Swinging stocks; The end of Sears; Chenault steps back

Posted at 3:48 AM, Dec 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-28 05:48:13-05

1. Swinging stocks: Fear has taken over the markets.

That’s the simplest explanation for the vertigo-inducing swings by US stocks this week. Markets have gained for two consecutive sessions, but they’re still having their worst December since the Great Depression.

Here’s some perspective as investors prepare for the penultimate trading session of 2018: The Dow has shed 6.4% so far this year. The Nasdaq is down 4.7%, and the S&P 500 has declined 6.9%.

Losses for December are steeper. All three US indexes have dropped roughly 10%.

US stock futures were higher on Friday. European markets advanced by more than 1.5% while stocks in Asia eked out smaller gains.

2. The end of Sears? Sears is nearing a crucial moment that could determine whether it survives.

The bankrupt company set Friday as the deadline for potential buyers to bid for its assets. It wants someone to buy about 500 of its stores and the Kenmore appliance brand to keep Sears and Kmart open for business.

Sears told a bankruptcy court it has interest from multiple parties. But the only public bidder for those assets is the hedge fund controlled by Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert, who served as CEO until the firm’s bankruptcy.

Lampert has until Friday to make his bid official. If he doesn’t, and no other firm offers materialize, the company will have a critical decision to make.

Sears could extend the deadline, or accept defeat and initiate a plan to close all of its stores and liquidate its assets.

3. P&G and IBM lose a board member: Kenneth Chenault, the former chairman and CEO of American Express, is stepping down from the boards of P&G (PG) and IBM (IBM).

Both companies said his retirement would take effect February 13. P&G said in a regulatory filing that Chenault wanted “more time to focus on a range of activities in the next phase of his life.”

Chenault is also a board member at Facebook (FB). The news he was reducing his other commitments sparked speculation that he could be named chairman of Facebook.

The social media giant shot down those rumors, telling Axios that Chenault will remain on its board without any change in his role.

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4. Earnings and economics: Data on pending home sales for November will be published at 10:00 a.m. ET. The crude oil inventories report for December 22 will be released at 11:00 a.m. ET.

5. Coming this week:
Friday — Pending home sales for November