Opening Bell 7.27.18

GDP reports; Twitter falls; Seth Rogen intercom and more!
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U.S. Economy Grew at 4.1% Rate in Second Quarter [WSJ]

WASHINGTON—The U.S. economy grew at the strongest pace in nearly four years during the second quarter, powered by a rebound in consumer spending, exports and firm business investment.

Gross domestic product—the value of all goods and services produced across the economy—rose at a seasonally and inflation-adjusted annual rate of 4.1% from April through June, the Commerce Department said Friday. That was a pickup from the first quarter’s revised growth rate of 2.2%.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a 4.4% growth rate. The second-quarter growth reading was the strongest since the 4.9% annual rate reported for the third quarter of 2014.

BP pays $10.5 billion for BHP shale assets to beef up U.S. business [Reuters]

The acquisition marks a big turning point for BP since the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, for which the company is still paying off more than $65 billion in penalties and clean-up costs.

“This is a transformational acquisition for our (onshore U.S.) business, a major step in delivering our upstream strategy and a world-class addition to BP’s distinctive portfolio,” BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley said in a statement.

In a further sign of the upturn in its fortunes, BP said it would increase its quarterly dividend for the first time in nearly four years and announced a $6 billion share buyback, to be partly funded by selling some upstream assets.

Record Amazon profit is result of less hiring, more ad sales [MarketWatch]

Amazon.com Inc. has been known for years as a company that brings in a lot of money, and sends it back out the other way just as fast.

That is why Thursday’s earnings report was especially surprising, as it showed a whopping $2.5 billion in quarterly profit for a company that had never produced as much as $2 billion in earnings in a single quarter before. When asked on a conference call by surprised investment analysts, who were predicting about half as much profit from the e-commerce giant, where all that money came from, Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky summed it up pretty easily: Less spending, especially on new hires, and more ad sales.

“One thing that you’ll notice is that we’ve stepped down our rate of growth of fixed head count, excluding acquisitions,” Olsavsky noted, adding that Amazon has been shifting employees to areas of need instead of hiring from the outside.

Twitter Shares Plunge 17% as Monthly Users Decline [Bloomberg]

Twitter Inc. said monthly users dropped by 1 million in the second quarter, and predicted that number will decline further as the company continues to fight against spam, fake accounts and malicious rhetoric on its social network. The shares plunged 17 percent in early trading.

Monthly active users were 335 million --a decline from 336 million in the first quarter, San Francisco-based Twitter said Friday in a statement. Though that measure was up 2.8 percent from a year earlier, the company expects monthly visitors to fall again in the current period. Twitter blamed the projected drop on intensified efforts to clean up the platform, stricter privacy rules in Europe and changes to the way its service is used through SMS messaging.

Seth Rogen to be the new voice of Vancouver public transit [CBS News]

Never underestimate the power of a social media campaign. TransLink BC, the public transportation system in Vancouver, British Columbia, announced Thursday that actor Seth Rogen will lend his voice to announcements -- an initiative born from a social media request.

The campaign to get Rogen involved began in May, days before plans to have Morgan Freeman become the voice of the system were scrapped. Stephanie Ip, a reporter for The Province and the Vancouver Sun, tweeted that Rogen, a Vancouver native, was better suited to the role.

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