U.S. stocks finished lower Thursday after a sudden breakdown in denuclearization talks with North Korea weighed on sentiment, even though main indexes posted strong gains in February. Better-than-expected fourth-quarter gross domestic product data helped to offset some of the selling pressure during the session.

How did stock indexes fare?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, -0.27%

fell 69.16 points, or 0.3%, to 25,916; the S&P 500 index

SPX, -0.28%

shed 7.89 points, or 0.3%, to 2,784.49; and the Nasdaq Composite Index

COMP, -0.29%

declined 21.98 points, or 0.3%, to 7,532.53.

All indexes rose for a second month in a row, with the Dow rallying 3.7% in February, the S&P 500 up 3% and the Nasdaq gaining 3.4%.

What drove the market?

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters at a news conference that a U.S.-North Korean nuclear agreement couldn’t be reached at the summit in Hanoi because the isolated nation wanted more sanctions lifted than Trump would allow.

President Donald Trump’s inability to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to give up nukes comes about eight months after the first meeting between the two leaders in Singapore failed to achieve concrete goals. Still, the president expressed hope that a pact could be achieved and described North Korea as having “tremendous potential.”

The political developments in Vietnam followed poor data out of China, with the country’s official manufacturing purchasing managers index figures contracting for a third consecutive month.

On Wednesday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the U.S. would abandon — for now — its threat to raise tariffs to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods on March 2.

The Commerce Department’s estimate of fourth-quarter GDP growth showed the U.S. economy growing at a rate of 2.6%, well above consensus expectations of 1.9%, per a MarketWatch poll of economists. GDP grew at 2.9% during 2018, according to the preliminary estimates by the Commerce Department, representing the best growth in three years. However, market participants highlighted the economic reports highlight expansion that is tapering from heady levels of a 4.2% growth rate in the second quarter of 2018.

Beyond GDP data, the Labor Department estimated that the number of American applying for unemployment benefits in the week ended Feb. 9 rose by 4,000 to a seasonally-adjusted rate of 239,000. Economists polled by MarketWatch were expecting 225,000.

The Chicago purchasing managers index rose 8 points to a reading of 64.7 in February, the largest increase since last February.

The U.S. homeownership rate in the fourth quarter was 64.8%, the Commerce Department reported, in line with expectations of economists polled by MarketWatch. Meanwhile, the national vacancy rate was 6.6% for rental housing and 1.5% for owner-occupied housing.

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said the Fed wants to be “very, very clear” that it is not altering its 2% inflation target, as it considers ways to better use that data to inform rate-hike policy. The official was speaking at the 35th Annual NABE Economic Policy Conference in Washington on “Promoting Global Growth and Domestic Economic Security.”

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is also slated to speak Thursday at 8:15 p.m.

What were strategists saying?

“The GDP numbers were better than expected,” Marvin Loh, global macro strategist at State Street, told MarketWatch, adding that the numbers were boosted by better-than-expected business investment.

“Companies look like they’re making investment in technologies, and that’s a positive going forward, that despite the trade concerns and slowing growth expectations, businesses are still investing,” he said. “Theoretically this should drive better productivity growth. Whether we actually see this remains to be seen. It’s just one report, but it’s definitely a good one.”

“Geopolitical tensions continue to weigh on market sentiment as stock markets around the world are drifting lower. This shift in sentiment, triggered yesterday by rising tensions between India and Pakistan, has found further strength with the lack of an agreement following Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s meeting in Hanoi,” said Pierre Veyret, technical analyst at ActivTrades.

Which stocks were in focus?

Horizon Pharma PLC

HZNP, +32.77%

shares soared 33% after the company announced positive results in a late-stage trial of a treatment for active thyroid eye disease, or TED.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.

SEAS, +7.87%

shares rose 7.9% after the amusement-park company reported a narrower-than-expected fourth-quarter loss and revenue that topped forecasts.

Shares of HP Inc.

HPQ, -17.27%

slumped 17% after the company reported falling market share and revenue for its printer-supply business.

J.C. Penney Co.

