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Stock Market News Today: Oct. 9, 2019

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The major stock indices had booked solid gains by Wednesday afternoon. Some optimism about a limited trade deal between the U.S. and China appears to be giving investors hope that trade tensions could ease sooner rather than later.

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

This optimism wasn’t enough to save shares of iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT), which were hit hard by an analyst downgrade. Shares of Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU), on the other hand, were buoyant after an analyst predicted massive growth over the next few years.

iRobot could have a tough holiday season

Investors in iRobot, the company behind the Roomba and other robotic household helpers, have had a tough year. In less than 6 months, the formerly high-flying stock has crashed by more than 50% thanks to weakening revenue growth, lackluster guidance, and a negative impact from tariffs.

More bad news came on Wednesday morning, when analysts at Raymond James downgraded iRobot stock due to competitive concerns. Raymond James cut its rating on the stock to underperform, citing strong competition and pricing pressure from Shark. Market share erosion could be a problem this holiday season if consumers opt for lower-priced alternatives to iRobot’s pricey products.

Image source: iRobot.

Raymond James doesn’t expect the situation to improve next year, predicting revenue of $1.27 billion and earnings per share of $2.40. The consensus analyst estimate for 2020 revenue is $1.36 billion, according to Yahoo! Finance, and the consensus earnings estimate is $3.09 per share.

This analyst pessimism weighed on the stock. Shares of iRobot were down 5.9% by 1:15 p.m. EDT Wednesday.

iRobot expects to produce revenue between $1.20 billion and $1.25 billion this year, along with EPS between $2.40 and $3.15. Assuming iRobot hits its guidance, Raymond James’ forecast for 2020 calls for very weak revenue growth and flat earnings at best. That’s a far cry from the rapid growth the company has experienced in recent years, and if it comes to pass, the stock could fall much further.

Roku’s user base has room to grow

While iRobot’s prospects appear to be dimming, Roku is a different story. Analysts at Macquarie upgraded the stock to outperform on Wednesday, predicting a substantial user base increase by 2022, along with near tripling of revenue. The stock was up 8.1% by 1:15 p.m. EDT.

Macquarie believes that Roku’s smart TV integrations, as well as a vast opportunity in international markets, can drive the company’s user base to more than 70 million by 2022, up from 30.5 million active accounts at the end of the second quarter. Platform revenue could soar to $2.3 billion in that time, driven by the monetization of the user base.

Along with the upgrade, Macquarie raised its price target on Roku stock from $110 to $130. At $130 per share, the company would be valued at nearly $15 billion. That’s a price-to-sales ratio, based on Macquarie’s revenue estimate for 2022, of about 5.5.

Roku isn’t currently profitable, with a net loss of $19.6 million through the first six months of 2019. However, a rapidly growing advertising business could certainly change that in the coming years. There are competitive pressures, like Comcast‘s recent move to offer free streaming boxes to Internet subscribers. But massive user base growth for Roku over the next few years is certainly possible, given the popularity of its platform.





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Lagarde Says U.S. Is at Risk of Losing Global Leader Role

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Christine Lagarde,

the departing head of the International Monetary Fund who is set to take over as president of the European Central Bank, said in an interview that the U.S. risks diminishing its role as a global leader and warned of dire consequences of its trade war with China.

“I was brought up as a citizen of this world. The risk I see is that the United States is at risk of losing leadership. And that would be just a terrible development,” Ms. Lagarde said in a “60 Minutes” program that aired Sunday.

Ms. Lagarde also warned President Trump against pushing the Federal Reserve for lower interest rates because it could spur inflation. “When the unemployment rate is at 3.7%, you don’t want to accelerate that too much by lowering interest rates,” she said. “Because the risk you take is that then prices begin to go up. You have to be very careful. You know, it’s like navigating a plane.”

She said she would tell Mr. Trump: “Market stability should not be the subject of a tweet here or a tweet there. It requires consideration, thinking, quiet and measured and rational decisions.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ms. Lagarde, who made the comments in interviews in September, said the U.S. has been a force for good, fostering the principles of rule of law, democracy, free markets and respect for the individual.

She urged policy makers to work to end the trade war between the U.S. and China, which she said is seriously affecting the global economy. “If you shave off, you know, almost a percentage point of growth that means less investment, less jobs, more unemployment, reduced growth.”

Finance ministers and central bankers who gathered in Washington for the IMF’s fall meetings this past week said the biggest risks to the global economy are trade-related uncertainties. Global economic growth has shrunk this year to its slowest pace since the 2009 recession, the IMF said.

Ms. Lagarde, in the interview, lamented both the U.S. and the U.K.’s retreat from international ties, saying that the U.K.’s attempt to leave the European Union in particular has caused her “great sadness.”

“International trade, connections, movement of people and movement of capital has taken hundreds of millions out of poverty. Now, some people in the advanced economies might say, ‘Pooh. What do I care?’” she said.

She added: “What can walls do about pandemics? What can walls do about terrorism? What can walls do about climate change and destruction of the environment? This is not the answer to the global questions and issues that interconnect, whether we like it or not.”

Write to Kate O’Keeffe at kathryn.okeeffe@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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Geoengineering Crop Losses & China's Substitution for Edible Oil (902)

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AI, digital marketing key skills to boost growth, IT News, ET CIO

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New Delhi, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), digital marketing and design thinking are the top skills that organisations will need to focus on to drive future growth, according to a new study.

Despite the increased awareness around upskilling, the survey by ed-tech company Great Learning found that 47 per cent of the companies surveyed have still not assigned budgets for upskilling their workforce.

“The technology skill gap among employees is one of the biggest challenges that organisations in India are beset with,” Hari Krishnan Nair, Co-founder, Great Learning, said in a statement.

“Skilled employees will continue to be the biggest asset for any organization going ahead and while options like lateral hiring and outsourcing may help in the short term, from a cost and effectiveness point of view, upskilling is the best way to stay competitive in the long run,” Nair said.

As per the survey, that involved more than 300 companies ranging from small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) to large organisations, 25 per cent of all companies believe AI and ML are the most crucial skills needed to ensure an organisation’s future growth.

Digital marketing emerged second with 19 per cent finding it most crucial. It was followed by design thinking, which 10 per cent of companies indicated as most important.

Apart from these, skills related to Internet of Things (IoT), robotic process automation (RPA), and natural language processing/generation (NLP/NLG) emerged as important skills in responses from the surveyed organisations.





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