Apple stock nears record high

Apple looks to manufacture in India

Apple has found its groove again.

The iPhone maker’s stock hit $133.82 in early trading Monday, putting Apple less than $1 away from its intraday trading high of $134.54, reached in April 2015. Apple’s stock ended the day at $133.29, beating its previous record closing price of $133, set in February 2015.

The stock surge, pushing Apple (AAPL) to a $700 billion market cap, comes amid renewed optimism for the iPhone.

Goldman Sachs raised its price target for the stock on Monday, citing the likelihood of “major new features” like “3D sensing” being added to the next iPhone model, according to an investor note provided to CNNMoney.

Apple’s previous high was set six months after it released the redesigned iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, kicking off what CEO Tim Cook described as the “mother of all upgrades.”

Since then, however, Apple has bucked its tradition of overhauling the iPhone every other year. The newest models on the market today look nearly identical to the iPhones available in late 2014.

The long wait, combined with this year marking the iPhone’s tenth anniversary, has only raised expectations that Apple is about to significantly overhaul its smartphone and reignite demand.

Related: Tim Cook: ‘Apple would not exist without immigration’

Apple’s annual sales fell in the 2016 fiscal year for the first time since 2001 as iPhone sales, still the majority of its business, declined in three consecutive quarters.

Apple even cut its CEO’s pay by 15% due to the company’s failure to meet its performance goals for both sales and profits.

But that losing streak just ended.

Apple sales started growing again in the December quarter, driven by stronger demand for the iPhone — particularly for the larger and more expensive iPhone 7 Plus.

The company sold 78.3 million iPhones for the quarter, setting a new record. At least some of that may be due to the Samsung’s smartphone recall woes.

Mark Moskowitz, an analyst with William Blair, wrote in an investor note this month, “Samsung’s Note 7 struggles likely helped.”

The iPhone isn’t the only reason Wall Street is excited about Apple. There’s also President Trump.

Despite Trump clashing with Apple during the campaign, investors are now optimistic Apple will benefit from at least one Trump proposal: cutting taxes on cash that U.S. businesses bring back from their overseas accounts.

Apple currently has $230 billion in cash held in foreign accounts. If Trump and Congress make it cheaper for Apple to bring that money back, it could be used for acquisitions and buybacks.

CNNMoney (New York) First published February 13, 2017: 12:24 PM ET

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Stocks hit record again. But is Trump the reason?

What does a Trump presidency mean for the Fed?

The Dow, S&P 500, Nasdaq and Russell 2000 each hit new all-time highs Monday.

Investors are giddy with excitement and they clearly believe that both big blue chip multinationals and smaller companies that do most of their business in the U.S. will continue to thrive.

So is this the Donald Trump rally? Or the Janet Yellen rally?

Some strategists believe Trump’s stimulus plans and talk of killing many burdensome regulations are the reasons stocks are soaring.

Or perhaps this is better characterized as a continuation of the Barack Obama rally instead?

You could argue that POTUS 44 has dealt POTUS 45 a pretty good hand.

The solid job market and overall economy that Trump inherited may be the reason consumers and businesses are so confident.

But investors (and financial journalists) are often quick to give the president more credit — and blame — than they probably deserve for the performance of the stock market.

RBC strategist Jonathan Golub pointed this out in a report on Monday, one that was aptly titled “Message to Market: It’s Not All About Donald.”

Related: Trump isn’t killing the bull market

Golub noted that the S&P 500 rose nearly 7% from late June through Election Day — a time when most polls were predicting that Hillary Clinton would be the next president.

But stocks have continued to rally since then, rising another 8% since Trump pulled off the upset (at least to the mainstream media and Wall Street) victory.

You can’t have it both ways. It makes no logical sense to suggest that stocks rallied because investors believed Trump would lose and that they continued to rally because Trump didn’t lose.

Bond yields have also been rising since Trump won, a phenomenon that many investors have attributed to the likelihood of stimulus from the president and Republican Congress.

Yet Golub points out that the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury was going up during the late summer as well.

Of course, many investors were expecting stimulus from Clinton too.

Yet once again, many investors are claiming that Trump is the catalyst for something that not only was going on before he was elected, but was happening because many thought he would lose.

