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Here’s ‘Jeopardy!’ champ Matt Amodio’s plans to invest his winnings

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Matt Amodio, whose prolific run on “Jeopardy!” came to an end earlier this week, told CNBC on Thursday he has no risky investment plans for his winnings.

“I’ve got the boring answer. I’m going to do long-term invest and hold,” Amodio said on “Squawk on the Street.”

Before losing in the episode that aired Monday, Amodio won 38 straight games on “Jeopardy!,” the second-longest streak in the trivia show’s history, trailing only Ken Jennings, who won 74 in a row. Amodio finished with $1,518,601 in total winnings — before taxes, of course.

On the show, Amodio played with an aggressive style, seeking out Daily Doubles and betting big when he found them. He doesn’t appear to want to take a similar approach to investing his “Jeopardy!” payday.

“I’m not there on the day-to-day trading. It’s too much for me to keep track of,” said Amodio, an Ohio native who’s pursuing a doctorate in computer science at Yale University. “But index funds paired with a small amount of bonds, with yearly rebalancing, how can you go wrong, right?”

“Jeopardy!” contestant Matt Amodio during a taping of the popular game show.

Jeopardy Productions Inc. via AP

Amodio’s $1.5 million is the third-largest sum won during regular-season play on “Jeopardy!”. Jennings holds the top spot, with $2.52 million, and James Holzhauer, who won 32 consecutive games in 2019, is in the second place, with $2.46 million.

Although he often won in runaway fashion, Amodio told CNBC he’s not totally shocked his “Jeopardy!” streak is over now.

“A little bit surprised, but not too surprised. I had anticipated this moment 38 times prior to my 39th game, and every time before that I happened to win,” Amodio said. “But I knew it was always a possibility.”

Amodio’s attention-grabbing run on “Jeopardy!” coincided with a moment of transition for the long-running TV program, which is trying to find a permanent replacement host for the late Alex Trebek.

After a series of guests hosts, including CNBC’s own David Faber, Mike Richards had been named the permanent host in August. But he was ousted, and later removed as the show’s executive producer, too, after offensive comments he made about Jews, women and people who have disabilities resurfaced.

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Stocks could face more turbulence in the week ahead

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., November 29, 2021.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Volatility could continue to plague markets after a week of violent swings that sent many stocks plummeting.

In the week ahead, investors await more news on the omicron Covid variant and another inflation report Friday that is expected to show consumer prices remain the hottest in three decades.

In the past week, stocks sold off on worries about the omicron variant and concerns the Federal Reserve will move away from its easy policies and raise interest rates sooner than anticipated. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told a Congressional panel Tuesday that the central bank will consider speeding up the taper of its $120 billion monthly bond-buying program when it meets Dec. 14 and 15. The Federal Reserve put its bond-purchasing program in place in early 2020 to prop up the economy during the pandemic.

“It’s going to be a somewhat turbulent December because we probably need to wait for earnings season to get regrounded, back to fundamentals,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Cresset. “For as high as a lot of the ratios would suggest, price-to-sales, price-to-earnings, when you throw it into the hopper with interest rates and everything else, things aren’t that bad. I don’t think we’re teetering on the edge of a cliff.”

But Ablin did say the comments from Powell were unnerving investors, who fear the Fed will also speed up interest rate hikes. Powell acknowledged he was wrong about inflation being “transitory,” or temporary, spooking investors. The bond purchases are now scheduled to end in June.

“I’m not sure what investors’ read on inflation is. Do they think the Fed is going to raise rates, get ahead of it too early and everything is going to roll over? Ever since Powell took ‘transitory’ out of his talk, investors have been somewhat off balance,” said Ablin.

The consumer price index or CPI for November is expected Friday morning. Economists polled by Dow Jones predict it rose 0.6% on a monthly basis, or 6.7% year over year. That compares to a 0.9% gain in October, and a 6.2% jump year over year, the biggest move in three decades.

Risky names slammed

The ARK Innovation ETF was down 12.7% for the week. Most of the growth names in the fund plunged into bear market territory. “I think investors have to keep in mind that’s not a 15-week strategy. It’s a 15-year strategy, as far as we’re concerned,” Ablin said.

For the week, the small cap Russell 2000 was down nearly 4%, while the S&P 500 was off just 1.2%. The worst performing major sector for the week was communications services, which includes internet companies. It was down 2.8%, followed by consumer discretionary, off 2.4%. Financials lost nearly 2%, and the S&P technology sector was down 0.4% for the week. But on Friday, tech lost 1.7%.

