A Second Example of Volume Price Analysis in Action on The Daily Chart for Walmart

WMT-daily-chart

The mini-rally of August was positive for the stock, taking it from the VPOC at $140.70 per share, through stiff resistance as denoted with the red dashed line of the accumulation and distribution indicator at $142.75 per share and on higher before we see the first of our warning signals on candle 1. We can see there is good volume, but it is a weak candle with a deep wick to the upper body. In other words, Wyckoff’s third law of cause and effect is not being met.

Further efforts to rally follow on higher volume before we arrive at the long-legged Doji candle, which is not in itself a sign of weakness but one of indecision. However, after the early signs, can not be considered a good news candle. The following day, the earlier weakness is confirmed but on lower volume. Candle 2 is weak and closes well off the highs of the session.

There then follows two further warning signs, with the two candle rally accompanied with falling volume. In addition, note the first of these, widespread and up, but the volume looks rather light for such a move. Next comes the two-bar reversal, (an upthrust on a two-day chart) and the price begins to slide lower with the attempt to rally on falling volume confirming the weakness.

Finally, we arrive at this week, and last Friday’s massive volume spike, a further clear anomaly confirming heavy selling into weakness with the candle closing with a deep wick to the upper body, validated on Monday, with a second attempt to rally failing yesterday.

However, before we become too pessimistic there are two saving features for this stock. First, a strong platform of potential support is now in play and denoted with the red dashed line of the accumulation and distribution indicator at $142.60 per share and second the approach of the VPOC which is denoted with the yellow dashed line. Both should be enough to see the downward slide brought to a halt in the short term, and longer-term we can expect congestion to build around the $141 per share area.

Finally, as mentioned in my post for Pfizer always carry out a background check for any stock for earnings, insider dealings, options, short interest etc. using a site such as Market Beat. And on checking Market Beat we discover so far this month directors and major shareholders have sold almost half a billion worth of shares. They have a free service which will give you more than enough information. Also, pay attention to what is being said on social media and whether the stock is attracting more attention than usual.

By Anna Coulling

Walmart Partners With Ford And Argo AI To Test Self-Driving Cars In Multiple Cities

Retailing giant Walmart is expanding its self-driving vehicle program and has now partnered with Ford and Argo AI to test a few of the cars in multiple cities across the United States.

Walmart Partners With Ford And Argo AI On Autonomous Cars

Walmart, the leading retailer in the United States, announced earlier today that it has partnered with automobile manufacturer Ford and Argo AI. The partnership will see Walmart work with them in testing its self-driving cars in various cities across the US.

The company stated that the partnership would allow it to use Ford Escape hybrids with Argo AI technology to make deliveries on behalf of Walmart. The test deliveries will be in Miami, the District of Columbia and Austin, Texas.

The program will make it possible for Walmart customers to order groceries and other items online and enjoy door-to-door autonomous delivery. Tom Ward, Walmart United States senior vice president of last-mile delivery, stated that the company is excited to partner with Ford and Argo AI in expanding its autonomous delivery efforts in three new markets. “This collaboration will further our mission to get products to the homes of our customers with unparalleled speed and ease, and in turn, will continue to pave the way for autonomous delivery,” he added.

Walmart and Ford’s partnership goes way back. The two companies partnered to launch a pilot program with self-driving vehicles three years ago. Walmart is currently operating self-driving delivery pilots with Cruise (backed by General Motors) and Gatik.

Although Walmart remains the leading retailer in the United States, it is facing increasing competition from Amazon. JPMorgan has predicted that Amazon will soon surpass Walmart as the leading retailer in the US.

WMT Down By 0.5%

The shares of Walmart are down by 0.5% during Wednesday’s pre-trading session. The decline comes despite the positive news issued by the company. WMT is trading at $144 per share, down by 0.76 points.

WMT stock chart. Source: FXEMPIRE

Year-to-date, WMT’s performance has remained flat. Walmart’s stock started 2021 trading at $144 per share, and it is now trading at the same price, despite reaching a peak of $151 last month.

Crypto Markets Take Wild Ride Amid Fake Walmart Development

The cryptocurrency markets were sent into a tailspin in response to fake news involving retail giant Walmart. Major financial media outlets erroneously reported that Walmart was partnering with Litecoin, the 15th biggest cryptocurrency. It was a false development based on a fake press release, which was reportedly published on GlobeNewswire.

According to social media accounts, some reports even attributed a fake quote to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. The Litecoin price initially rallied roughly 30% before the rumors were debunked.

Crypto Twitter was quick to call out the media outlets for the fake news, but the damage was already done. Confusion had set in as investors sought to decipher whether or not a major big-box retailer was about to take the cryptocurrency plunge, which would potentially be a major catalyst for wide-scale adoption. The Litecoin Foundation and Walmart eventually cleared things up, with the retailer telling Reuters that the news “was not real.”

The bitcoin price and the broader cryptocurrency markets quickly took a turn for the worse. Litecoin reversed a double-digit percentage gain to a 2% loss on the day.

Regulatory Spotlight

The Walmart and Litecoin scandal comes at a time when cryptocurrencies are under a regulatory spotlight. Regulators are eyeing cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase for a new lending program, even threatening to sue the company if it follows through with its transparent plans. The U.S. SEC already has the decentralized finance (DeFi) space in its sights, now that the total value locked (TVL) in the market has soared to $172.5 billion.

The vulnerability in the Walmart/Litecoin scandal, however, was not the cryptocurrency industry. It was the mainstream financial media, which hastily ran with the development.

Bullish on Bitcoin

Investors also had a bullish development on bitcoin to consider. Bitcoin bull Michael Saylor, who is at the helm of business software firm MicroStrategy, put his money where his mouth is once again. MicroStrategy has spent $242.9 million to buy an additional 5,050 bitcoins for the company’s balance sheet. Saylor paid an average of $48,099 for each bitcoin during the company’s fiscal Q3.

MicroStrategy holds approximately 114,042 bitcoins on its balance sheet in total and has spent more than $3 billion over the past year-plus to do so. The bitcoins are currently worth slightly more than $5 billion.

