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Trade-Downs, Disappointments Top This Week's 5 Takeaways

Jason Stipp

Jason Stipp: I'm Jason Stipp for Morningstar, and welcome to a special Olympics edition of the Friday Five. That's our look back at the week's most interesting, enlightening, and maybe even head-scratching data points and news headlines. Joining me with the Five is Jeremy Glaser; he's Morningstar's Markets editor. Thanks for being here, Jeremy.

Jeremy Glaser: You're welcome, Jason.

Stipp: So, what do you have for the Five this week?

Glaser: Well, like you mentioned, we're going to talk a little bit about the Olympics, take a look at the jobs report from this morning, take a look at Darden, talk a little bit about the merger mania that continues to go on, and then a quick look back at the third quarter.

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Stipp: OK, well, let's take it from the top. Number one, the Olympics. You can see some folks behind us maybe a little bit sad, but they've been gathered here for quite a while. What's your take on the Olympics situation?

Glaser: Yeah, I think we have a disappointed but high-spirited crowd here in Chicago after losing the 2016 games, but I think that the Olympics in general do represent a theme that we've seen for a while of global infrastructure spending. A big part of the Olympic budgets are usually made to building out infrastructure, and I think that's something that we've heard--a lot of the stimulus money globally is going to infrastructure projects, a lot of talk about the United States and other countries in developing nations needing a huge amount of infrastructure spending. So, I think that that kind of spending could certainly be a theme, Olympics or no Olympics, throughout the next few years.

Stipp: So, more infrastructure spending hopefully will lead to more jobs, and that leads into some other bad news on the employment front that we've received today.

Glaser: Absolutely. The job front this morning was a little bit disappointing. We lost way more jobs than we expected. The unemployment rate crept up to 9.8%. You know, I think that nobody expected the recovery to be exactly a straight line or to be a big V, and I think this report confirms that. I don't think it's anything to panic about. Job losses are still way below peak. But it definitely shows that we still have a lot of worries, and I think that consumers being worried leads us into Darden's results.

They run Olive Garden and Red Lobster, which, for a lot of people, is quite a splurge, and we're seeing that their sales continue to be down and that people aren't willing to go to these casual dining restaurants like they were before, and are instead trading down to McDonald's or trading down to eating at home or cooking more at home. I think that could be a trend of consumers being very cautious and seeing these bad job numbers that could continue for some time.

Stipp: So, trading down, trading down, trading down could mean there could be a little while to wait until all that trading up happens once more. So, what have you got for number four?

Glaser: You know, I think we see that merger mania just continues to go on. Xerox made a big play to get into the services industry this week. We've seen rumors of Comcast possibly buying NBC Universal from General Electric. A lot of big deals continues to be a big theme.

One of the things that strikes me about this start of a merger bubble, if you will, versus the one that happened at the end of the last upturn is that this seems to be focused on strategic deals that are financed very conservatively, versus private equity deals that were financed with an incredible amount of debt at the peak of the bubble, which kind of soothes my fears a little bit.

Stipp: And number five.

Glaser: Finally, just taking a look back at the third quarter, an incredible run for the market, one of the best quarters that we've had in decades in terms of performance. It seems that that's going to be hard to beat going into the fourth quarter.

Stipp: So, potentially hopefully something that we can hang our hats on for a little bit.

Glaser: Right.

Stipp: For Morningstar, I'm Jason Stipp. Thanks for watching.