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Inside Finance (Aug 30th, 2019)

All Inside newsletters are taking the day off for Labor Day on Monday, so look for your next Inside Finance newsletter on Wednesday. Have a great holiday weekend! – Schuyler

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1. A mixed day will end a tumultuous month for stock markets. At last check, the Nasdaq was down roughly 0.3 percent, while the Dow was up nearly 0.2 percent and the S&P 500 was mostly flat. I probably don't need to remind you that we saw some really rough days for stocks throughout August, but the good news is that traders usually expect stocks to perform weaker in August. In that sense, there may be less to worry about than the bears would have us believe. The bad news is that September is usually a weak month, as well, so we might have to brace for some more volatility (though the Dow actually saw gains in September 2018). – CNN

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2. New numbers on U.S. consumer sentiment shows the biggest month-to-month drop since December 2012. The numbers come from the University of Michigan, which pegged consumer sentiment at 89.8. That's the lowest number since October 2016, and compared to July's number of 98.4, it's the largest drop since fiscal cliff worries dominated headlines nearly seven years ago. Consumer spending data has been a consistent bright spot, even as other economic indicators slip. If lower sentiment takes a hit on spending, it could give bulls less firepower to offset the bears. However, a separate report today found that consumer spending rose sharply last month. That gives companies a strong head start on third-quarter revenue, and could ultimately help ease the impact of this month's dip in sentiment. – CNBC

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3. For today's #FollowFriday, let's go across the Pacific Ocean, where we'll find Global Times editor Hu Xijin. Headlines about the China trade war are a dime a dozen, so you'd be forgiven for hardly ever reading below the first couple of sentences. However, if you were to read trade war news in-depth, you would likely notice Hu Xijin's name and analysis repeatedly popping up. Over the summer, he's become an increasingly important Twitter follow for Wall Street analysts trying to get a sense of where the markets will go next.

A great thing about his feed is how many of the tweets are his own. There are few retweets, and when he does retweet, it's usually to add context to a news story. And while the trade war is the primary topic on his feed, he does also have some interesting insight into Hong Kong protests that are worth a look, as well. However, it might be wise to take his tweets with a grain of salt. He is, after all, the editor-in-chief of a state-controlled media organization. – @HuXijin_GT

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4. Much like the reunion of CBS and Viacom, two major companies in the tobacco industry are once again looking to become one. Philip Morris became its own company about a decade ago, severing ties with Altria, but the companies have confirmed they're considering a merger. The news comes as Altria spends big on vaping and cannabis to offset slumping cigarette sales. If the two do merge, it would create the largest tobacco corporate—by a long shot. The two companies' combined value would be about $200 billion, compared to the just $80 billion valuation of the next-biggest competitor, British American Tobacco. – THE ECONOMIST

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5. Michael Burry, who became well-known beyond the financial world after Christian Bale portrayed him in "The Big Short," is back in headlines this week with some surprising analysis. Many outlets have picked up on his view that there's a bubble in passive investing right now, but for me, the most surprising call was his bullish stance on GameStop. As a millennial gamer who grew up on the Genesis and N64, I hope he's right that streaming won't overtake the gaming industry, but am I going to invest money behind that hope? I'm not so sure... – MARKETS INSIDER

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6. President Trump today accused "badly run and weak companies" of "smartly blaming these small tariffs instead of themselves for bad management." It's the president's latest attempt to downplay or deny the impact of tariffs and trade tension on American companies and consumers. He also repeated attacks on the Fed this morning, as he has made a habit of doing. – CNBC

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7. After Boris Johnson announced that he would suspend Parliament during crucial Brexit negotiations, many see the chances of a no-deal Brexit increasing, and banks are preparing. JPMorgan sent a memo to UK employees this week, asking them to review their immigration status. That bank has already asked 300 of its London-based investors to prepare to move elsewhere in the EU, should a no-deal Brexit take effect. It's worth noting that not everyone on Wall Street is bearish about this week's Brexit developments. Some are instead placing more importance on upcoming negotiations with Brussels. – FINANCIAL POST

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8. Popeyes has run out of chicken sandwiches, and I can't wait to see how that affects Restaurant Brands International's next quarterly report. Popeyes originally thought it had produced enough sandwiches to last through the end of September, but they sold out in just two weeks. Obviously, Popeyes is just one of the many major fast-food chains owned by RBI, so it might not have that big of an impact the company overall. But that, along with Impossible Whopper sales, could be fun things to watch out for! – CNN

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9. Happy birthday to Warren Buffett, who turns 89 today. Forbes rounded up some of his best quotes for his birthday last year, and the wisdom still holds true today, so it's worth revisiting. – FORBES

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10. It isn't just Inside that's going dark for Labor Day—markets will be closed, too. This is your last chance to get trades in before Tuesday. Then you can try to forget about money, investments, trade tensions, Brexit, passive investing bubbles, and consumer sentiment. Good luck, I mean, have a nice weekend! – MARKETWATCH

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Schuyler Durham writes Inside Finance. He’s a lifelong Portlander who got his start covering the local music scene, but later became enamored with the complexities of financial and political reporting. After three years in broadcast news, he's now diving back into the digital realm. You can keep up with his writing on Twitter at @SchuylerWriter or watch him goof around on Instagram at @bitterbuddha.

Editor: David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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