Kroger Overbought and Overpriced

The Kroger Co. (KR) reports fiscal Q1 2022 earnings in Friday’s pre-market, with analysts looking for a profit of $0.64 per-share on $30.7 billion in revenue. If met, earnings-per-share (EPS) will mark a 12% reduction in profit compared to the same quarter last year, when Americans overstocked their shelves with food and supplies due to the pandemic. The stock jumped more than 4% in June after beating Q4 2021 top and bottom-line estimates and is now trading near an all-time high.

Outperforming Larger Rivals in 2021

The grocery giant is outperforming Walmart Inc. (WMT) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) by wide margins in 2021, despite the rapid growth of their supermarket services. The chain, which operates more than 3,000 locations under the Fry’s, King Sooper’s, City Market, and Ralph’s labels, has benefited from soaring foot traffic as unvaccinated folks visit their pharmacies. In addition, it has maintained profit margins despite food commodity inflation, strategically raising prices.

Many big investors own Kroger stock, including Warren Buffett, who raised his stake from 51.06 to 61.79 million shares during the quarter. Even so, earnings growth has decelerated since 2020, highlighted by a digital sales slowdown to an unimpressive 16% in the last quarter. Additional slowing could easily trigger a reversal and pullback, compounded by 24% upside since the last earnings report.

Wall Street and Technical Outlook

Wall Street is taking a cautious view, posting a consensus ‘Hold’ rating based upon 5 ‘Buy’, 1 ‘Overweight’, 15 ‘Hold’, and 3 ‘Underweight’ recommendations. In addition, four analysts recommend that shareholders close positions and move to the sidelines. Price targets currently range from a low of $28 to a Street-high $48 while the stock is set to open Tuesday’s session less than $2 below the high target. Given slowing growth, this lofty placement favors new short sales, if the seller is willing to pay the current $0.21 per-share dividend.

Kroger spiked into the low 40s in a vertical impulse in January 2020 and gave up those gains during the pandemic decline. A slow but persistent recovery wave reached the prior high in August 2021, yielding an immediate breakout that posted an all-time high at 47.99 last week. The stock is consolidating near that level as the new trading week begins, with headwinds favoring a sell-the-news reaction after Friday’s report.

For a look at all this week’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

Disclosure: the author held no positions in aforementioned securities at the time of publication.

Walmart Bumps Up Hourly Wages For Over Half a Million U.S. Workers by $1 Ahead of Holidays

The U.S. holiday shopping season – worth nearly $800 billion last year – marks the busiest time of the year for stores, making up a majority of their annual sales as people shop on and around Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas.

Retailers hire tens of thousands of temporary workers across the country to keep up with crowds of people in stores and online, paying competitive wages and offering benefits. Last year, for instance, big-box rival Target provided a coronavirus health plan and paid workers $15 an hour, versus $13 an hour in 2019.

But a nationwide worker shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic has retailers concerned they will not have enough workers in stores and warehouses to handle to extra sales online and in stores.

“The biggest challenge for retailers going into the holiday season is going to be how do they get the sales associates and the warehouse workers in position to fulfill demand,” Greg Portell, lead partner in the global consumer practice of consultancy Kearney, said.

With its third wage hike over the past year, Walmart’s U.S. average hourly wage is now $16.40, Walmart U.S. Chief Executive John Furner said in a memo to staff. The mean hourly wage for retail salespeople is $14.87, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Workers in Walmart’s frontend, food and consumable and general merchandise departments will receive the higher wages, effective Sept. 25, Furner said.

‘BACK INTO THE HARNESS’

The news comes days before the national end of federal unemployment benefits, which has been anticipated by employers who hope a lot of people once scared by COVID will return to the workforce.

“This is significant. I mean, if you look at it in percentage terms it’s not much, but this is Walmart – they don’t really do this,” said Kenneth Dau-Schmidt, professor of labor and employment law at Indiana University Bloomington. “Companies are having trouble getting people back into the harness after being out for so long and this is another sign that the labor market is readjusting.”

Smaller retailers aren’t immune to the issue either. Chicago’s Abt Electronics, a household name in Illinois, said it has raised its minimum wage by just over 10%.

Worker wages and benefits are the most expensive operational cost for many retailers, whose workers have long fought for higher wages through unions and organizations including Fight for $15.

Unions have shone a spotlight this year on pay in the industry, a issue that received tremendous attention after an attempt by Amazon.com Inc workers to organize at a warehouse in Alabama. A Reuters analysis of two decades of wage data showed earlier this year that workers in unions reap higher wages.

Walmart, which is not unionized, raised pay for more than 425,000 stocking and digital associates earlier this year. It said on Wednesday it plans to hire 20,000 workers at its supply chain division. In July, the company said it would pay 100% of college tuition and book costs for its associates.

Dollar General said this week it is looking to hire more workers and truck drivers to whom it is offering a $5,000 sign-on bonus. Target, Best Buy and other major retailers have yet to announce any holiday wage increases or benefits.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

(Reporting by Richa NaiduEditing by Chizu Nomiyama, Ben Klayman, Vanessa O’Connell and Edward Tobin)

Walmart Eyes Bigger Piece of Grocery Delivery Pie

When a company such as Walmart or e-commerce giant Amazon.com enters a market, you know that the sector will never be the same. Seeing both companies compete for market share in the same segment is becoming increasingly common.

Most recently, big-box retailer Walmart is poised to disrupt the food-delivery business further, as it continues to take aim at market leader Amazon.com. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Walmart plans to start offering grocery delivery services in New York in addition to the cities it is already serving. Amazon owns Whole Foods, where Jeff Bezos’ company initiated grocery e-commerce.

Walmart is working with Instacart for the venture and will target a trio of NY boroughs to begin, including Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. One borough that is noticeably missing is Manhattan. For its part, Instagram uses the gig economy to match delivery workers with customers on its platform, similar to how Uber and Lyft use it for ride-share purposes.

Walmart shares were up fractionally today and are close to flat for the year. Walmart is also a dividend-paying stock.

Market Landscape

Walmart’s grocery push will give it a stake in the New York City market, where it does not currently have a retail presence. Through its existing partnership with Instacart, the retailer has already expanded into grocery delivery in a couple of other states including California and Oklahoma.

