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Market Recap – AT&T Buying Time Warner

Market Digest – Week Ending 10/28/2016

With just a week and a half to go before the election, stocks remained calm despite a flurry of big M&A activity and earnings announcements. AT&T will buy Time Warner for $85 billion, Genworth is selling to China Oceanwide holdings for $2.7 billion, Scottrade is selling to TD Ameritrade for $4 billion, and GE and Baker Hughes were rumored to be exploring a major combination of their oil and gas businesses. On the earnings front, Amazon and McKesson were among those who disappointed while Celgene was among those who exceeded expectations. Apple experienced its first yearly sales decline in more than a decade, but sold more iPhones than expected. Markets experienced a modest downward spike on Friday when the FBI said it was reviewing more Hillary Clinton emails – this time related to the Anthony Weiner investigation.

Weekly Returns:

S&P 500: 2,126 (-0.7%)
FTSE All-World ex-US: (0.9%)
US 10 Year Treasury Yield: 1.85% (+0.12%)
Gold: $1,276 (+0.7%)
USD/EUR: $1.099 (+1.0%)

Major Events:

• Monday – AT&T announced it will buy Time Warner for $85 billion.
• Monday – TD Ameritrade announced it will acquire Scottrade for $4 billion.
• Tuesday – The Case-Shiller 20 city composite index posted a 5.1% yearly gain in home prices. Some hot markets such as Denver and San Francisco showed slowing growth rates.
• Wednesday – Apple reported its first sales decline in 15 years, but earnings modestly beat analyst estimates. Shares fell 2%.
• Friday – Q3 US GDP grew at a 2.9% annual rate, the fastest in two years.
• Friday – The FBI said it is reviewing new emails related to Hillary Clinton’s personal server.

Our take:

Until Countrywide blew up on Bank of America, the merger of Time Warner and AOL in 2000 was widely viewed as the worst acquisition/merger in Corporate America’s history. Now, AT&T is betting it will have better fortunes with its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. Ironically, Verizon bought what was left of AOL last year (and Yahoo this year).

On one hand it makes sense. Technology companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix are rapidly encroaching on traditional telecom turf. For the moment, having the capability to deliver content (especially on mobile devices), and great content to deliver, is viewed as the path forward. But they are very different things and sometimes that can make it difficult to combine.

In any case, $85 billion is a big bet. One way or another, this one is likely to make headlines for a long time.

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