Related: Stocks have avoided a 1% dive for an unusually long period of time

So it’s odd that Trump is being cited as the main reason for a market rally that began months before anyone felt he could win.

What’s really going on? The one constant during the past few months is the Federal Reserve.

Yes. the markets are reacting to Washington. But they are paying closer attention to Janet Yellen, not the White House.

The Fed made it crystal clear before the election that it would probably raise interest rates in December and do so a few more times in 2017 regardless of who won the race for president.

The good news for investors is that the U.S. economy seems to be growing steadily, but does not appear to be at risk of overheating.

Related: Here’s why the world’s largest money manager is worried

The most recent jobs report showed that wages grew at a decent rate of 2.5% annually. But that’s not nearly high enough to spark fears of runaway inflation and lead the Fed to aggressively raise rates.

Even if Yellen and the Fed hike rates three times this year, they are likely to do so by just a quarter point every time. That would push the Fed’s key short-term rate to a range of 1.25% to 1.5%.

That’s still extremely low. At those levels, stocks would still be more attractive than bonds. Corporate earnings should be able to keep rising at a healthy clip. And consumers would probably keep spending.

So investors would be wise to keep a close eye on Yellen and not just have a myopic focus on the president,

With that in mind, Yellen is set to testify in front of Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday. And what she says about the timing and magnitude of future rate hikes could wind up keeping the rally going full steam ahead — or stopping it dead in its tracks.

CNNMoney (New York) First published February 13, 2017: 12:30 PM ET

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Mexico ready to retaliate by hurting American corn farmers

Anti-Trump protests take place across Mexico

Mexico is ready to hit the U.S. where it hurts: Corn.

Mexico is one of the top buyers of American corn in the world today. And Mexican senator Armando Rios Piter, who leads a congressional committee on foreign relations, says he will introduce a bill this week where Mexico will buy corn from Brazil and Argentina instead of the United States.

It’s one of the first signs of potential concrete action from Mexico in response to President Trump’s threats against the country.

“I’m going to send a bill for the corn that we are buying in the Midwest and…change to Brazil or Argentina,” Rios Piter, 43, told told CNN’s Leyla Santiago on Sunday at an anti-Trump protest in Mexico City.

He added: It’s a “good way to tell them that this hostile relationship has consequences, hope that it changes.”

American corn goes into a lot of the country’s food. In Mexico City, from fine dining restaurants to taco stands on the street, corn-based favorites like tacos can be found everywhere.

Related: Mexican farmer’s daughter: NAFTA destroyed us

America is also the world’s largest producer and exporter of corn. American corn shipments to Mexico have catapulted since NAFTA, a free trade deal signed between Mexico, America and Canada.

American farmers sent $2.4 billion of corn to Mexico in 2015, the most recent year of available data. In 1995, the year after NAFTA became law, corn exports to Mexico were a mere $391 million.

Experts say such a bill would be very costly to U.S. farmers.

“If we do indeed see a trade war where Mexico starts buying from Brazil…we’re going to see it affect the corn market and ripple out to the rest of the ag economy,” says Darin Newsom, senior analyst at DTN, an agricultural management firm.

Rios Piter’s bill is another sign of Mexico’s willingness to respond to Trump’s threats. Trump wants to make Mexico pay for a wall on the border, and he’s threatened taxes on Mexican imports ranging from 20% to 35%.

Trump also wants to renegotiate NAFTA. He blames it for a flood of manufacturing jobs to Mexico. A nonpartisan congressional research report found that not to be true.

Related: Mexico doubles down on Trump ‘contingency plan’

Still, Trump says he wants a better trade deal for the American worker — though he hasn’t said what a better deal looks like.

All sides signaled two weeks ago that negotiations would begin in May after a 90-day consultation period.

But Trump says if negotiations don’t bear the deal he wants, he threatens to withdraw from NAFTA.

Such tough talk isn’t received well by Mexican leaders like Rios Piter. He’s not alone. Mexico’s economy minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, said in January Mexico would respond “immediately” to any tariffs from Trump.

“It’s very clear that we have to be prepared to immediately be able to neutralize the impact of a measure of that nature,” Guajardo said Jan. 13 on a Mexican news show.

