Wall Street Breakfast: To Forgive, Or Not
SoFi Technologies (NASDAQ:SOFI) rose as much as 4% in afternoon trading on Tuesday following reports that conservative justices were skeptically questioning President Biden’s plan to forgive billions of dollars of student debt. SoFi is a known player for refinancing student loans, with SA contributors like Data Driven Investing recently pointing out that growth at its lending arm should accelerate again when the student loan moratorium expires in the back half of the year. Other related stocks were less affected by the opening arguments at SCOTUS, such as Navient (NASDAQ:NAVI), Nelnet (NYSE:NNI) and SLM Corp. (NASDAQ:SLM), which closed the session around the flatline.
Snapshot: Chief Justice John Roberts led the conservative justices, who comprise a majority of the court, in examining whether the Biden administration has the authority to cancel federal student loans as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. Roberts, in his questioning of the White House’s top Supreme Court lawyer, suggested that the administration had exceeded its authority. Roberts also contended that a program as large as Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, which is estimated to cost $430B over three decades, should be something that casual observers would expect Congress to take up. “If you’re going to affect the obligations of that many Americans on a subject that’s of great controversy, they would think that’s something for Congress to act on,” he said.
In addition to the debate over whether the Biden administration has the authority to forgive the debt, the court also must decide on whether the states and two individuals suing the government have the legal right, or standing, to sue (parties generally have to prove that they would suffer financial harm from the action). The administration has said it’s acting in accordance with the Heroes Act, a 2003 law that allows the Secretary of Education to waive or modify terms of federal student loans in connection with a national emergency. The law was primarily intended to protect service members from financial harm while they were serving in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Outlook: The concept of student debt cancellation, even if it would pass through Congress, has divided the country. Some say it would benefit borrowers at a time of high inflation, or lead to financial stability and economic security. Others have flagged it as another contributor to higher prices, or an unfair measure for those that chose not to go to college because of the cost, don’t have loans or already paid them off. The Federal Reserve estimated that Americans owed $1.76T in student loans in the fourth quarter of 2022, with the average student loan debt around $40,000 per borrower. (125 comments)
Hedge funds and mutual funds are warming up to stocks after last year’s selloff, but exposure to equities is still historically low, according to Goldman’s latest analysis. The firm looked at 758 hedge funds with $2.3T of gross equity positions, as well as 543 mutual funds with $2.4T in assets under management at the start of 2023. Among the stocks they saw favored were Fiserv (FISV), Humana (HUM) and Wells Fargo (WFC), and among those out of favor – and even shorted – were Dow components Caterpillar (CAT), Walmart (WMT) and Disney (DIS). See the full list here. Looking at Wall Street market calls this week, J.P. Morgan’s global team remains bearish on U.S. stocks and Nomura recommends getting “back to cash.” (28 comments)
Pay attention to Tesla (TSLA) shares after the bell as the EV leader holds its Investor Day at 4 p.m. ET. The third edition of Tesla’s Master Plan (following Part 1 in 2006 and Part 2 in 2016) will be a major part of the event, which will likely detail the company’s long-term expansion plans and a new Gigafactory in Mexico. Other announcements could touch on Project Juniper, the Cybertruck, autonomous driving, energy storage initiatives, charging network revenue potential and the Tesla Bot. In other recent news, Tesla paused its FSD Beta rollout until a software update is available, though the stock’s monster 90% YTD rally restored Elon Musk’s status as the world’s richest person. (130 comments)
Another high-profile investor day took place on Tuesday. Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO David Solomon took the podium, but ended up getting some flak over the Wall Street stalwart’s foray into the consumer arena. The business has resulted in billions of dollars in losses over the past few years, and Goldman is now exploring strategic alternatives for its Platform Solutions unit. It’s also in the process of selling some loans in its Marcus consumer bank portfolio, as well as evaluating the sale of installment lending platform GreenSky. Solomon had sought to diversify Goldman’s revenue stream away from traditional businesses like investment banking, but his lack of answers saw the stock dive 4% by the end of his presentation. (5 comments)