Privately-held financial company SoFi isn’t one of the non-bank lenders Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell called out as potential risks to the U.S. economy in his Wednesday speech, SoFi chief Anthony Noto told CNBC on Thursday.

“We have really strong risk controls,” the CEO told Jim Cramer in an exclusive interview on “Mad Money.” “We take it very seriously.”

Noto, formerly the chief operating officer of Twitter, said that when he joined SoFi — a CNBC Disruptor 50 company whose name stands for “Social Finance” — “the No. 1 priority was making sure that we focused on quality of loans over quantity of loans.”

Knowing that the Fed would soon start raising interest rates in earnest, Noto knew that his millennial-facing company would have to adjust to ensure that the loans it made were secure and appropriately backed.

More from CNBC Disruptor 50:

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“We wanted to focus on per-loan economics for two reasons: one, we wanted the loans that we created to be great investments for our asset-backed security investors, but also if we keep them on our balance sheet,” he told Cramer. “So we made that pivot when I got to the company to ensure that we prepared for the longer-term rising-rate environment.”

On Wednesday, Fed Chair Powell made a speech that amounted to a slight reversal from the central bank’s position on interest rate policy in October. Rather than maintaining that interest rates were “a long way” from neutral, he said they were “just below” neutral, or the level when they are neither accomodative or restrictive to the economy.

He also said that the Fed had “no preset policy path” for its rate hikes, causing a 600-plus-point rally in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Stocks continued their march higher Thursday before reversing at day-end on trade concerns.

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Now that the Federal Reserve has become slightly less hawkish on its interest rate plans, there’s one final issue that could hinder U.S. economic growth in 2019, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said: China.

“Remember, if we’re going to avert a slowdown next year, we need the president to make some kind of deal with the Chinese, and I don’t think we’ll get one. That’s the problem here, at least for stocks,” the “Mad Money” host said ahead of the G-20 summit, where President Donald Trump is supposed to meet with China President Xi Jinping to talk trade.

Ahead of what Cramer believes will be a no-deal result, he suggested investors that haven’t bought into stock yet shouldn’t buy until Monday. Those who have may want to “do some trimming” on Friday, “especially of your weaker stocks,” he advised.

“The important thing, though, is that you brace yourself for some weaker data, the data that caused the Fed to recalibrate, pulling back from its earlier plan for an aggressive series of lockstep rate hikes,” he said. “There’s no ticking time bomb. However, there is a degree of risk that makes me uncomfortable going into this weekend, even as we no longer need to fear the Fed as much as we did 48 hours ago.”

Cramer also made some suggestions for investors who want to hedge against the risk of U.S.-China trade talks going south.

While reports have suggested that Trump will seek a truce at the Buenos Aires, Argentina gathering, Cramer thought he might use more of a stick-and-carrot approach, keeping with his plan of raising the existing 10-percent tariffs on Chinese imports to 25 percent at year-end, then offering a “carrot” by holding off on an additional round of duties.

“When we come in on Monday, you need to be ready in case President Trump spends the whole night back from Argentina tweeting about how his best friend … President Xi forced him to ignite the 25-percent tariff fuse,” Cramer said. “If he does, you’re going to get a down market.”

So, ahead of the summit, “you need stocks with built-in catalysts, the stocks of companies that are willing to reinvent themselves into something the market likes more than their current form,” Cramer said as the major averages traded higher.

Click here for his suggestions.

Global retailer PVH, parent to the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, will have no choice but to raise prices if the Trump administration places 25-percent tariffs on the products it makes in China, Chairman and CEO Manny Chirico told CNBC on Thursday.

“The unfortunate thing about it is who’s going to be hurt by this is the consumer,” Chirico told Cramer in an exclusive “Mad Money” interview. “We have to raise prices to make up for a 25-percent tariff.”

U.S. trade authorities have placed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports. Tariffs on the majority of those goods are set to rise to 25 percent at the end of 2018. The move has set off a backlash from retailers.

While PVH’s apparel products aren’t drastically affected by the initial round of tariffs, additional duties that President Donald Trump has been threatening to place on Chinese imports could hurt the company, Chirico said.

Click here to watch and read more about his interview.

Privately-held financial company SoFi isn’t one of the non-bank lenders Fed Chairman Jerome Powell called out as potential risks to the U.S. economy in his Wednesday speech, SoFi chief Anthony Noto told CNBC on Thursday.

