The daily business briefing: August 18, 2023

Walmart sales beat expectations as cash-strapped customers seek deals, mortgage rates jump to a 21-year high, and more

Walmart beats expectations on stretched budgets
(Image credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

1. Walmart sales beat expectations as shoppers seek bargains

Walmart on Thursday reported second quarter sales and earnings that exceeded analysts' expectations, thanks to shoppers seeking bargains. Walmart posted quarterly sales of $161.6 billion, beating analysts' estimates of $160.2 billion, according to FactSet. Its earnings were $1.84 per share, topping consensus estimates of $1.71 a share. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the discount big-box retailer got a boost from shoppers trying to stretch their budgets as higher interest rates, rising gas prices and the resumption of student loan payments left them short of cash. Walmart also raised its full-year profit outlook by roughly 2%, sending its stock price up about 1% to a near-record $160.


2. Mortgage rates surge to a 21-year high

Mortgage rates jumped above 7% to a 21-year high this week, the latest fallout from the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes to fight inflation. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage reached 7.09%, up from 6.96% last week, Freddie Mac said on Thursday. The rate on the 30-year mortgage — the most popular U.S. home loan — was 5.13% a year ago. Rising mortgage rates are putting homes out of reach for an increasing number of would-be buyers. Sales of existing homes fell nearly 19% in June compared to a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. "The new reality has jolted the housing market," said Jeff Ostrowski, an analyst at the personal finance company Bankrate.

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The New York Times

3. China Evergrande files for bankruptcy protection in US

Giant property developer China Evergrande filed for bankruptcy protection in New York on Thursday as it continues to struggle with massive debts. The Chinese company defaulted on its debt in 2021, triggering the defaults of multiple smaller developers. Country Garden, another big developer, has missed payments to lenders it owes $200 billion, and could face default, too. Evergrande's meltdown came after Beijing cracked down on speculation in the housing sector and excessive borrowing. The company's crash marked the start of the decline of China's real estate sector, which is weakening the world's No. 2 economy. As of last year, Evergrande, which has some assets in the United States, had $335 billion in liabilities.

The Guardian The New York Times

4. Stock futures slip after another losing day

U.S. stock futures edged lower early Friday after the three main U.S. indexes fell for the third straight day. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down 0.1% at 6:30 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were down 0.3%. The S&P 500 is on track to post its third consecutive losing week, its worst losing streak since February. The tech-heavy Nasdaq is headed for its first three-week losing streak since December. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield hit its highest level since October 2022 after July Federal Reserve meeting minutes suggested the central bank might raise interest rates again due to lingering inflation concerns. "If yields continue to move like they're moving, there's going to be some ramifications for global equity markets," Private Advisor Group's Guy Adami told CNBC's "Fast Money."


5. Bitcoin falls, touching a 2-month low

Bitcoin fell briefly to a two-month low on Friday after losing 7.2% on Thursday, its biggest one-day drop since cryptocurrency exchange FTX collapsed in November 2022. Ether, the world's second-biggest cryptocurrency, fell on Thursday but held steady early Friday. The declines came as global markets struggled due to concerns about China's economic troubles, and the possibility that the Federal Reserve could keep interest rates higher for longer than previously expected to fight inflation as the economy remained strong. Some analysts said cryptocurrency was falling due to a Wall Street Journal report that crypto-booster Elon Musk's SpaceX had sold its bitcoin holdings. Previously, Musk's tweets about digital currency have affected prices.


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