The Federal Reserve should be quiet in the week ahead. Fed officials traditionally do not make major speeches in the blackout period, which is the coming week, ahead of their Dec. 14 and 15 meeting. One exception is Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari who speaks Thursday at the Center for Indian Country Development Research Summit.

Much of the focus will be on how the market itself is performing.

“Ever since the Nov. 22 outside bearish day, all strength has been sold with lots of damage underneath the hood,” said Scott Redler of T3Live.com. “Now finally some of the leadership names are showing faulty action.” He noted that both Microsoft and Apple were weaker.

“Money is not hiding in Amazon, Google, or Facebook. They haven’t been special for weeks,” he said.

The S&P closed below its 50-day moving average Friday, after closing below it Wednesday. The 50-day is at 4,544. That’s a signal to some market technicians that the index is on the verge of breaking down. The 50-day moving average is the average closing price over the past 50 days, and is viewed as a momentum indicator.

“Basically, it’s effectively a retest of support because we had the relief rally [Thursday],” said Katie Stockton, founder of Fairlead Strategies. She said the S&P 500 needs to close below the 50-day for two consecutive days before the move is considered a breakdown.

“The action in the high growth, high multiple names is not a good sign,” said Stockton. “We do have some signs of downside exhaustion but not as widespread as I would hope. We’re seeing some of the heavyweights, like Adobe for example, taking out levels like the 50-day moving averages.” She said some of those big names have now joined the selling.

“We’re just watching how bad it gets. Monday is going to be the tell,” said Stockton. “That also gives it the weekend to settle… Extremes have gotten a little bit more extreme. Sentiment is the most oversold from a contrarian perspective since the October low.”

Week ahead calendar

Monday

Earnings: Coupa Software, Sumo Logic

Tuesday

Earnings: Toll Brothers, Autozone, John Wiley, Designer Brands, Dave & Buster’s, Casey’s General Store, ChargePoint

8:30 a.m. Trade balance

8:30 a.m. Productivity and costs

1:00 p.m. Treasury auctions $54 billion 3-year notes

3:00 p.m. Consumer credit

Wednesday

Earnings: Campbell Soup, GameStop, Brown-Forman, Vera Bradley, Rent the Runway, United Natural Foods, Thor Industries

7:00 a.m. Mortgage applications

10:00 a.m. JOLTS

1:00 p.m. Treasury auctions $36 billion 10-year notes

Thursday

Earnings: Costco, Oracle, Hormel, Lululemon, Ciena, K. Hovnanian, Broadcom, Vail Resorts, Chewy, American Outdoor Brands

8:30 a.m. Unemployment claims

1:00 p.m. Treasury auctions $22 billion 30-year bonds

Friday

8:30 a.m. CPI

10:00 a.m. Consumer sentiment

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Fauci says booster shots likely give cross protection against ‘wide range’ of Covid variants

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Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks about the Omicron coronavirus variant during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2021.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday said lab studies strongly suggest that booster shots will give you cross protection against a “wide range” of Covid-19 variants, but noted it has not been proven yet.

Booster shots “markedly” increase antibody titers against variants of the virus, Fauci said at a White House press briefing Friday. Third shots also increase so-called memory B cells and T cells, a line of defense produced by the immune system to fend off a virus. 

Memory B cells create antibodies to fight bacteria and viruses, while T cells target and destroy other cells infected with a virus. 

“There’s every reason to believe that if you get vaccinated and boosted that you would have at least some degree of cross protection,” Fauci said. “Very likely against severe disease, even against the omicron variant.”

Fauci’s remarks come as the world grapples with the new, highly mutated omicron variant of Covid-19. 

The variant has some 50 mutations, more than 30 of which are on the spike protein, which is the mechanism used by the virus to attach to human cells. Some of the mutations are associated with higher transmission and a decrease in antibody protection, according to the World Health Organization. 

The U.S. joins a list of at least  38 countries with confirmed cases of the omicron variant, the World Health Organization on Friday. At least six U.S. states now have more than a dozen cases of the variant after Nebraska officials confirmed six new infections on Friday. 

Amid growing concern over omicron, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday strengthened its recommendation on Covid-19 booster shots, telling all adults that they “should” get an additional dose. Everyone 18 and older should get an additional shot six months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series, or two months after their first Johnson & Johnson shot, according to the CDC’s new guidance. 