JCP, +22.58%

stock soared 23% after the retailer beat Wall Street earnings and revenue estimates for the fourth quarter, while announcing the closure of 18 full-line stores and 9 ancillary home and furniture stores.

Shares of Celgene Corp.

CELG, -8.65%

 slid 8.7% after Bristol-Myers Squibb’s

BMY, +1.37%

largest shareholder announced its opposition to Bristol’s planned takeover of Celgene. Bristol-Myers Squibb shares were up 1.4%.

L Brands Inc.

LB, -4.60%

shares declined 4.6% after the parent company of Victoria’s Secret released fourth-quarter earnings that fell short of expectations.

How did other assets perform?

Asian markets closed mostly lower with the Nikkei 225

NIK, -0.79%

 and the Shanghai Composite Index

SHCOMP, -0.44%

both ending weaker. European stocks were moderately higher with the Stoxx 600

SXXP, +0.06%

 modestly up.

In commodities markets, crude oil

CLJ9, -0.02%

 gained, while gold

GCJ9, -0.08%

settled lower and the value of the dollar

DXY, +0.11%

was virtually unchanged.

—Mark DeCambre contributed to this article

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HBO Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Plepler is stepping down in the wake of new owner AT&T Inc. seeking to put its own stamp on the premium cable channel.

In a memo to staff Thursday afternoon, Plepler said he was trusting his instincts — and it was time to go after nearly three decades at HBO.

“Hard as it is to think about leaving the company I love, and the people I love in it, it is the right time for me to do so,.” Plepler wrote. Plepler’s resignation comes as AT&T

T, +0.19%

  overhauls the operations of Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, which under previous owner Time Warner operated mostly autonomously.

AT&T is in advanced talks with veteran television executive and producer Robert Greenblatt to take a senior role at WarnerMedia that could include oversight of a new unit that would combine HBO and Turner entertainment networks and a coming streaming service, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday

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

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U.S., North Korea trade blame for failed summit.

Some Uber, Lyft drivers to get stock in IPOs.

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Tesla Inc. may have made good on its long-standing promise to offer a Model 3 for $35,000, but its stock fell late Thursday as Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said the Silicon Valley car maker is likely to report a loss in the first quarter.

Tesla said Thursday its cheaper Model 3 version will have a shorter driving range and new interior options, and its website shows it available in the U.S. in as little as two weeks. After tax credits and gas savings, Tesla says the car costs about $24,450.

The lower price and the new online-only ordering system also announced Thursday “should substantially widen the Model 3’s appeal,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

“Tesla’s biggest challenge going forward will be meeting production volumes and demand while maintaining timely service for a rapidly-expanding customer fleet,” he said. “If Tesla can do this, it will have successfully transitioned from a boutique auto maker with a niche audience to a mainstream brand serving mainstream consumers.”

Shares of Tesla

TSLA, +1.63%

 were halted ahead of the 5 p.m. Eastern announcement, after ending the regular trading day up 1.6%. They resumed trading as the call with Musk and media was underway and most recently were down more than 3%.

Musk said Tesla could return to slim profitability in the second quarter.

The news of a $35,000 Model 3 is coming much earlier than expected, analysts at Wedbush said in a note.

It’s “a potential game changer for Musk and Tesla as the $35k vehicle at profitable margins is a linchpin to the bull thesis in the name, and we view this news as a major step forward,” said the analysts, led by Dan Ives.

“While there are still questions that need to be answered around logistics and delivery, combined with the margin profile on this model, we believe this strategic shift was the right move at the right time for Tesla, although the stock will be a ‘prove me’ name for the next 6-9 months,” they said.

Tesla also said it was shifting all its sales worldwide to online-only. The move, alongside other efficiencies, enabled the company to lower all vehicle prices by about 6% on average, the company said in a blog post.

In the call, Musk said the Tesla stores would turn into galleries, where customers would go to learn more about Teslas and electric vehicles, and into service centers. More layoffs were likely, but at another point during the call he said Tesla would need to hire more service technicians with the goal of shortening wait times for servicing.

Related: Wall Street keeps the faith on Tesla despite Musk, SEC tiff

Musk kept Model 3 reservation numbers under wraps, and also declined to answer questions about Model 3 profit margins.