“We have really strong risk controls,” the CEO told Cramer in an exclusive interview on “Mad Money.” “We take it very seriously.”

Noto, formerly the chief operating officer of Twitter, said that when he joined SoFi — a CNBC Disruptor 50 company whose name stands for “Social Finance” — “the No. 1 priority was making sure that we focused on quality of loans over quantity of loans.”

Knowing that the Fed would soon start raising interest rates in earnest, Noto knew that his millennial-facing company would have to adjust to ensure that the loans it made were secure and appropriately backed.

Click here to watch and read more about Noto’s interview.

Dollar Tree President and CEO Gary Philbin sees “an inflection point” on the horizon for his company despite some minor tariff-related headwinds, he told Cramer in an exclusive interview.

The discount retailer, which acquired counterpart Family Dollar four years ago, has been hard at work renovating Family Dollar’s stores, an effort that has boosted profits and led management to accelerate the renovation schedule.

“It’s just a sheer equation of arithmetic at this point,” Philbin said on “Mad Money.” “I do see it being a multi-year trajectory to really get to an inflection point.”

Dollar Tree is also taking measures to avoid pitfalls related to the Trump administration’s tariffs, the CEO said. Forty percent of Dollar Tree’s merchandise comes from Asia, but nearly 50 percent is domestically sourced, he added.

“People forget that sometimes,” he said. “We’ve worked real hard on the tariff piece knowing that 10 percent’s in place. We’re expecting 25 percent to come beginning of January. And credit to our merchants who have worked around us.”

Click here to watch his full interview.

In Cramer’s lightning round, he flew through his responses to callers’ stock questions:

The Home Depot Inc.: “Home Depot is down a lot. I have no catalyst. There are other retailers that are doing better. I think Costco’s doing better than Home Depot. I think that Lowe’s has a turnaround story for [CEO] Marvin Ellison. But anybody who buys Home Depot and puts it away for the next 18 months, I think, is going to do quite well.”

Nielsen Holdings PLC: “I can’t recommend a stock that I wouldn’t buy on fundamentals just on a takeover [basis]. I know they’re getting some bid interest. I think the stock is probably a little too high here. I’m going to say no.”

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One down, two to go?

Stock market bulls rejoiced Wednesday, with the S&P 500

SPX, +2.30%

 and Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +2.50%

 erasing November losses and posting their biggest one-day percentage gains since March after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell soothed worries about the pace of future interest-rate increases.

‘Trio of tribulations’

The remarks were seen “possibly” setting aside one of the “trio of tribulations” — rate increases, trade tensions and a peak in corporate earnings growth — blamed for the stock market’s fall swoon, said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA, in a note.

Read: Here are the stocks that powered the Dow after the Fed’s Powell soothed investors

“Investor optimism over a near-term end to the rate-tightening cycle has likely lit the fuse for an end-of-year celebration, with the addition of a booster to be supplied by a possible resumption of trade talks,” he said, with talks this weekend between President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires now in the spotlight.

Technical outlook

Stovall, however, said the technical bias for the market “remains bearish” with the probability of more downside movement elevated as long as the S&P 500, which closed at 2,743.79, remains below the top end of a resistance zone on the chart at 2,746. A close above that level, however, would open the door to a move toward the 2,796-2,815 area, he said.

Stock index futures were pointing to a slightly lower start for Wall Street on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the market reaction certainly showed investors are sensitive to pronouncements by the Fed. The stock-market selloff was sparked, in part, after Powell in early October said that rates remained a”long way” from the neutral level that neither speeds nor slows economic growth and that the Fed could ultimately raise rates beyond that neutral level. The remark was widely criticized as a communications flub and, on Wednesday, Powell effectively walked it back, saying rates were “just below” the “broad range” of estimates of the neutral rate.

Several economists cautioned against reading the remarks as a signal that Fed policy makers, who are still widely expected to deliver their fourth rate increase of 2018 in December and who have penciled in three increases in 2019, are set to significantly slow the pace of rate increases. Others argued that a pause could be in store after the almost certain December hike.

Read: Why economists insist Powell wasn’t as dovish as the market thinks

The stakes

Meanwhile, failure by Trump and Xi to tone down the conflict could all but guarantee that trade tensions remain in place, and perhaps escalate, into year’s end. Skeptics warn that bulls might be disappointed if the Fed’s December policy meeting shows little deviation by policy makers in terms of their rate expectations for 2019.

