The daily business briefing: November 29, 2019

Harold Maass
Black Friday.
MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images


Black Friday evolves but still marks start of holiday shopping season

The holiday shopping season kicks off on Friday with traditional Black Friday sales, though many retailers got a jump on the competition by getting started with deep discounts on Thanksgiving Day. Analysts forecast data to show that online shoppers spent a record $4 billion on Thanksgiving. The total had already reached $2.1 billion as of 5 p.m. Thursday, a 20.2 percent increase compared to the same point last year. Demand was so high on Thursday that Costco's website and app were briefly hampered by heavy traffic. Black Friday is continuing to evolve, as many stores try to snag a bigger share of holiday sales by cutting prices days or even weeks before what used to be a one-day shopping frenzy. Shoppers are expected to spend up to $731 billion in November and December, roughly 4 percent more than in the same period last year. [USA Today, MarketWatch]


Global stocks lose ground on fears over Hong Kong tensions

Asian stocks struggled on Friday after President Trump signed a new law supporting Hong Kong protesters, prompting an angry reaction from China and raising fears that the tensions could derail talks on ending the trade war between the world's two biggest economies. The MSCI All Country world index fell by 0.4 percent after nearly reaching an all-time high set in January last year, before the start of the U.S.-China trade war. In the U.S., stock index futures inched down ahead of a shortened trading session. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were all down by about 0.2 percent, although the S&P 500 remained on track to close its best month since June. [Reuters, CNBC]


European lawmakers declare 'climate emergency'

The European Parliament on Thursday passed a symbolic measure declaring a "climate emergency." The move raises pressure on member states to take action to curb emissions blamed for climate change ahead of a United Nations climate summit starting Dec. 2 in Spain. In recent months, hundreds of regional and local administrations have approved similar declarations, but Thursday's vote was significant because the European lawmakers who passed the measure represent 500 million people. "Five years ago, no one would have expected the European Parliament to declare a climate emergency, so there's some progress," said Sebastian Mang of Greenpeace. Dissenters in the 429-225 vote objected to the use of the word "emergency," suggesting the use of "urgency" instead. [The Washington Post, Reuters]


Morgan Stanley removes traders over alleged effort to conceal losses

Morgan Stanley has ousted, at least temporarily, at least four traders in connection with an alleged effort to conceal between $100 million and $140 million in losses by mismarking securities, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. Morgan Stanley is investigating the case, which is linked to emerging-market currencies, Bloomberg's sources said. A representative of the sixth-largest U.S. bank declined to provide an immediate comment to Bloomberg. The traders who were fired or placed on leave were based in London and New York. [Bloomberg]


Tech Data shares soar on news of $6 billion acquisition by Apollo

Shares of Tech Data Corp., a multinational tech distribution company, surged by 12 percent on Friday after the company agreed to be purchased by Apollo Global Management in a deal worth $6 billion. Tech Data's board unanimously approved the private-equity group's offer of $145 a share. Apollo previously offered $130 per share, but sweetened its bid after Tech Data received an undisclosed higher offer. The deal amounts to a 30 percent premium over Tech Data's closing price on Oct. 15, the last day before news broke of a possible deal. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway reportedly tried to buy Tech Data for $5 billion, but was beat out by Apollo. [MarketWatch, CNBC]