The switch to online-only gives Tesla a chance to sell its vehicles in all U.S. states, regardless of franchise laws, he said. The company has waged long wars in certain U.S. states due to franchise laws limiting car sales to dealerships.

“It’s 2019, people just want to buy things online,” he said.

The decision to switch to online sales was “hard,” Musk said, but one that ultimately was right for Tesla and for the company’s future.

“This will be a fundamental, long-term competitive advantage for Tesla,” he said.

Earlier this week, Musk changed his Twitter name to “Elon Tusk” and teased the Thursday news, without elaborating further.

The “Tusk” name was just him “playing the fool on Twitter,” he said, with no connection to the news. On Thursday, he switched his name back to “Elon Musk.”

Shares of Tesla have lost 7% in the past 12 months, contrasting with gains of around 2.6% for the S&P 500 index

SPX, -0.28%

 .

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk does not expect the electric car maker to turn a profit in the first quarter, he said on Thursday.

He based his expectations on one-time charges and other financial commitments, and added that he does expect the company to be profitable in the second quarter.

“Given that there is a lot happening in Q1, and we are taking a lot of one time charges, there are a lot of challenges getting cars to China and Europe, we do not expect to be profitable. We do think that profitability in Q2 is likely,” Musk said.

Shares fell more than 3 percent Thursday night.

The revelation came on a media call where Tesla announced it will sell is long-promised $35,000 version of the Model 3 mid-size sedan. One analyst called the lower price a mistake, and suggested it would hurt margins.

“We think it’s a mistake from a strategic perspective and are skeptical of the gross margins on that $35,000 vehicle. In our view, they would be better served sticking to premium electric vehicles instead of this mass market, Henry Ford-type mentality of affordable vehicles for all,” said Garrett Nelson from CFRA. “It might be different if Tesla had the production capacity to drive volume and margin for this lower priced version, but they don’t currently and to add the incremental capacity would require significant additional capital investment.”

The company also said it would be taking all sales online, and acknowledged that some jobs in its retail group would be eliminated as a result.

WATCH: Tesla launches $35K Model 3 with shorter range, new interior

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CNBC’s Jim Cramer reminded viewers on Thursday that he doesn’t like to distract himself by second guessing things.

“I always say there’s no room for ‘woulda, choulda, soulda’ in this business … Always think forward—eye on the prize—never backwards,” the “Mad Money” host said. “But at the end of a fabulous month capping off 10 straight weeks of gains, even when we pull a little back today … I can’t resist.”

Cramer ran through a number of stocks that he’s kicking himself over for letting them get away.

After trading long in the 1970s and 80s, Cramer said, Eli Lilly has received a string of good headlines in recent months. It defended its diabetes drug against competition, released a product for migraines, and most recently paid $8 billion in cash for Loxo Oncology last month.

The stock has gained less than 10 percent this year and more than 63 percent over the past year.

“I know other stocks have roared more than this one, and I’ve been pretty consistent in liking Eli Lilly, but the stock never should’ve been so low in the first place,” Cramer said. “It was always safe and well-run and I should’ve been pounding the table every single day on Lilly.”

Cramer said he also should’ve pushed harder on Twilio, the cloud messaging platform that serves companies like Airbnb, Lyft and other small companies to keep in contact with customers. Twilio’s revenue has been gaining steam as it loads on more and more clients, he said.

The stock has gained steam as well, adding more than 36 percent in the last two months and more than 256 percent in the last year.

Intuit, the company that owns Quickbooks, is one stock that Cramer said he told viewers to buy $162 last year. Now he’s kicking himself for not pushing it harder, he said.

The stock is now selling nearly 50 percent higher than it did a year ago. It dipped Thursday to close at about $247.

Cramer said he likes Etsy, but should have thought differently of it a year ago. When the stock was at $20, the online marketplace made a move that worried a lot of investors including the host.

“But this is a company that raised the price of its service and none of its customers balked. In fact, Etsy just garnered more business,” he said. “So I should’ve been relentlessly pushing this terrific Brooklyn-based business. Instead, I was more enthusiastic about The Nets.”

