Stock Market News: Freeport Gets a Break; Broadcom Faces an Uncertain Future

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Wall Street has mounted an impressive rally over the past several trading sessions, and investors kept up the momentum on Friday morning. Market participants remained optimistic that more encouraging signs of progress on trade talks could lead to constructive solutions to the ongoing dispute between the U.S. and China. As of just before 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was up 53 points to 27,236. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) had risen 4 points to 3,014, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) had gained 4 points to 8,199.

Working with foreign governments has long been a challenge for Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX), but the copper and gold mining giant got good news that could signal higher sales and profits. Meanwhile, global economic sluggishness remains a concern for chipmaker Broadcom (NASDAQ:AVGO), and even an upbeat earnings report wasn’t enough to give shareholders confidence in the company’s near-term prospects.

Freeport works with Indonesia

Shares of Freeport-McMoRan climbed 3% Friday morning after  Indonesia’s energy ministry approved a recommendation to increase authorized copper concentrate exports from about 200,000 tons to 700,000 tons through March 2020.

Image source: Getty Images.

The company’s Grasberg mine in Indonesia produces huge amounts of copper concentrate, but in recent years, Freeport has had a difficult relationship with the government there. Essentially, Indonesia wanted to take greater control of the mine in order to keep more of its value in-country before allowing its output to be exported. In 2017, the two parties reached an understanding whereby the government would take a majority stake in Grasberg, but ironing out some of the fine points around the deal took longer.

Meanwhile, Grasberg has become increasingly important to Freeport. During the company’s second-quarter earnings  conference call in July, CEO Richard Adkerson explained that the miner has seen better prospects from the Grasberg mine, and therefore ramped up underground development to boost the operation’s production volume. Freeport sees that trend continuing, which should bring improved cash flow and boost returns for shareholders.

Freeport has had a tough time in the past couple of years, as copper markets haven’t cooperated with the company’s long-term strategy. But with Grasberg on the ascendancy, investors are more confident that the miner can eventually recover from its multiyear malaise.

Investors chip away at Broadcom

Shares of Broadcom fell 4% in Friday morning trading. The semiconductor company’s fiscal third-quarter earnings looked reasonably good, but investors remain uncertain about whether the chip industry is poised for a cyclical rebound in the near future.

On their face, Broadcom’s numbers didn’t look bad. Revenue climbed 9% from year-ago levels, and adjusted net income inched higher by 1%. That was especially impressive given the big increase in the company’s operating expenses, as improved gross margin figures helped limit the damage to Broadcom’s bottom line. Big gains in sales of infrastructure software helped to offset declines in the core semiconductor solutions business.

Yet what seemed to trouble shareholders the most were comments from Broadcom’s leadership about the company’s near-term future. “Looking at the semiconductor solutions segment, we believe demand has bottomed out but will continue to remain at these levels due to the current uncertain environment,” said CEO Hock Tan.

Many investors have looked for a turnaround in the semiconductor industry  more broadly, and other companies’ results seemed to cast a positive light on the sector. However, investors now are dealing with disappointment due to Broadcom’s comments. It appears it could take a while longer for the industry to hit the rising stage of its cycle and deliver growth prospects to Broadcom and its peers.