Similar to how Big Tech is disrupting financial services, big-box retailers are increasingly taking market share in the delivery business, both competing and cooperating with market leaders such as DoorDash in the interim. Walmart also boasts its own delivery business dubbed Walmart GoLocal that it contracts out to other retailers.

Table Stakes

In addition to grocery delivery, Walmart and Amazon are similarly jockeying for position in the buy now pay later (BNPL) space. Most recently, Amazon has teamed up with BNPL provider Affirm in the U.S. for a deal in which customers will be able to pay for certain purchases in installments over time for no interest. In addition to Amazon, Affirm also counts Walmart among its partners.

While there is room for both companies, the table stakes continue to rise in these increasingly popular market niches.

Walmart’s Stock Up By Less Than 1% Despite Strong Earnings

The shares of Walmart are up by less than 1% today despite the company reporting strong earnings in the previous quarter.

Walmart Reports Strong Quarterly Earnings Thanks High Grocery Sales

Walmart, the leading retailer in the United States, reported its second-quarter earnings earlier today. The company performed better than expected, thanks to a surge in grocery sales and other areas.

According to the company’s Q2 report, the adjusted earnings per share for the previous quarter was $1.78, surpassing the $1.57 estimated by Wall Street analysts. The revenue of $141.05 billion is also higher than the $137.17 billion predicted by the market analysts.

During an interview with CNBC earlier today, Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs stated that the strong performance by the company was due to the high demand for items like luggage, party supplies and apparel. This is due to many people coming out of lockdown and resuming their daily activities. Also, students were resuming school for the first time in more than a year and were shopping for school supplies.

The CFO added that Walmart continues to monitor the Delta variant of the Coronavirus, but so far, they haven’t witnessed any changes in customers’ shopping patterns. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the company had recorded a massive increase in grocery sales, one of its core businesses.

Furthermore, the CEO added that it is making progress with its online store, with thousands of new shoppers visiting its third-party marketplace in the past quarter.

Walmart’s Stock Up By Nearly 1%

The shares of Walmart are up by roughly 1% despite the company recording massive sales in the previous quarter. At the time of this writing, WMT is trading at $152 per share, up by 0.97% over the past few hours.

WMT stock chart. Source: FXEMPIRE

The company said its same-store sales in the United States surged by 5.2%, which is more impressive than the 3.3% analysts had predicted. However, it is lower than the 9.3% it recorded in the previous quarter.

Amazon remains the leading e-commerce platform in the United States. Walmart’s e-commerce sales grew by only 6% in the previous quarter, significantly by 97% from the same quarter last year.

Dogecoin Community Targets Walmart in Hopeful Payments Push

The Dogecoin community is nothing if not opportunistic. Now that major retailer Walmart has shown a budding interest in cryptocurrency payments, as evidenced by a U.S. job posting for a digital currency and crypto product lead, investors in the popular meme coin are looking to make a connection.

The Doge community has banded together on Twitter in an attempt to have Dogecoin accepted as a payment method at the big-box retailer. Walmart is not the first company to make it on the Dogecoin community’s radar, and chances are it won’t be the last. Doge investors have been targeting Tesla ever since Elon Musk caught meme-coin fever.

Dogecoin investors are showing their willingness to use their Doge as a “medium of exchange,” just as billionaires Mark Cuban and Elon Musk have independently touted.

Walmart’s Blockchain Push

Walmart is the most recent in a string of companies that are hiring talent for the blockchain and crypto, a list that extends to Amazon.com, among others. While Walmart has already invested in the blockchain, the company is seemingly eyeing crypto payments, though which digital assets it might support remains unclear.

Walmart boasts that it already “enables a broad set of payment options for its customers.” Apparently, it is looking to expand upon those payment options, and the Dogecoin community would be happy to oblige. Walmart just reported fiscal Q2 sales of USD 141 billion, up 2.4% YoY. Cryptocurrency investors are eyeing a slice of the retail pie.

For its part, Walmart is looking for a team member to spearhead its “digital currency strategy and product roadmap,” according to the job posting. The company is also in the market for strategic partnerships and investments in the crypto space.

Dogecoin Price

Dogecoin investors are likely feeling empowered now that the price is hovering above USD 0.30 once again. The Doge price is taking it on the chin today and is down 4% in the last 24-hour period, however.

Over the weekend, Doge soared by a double-digit percentage as it reclaimed the USD 0.30 range for the first time since June. Now that bitcoin has turned negative, however, the other leading cryptocurrencies are trading lower in sympathy. Doge investors are looking for signs of their favorite cryptocurrency trading independently from its larger peer. Potential support from Walmart just might do the trick.

Home Depot Could Sell Off to 300

Dow component Home Depot Inc. (HD) is trading lower by more than 3% in Tuesday’s pre-market after beating Q2 2021 top and bottom line estimates by slim margins. The home improvement giant posted a profit of $4.53 per-share during the quarter, $0.10 better than expectations, while revenue rose a modest 8.1% year-over-year to $41.12 billion, less than $400 million above consensus. US sales rose just 3.4%, highlighting tough ‘comps’ after last year’s COVID-driven windfall.

Post-Pandemic Hangover

The company generated historic revenue in 2020, underpinned in the first half by pandemic lockdowns that freed up time for at-home activities, and in the second half by the migration of the Zoom crowd to new parts of the country.  Mean reversion has now resumed control of quarterly performance, easing toward historic norms that underpinned years of higher prices. However, the stock has already gained 22% so far in 2021, raising doubts about second half performance.

Other big players in the retail space are dealing with similar headwinds, as evidenced by an identical sell-the-news reaction after Walmart Inc. (WMT) also beats estimates on Tuesday.  Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) remains the poster child for this 2021 performance hangover, posting a 0% return since July 2020 after soaring 81% earlier that year. All in all, this malaise perfectly illustrates the old market adage that “the bigger the move, the broader the base”.

Wall Street and Technical Outlook

Wall Street consensus is locked into an ‘Overweight’ rating based upon 19 ‘Buy’, 4 ‘Overweight’, 20 ‘Hold’, and 1 ‘Sell’ recommendation. Price targets currently range from a low of $300 to a Street-high $391 while the stock is set to open Tuesday’s session about $27 below the median $350 target. A descent to the low target is possible with this configuration, which makes sense because support at June’s rangebound low is situated just below that level.