The stock price is up more than 181 percent over the past year.

Cramer said he was worried about Roku not because of its product but because of the competition. He thought that Amazon would destroy the video streaming service in a matter of time. But the streaming business is steadily growing as people cut their cable off.

“Around Christmas, when thousands of people were thinking about switching to Roku and the stock was trading at just about $25, why didn’t I pound the table trying to tell you to buy? I guess with the stock at $66 now, the only thing I can say is kick me,” he said.

When the trade war between the United States and China accelerated, many investors feared that Boeing would be in trouble. But it turns out that China needs those planes more than Boeing needs their business, Cramer said.

The stock is flying 36 percent higher this year.

Cramer also counted Workday, ServiceNow, Splunk, and VMWare among the stock picks he missed.

“The bottom line: It’s not enough for me to be occasionally recommending a great stock. That’s why I am kicking myself tonight and only tonight. This is over after tonight,” the host said. “These are companies where someone in my family uses their products, I love their managements, I believed in the story—I should’ve been recommending their stocks every night.”

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Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy said that it’s fairly simple to lower the costs of various public cloud tools that it offers to customers.

Pricing is a big part of the battle as Amazon goes up against big technology companies like Alibaba, Google and Microsoft, in the public cloud market. Companies moving storage and workloads to the cloud often spend a significant percentage of their operating expenses on infrastructure.

“It’s actually really easy to lower prices,” Jassy told Jim Cramer on CNBC’s “Mad Money” on Thursday. “It’s much harder to be able to afford to lower prices.” In the past decade, AWS has cut prices 70 times, he said.

Other key areas where Amazon tries to stay ahead of the competition include geographic reach and the variety of tools that are available.

“We’re much more focused on the long term than most companies,” Jassy said. “We are trying to build a business and a set of customer relationships that outlasts all of us. And as such, we think if we help our customers get more done and are successful on their own, even if it means lower margin percentages, over time we’ll drive more absolute margin dollars, and they’ll be more successful, and we’ll ultimately be more relevant.”

Jassy pointed to start-up companies that have grown up on AWS, such as Airbnb, Lyft, Pinterest, Robinhood and Slack.

“I remember in 2007, 2008, when we had the recession, there were all of these very gloomy emails sent from a lot of venture capitalists, saying, ‘Don’t expect to get funded,'” Jassy said. “But actually, the number of start-ups kept growing, because as opposed to having to go raise money to pay for data centers and servers, people can try several instantiations of their idea on top of AWS.

“And if it isn’t getting traction, you pay something like 80 cents a month or $1.50 a month, whatever your usage is. And so we have loads of companies that are trying to build businesses on top of us that really only pay anything meaningful when they have traction.”

Pinterest spent around $190 million on AWS in 2018, The Information reported earlier this week.

Jassy said that Amazon itself is 88 percent finished with its wide-spanning migration off of Oracle database software and onto existing AWS technologies, and that the work will be complete later this year.

“We started the company at a very early stage, and we had Oracle, and it takes work to actually move away from Oracle,” Jassy said. “Lots of customers are learning this, as so many people are trying to move away from the commercial-grade legacy database providers like Oracle or [Microsoft] SQL Server to newer engines like Aurora.”

The core AWS services — EC2 for remotely performing computing tasks and S3 for data storage — came out in 2006. AWS now has 165 different services available, Jassy said.

AWS has become a crucial part of Amazon’s overall business. In 2018, the unit generated $25.66 billion in revenue, or 11 percent of Amazon’s total sales, up from 10 percent of overall revenue in 2017. Growth at AWS accelerated to 47 percent last year from 43 percent in 2017.

WATCH: How Amazon made record profits in 2018

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Good news for home buyers: More homes are now available for sale. Unfortunately, you may need to be a millionaire to afford them.

Nationwide, there were 1.32 million active home listings in February, up 6% from a year ago, according to data from Realtor.com. This marked the fifth consecutive month when housing inventory has increased — and this uptick in the number of homes for sale has especially benefited larger markets.

Cities like Denver and San Jose have begun to see some relief when it comes to the low number of homes for sale. Those inventory constraints had helped drive prices skyward, pricing many would-be home buyers out of the market.

