Carlos Ghosn fallout; Bitcoin plunges; Soup wars

Posted at 3:31 AM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-20 05:31:24-05

1. End of a business legend: The arrest of Carlos Ghosn in Japan on Monday is forcing three major automakers to make tough decisions about their leadership.

Ghosn, the chairman of Nissan (NSANY) Mitsubishi Motors (MMTOF) and Renault (RNSDF), was detained by Japanese authorities after an investigation by Nissan revealed “significant acts of misconduct” over many years.

Nissan said the misconduct included significantly under-reporting his compensation and misusing company assets. Ghosn is yet to respond to the allegations.

Ghosn is credited with rescuing Nissan and Renault, and stitching together three automakers into a global alliance. But he’s now likely to be ousted as chair of all three.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that he would meet with representatives from Renault on Tuesday to discuss appointing interim management because Ghosn is “no longer capable of leading the group.”

The French government owns 15% of Renault. Ghosn also serves as CEO at the carmaker.

Nissan’s board will meet Thursday to remove Ghosn from his position. Mitsubishi has also asked its board of directors to “promptly remove” Ghosn as chairman.

Shares in Renault dropped another 3.5% on Tuesday after getting rocked in the previous trading session. Nissan stock shed 5.5% in Tokyo and shares in Mitsubishi declined nearly 7%.

2. Down goes bitcoin: The price of bitcoin has plunged 15% over the past 24 hours, at one point reaching a low of $4,200. It continues to swing wildly.

As is often the case with digital currencies, the cause of the crash is unclear. The US Securities and Exchange Commission recently cracked down on “initial coin offerings,” and sales of crypto mining equipment appear to have slowed.

Bitcoin prices are now roughly 75% below record levels set a year ago at the height of a bubble.

3. Soup earnings: Investors are eagerly awaiting an earnings report from Campbell Soup (CPB) amid a fierce proxy fight for control of its board.

Activist investor Daniel Loeb wants to replace five members of the company’s 12-person board. Campbell management says it knows the company best and can put it back on the right track.

The struggling 149-year-old company has faced a slew of problems including poor sales, an ill-fated acquisition of Bolthouse and the abrupt departure of its CEO this year.

If Campbell has a strong quarter, management could use the good results to bolster its case. But if earnings disappoint, Loeb will be ready to pounce.

4. Global market overview: US stock futures were lower, signaling another tough day of trading on Wall Street.

European markets opened in negative territory on Tuesday. Germany’s DAX led the retreat, shedding over 1%.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei dropped 1.1% while benchmark indexes in Shanghai and Hong Kong lost roughly 2%.

The Dow dropped 1.6% on Monday and the S&P 500 shed 1.7%. The Nasdaq tumbled 3% as tech stocks including Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN) and Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) suffered heavy losses.

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5. Earnings and economics: Barnes and Noble (BKS), Best Buy (BBY), Campbell Soup (CPB), Hormel Foods (HRL), Lowe’s (LOW) and Target (TGT) are set to release earnings before the open.

Foot Locker (FL) and Gap (GPS) will follow after the close.

The US Census Bureau will release a report on housing starts for October at 8:30 a.m. ET.

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6. Coming this week:
Tuesday — BJ’s Wholesale Club (BJ), Best Buy (BBY), Barnes and Noble (BKS), Campbell Soup (CPB), Target (TGT), TJX (TJX) and Gap (GPS) earnings
Wednesday — Deere & Co. (DE) earnings
Thursday — US markets closed for Thanksgiving
Friday — Black Friday; US markets close early