Home Depot broke out above 2018 resistance just above 200 in September 2019 and topped out at 247.36 in February 2020, ahead of a pandemic decline that dropped the stock to a three-year low. The subsequent uptick mounted first quarter resistance in June, yielding a two-legged advance that posted an all-time high at 345.69 in May 2021. A persistent pullback found support at 303.83 in June while the bounce into August has reversed at the .786 Fibonacci selloff retracement level. In turn, this also raises odds for a quick trip to 300.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

Disclosure: the author held no positions in aforementioned securities at the time of publication. 

Earnings to Watch Next Week: Home Depot, Walmart, Target and Deere in Focus

Earnings Calendar For The Week Of August 16

Monday (August 16)

Ticker Company EPS Forecast
ATAI ATA -$0.18
FN Fabrinet $1.21
AG First Majestic Silver $0.09
TOELY Tokyo Electron Ltd PK $1.22

Tuesday (August 17)

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: HOME DEPOT, WALMART

HOME DEPOT: the largest home improvement retailer in the United States, is expected to report its second-quarter earnings of $4.42 per share, which represents year-over-year growth of about 10% from $4.02 per share seen in the same period a year ago.

The home improvement retailer would post revenue growth of nearly 7% to $40.68 billion. On average, Home Depot has beaten earnings estimates by more than 10% in the last four quarters.

“We are Overweight Home Depot (HD) given its best-in-class nature and structural housing tailwinds beyond N-T disruption from COVID-19. The stock seems attractively valued in the context of a potential 2H’20/2021 economic/housing boom,” noted Simeon Gutman, equity analyst at Morgan Stanley.

WALMART: The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer is expected to report its second-quarter earnings of $1.56 per share same as a year ago. However, the multinational retail corporation that operates a chain of hypermarkets’ revenue would decline over 1% to $135.9 billion. On average, the retail giant has beaten earnings estimates by over 17% in the last four quarters.

TAKE A LOOK AT OUR EARNINGS CALENDAR FOR THE FULL RELEASES FOR THE AUGUST 17

Ticker Company EPS Forecast
AIT Applied Industrial Technologies $1.17
HD Home Depot $4.42
WMT Walmart $1.57
AMCR Amcor PLC $0.22
A Agilent $0.99
CDK Cdk Global $0.67
JKHY Jack Henry Associates $0.93
CREE Cree -$0.24

Wednesday (August 18)

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: TARGET

TARGET: One of the largest North American retailers offering customers both everyday essentials and fashionables, is expected to report its second-quarter earnings of $3.49 per share, which represents year-over-year growth of over 3% from $3.38 per share seen in the same period a year ago.

In the last four consecutive quarters, on average, the company has delivered an earnings surprise of over 69%. The Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company would post year-over-year revenue growth of over 8% to $24.84 billion.

Walmart (WMT) & Target (TGT) likely to print upside given strong comp sales trends, a healthy consumer bolstered by child tax credits, & one of the best back to school seasons in retail. We prefer TGT given prospects of a greater beat and a lower relative valuation. We also enclose: Cowen’s Target x ULTA analysis, & our online grocery survey highlights WMT’s momentum. Raise TGT PT to $300 & maintain WMT’s $170 PT,” noted Oliver Chen, equity analyst at Cowen.

TAKE A LOOK AT OUR EARNINGS CALENDAR FOR THE FULL RELEASES FOR THE AUGUST 18

Ticker Company EPS Forecast
LOW Lowe’s Companies $3.99
TGT Target $3.49
ADI Analog Devices $1.61
EAT Brinker International $1.71
TJX TJX Companies $0.58
VIPS Vipshop $2.32
YY YY -$0.60
NVDA Nvidia $1.02
KEYS Keysight Technologies $1.44
SNPS Synopsys $1.78
CSCO Cisco Systems $0.83
SQM Sociedad Quimica Y Minera De Chile $0.32
VNET 21Vianet -$0.06
TCEHY Tencent $0.52
MBT Mobile TeleSystems OJSC $20.23

Thursday (August 19)

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: KOHL’S

Kohl’s, the largest department store chain in the United States, is expected to report its second-quarter earnings of $1.17 per share, which represents year-over-year growth of over 565% from a loss of -$0.25 per share seen in the same period a year ago.

TAKE A LOOK AT OUR EARNINGS CALENDAR FOR THE FULL RELEASES FOR THE AUGUST 19

Ticker Company EPS Forecast
KSS Kohl’s $1.17
TPR Tapestry Inc $0.68
EL Estée Lauder $0.51
M Macy’s $0.19
BJ BJs Wholesale Club Holdings Inc $0.63
MSGS Madison Square Garden Sports -$0.76
AMAT Applied Materials $1.77
ROST Ross Stores $0.97
FTCH Farfetch -$0.30
NCMGY Newcrest Mining Ltd PK $0.75
GFI Gold Fields $0.47

Friday (August 20)

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: DEERE

Deere & Company, the world’s largest maker of farm equipment, is expected to report its fiscal third-quarter earnings of $4.57 per share, which represents year-over-year growth of over 77% from $2.57 per share seen in the same period a year ago.

In the last four consecutive quarters, on average, the agricultural, construction, and forestry equipment manufacturer has delivered an earnings surprise of over 65%. The company forecasts net income for fiscal 2021 in the range of $5.3 billion to $5.7 billion, up from the previous projection of $4.6 billion to $5 billion, according to ZACKS Research.

Deere (DE) is one of the highest quality, most defensive names within the broader Machinery universe, given a historically lower cyclicality of Ag Equipment and history of strong management execution. FY21 should mark a tangible acceleration in the NA large ag replacement cycle, as commodity tailwinds are complemented by moderating trade headwinds and improving farmer sentiment,” noted Courtney Yakavonis, equity analyst at Morgan Stanley.

“With mgmt continuing to execute against its 15% mid-cycle operating margin target, we see continued momentum in DE’s margin improvement narrative – representing one of the most attractive idiosyncratic margin improvement narratives in the broader Machinery group.”