Also see: Americans could save $700 million by checking one thing before buying a home

Denver, in particular, experienced the biggest uptick in housing inventory of any metropolitan area in the U.S., with 155% more homes available for sale this month than there were a year ago.

Metropolitan area Active listing count  Active listing count change from Feb. 2018 Median listing price Median listing price change from Feb. 2018 Days on market  Days on market change from Feb. 2018
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo. 11,270.5 155.1% $462,025 -14.9% 38 13.4%
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. 1,520.5 124.8% $1,079,800 -10% 26.5 47.2%
Watertown-Fort Drum, N.Y. 1,465.5 86.3% $159,950 8.7% 154 7.3%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash. 5,796.0 85.2% $592,045 12.2% 48.5 67.2%
Boulder, Colo. 1,570.0 55.1% $595,000 -6.8% 43 13.2%
Lynchburg, Va. 2,135.0 53.3% $139,950 -38.4% 144.5 45.2%
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. 4,754.0 52.8% $890,050 -1% 29 38.1%
Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. 893.0 51.4% $454,050 -1.1% 43 30.3%
Provo-Orem, Utah 2,180.5 50% $380,022 2.7% 52 7.2%
Colorado Springs, Colo. 2,124.0 48.0% $384,950 -4.4% 45.5 5.8%
Stockton-Lodi, Calif. 1,323.0 44.2% $392,500 3.3% 47 23.7%
Santa Rosa, Calif. 951.0 42.3% $669,538 -8.1% 75 127.3%
Greeley, Colo. 2,009.0 41.9% $377,645 0.3% 45.5 -9.0%
Russellville, Ariz. 443.5 40.4% $151,025 8.2% 92.5 -0.3%
San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif. 6,740.0 39.0% $659,050 -2.3% 35.5 7.6%
Napa, Calif. 367.5 38.7% $808,050 6.0% 91 7.7%
Merced, Calif. 926.0 38.4% $305,050 2.6% 64 30.6%
Ogden-Clearfield, Utah 1,443.5 38.4% $369,950 6.3% 49 27.3%
Midland, Texas 366.5 38.3% $349,950 5.2% 40.5 7.3%

But the increased inventory isn’t necessarily translating into lower home prices in all of these cities. The median listing price nationwide in February was actually 7% higher than a year ago at $295,000. And the median length of time homes spend on the market remained unchanged at 83 days — a sign that competition for properties remains fierce.

Moreover, housing inventory isn’t being added equally across all price points. “We still see fewer homes priced under $200,000 on the market, so entry-level buyers won’t see the same availability of options as high-end buyers,” Danielle Hale, Realtor.com’s chief economist, said in the report.

And while housing market experts still expect that there will be fewer home sales in 2019 than a year ago, added inventory and falling mortgage rates could provide an opening for prospective buyers sitting on the sidelines. Of course, more people choosing to dive back into the housing market could lead to more competition, which could in turn offset some of the factors that are making buying a home more affordable.

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Homeownership often comes with a side of regret.

Fully 44% of home owners say they regret some part of buying a home, according to a survey of nearly 1,500 homeowners released Thursday by personal finance site Bankrate. The No. 1 thing they regret: Not understanding how expensive the maintenance, repairs and other hidden costs would be.

Indeed, these hidden costs often surprise them: According to a survey from American Express nearly half of Americans were hit with an unexpected expense in the previous year; one of the top three unexpected costs was home-related expenses. And a survey released last year from personal finance site Nerdwallet found that 44% of people who had purchased a home experienced their first unexpected repair within a year of closing.

“This can be a rude awakening — folks just don’t have that kind of savings,” says Bankrate analyst Deborah Kearns.

Indeed they don’t: Nerdwallet found that nearly one in three homeowners say they don’t have any money set aside for home repairs and improvements. Many other people won’t have enough: Of the Americans who have a savings account, the median balance is just $5,200. Many repairs will cost far more than that.

So what should you be socking away for home repairs and maintenance? John Bodrozic, the co-founder of digital home management firm Home Zada, recommends between 1% and 4% of the purchase price of the home.