The Biden administration has also encouraged the uptake of Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, promising to provide them for up to 100 million eligible Americans.

To aid the rollout, he promised: “More outreach, more appointments, more hours, more times and sites to walk in.”

To date, over 41 million Americans have already received a booster shot, including half of eligible seniors, the White House announced Thursday. 

Health officials in the U.S. and worldwide still worry that the omicron variant may reduce the efficacy of vaccines to some degree.

A November study published in the journal Science showed that the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy at preventing infection declined from 86% to 43% from February to October. The study also found Moderna’s vaccine dropped from 89% to 58%, and J&J’s fell from 86% to 13% against infection.

But Pfizer’s booster dose provided 95% protection against symptomatic infection in a clinical trial of 10,000 people.

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Worst-performing tech stocks this week suggest U.S. over lockdowns

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A funny thing happened on the way to the stock market’s retreat.

Stay-at-home stocks that benefitted most from Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdowns, like Etsy, DoorDash, Zoom and DocuSign, were the worst performers this week. It’s the opposite reaction that one might expect as the new Covid omicron variant, which the World Health Organization said poses a “very high” global risk, makes its way around the world.

The sharp selloff suggests investors are betting that, no matter what happens with omicron, the U.S. is done with the shutdowns that boosted food delivery and streaming TV services while forcing people to collaborate remotely for work and chat endlessly by video with friends and family members.

Shares of pandemic darling Zoom slumped 18% for the week, hitting a new 52-week low on Dec. 3 of $177.12 a share, a 69% drop from its record high in October 2020. Shares of online marketplace Etsy, which became a haven for mask buyers early in the pandemic, fell 21% for the week, while food delivery service DoorDash slumped 17%, Roku dropped 13%, Shopify slid 12% and Netflix fell 10%.

Meanwhile, e-signature software maker DocuSign, which tripled in value last year, tanked more than 40% on Friday after the company’s weak fourth-quarter guidance indicated “the pandemic tailwinds came to a much faster than expected halt,” JPMorgan analyst Sterling Auty wrote in a note to clients.

There was plenty of pain to go around across the tech sector. The Nasdaq Composite plummeted more than 2.3% on Friday, leaving it down 3% for the week and on pace for its fifth-worst week of the year. A disappointing jobs report to end the week coupled with omicron concerns led to the Friday downturn.

But some of tech’s blue-chip names withstood the pressure. Apple, HP and Cisco all turned in gains for the week, as investors seeking cover from the market’s volatility rotated out of riskier, high-multiple stocks and into cash-generating companies that pay dividends.

Earlier in the week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s indicated that the central bank is so concerned about escalating inflation pressures that it could begin tapering its bond buying designed to boost the economy.

Following Powell’s remarks on Tuesday, Apple was the only tech stock that was up.

“There’s a flight to quality with companies that you know will weather the storm, not go bankrupt, not have financial distress,” Needham analyst Laura Martin told CNBC.

Apple slipped on Friday but is still up more than 3% for the week. Shares of HP popped about 8% this week and hit an all-time high on Friday. HP CEO Enrique Lore said last week that the company expects to see robust demand for its personal computers for the “foreseeable future” across its segments.

Cisco rose more than 2% this week, and Intel and Broadcom were up less than 1%.

But for large swaths of tech, the market was a sea of red. Facebook, AMD, Adobe and Tesla all fell by more than 5% for the week, while cloud software vendor Asana, which had been the best-performing tech stock of the year, plunged 39%, and Bill.com, another recent outperformer, slid 23%.

Salesforce did its part to contribute to the cloud concerns on Tuesday, when the company issued a weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter forecast. The stock is down 10% this week.

“It’s been a wild one,” said Byron Deeter, a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners who invests in cloud software, in an interview with CNBC’s “TechCheck” on Friday. “You can look at four causes. You can look at omicron. You can look at inflation. You can look at interest rates. And you can look at profit-taking.”

However, Deeter is quick to point out to skeptics what happened last year.

“As a reminder, working from home is actually very good for cloud stocks,” Deeter said. Inflation could be a cause for concern, he said, because “the linkage downstream to inflation certainly could cause a rotation to value stocks and cash-generative stocks over time.”

WATCH: Cloud stocks likely to remain volatile

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