TAKE A LOOK AT OUR EARNINGS CALENDAR FOR THE FULL RELEASES FOR THE AUGUST 20

Ticker Company EPS Forecast
DE Deere & Company $4.57
BKE Buckle $0.51
FL Foot Locker $0.97

 

Walmart Set to Test 2020’s All-Time High

Dow component Walmart Inc. (WMT) reports Q2 2021 earnings next week, with analysts expecting a profit of $1.56 per-share on a staggering $135.7 billion in revenue. If met, earnings-per-share (EPS) will match results in the same quarter last year, when the retail behemoth benefited from pandemic shutdowns. The stock rose 2.2% in May after beating Q1 top and bottom line estimates and is now testing December’s all-time high in the low 150s.

Strong August Recovery

The company has shaken off mediocre first half performance in recent weeks and is now posting a positive 4% return for the year. Big upside last year generated extremely overbought technical readings that have worked out of the system through time rather than price, raising odds for continuation of the strong uptrend. Even so, accumulation is lagging price action by a country mile, with volume indicators situated well below 2019 and 2020 peaks.

Wells Fargo analyst Edward Kelly upgraded Walmart to ‘Overweight’ last week, noting, “Our positive view is based on: 1) Normalizing consumer behavior should allow WMT to recapture share lost to conventional grocers during the pandemic. 2) We remain positive on the lower-end consumer despite numerous cross currents. 3) We see more earnings certainty in 2022 than at other retail peers. 4) The services narrative is likely to continue to improve. 5) Valuation looks attractive given significant underperformance to peers, especially when pulling out Flipkart.”

Wall Street and Technical Outlook

Wall Street consensus stands at an ‘Overweight’ rating based upon 21 ‘Buy’, 5 ‘Overweight’, 7 ‘Hold’, and 1 ‘Underweight’ recommendation. In addition, two analysts recommend that shareholders close positions. Price targets currently range from a low of $127 to a Street-high $185 while the stock is set to open Thursday’s session about $15 below the median $165 target. A rapid ascent through the 150s is possible if Q2 earnings beat consensus by a wide margin.

Walmart cleared 2018 resistance in June 2019 and carved an uptrend that gathered strength after March 2020’s pandemic decline. The rally stalled just above 150 in September while a November breakout failed after posting an all-time high at 153.66. The stock fell more than 25 points into March and turned higher, carving a two-legged recovery that’s now stretched within four points of the prior peak. Even so, a sustained rally to new highs could take time to evolve, with deficient accumulation readings raising odds for whipsaws.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

Disclosure: the author held no positions in aforementioned securities at the time of publication. 

eBay Nearing Support Ahead of Earnings

eBay Inc. (EBAY) reports Q2 2021 earnings after Wednesday’s closing bell, with analysts looking for a profit of $0.95 per-share on $3.0 billion in revenue. If met, earnings-per-share (EPS) will mark a 12% decline compared to the same quarter last year. The stock sold off more than 10% in April, despite meeting Q1 estimates with a 26.4% year-over-year revenue increase, and rallied into July’s all-time high in the mid-70s.

Riding the Non-Fungible Token (NFT) Wave

The e-commerce provider has outperformed larger rivals so far in 2021, posting a 30% return compared 2.7% for Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and less than 1% for Dow component Walmart Inc. (WMT). The explosive growth of non-fungible tokens (NFT) has underpinned revenue and investor sentiment since sales were introduced in May. It’s a perfect place for this initiative, with digital trading cards, music, entertainment, and art backed up by blockchain technology.

eBay discussed this emerging growth channel at the time of the release, noting that “NFTs offer greater access to a broader audience of collectors and creators. In the same way digital publishing brought more exposure for writers, digital collectibles bring greater opportunity for artists and creators. We plan to double down on this idea – combining eBay’s global reach with the principle that anyone can find almost anything on our platform”.

Wall Street and Technical Outlook

Wall Street consensus remains unenthusiastic, with an ‘Overweight’ rating based upon 7 ‘Buy’, 2 ‘Overweight’, 10 ‘Hold’, and one ‘Underweight’ recommendation. No analysts are recommending that shareholders close positions. Price targets range from a low of $59.20 to a Street-high $81.00 while the stock closed Friday’s session on top of the median $66.00 target. This suggests the company will need to raise Q3 guidance to trade at higher prices.

eBay completed a round trip into the 2018 high at 46.99 in June 2020 and broke out, entering an uptrend that stalled just above 60. The stock cleared that barrier in June 2021, lifted into July’s all-time high at 74.13, and turned south into August. It’s currently trading below the 50-day moving average for the first time since May and testing support in the mid-60s. So far at least, this looks like garden variety profit-taking, suggesting even higher prices in coming months.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

Disclosure: the author held no positions in aforementioned securities at the time of publication. 

Drugmakers, Pharmacies Next Targets for U.S. Opioid Settlements

By Brendan Pierson

U.S. state attorneys general are expected to unveil a settlement proposal this week with distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and AmerisourceBergen Corp contributing a combined $21 billion, while Johnson & Johnson would pay $5 billion.

The ultimate settlement price-tag could fluctuate depending on how many state and local governments agree to the deal or reject it to pursue litigation on their own.

More than 3,000 lawsuits, mostly by local governments, have been filed over the opioid crisis against a range of companies for allegedly downplaying the risk of the drugs and for lax controls that allowed the highly addictive painkillers to flood communities.

Excluded from the potential $26 billion deal are pharmacy operators including Walgreens Boots Alliance, Walmart Inc, Rite Aid Corp and CVS Health Corp, which have been accused of ignoring red flags that opioid drugs were being diverted into illegal channels.

The deal also would not include drugmakers AbbVie Inc, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd or Endo International Plc, which have been accused of misleadingly marketing their pain medicines as safe.

Nearly 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States from 1999 to 2019, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC last week said provisional data showed that 2020 was a record year for overall drug overdose deaths with 93,331, up 29% from a year earlier.

The pharmacies and drugmakers have denied the claims, saying rising opioid prescriptions were driven by doctors, that they followed federal law and that the known risks were included in U.S.-approved labels for the drugs.

News of the proposed nationwide settlement came three weeks into a jury trial in New York, and legal experts said upcoming court proceedings will pressure the remaining defendants to reach a deal.