“If the home is less than 5 years old, then 1% is the better number because the home’s equipment, appliance, and building materials are still relatively new,” he explains. “But if a home is 20 years or older, then the 4% number is more realistic because many of the home’s equipment, appliance and building materials have reached the end of the their useful life, and you will need to replace them.”

This means that on a $300,000 home, you would need to have saved anywhere from $3,000 – $12,000. Kearns recommends you save this on top of what you already put in your emergency fund. (Experts typically recommend anywhere from 3-12 months of income in an emergency fund.)

Plenty of consumers think that insurance will cover the really big things, so they don’t worry so much, but that’s not always true either. Scott W. Johnson, an insurance agent in Marin County, Calif., notes that your standard homeowner’s policy generally goes not cover floods and earthquake (though you typically can get additional coverage for these things), as well as pests, mold and neglect, among other things.

However, you can protect yourself against some of the maintenance and repair costs. “Don’t skip the home inspection,” says Kearns — as this can reveal current and potential issues. Another way is to keep up with routine maintenance, says Bodrozic, who recommends creating a list of recurring tasks that need to be done like this one. Not only does this help you extend the life of things in/on your home, it can also lower utility bills (allowing you to save more for when things do need to get fixed) and can even make your home safer by reducing fire, mold and other risks.

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Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will take up her superhero shield in an upcoming comic-book anthology — the latest piece of art or merchandise inspired by the Twitter-savvy

TWTR, -1.93%

 New York Democrat.

The impetus for “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force: New Party Who Dis?,” a commemorative comic book from Devil’s Due Comics starring Ocasio-Cortez and her diverse array of fellow freshmen, came after the new Congress member made headlines in January for quoting “Watchmen” creator Alan Moore and later appearing on a Donkey Kong charity Twitch livestream to advocate for transgender rights.

“It had too much momentum in our little geekosphere,” Josh Blaylock, Chicago-based Devil’s Due Comics publisher and one of nearly two dozen creators featured in the book, told MarketWatch. He began reaching out to colleagues in the comic-book world about contributing to the anthology, he said, and received an “amazing response.”

The resulting product, which debuts in May, is available for pre-order at $5.99 and will donate partial proceeds to a veterans’ charity and the refugee and immigrant nonprofit RAICES. It features a variety of stories, said 41-year-old Blaylock. Some are celebratory and sweet, some are “venting and cathartic,” and others are silly and irreverent.

Two covers released this week bear illustrations of Ocasio-Cortez in a power stance — dressed alternately in her white pantsuit and in warrior attire — claiming victory over a red elephant. A blue donkey surveys the scene with uncertainty.

Tim Seeley and Josh Blaylock/Devil’s Due Comics

‘Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force’ is due out in May.

Blaylock, who says he and most of his staff are “genuine fans” of Ocasio-Cortez, believes the 29-year-old congresswoman has infused politics with energy and momentum. “I think what resonates with so many people is seeing somebody going into what felt like a comatose, lethargic legislative system for so long,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for her so far and what she’s trying to accomplish.”

‘Certainly, earning a living as a studio artist involves making things that I know will sell — and I know that she, along with some other politicians, have a market.’


—Justin Rothshank, a studio potter in Goshen, Ind.

Blaylock, who in 2009 launched a Barack Obama-inspired “Barack the Barbarian” series — the first issue of which sold around 30,000 copies — says buzz around the Ocasio-Cortez comic book “really has taken off.” “I think it might end up being a lot bigger than I anticipated,” he said. “Which sort of runs parallel to AOC’s entire career so far: Taking a lot of people by surprise.”

He’s not alone in drawing inspiration from the Bronx-born Democratic Socialist.

Justin Rothshank, a studio potter in Goshen, Ind., has been making pots with politicians on them for more than 10 years, a pursuit that began with Lyndon Johnson and Abraham Lincoln and grew from his interest in U.S. history and social justice. Having completed all 45 U.S. presidents in tableware and branched out to other politicians, he said, his handmade Ocasio-Cortez ceramic mug ($52 on Etsy) was a “natural evolution.”

