CHRIS VERSACE: Good morning, Action Alerts Plus members. As we tip closer to the end of November trading, we're waiting on the PC and manufacturing data out later this week. But, today, markets will contend with a series of Fed speakers. And given the lack of fresh data, other than what we've seen about the consumer spending/shopping season over the last couple of days, our thinking is the Fed heads are going to stick with their current playbook.
That playbook is quote, "Yes, progress is being seen on inflation. Monetary policy is working. But it's too soon to say that we've licked it." In other words, members, the Fed wants more progress, more confirmation that its policies are working. And, from our perspective, it's not really hard to blame them, considering that they've been head-faked more than a few times over the last year.
In our view, the final November PMI readings out late this week and early next week will set the tone for the all-important November CPI and PPI reports that are out just ahead of the Fed's next policy meeting in mid-December. That data is expected to benefit from the continued fall in energy and gas prices and softening in other areas.
And if we see that data continue to show further progress, the thinking is it will lead the Fed to begin discussing the timing for its first rate cut. As we know, the market has one idea for when that first rate cut will happen. And, soon, we'll see if the Fed thinks the same.
Now, let's turn to the consumer. We're still waiting on the final tallies for Cyber Monday, but all indications are it was another record. However, we continue to receive other comments, and we're starting to get ones that are adding to what we've already heard about the consumer trying to stretch their spending dollars.
For example, payments firm Block-- excuse me-- comments from payment firm Block confirmed a few things for us. Well, first, in-person shopping increased 15% over the four-day shopping event, but online cart sizes were 3.9 times greater than those for in-person shopping. Moreover, Block shared that its buy now, pay later-- or BNPL-- transactions increased 19% over the four days, compared to the 14% increase in total transactions reported by Block between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
That, along with our finding out that BNPL is being offered by Chipotle-- see our alert out yesterday on that-- that all confirms that the consumer is increasingly selective and increasingly strapped between credit card debt, student debt payments, and lingering inflation. That combination is what keeps us bullish on our shares of Amazon, Costco, and McDonald's.
And, finally, yesterday, we added the shares of Labcorp, ticker symbol LH, to the bullpen. We see the company's testing and diagnostic services benefiting from what we call the aging of the population. Folks 65 years and older are the only demographic category slated to grow over the next several years, forcing it to become roughly 21% of the overall population. And as we know, as our bodies age, there's even more testing that tends to be done.
It's that combination that led us to add LH shares to the bullpen, as part of our aging of the population investing theme. Now, members, while we like the longer-term opportunity, our valuation work on the shares points to a neutral risk reward at the current share price, a pullback in LH shares closer-- excuse me-- closer to the $200 level-- it's that action that could lead us to revisit this portfolio contender.
That'll do it for today. JD and I will be back tomorrow with answers to some of your biggest questions of the week.