The drugmakers are currently defending themselves at the New York trial and a trial in Orange County, California, and are expected to face another trial in San Francisco along with the pharmacies later this year. The pharmacies, which settled the New York case shortly before trial, also face an October trial in Ohio.

Endo is scheduled to go to trial next week to assess damages over a lawsuit brought on behalf of Tennessee counties and an infant allegedly born addicted to opioids, in which a judge has already ruled the company liable. District Attorney General Barry Staubus of Tennessee’s Sullivan County told WHLJ television that the company offered to settle, but the deal would be limited to that case.

‘COMMON GOAL’ TO END EPIDEMIC

Richard Ausness, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, said a settlement this week reduces the groups of defendants in the litigation and makes it harder for the remaining companies to blame others.

“It puts pressure on them to reach a deal, especially if the mechanics were formulated in this present settlement,” he said.

Peter Mougey, a lawyer representing the local governments pursuing opioid litigation around the country, said at a news conference to discuss proposed settlements that he was “frustrated” pharmacies were not part of the nationwide deal.

“They’ve had ample time to assess where they are with their liability, and we all have the common goal of trying to end this opioid epidemic,” he said.

The pharmacies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In 2019, Teva proposed a settlement in which it would donate addiction treatment drugs that it valued at $23 billion. Industry analysts said the actual cost of the drugs to Teva could be as little as $1.5 billion, however, and plaintiffs’ lawyers balked at what they called an inflated valuation.

Joe Rice, another plaintiffs’ lawyer, said Teva had not been involved in settlement talks since early 2020 but that plaintiffs hoped to negotiate with them going forward.

Teva said in a statement on Tuesday that it remained “confident” it would reach a deal involving donated drugs, and that it would defend itself against “unfounded claims” in the meantime.

“Now more than ever – with local state government budgets dramatically impacted by COVID – it is clear that donated medicines provide the holistic approach needed for solving the epidemic of addiction,” the Israel-based company said.

AbbVie and Endo did not immediately respond to requests for comment on settlement negotiations.

Other settlements are also being negotiated with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and generic opioid maker Mallinckrodt Plc now working through the bankruptcy courts to secure support for settlements worth more than $10 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

The Role of Blockchain in Finance

Blockchain offers tremendous benefits for businesses. The question is whether they will use them to their advantage.

The rapidly progressing adoption of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies are disrupting the financial industry.

According to CoinMarketCap, the crypto market – which now includes over 9,800 digital assets – has a combined capitalization of $1.25 trillion, outpacing Apple on the road to challenge gold’s leading position ($11.65 trillion).

At the same time, a recent report estimates the blockchain market to expand from 2019’s $2.01 billion to $69.04 billion by 2027 at a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 56.1%.

By now, it has become clear that distributed ledger technology (DLT) is in high demand.

But how can blockchain and crypto help financial organizations in improving business efficiency?

Blockchain Is More Than Crypto

When most people hear the phrase “blockchain”, the first thing that comes to their minds is cryptocurrency.

Indeed so, blockchain is the underlying technology of crypto, which powers nearly all digital assets on the market while promoting transparency, high security, peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions, and decentralization.

That said, blockchain is not solely about cryptocurrency transactions. Instead, DLT can be used in almost any field related to data delivery and information processing.

For that reason, many companies are either considering or already adopted blockchain technology to enhance their business processes.

Despite that DLT is still in its very early form, there are many examples of large corporations utilizing the blockchain for real-world use-cases.

One is Walmart that has partnered with IBM and Unilever to leverage the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain for tracking product supply chains.

IBM also has its own blockchain, with the multinational tech firm becoming a leading B2B distributed ledger technology provider in recent years.

Real-world blockchain applications continue to proliferate, with an increasing number of companies integrating DLT-based solutions into their business processes to achieve higher efficiency.

Through transparency in a decentralized environment, businesses can promote trust as well as attract new customers and increase their existing clients’ loyalty, who can now track their products to assess their quality via the blockchain.

In China, the clothing-retail giant H&M partnered with the VeChain blockchain platform to implement a similar solution.

By leveraging DLT, the company’s customers can access detailed information about the production of branded clothing by simply scanning a QR code via their smartphones. Furthermore, shoppers can even watch videos of how the products in the stores were made in the factories.

The Power of Blockchain

As you can see, blockchain is a powerful tool for businesses.

And for an excellent reason, DLT offers both service providers and end-users tremendous benefits compared to traditional systems.

Due to its transparent nature, blockchain technology allows data to be tracked from start to finish, eliminating the need for blind trust from customers. At the same time, it offers an opportunity for businesses to attract more users.

Furthermore, blockchain transactions are peer-to-peer, which means there’s no need for intermediaries or other third parties. As a result, companies can significantly reduce their operational costs while improving business efficiency by accelerating and automatizing processes via smart contracts.

Despite the traceability and visibility of blockchain transactions, users do not know the real persons behind the transfers, which makes them more private than traditional solutions.

How Businesses Adopt Crypto

Blockchain and cryptocurrency often walk hand in hand.

For that reason, many businesses are increasingly exploring crypto as an asset class for investments.

Since 2020, we have seen that this has become a growing trend among not just private and digital asset businesses but also publicly traded companies.

For example, MicroStrategy, Tesla, and Square have invested $2.24 billion, $1.5 billion, and $220 million in BTC to date, respectively.

But what would happen if businesses decided to adopt cryptocurrencies for payments as well?

The thing is, many of them already did.

In addition to the travel industry where digital assets have demonstrated increased adoption for payments (e.g., Expedia, airBaltic, LOT Polish Airlines), large enterprises like Microsoft, Starbucks, AXA Insurance, etc. have integrated crypto as a payment method for their solutions.

Furthermore, while PayPal has already added support for crypto transactions, Visa and MasterCard are racing against each other to integrate digital asset settlement into their massive payment networks.

Cryptocurrency Promotes Financial Sovereignty

Compared to fiat currency, crypto has three major advantages: autonomy, convertibility, and decentralization.

Blockchain networks are highly resilient against network issues and do not require third-party intervention to operate.

For that reason, cryptocurrencies are virtually independent of government action, with the latter potentially causing severe failures in the monetary system that can often lead to economic collapses.