“Certainly, earning a living as a studio artist involves making things that I know will sell — and I know that she, along with some other politicians, have a market,” Rothshank, 41, told MarketWatch. “They have market impact, and it’s not just because of their political policies; it’s also because of their persona and who they are.” (For the record, he said, none of his political subjects is a more popular seller than the perpetually memed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.)

While AOC may not have reached Notorious RBG-level ubiquity, her presence is pervasive in plenty of artwork, t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, celebrity votive candles, tote bags and other items sold through online marketplaces. A search for her name, for instance, yields 670 results on Redbubble, 360 results on Zazzle and 248 results on Etsy.

While AOC may not have reached Notorious RBG-level ubiquity, her presence is pervasive in plenty of artwork, t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, celebrity votive candles, tote bags and other items.

Interested parties, for example, can purchase an AC/DC-inspired kids’ t-shirt that reads “AOC/DC” ($22) or a 5-by-7-inch watercolor portrait of the congresswoman ($150). There are AOC-emblazoned throw and floor pillows (ranging from $20.79 to $54.95), a handmade Ocasio-Cortez doll ($38.50) and Ocasio-Cortez earrings ($20). One item, a cross-stitch of the lawmaker’s face beneath the acronym “WWAOCD” ($29.68), contemplates what AOC would do. (The congresswoman, meanwhile, does not appear to have trademarked her name or initials.)

There are numerousreferences to a hypothetical future Ocasio-Cortez presidential bid, as well as spinoffs of the viral “Notorious RBG” meme. Creators have spun quotes from her speeches, her viral tweet rebuttals and her Instagram Live

FB, -0.80%

 content into home-decor prints, vinyl stickers and t-shirts.

Joya Menashe, the 50-year-old creative director of Portland, Ore.-based Flix Wix Candles, says a $33 trio of prayer candles featuring progressive heroes Ocasio-Cortez, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, and Ginsburg — dubbed “the MAIDEN the MOTHER the MATRIARCH” — “went through the roof” after it went on sale a few weeks ago. The shop has sold 300 sets, Menashe said, as well as about 100 individual Ocasio-Cortez candles in the last month.

“They’re really meant to be inspiring,” she added. “People are using them like a shrine, almost, of hope and something new.”

And Elle, the owner of Macon, Ga.-based shop Full Moon Lane who asked to be identified by a pseudonym for privacy reasons, added a $22 t-shirt reading “I DANCE WITH ALEXANDRIA” — a nod to Ocasio-Cortez’s goofy college-era dance video that resurfaced in January — to her offerings of liberal feminist-themed clothing, mugs and accessories.

‘Anybody who has a capitalistic tendency is going to draw upon that excitement to put her face and whatever she’s saying on merchandise to capitalize on that popularity.’


—Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University

“I saw that and just thought it was kind of crazy, the controversy over something so stupid,” she said, adding that the lawmaker seemed cool and relatable. “I thought, ‘Hey, that’ll make a good shirt.’” (The shirt, she noted, did not sell very well.)

Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not respond to MarketWatch requests for comment on her having inspired the comic book, as well as on her likeness and campaign logo being used on unofficial merchandise.

The congresswoman has in some ways come to symbolize a new generation of political leadership, said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “That just yields all sorts of support,” she said. “So it’s not surprising that would also yield merchandising in the same way that we’ve seen for other progressive women who have broad support, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Maxine Waters [a Democrat from California].”

In other words, Dittmar suggested, “she’s a very popular and well-known political figure, and somebody who’s excited a large base of progressives.”

“Therefore, anybody who has a capitalistic tendency is going to draw upon that excitement to put her face and whatever she’s saying on merchandise to capitalize on that popularity,” she added.

Bruce Newman, a professor of marketing at DePaul University and the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Political Marketing, agreed that Ocasio-Cortez “represents a very attractive brand in the political marketplace” with the potential to appeal to both for-profit and nonprofit organizations that align with her politics and policies.

For artists looking for exposure, a bump from AOC — who often shares fan art with her 2.5 million Instagram followers and tags its creators — can be a boon.