–Shasta Darlington contributed reporting to this story

CNNMoney (Mexico City) First published February 13, 2017: 12:06 PM ET

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‘America First’ could turn into ‘India First’

What is an H-1B visa?

America is great because of its willingness to accept talented immigrants.

That’s what Nandan Nilekani, the billionaire co-founder of Infosys Technologies, would tell President Trump if he had the opportunity.

“If you really want to keep the U.S. … globally competitive, you should be open to overseas talent,” Nilekani said on the sidelines of CNN’s Asia Business Forum in Bangalore.

Infosys (INFY) is India’s second-largest outsourcing firm, and a major recipient of U.S. H-1B visas. The documents allow the tech firm to employ a huge number of Indians in U.S. jobs.

The Trump administration is now considering significant changes to the visa program. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in January that Trump will continue to talk about reforming the H-1B program, among others, as part of a larger push for immigration reform.

Curbs on the visas could hit Indian workers hardest.

India is the top source of high-skilled labor for the U.S. tech industry. According to U.S. government data, 70% of the hugely popular H-1B visas go to Indians.

Shares in several Indian tech companies — including Infosys — plunged spectacularly two weeks ago amid reports of an impending work visa crackdown.

Related: Tech industry braces for Trump’s visa reform

Nilekani said it would be a mistake for the administration to follow through.

“Indian companies have done a great deal to help U.S. companies become more competitive, and I think that should continue,” Nilekani said. “If you look at the Silicon Valley … most of the companies have an immigrant founder.”

India’s contribution to the industry — especially at top levels — has been outsized. The current CEOs of Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT), for example, were both born in India.

Related: India freaks out over U.S. plans to change high-skilled visas

But Nilekani, who is also the architect of India’s ambitious biometric ID program, suggested that India would ultimately benefit from any new restrictions put in place under Trump’s “America First” plan. If talented engineers can’t go to the U.S., they will stay in India.

“This issue of visas has always come up in the U.S. every few years, especially during election season,” he said. “It’s actually accelerated the development work [in India], because … people are investing more to do the work here.”

Nilekani cited his own projects for the Indian government as an example.

The Bangalore-born entrepreneur left Infosys in 2009 to run India’s massive social security program, which is known as Aadhaar. As a result of the initiative, the vast majority of India’s 1.3 billion citizens now have a biometric ID number that allows them to receive government services, execute bank transactions and even make biometric payments.

“It was built by extremely talented and committed Indians,” Nilekani said. “Many of them had global experience, but they brought that talent and experience to solve India’s problems.”

Nilekani said the country’s massive youth population is increasingly choosing to stay home and pitch in.

“It’s India first,” he said.

CNNMoney (Bangalore, India) First published February 13, 2017: 2:19 PM ET

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Will the iPhone 8 charge wirelessly?

Happy 10th birthday, iPhone

You may never have to plug in your iPhone again.

Apple has joined an industry group devoted to wireless charging, strengthening existing rumors that the next iPhone will charge without a cord. The Wireless Power Consortium, which is made up of some 200 organizations that promote a single wireless charging standard, confirmed to CNNTech that Apple joined the group last week.

IPhone rumors swirl months before each new version is announced, and hype around the so-called ‘iPhone 8″ is particularly high: Apple (AAPL) is expected to unveil a major redesign of the this fall to mark the 10-year anniversary of the smartphone.

The company has already shown interest in doing away with cumbersome cords. The Apple Watch charges wirelessly, provided consumers spend $79 on a magnetic charging dock. And the latest MacBook now comes with only one USB port.

Related: Apple stock nears a record high

Apple would also create another iPhone revenue stream by selling a wireless charging station separately. The feature would simplify charging for smartphone owners. Rather than plugging in one’s phone, a user would only need to place it on the charging dock.

Apple said in a statement Monday it was joining the Wireless Power Consortium to contribute its ideas as wireless charging standards are developed.

As for the speculated possible features of the next iPhone, other rumors include an edge-to-edge display, a glass body and the removal of the home button.

CNNMoney (Washington) First published February 13, 2017: 2:42 PM ET

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