And it should be remembered that the aforementioned trio of tribulations are connected.

“Better earnings this year have been fully offset by higher interest rates plus the simultaneous uncertainty of U.S./China trade wars and Federal Reserve policy,” wrote Datatrek co-founder Nicholas Colas in a Tuesday note. “The first threatens corporate earnings next year. The second puts pressure on still-high equity valuations.”

Hopes for a U.S.-China thaw and confirmation of a softer tone from the Fed were the only thing separating U.S. equities from another downdraft into year-end, he said.

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Treasury prices rose, pulling yields lower, on Thursday trading after investors judged the latest remarks by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as dovish.

Powell in a speech in front of the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday said interest rates sat “just below” the range of estimates for the neutral level, the point where interest rates neither speed nor slow down the economy, a far cry from his remarks two months ago that the central bank remained well away from the neutral rate. Investors seized his comments as a signal that the Fed may pause its hiking schedule or cut the number of planned rate increases next year after the December meeting.

On Thursday, the 10-year Treasury note yield

TMUBMUSD10Y, -1.25%

  fell 3.2 basis points to 3.012%, nearing the psychologically important level of 3%, after dropping to a six-week low on Wednesday. Along with the bond rally, U.S. stocks also soared in response.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500

SPX, +2.30%

  rose 2.3%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +2.50%

  booked a more than 600 point gain. Meanwhile, the 2-year note yield, the maturity most sensitive to shifting expectations for Fed policy, also fell 2.6 basis points on the day of Powell’s comments.

The 30-year note yield

TMUBMUSD30Y, -1.34%

was down 2.1 basis points to 2.784%. The 30-year bond yield

TMUBMUSD30Y, -1.34%

slipped 2.9 basis points to 3.300%. Bond prices move in the opposite direction of yields.

“The conclusion we draw is that the expected December hike is likely to happen. Make no mistake, Powell did say, correctly, that US economic growth is currently robust. However, we now think that the Fed will only implement one more hike in 2019, some time during the first half,” said Han de Jong, chief economist for ABN Amro, in a note.

But other economists said the Fed chief, like before, had not added much new information on the Fed’s outlook for 2019, and that he was merely restating the current monetary policy stance.

See: Why economists insist Powell wasn’t as dovish as market thinks

Read: Did Fed’s Powell ‘light the fuse’ for a year-end stock-market rally?

Providing critical information for the U.S. trading day. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Need to Know newsletter. Sign up here.

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The bitcoin recovery extended into Thursday with the world’s largest digital currency moving higher and on track for a third consecutive winning session.

After dipping below $3,500 for the first time in more than a year on Saturday, bitcoin regained $4,000 on Wednesday and extended gains into Thursday. In early trading, a single bitcoin

BTCUSD, -0.44%

 was last trading at $4,356.55, up 2.5% since Wednesday’s level at 5 p.m. Eastern Time on the Kraken exchange.

Read: Bitcoin is on track to do something it hasn’t done in 4 years

What are analysts saying

Mati Greenspan, senior market analyst at eToro said the recent uptick in volatility has reignited the crypto debate of popularity versus adoption.

“Certainly, it would be better for the use case of cryptocurrencies if they remained more stable, or to see a slow but steady increase in prices. But let’s be straight, would bitcoin be as popular as it is today if not for the wild volatility?” he wrote.

“The outrageous bull run of 2017 has been largely responsible for bringing an unprecedented number of new users into the network but it seems that excitement can be generated on the way down as well.”

Altcoins underperforming

Altcoins, the colloquial name given to the group of cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin, are lagging on Thursday. Ether

ETHUSD, -3.62%

was unchanged at $120.93, Litecoin

LTCUSD, -2.09%

was up 1.1% at $34.82, XRP

XRPUSD, -5.03%

is off 1.2% to 39 cents, and Bitcoin Cash

BCHUSD, -6.07%

was down 12.8% to $185.70.

Bitcoin futures are marginally higher on Thursday. The Cboe Global Markets December contract

XBTZ8, -1.06%

was trading up 0.9% at $4,290 while the CME Group November contract

BTCX8, -1.74%

was up 0.5% at $4,320.

