Sean Spicer resigns, Wall Street remains in negative territory

Summer doldrums, Washington malaise and inefficiency, and surprise Amazon-Sears-Kenmore hook-up cause stocks to drift down again.

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Former WH Press Secretary Sean Spicer in action at a White House press briefing. (Video still, screen capture via White House website. U.S. government image in the public domain)

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2017 – This just in via CNBC:

“White House press secretary Sean Spicer has resigned after opposing President Donald Trump’s appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director, NBC News has confirmed with two people familiar with the matter.

“The president asked Spicer to stay in his role, but Spicer said appointing Scaramucci was a major mistake… citing a person with direct knowledge of the conversation…

“Earlier, a source close to the White House told NBC that Scaramucci met with Trump and it went well. In the meeting, Scaramucci was offered the role of communications director and accepted it, according to multiple reports…


“…Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus and top adviser Steve Bannon had resisted the appointment, NBC reported Friday. It said the two were kept out of the loop on the decision.”

CNBC cites the New York Times as its source for this breaking news.

The communications director slot has been vacant since Mike Dubke, who formerly held the post, resigned in May. In addition to his role as press secretary, Spicer had also filled communications post on an interim basis.


Read also: Trump to appoint Anthony Scaramucci as WH communications director


As always in Washington, one never really knows whether Spicer handed in his own resignation in response to Scaramucci’s appointment or if the resignation had been requested beforehand. President Trump reportedly had asked Spicer to stay on in his White House post.

Any evidence that today’s announcement of the latest Trump White House shuffle has had much influence on U.S. stocks is conjectural at this point. But given the recent wobbly and highly-unpredictable action in U.S. markets, the political uncertainty that today’s actions imply may be causing already nervous investors to sell, given that the notoriously treacherous trading months of August and September are close at hand.

Also not helping stocks:

  • The inability of the Republican Congress to accomplish anything of any significance; and
  • The thunderbolt news revealed Thursday and today about the linkup of Sears (symbol: SHLD) Kenmore appliance sales with Amazon.com’s (AMZN) ever-expanding offerings via its gargantuan – and growing – online “store.”

The latter piece of news immediately smithereened the stocks of well-known appliance vendors like Home Depot (HD), Lowes (LOW) and Best Buy (BBY).


Read also: Trading Diary: Freaky Friday leads to stock portfolio moves


All three bricks-and-mortar megastores did a Wile E. Coyote cliff-dive in Thursday trading action, down several percentage points apiece as news of the Amazon-Sears linkup hit the wires. The same stocks were down fairly hard again this morning, although as we write this article around 1 p.m. ET, each issue is peeking into the green.

As this increasingly weird bull market continues toward an uncertain summer fate, these three retailers may suddenly have become a “buy.” Perhaps not a screaming buy, but nonetheless a decent risk, particularly when it comes to Home Depot and Lowes.

The reason for this is simple: Appliance sales at this pair of hardware stores on steroids count for roughly 5-8 percent of total sales. Losing some of these sales, perhaps a goodly number of them to Jeff Bezos’ increasingly trust-bustable retail Godzilla, will hurt both bottom lines to some extent. But both companies are far, far more than just appliances. Once adjustments are made, both HD and LOW should get back on track.

Best Buy could be hit somewhat worse, given the importance of consumer durable appliances to this already deeply-discounting chiefly consumer electronics chain. But we shall have to wait and see.

According to this morning’s Wall Street Journal (dead tree version), Sears will sell Kenmore major appliances directly to Amazon, while keeping inventory in its own warehouses under some flavor of on-demand delivery. The Sears subsidiary actually responsible for delivering and servicing Sears appliances will apparently retain that function as part of the Amazon linkup.

What’s truly uncertain is what kind of impact the Amazon connection will have on the rapidly-shrinking number of already iffy Sears and K-Mart retail locations. Clearly, the company’s arrangement with Amazon will have a significant impact on the floor sales of Kenmore appliances at these stores.

On the other hand, under Eddie Lampert’s disastrous management, both chains are disappearing as fast as the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy threw a bucket of water on her. It’s been clear to this writer for quite some time that Lampert’s ultimate plan was to kill these stores off anyway, since his goal was (and is) likely to involve selling the still-lucrative real estate underneath these dying stores.

The Great Recession stymied these plans for nearly a decade, but now Lampert might be putting this strategy back on the fiscal front burner. He’s already sold off the Sears crown jewels, including its once-exclusive line of popular Craftsman-branded tools – now part of Stanley Black & Decker.

This latest arrangement with Amazon and Kenmore-branded appliances isn’t a sale, of course. But as Sears’ once seemingly immortal brands drift off to other precincts, there’s less and less reason to shop in those increasingly tired sears and K-Mart stores, whose appliance sections have been staffed for years with some of the most intrusive sales-staffers we’ve ever encountered.

The shares of Lampert’s Sears Holdings (SHLD) got a boost today from the Amazon deal. But unless we miss our guess, SHLD is a dying entity. The migration of Kenmore appliances over to the wonderful world of online sales is just the latest step in this once-stories chain’s slow and painful demise.

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