Furthermore, with the industry maturing, it has become much easier to exchange fiat currency to crypto with only a small commission.

Thereby, crypto can be effectively used for cross-border transactions, which usually feature much faster settlements and cost-efficient fees compared to traditional international transfer (especially for payment-optimized assets like XRP or XLM).

Businesses Must Adopt Blockchain to Become More Efficient

Blockchain is a technology that is still being studied.

Yet, despite its early development stage, DLT already has a lot to offer for the companies willing to adopt it.

Besides, as more of blockchain’s potential gets harnessed, we will undoubtedly see drastic changes in the financial industry and many other sectors as key players seek to achieve greater operational efficiency.

Petr Kozyakov, co-founder and CEO at the global payment network Mercuryo

Amazon, Tata Say Indian Govt E-Commerce Rules Will Hit Businesses

By Aditya Kalra

At a meeting organised by the consumer affairs ministry and the government’s investment promotion arm, Invest India, many executives expressed concerns and confusion over the proposed rules and asked that the July 6 deadline for submitting comments be extended, said the sources.

The government’s tough new e-commerce rules announced on June 21 aimed at strengthening protection for consumers, caused concern among the country’s online retailers, notably market leaders Amazon and Walmart Inc‘s Flipkart.

New rules limiting flash sales, barring misleading advertisements and mandating a complaints system, among other proposals, could force the likes of Amazon and Flipkart to review their business structures, and may increase costs for domestic rivals including Reliance Industries’ JioMart, BigBasket and Snapdeal.

Amazon argued that COVID-19 had already hit small businesses and the proposed rules will have a huge impact on its sellers, arguing that some clauses were already covered by existing law, two of the sources said.

The sources asked not to be named as the discussions were private.

The proposed policy states e-commerce firms must ensure none of their related enterprises are listed as sellers on their websites. That could impact Amazon in particular as it holds an indirect stake in at least two of its sellers, Cloudtail and Appario.

On that proposed clause, a representative of Tata Sons, the holding company of India’s $100 billion Tata Group, argued that it was problematic, citing an example to say it would stop Starbucks – which has a joint-venture with Tata in India – from offering its products on Tata’s marketplace website.

The Tata executive said the rules will have wide ramifications for the conglomerate, and could restrict sales of its private brands, according to two of the sources.

Tata declined to comment.

The sources said that a consumer ministry official argued that the rules were meant to protect consumers and were not as strict as those of other countries. The ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

A Reliance executive agreed that the proposed rules would boost consumer confidence, but added that some clauses needed clarification.

Reliance did not respond to request for comment.

The rules were announced last month amid growing complaints from India’s brick-and-mortar retailers that Amazon and Flipkart bypass foreign investment law using complex business strcutures. The companies deny any wrongdoing.

A Reuters investigation https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/amazon-india-operation in February cited Amazon documents that showed it gave preferential treatment to a small number of its sellers and bypassed foreign investment rules. Amazon has said it does not give favourable treatment to any seller.

The government will soon issue certain clarifications on the foreign investment rules, Indian commerce minister Piyush Goyal told reporters on Friday.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi;Editing by Euan Rocha and Louise Heavens)

Amazon Rolls Out Plan To Develop Delivery Robot Technology In Finland

Tech giant Amazon is planning to build delivery robot technology, with the company expanding its operations in Finland. The company is making changes to boost its operations in Helsinki.

Amazon To Develop New Delivery Technology in Helsinki

Amazon has announced that it would be developing a delivery robot technology for its autonomous delivery vehicles in Helsinki, Finland. The retail giant announced this in a blog post earlier today.

According to the blog post, Amazon would be establishing a new “Development Center” to support Amazon Scout. The Amazon Scout is a fully electric autonomous delivery robot the company is testing in four U.S locations.

The company said it would start by deploying two dozen engineers to the Amazon Scout Development Center in Helsinki. The team of engineers would be focused on research and development. They will be tasked with developing 3D software that simulates the complexity of real life. This is to ensure that Scout can safely and easily navigate neighborhoods while making deliveries.

“The Amazon Scout team in Helsinki will grow over time. We’re now hiring engineers who are at the forefront of robotics and autonomous systems technology,” the company said.

Amazon Continues To Dominate The E-Commerce Sector

The tech giant is one of the leading retailers in the world. Its performance over the past year, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic, has made it even stronger. A recent analysis by JPMorgan estimates that Amazon will surpass Walmart to become the leading retail outlet in the United States.

Amazon controls 51.2% of all retail e-commerce business in the United States, while Walmart accounts for just 5.6%. In the general sector, Walmart leads the way with a 9.2% control, while Amazon accounts for 8.9% of all retail sales in the United States.

AMZN stock chart. Source: FXEMPIRE

With developments of technologies such as the delivery robots, Amazon will make it easier to deliver goods to its customers. As more people become comfortable with ordering products online, Amazon’s market share could continue to increase in the coming months and years.

Amazon’s stock price is down by less than 1% today. However, it continues to trade above the $3,400 region.

Today’s Market Wrap Up and a Glimpse Into Thursday

Another day, another new all-time high for the S&P 500. The broader market index just set its fifth-straight record after finishing the day fractionally higher to just under 4,300. The Nasdaq failed to keep up and ended the day slightly lower, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average tacked on 210 points, with Boeing, Goldman Sachs and Walmart leading the gains.

Now that the month of June is in the rear-view mirror, it’s clear investors have managed to push stocks to impressive gains despite signs of inflation and lofty valuations. The S&P 500 and Dow are up roughly 14% and close to 13%, respectively, year-to-date.

The economy is humming along, with consumers exhibiting signs of resilience. For the back half of the year, however, investors will be weighing whether the economy can stand on its own two feet without the help of a dovish Fed. This will begin with Friday’s all-important employment report.

Stocks on the Move

When you hear that an electric vehicle stock is rallying, you would not be alone to guess Tesla. Today, however, that title went to NIO, a Shanghai-based EV maker. The stock gained nearly 6% on the day amid optimistic investors ahead of the company’s Q2 results coupled with China’s recovering economy. Wall Street analysts are also reportedly turning more bullish on the stock.