“We live in a beautiful capitalist society,” Newman said. “Even if you’re a socialist politician, there’s still money to be made by companies that want to take advantage of who you are and what you’re doing and what you’re speaking about, and run with it.”

And for artists looking for exposure, a bump from AOC — who often shares fan art with her 2.5 million Instagram followers and tags its creators — can be a boon.

“If you’re doing well, you lift up the people behind you,” said Tina Duryea, a 46-year-old artist from Norwalk, Conn., who is currently painting a “New Women of Congress” portrait project that includes Ocasio-Cortez. That, she adds, is a very progressive idea.

“By her sharing fan art on her page, she’s helped other people out, and I think that’s very appealing for artists,” added Duryea, whose father grew up in Ocasio-Cortez’s home district.

Of course, not all of the artwork and merchandise inspired by the congresswoman sings her praises. Her likeness has been splashed across “MAGA” shirts that spell out “Make Alexandria Go Away.” There’s a vinyl toilet-lid decal and sticker set, and a customized lawn sign with a red strike-through over Ocasio-Cortez’s name.

“If I’m a Republican, and I want to take advantage of this and make the case that one of the rising stars on the Democratic side is a socialist — boom, let’s get it onto a t-shirt and write a few lines and make money off of it,” Newman said.

Politicians who achieve this art- and merchandise-inspiring status are those who have strong brand identities and stand out as different from other traditional politicians, Newman said. That rule applies regardless of political stripe, he added, citing Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont who’s thrown his hat into the ring for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and President Trump as prime examples.

“If you’re in the gray area, you’re not going to sell merchandise. But if you represent an extreme view like she does, and people buy into it, then I think that you want to have a coffee cup at work that has her name and face on it [or] the famous MAGA caps that Trump has sold over the last number of years,” he said. “You want to make statements to people around you.”

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Tesla is lining up about $2 billion (more than 13 billion RMB) from Chinese lenders to build out its massive battery and car plant in Shanghai, according to research from JL Warren Capital.

JL Warren, a New York-based investment research firm that focuses on Chinese companies, as well as U.S. firms with significant exposure in China, wrote in a report last week that it expects backers of the Shanghai Gigafactory to include Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China.

China represents a critical growth market for Tesla, and CEO Elon Musk talked up the company’s plans there on its latest earnings call in January.

“We need to bring the Shanghai factory online,” Musk said. “I think that’s the biggest variable for getting to 500,000-plus a year. Our car is just very expensive going into China. We’ve got import duties, we’ve got transport costs, we’ve got higher costs of labor here.”

According to JL Warren, which also tracks Chinese companies listed in the U.S., about $500 million (3.3 billion RMB) of Tesla’s new financing should apply to the first stage of the Shanghai Gigafactory build, with the total project loan amounting to about $2 billion.

Musk said in the fourth-quarter earnings call that Tesla would need “something in the order of $0.5 billion in CapEx to get to the 3,000 vehicle rate in Shanghai.”

JL Warren said the first stage of financing will likely have a 3.9 percent interest rate, below the People’s Bank of China benchmark rate of 4.35 percent. That should help Tesla get its assembly line running to produce its initial 250,000 lower-end Model 3 electric sedans.

Tesla hasn’t reported on or confirmed details of the loans, and a company spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

Tesla has disputed JL Warren’s research in the past, such as in 2017, when the research firm reported that 6,000 Tesla cars shipped to China had not yet been sold. The company told Forbes the data was “inaccurate and not credible.”

Automakers based in China have benefited from $60 billion worth of subsidies and incentives since 2012, designed to make new energy vehicles affordable for Chinese drivers, according to ZoZo Go, an auto-tech advisory firm.

As a U.S. company without a manufacturing base in China, Tesla misses out on those benefits. Thus, a Model S that would cost around $80,000 in the U.S. today would cost around $140,000 in China after taxes.

Establishing a local factory would change that equation and allow Tesla to tap subsidies and incentives, potentially enabling the company to make and sell its Model 3 for a lower price both in China and globally.

Tesla is the only car company headquartered outside of China to be allowed to establish a factory there without a joint ownership deal with a local entity.

— Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct name of the People’s Bank of China.

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