Providing critical information for the U.S. trading day. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Need to Know newsletter. Sign up here.

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Morgan Stanley said it is “buying the McDonald’s of the future today” as the firm upgraded the fast food chain’s stock to overweight from equal weight on Thursday.

“We are endorsing the notion that McDonald’s massive store modernization efforts, first rolled out in select international markets and now in the US (its single largest market), will begin to pay off in ’19 and should produce best in class sales results for more years to come,” Morgan Stanley’s John Glass said in a note to investors.

McDonald’s shares rose 1.3 percent in premarket trading.

Glass says “the market is potentially underappreciating” these modernization efforts and expects McDonald’s will soon have a “structurally improved” business model. Additionally, Glass said the firm found that McDonald’s is a key “defensive” stock “during periods of economic slowing:” McDonald’s shares outperform the market 60 percent of the time when the S&P 1500 is declining and the CBOE Volatility Index is rising.

“McDonald’s provides a stabilizing, defensive counterbalance in a volatile market environment,” Glass said.

Morgan Stanley raised its price target on McDonald’s to $210 a share from $173 a share

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There’s an old adage in the auto business, if you want to make a statement, build a new model with a polarizing look. Jeep is certainly doing that.

When the company unveiled its new Gladiator pickup truck at the Los Angeles Auto Show the message was clear: this is not your typical truck. The Gladiator is part SUV, part pickup, and designed to catch the attention of those who want more than strictly an SUV or a traditional truck.

“We absolutely wanted it to look different, bold and standout from anything else, but give you everything that the truck buyer was looking for and everything that Wrangler has always been known for,” said Tim Kuniskis, president of the Jeep Brand for Fiat Chrysler.

The Gladiator definitely looks like a Jeep, with the styling cues that have made models like Wrangler and Cherokee best sellers in the U.S. What stands out about the new model is the flatbed that gives it the functionality of a small pickup truck.

Why would Fiat Chrysler try to merge two segments, SUVs and pickups, that have largely stayed independent of each other for years?

For starters, FCA is looking to extend the lineup of Jeep, which has been one of the hottest auto brands over the last decade. When Fiat bought Chrysler following a structured bankruptcy in 2009, then-CEO Sergio Marchionne built his company’s future largely around growing the Jeep brand. The strategy has been wildly successful. In 2009, Jeep’s U.S. sales were fewer then 300,000 vehicles. Less than a decade later, Jeep’s U.S. sales are on the cusp of topping 1 million vehicles.

“The Jeep brand is as strong as ever,” said Jeremy Acevedo, analyst for auto website Edmunds. “It is the best-selling SUV in America. Now they are going to move on to pickup trucks to add to that portfolio.”

Jeep is not simply tapping into America’s growing demand for pickup trucks. It’s targeting lifestyle buyers who want a smaller pickup so they can throw stuff in the flatbed, while also having a model that stands out from other pickups in the market.

“This really does give them an opportunity to take advantage of that lifestyle truck buyer that is looking for off-road capabilities as well as some towing capabilities along with the bed,” said Acevedo.

Will it work?

Opinions are mixed, which is actually a good indication Jeep may be do well with the Gladiator when it goes on sale early next year. Remember, in the auto business, the models with polarizing styling have the best chance of standing out and winning over buyers.

“The brand has to standout and the vehicle lines within that brand have to standout,” said Kuniskis. “We think this absolutely breaks the mold.”

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German auto manufacturer Audi has given car fans a preview of what its first production electric sedan could look like.

The e-tron GT, a concept car, was unveiled at the LA Auto Show in California on Wednesday; it continues Audi’s fight to wrest electronic car sales from U.S. rival Tesla.

The car, set to arrive in showrooms in 2021, is to be powered by a 590-brake-horsepower battery and should reach 60 miles per hour in less than 3.5 seconds.

“One feature that not all the competition can match is the option of fully utilizing the [vehicle’s] acceleration potential several times in succession,” the company said in a statement.

The top speed is regulated at 149 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour) to maximize the range that Audi claimed for the concept car would be over 248 miles. A guide on range for the full production car was not offered.

Audi didn’t announce a price for the production version, but the car will be entering the arena of Tesla’s Model S, which starts retailing at $78,000.

The 90-kilowatt hour lithium ion battery in the GT concept can be charged either by using a cable or by wireless induction.

