresight said, was because some companies have been “holding out for an upturn in store-based sales.” Many retailers have also been able to buy more time by reducing their rents and striking deals with their landlords to be able to stay open a little longer, it said.

“In 2021, the rollout of [Covid] vaccination programs should result in a partial recovery in store-based sales,” Coresight CEO and Founder Deborah Weinswig said. “However, these programs may take many months to reach a wide base of consumers.”

Some companies won’t be able to wait much longer, Weinswig said, especially those that didn’t have the holiday season they were hoping for. Consumers are going to continue to spend more of their money online, which is another reason for the heightened store closure forecast this year, she said.

As of Jan. 22, Coresight said retailers in the U.S. have already announced 1,678 closures, which include ones by Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s and J.C. Penney.

Weinswig also pointed to a pattern that took shape in the retail industry after the Great Recession, which could repeat itself this year.

“Although retail was significantly impacted in 2008 and 2009, the repercussions in terms of retail bankruptcies peaked in 2010,” she said. “We could see history repeat itself in 2021, resulting in greater numbers of store closures this year than we saw in 2020.”

Coresight said apparel retailers, including Ascena Retail Group and The Children’s Place, accounted for 36% of all store closures in 2020, tallying more than 3,000. The apparel category will likely make up a substantial portion of closures this year, too, it said.

A study released earlier this week by First Insight found 40% of consumers plan to shop for apparel in brick-and-mortar stores either the same amount or less after being vaccinated, implying there won’t be an immediate rush back to the mall.


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