Sticking with the auto stock theme, shares of Ford fell 1% today. The company revealed it would suspend operations at some of its North American facilities due to a shortage of chips. The shutdown will cost the automaker upwards of USD 2 billion and slash its production significantly in the interim.

China’s ride-share company Didi made its debut on the U.S. stock market today. The ADR shares came out of the gate strong, rallying by a double-digit percentage, but the enthusiasm didn’t last. Didi finished the day with a gain of 1%.

Look Ahead

The ISM Manufacturing index for June comes out after surpassing estimates and climbing to 61.2 in May. Wells Fargo predicts the reading will stay “elevated” for June amid a strong orders pipeline.

On the earnings front, retailer Walgreens and spice maker McCormick are on deck. McCormick has benefited from rising demand as consumers spent more time cooking during the shift to staying at home during the health crisis.

Amazon’s E-Commerce Business Keeps Growing. Amazon Prime Day Sales Surpass $11 Billion

Amazon is the leading e-commerce platform in the United States, and it doesn’t look like slowing down. At this rate, Amazon would soon become the biggest retailer in the U.S., as predicted by JPMorgan a week ago.

Amazon Prime Day Sales Smashes Record

Amazon has revealed that the online retail sales in the United States during its 48-hour Prime Day event reached a new all-time high. The company recorded $11 billion in sales during the Prime Day event, surpassing the record levels of e-commerce spending reached during Cyber Monday in 2020.

The $11 billion sales recorded represents a 6.1% growth compared with last year’s October Prime Day event. In its analysis, Adobe Analytics said Amazon’s online retail sales stood at $5.6 billion on Monday, the first day of the event, with $5.4 billion recorded on the second day.

Thanks to the $11 billion recorded this year, Amazon has set the record of the largest U.S. online shopping day, surpassing the $10.9 billion recorded during Cyber Monday last year. Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights, said there is an increased demand for online shopping as people look forward to returning to normalcy.

Amazon Rules The E-Commerce World

Amazon rivals, including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Kohl’s, are currently offering similar markdowns this week. However, it is still unclear if the retailers can match Amazon in the online e-commerce sector.

AMZN stock chart. Source: FXEMPIRE

Earlier this month, JPMorgan analysts recommended investors buy Amazon’s stock because it believes it would surpass Walmart as the leading retailer in the United States by next year. Data indicated that Amazon had a 51.2% share of e-commerce sales in the United States in 2020, while Walmart only had 5.6%. In general, Walmart controlled 9.2% of the total retail sales in the United States. Amazon is not far behind, with an 8.9% in the sector. With the rapid rise in e-commerce and Amazon’s control of that market, JPMorgan sees it overtaking Walmart soon.

Amazon’s stock price has performed well since the start of the year. It began 2021 trading at $3,270 per share but has gone up and currently trades around $3,490.

Will Amazon Surpass Walmart As The Largest Retailer? JPMorgan Thinks So

Amazon has experienced amazing growth over the past year, and JPMorgan Chase now believes it will surpass Walmart as the largest retailer in the United States.

Amazon’s 2020 growth makes it a Buy

One of the companies to experience huge growth during the pandemic is Amazon. The retail giant dominated the market thanks to its numerous delivery power. As such, JPMorgan now estimates that it would surpass Walmart to become the leading retailer in the United States by next year.

In its analysis of Amazon, JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth reiterated that Amazon is one of the leading picks. He told clients Amazon could cross a major milestone next year and surpass Walmart to become the top retailer in the United States. As such, he rated Amazon as a Buy, with the stock currently trading at $3,376 per share.

AMZN chart. Source: FXEMPIRE

JPMorgan said, “The dramatic growth of e-commerce over the past 18 months has accelerated Amazon’s rise to dominance, and even the largest traditional retailer may soon fall behind.”

The prediction came after a stellar 2020 for Amazon, where its e-commerce business helped it catch up to Walmart in the US retail game. In 2019, Amazon had a 6.8% share of US retail sales while Walmart had an 8.9%. However, Amazon’s share jumped to 9.2% last year while Walmart went ahead to 9.3%.

Amazon’s rally came due to the pandemic, causing huge demand for e-commerce services. As of 2020, Amazon had a 51.2% share of e-commerce sales in the United States, while Walmart only had 5.6%.

AMZN dips despite positive analysis

Amazon’s stock (AMZN) is performing poorly at Tuesday’s pre-market trading session despite the Buy recommendation from JPMorgan. At the time of this report, AMZN is trading at $3,369.43, down by 0.43% in the pre-market trading session.

WMT chart. Source: FXEMPIRE

Walmart’s stock (WMT) isn’t fairing any better in the market. WMT is down by 0.50% over the past few hours, and it is currently trading at $139.86 per share.

Year-to-date, Amazon is the better performer. AMZN began the year trading at $3,340 and has added roughly $30 since then. Meanwhile, WMT’s price has declined year-to-date, from $144 to $139.

Exclusive-Online Wholesale Marketplace Faire Raises $260 Million, Valued at $7 Billion

By Jane Lanhee Lee

Faire helps small retailers connect with small brands, helping them to compete with retail giants like Amazon or Walmart Inc, said Faire Chief Executive and co-founder Max Rhodes. He started the company as he experienced the challenges of finding sales channels for an upscale New Zealand umbrella brand he was trying to sell in the United States.

“We were flying all over the country, going to trade shows. We were emailing back and forth with retailers. Email was kind of the height of the technological innovation for us in that business,” said Rhodes.

There are an increasing number of tech companies that are helping small and medium-sized businesses grow online, offering shipping, payment, e-commerce platforms and marketing services, and making it possible to sell outside of the Amazon marketplace.

One of Faire’s most popular filters to add in merchandise searches is the “not on Amazon,” said Rhodes. He said the average retailer or brand on Faire’s platform has about $250,000 in annual sales, but some are also growing big, fast.

Following its success in the U.S. market, Faire expanded into Europe three months ago and is seeing fast growth there, said Rhodes.

The funding round was led by Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s top venture capital firms.

“We’re still in the single-digit online penetration for the wholesale market,” said Sequoia partner Ravi Gupta. “We’re in the very early innings of what we think is a multi-decade-long trend towards digitization on some of these things.”

(Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; editing by Jonathan Oatis)