The cable option employs Audi’s 800-volt electrical architecture that will charge to 80 percent in 20 minutes. Audi said the car can also be recharged at public charging points with lower voltages.

For wireless, the process is much slower. “Audi Wireless Charging” is a pad with coil installed permanently on the floor where the car is to be parked. A magnetic field is created between that and another coil in the car. Audi said its e-tron GT concept can reach full charge overnight.

Audi already has two electric cars in production for the mass market, the e-tron SUV, which hits the market next spring, and the e-tron Sportback, due to follow later in the year.

The e-tron SUV which will go from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, will carry a base price of $74,800 and is able to reserve now. Audi says an 80 percent charge is possible in half an hour and the firm is working with Amazon to offer in-home charging.

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One down, two to go?

Stock market bulls rejoiced Wednesday, with the S&P 500

SPX, +2.30%

 and Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +2.50%

 erasing November losses and posting their biggest one-day percentage gains since March after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell soothed worries about the pace of future interest-rate increases.

‘Trio of tribulations’

The remarks were seen “possibly” setting aside one of the “trio of tribulations” — rate increases, trade tensions and a peak in corporate earnings growth — blamed for the stock market’s fall swoon, said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA, in a note.

Read: Here are the stocks that powered the Dow after the Fed’s Powell soothed investors

“Investor optimism over a near-term end to the rate-tightening cycle has likely lit the fuse for an end-of-year celebration, with the addition of a booster to be supplied by a possible resumption of trade talks,” he said, with talks this weekend between President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires now in the spotlight.

Technical outlook

Stovall, however, said the technical bias for the market “remains bearish” with the probability of more downside movement elevated as long as the S&P 500, which closed at 2,743.79, remains below the top end of a resistance zone on the chart at 2,746. A close above that level, however, would open the door to a move toward the 2,796-2,815 area, he said.

Meanwhile, the market reaction certainly showed investors are sensitive to pronouncements by the Fed. The stock-market selloff was sparked, in part, after Powell in early October said that rates remained a”long way” from the neutral level that neither speeds nor slows economic growth and that the Fed could ultimately raise rates beyond that neutral level. The remark was widely criticized as a communications flub and, on Wednesday, Powell effectively walked it back, saying rates were “just below” the “broad range” of estimates of the neutral rate.

Several economists cautioned against reading the remarks as a signal that Fed policy makers, who are still widely expected to deliver their fourth rate increase of 2018 in December and who have penciled in three increases in 2019, are set to significantly slow the pace of rate increases. Others argued that a pause could be in store after the almost certain December hike.

Read: Why economists insist Powell wasn’t as dovish as the market thinks

The stakes

Meanwhile, failure by Trump and Xi to tone down the conflict could all but guarantee that trade tensions remain in place, and perhaps escalate, into year’s end. Skeptics warn that bulls might be disappointed if the Fed’s December policy meeting shows little deviation by policy makers in terms of their rate expectations for 2019.

And it should be remembered that the aforementioned trio of tribulations are connected.

“Better earnings this year have been fully offset by higher interest rates plus the simultaneous uncertainty of U.S./China trade wars and Federal Reserve policy,” wrote Datatrek co-founder Nicholas Colas in a Tuesday note. “The first threatens corporate earnings next year. The second puts pressure on still-high equity valuations.”

Hopes for a U.S.-China thaw and confirmation of a softer tone from the Fed were the only thing separating U.S. equities from another downdraft into year-end, he said.

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Sears Holdings Corp. is considering offers from liquidators that would result in the closure of all its stores while Chairman Edward Lampert and Cyrus Capital Partners prepare a bid that would keep the bankrupt retailer in business, according to people familiar with the matter.

Lampert, who believes a slimmed-down Sears

SHLDQ, +18.03%

  can emerge from bankruptcy, and Cyrus are expected to make an offer for roughly 500 of Sears’s best-performing stores, the people said.

The company’s advisers, however, have contacted a number of liquidation firms seeking offers to shut down Sears’s stores and sell off the company’s merchandise in case the takeover offer falls apart, the people said.

Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments Inc., and Cyrus are expected to place a credit bid, meaning they would forgive some Sears debt in return for control of the company, the people said. However, that offer would likely include cash as well as the forgiveness of debt, one of the people added. Bids are due next month and a decision on the sale is expected early in the new year.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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