BY THE NUMBERS
U.S. stock futures were pointing to a lower open Thursday, with losses accelerating after the government released higher than expected initial jobless claims. A renewed tech stock sell-off pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average down nearly 2% and the S&P 500 more than 2% lower Wednesday. The Nasdaq was the big loser, plunging 3% and going back into a correction, down nearly 12% from its Sept. 2 record highs. The Dow and S&P 500 were hovering just above the correction threshold, defined by a drop of 10% or more from recent highs. (CNBC)
Shares of Apple, a Dow component and a major broader market influencer, sank nearly 4.2% on Wednesday and were under modest pressure in Thursday’s premarket trading. Apple has entered a bear market, down more than 20% from its Sept. 1 all-time high close. (CNBC)
* Cramer recommends buying Big Tech, dividend stocks into further weakness (CNBC)
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell wraps up his third straight day on Capitol Hill, appearing Thursday morning along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin before the Senate Banking Committee for an update on the $2.2 trillion March coronavirus relief package. Powell has been telling lawmakers this week that the Fed stands ready to keep supporting the economy with monetary policy but Capitol Hill needs to do its part on the fiscal side. (CNBC)
* British government announces new job support program but warns not every firm can be saved (CNBC)
About 90 minutes before Powell’s scheduled 10 a.m. ET Senate appearance, the Labor Department released jobless claims figures, which showed 870,000 initial filings for unemployment benefits for the week ending Sept. 19. That was modestly higher than expected and slightly higher than the prior week. New claims hit a peak of 6.9 million in late March during the lock downs, and they were running above 1 million per week through late August. (CNBC)
E.W. Scripps (SSP) announced a deal buy privately held TV network operator ION Media for $2.65 billion. The deal is being backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B), with Berkshire making a $600 million preferred equity investment in Scripps to help finance the purchase. Shares of E.W. Scripps surged more than 50% in the premarket. (CNBC)
IN THE NEWS TODAY
President Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he were to lose the 2020 election to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Trump said that if mail-in ballots weren’t used, “you’ll have a very peaceful; there won’t be a transfer, frankly, there’ll be a continuation.” Without evidence, Trump has condemned voting by mail as prone to fraud. (CNBC)
Earlier Wednesday, the president said he believes the election will “end up in the Supreme Court,” which if his pick to replace late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were seated before the election, the high court would have six conservative justices and three liberals. The president and first lady Melania Trump join mourners at the Supreme Court on Thursday to pay respects to Ginsburg. (USA Today)
Two police officers were shot last night during Louisville, Kentucky protests that erupted after the grand jury’s decision to not charge the officer who shot and killed Breonna Taylor. Only Brett Hankison, who was fired from the department in June, was charged with wanton endangerment. (NBC News)
* In Taylor case, limits of law overcome calls for justice (AP)
The U.S. had more than 37,300 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, down from Monday’s nearly one month high of 52,000. New deaths of nearly 1,100 on Wednesday marked the first day with over 1,000 fatalities since Sept. 15. Meanwhile, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday, “A majority of our nation, more than 90% of the population, remains susceptible” to the coronavirus. White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said the U.S. could have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for every American by April. (CNBC)
* ‘You are not listening,’ Fauci tells Sen. Rand Paul during Senate coronavirus hearing (CNBC)
* Trump’s coronavirus vaccine czar says he’s had ‘enough’ of Dem calls for his firing over pharma holdings (CNBC)
* Medicare may not pay for early coronavirus vaccines without a legal fix (CNBC)
Office space provider WeWork has sold a majority stake in its China business to existing shareholder Trustbridge Partners for $200 million after the coronavirus pandemic intensified its financial difficulties. The New York-headquartered company, which buys and leases prime real estate in the world’s biggest cities, has been cutting costs globally ever since its botched IPO last year. (CNBC)
* Retailers have started paying rent again but are still fighting with their landlords (CNBC)
* United to offer Hawaii-bound passengers coronavirus tests (CNBC)
Shares of Dow component Walt Disney (DIS), relatively steady in the premarket, lost 3% on Wednesday after the company moved a number of its movies to later this year and into 2021 as Americans continue to avoid indoor movie theaters during the pandemic. The much-anticipated Marvel blockbuster “Black Widow” was postponed six months to May. “West Side Story” was moved back a year to December 2021. Shares of AMC Entertainment (AMC) and other movie-theater stocks were hard hit by the postponements. (CNBC)
J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) is close to paying almost $1 billion to resolve government investigations into the alleged manipulation of metal and Treasurys markets, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. A settlement between New York-based JPMorgan and several U.S. agencies could come as soon as this week. (CNBC)
* Tesla sues U.S. government to overturn Trump administration tariffs on China (CNBC)
Spotify (SPOT), Match Group and “Fortnite” creator Epic Games joined a nonprofit group that plans to advocate for legal and regulatory action to challenge Apple’s App Store practices. Apple (AAPL) charges a commission for apps that use its in-app payment system and sets out extensive rules that apps must comply with to appear in its App Store. (Reuters)
* Facebook Oversight Board confirms it plans to launch ahead of U.S. election (CNBC)
YouTube, owned by Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google, will start showing users in the U.K. and Germany fact-checking panels on some video searches, expanding on its efforts to tackle misinformation in Europe. The feature on the platform has already launched in the U.S., Brazil and India. (CNBC)
* ByteDance applies for export license from China as TikTok deal waits for approval (CNBC)
STOCKS TO WATCH
Darden Restaurants (DRI) – The parent of Olive Garden and other restaurant chains earned 28 cents per share for its latest quarter, beating the consensus estimate of 5 cents a share. Revenue was very slightly below Street forecasts with sales during the quarter at about 82% of prior-year levels. The company also reinstated its dividend.
Used-vehicle retailer CarMax (KMX) retailer earned $1.79 per share for its latest quarter, well above the consensus estimate of $1.08 a share. Revenue was also above analysts’ forecasts. CarMax saw vehicle sales rise by 3.9%, with comparable-store sales up 1.2%, and its financing profit increased by 29%.
Consulting firm Accenture (ACN) reported quarterly profit of $1.70 per share, falling 3 cents a share short of Wall Street forecasts. Revenue also came in slightly shy of estimates and the company gave a weaker-than-expected current-quarter revenue forecast, as clients spend less due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rite Aid (RAD) reported a quarterly profit of 25 cents per share, compared to analysts’ expectations of a 1 cent per share loss. Revenue was also above estimates, with strength in both the retail pharmacy and pharmacy services segments.
UnitedHealth (UNH) Is in advanced talks to buy online pharmacy startup DivvyDose, according to a Bloomberg report. The proposed deal is said to be worth about $300 million, according to people familiar with the matter, although nothing has been finalized.
BlackBerry (BB) beat estimates by 9 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of 11 cents per share. Revenue was also above expectations, on strong demand for its security and car software.
Dollar Tree (DLTR) is resuming its stock buyback program, after suspending it in March due to the pandemic. The discount retailer has roughly $800 million in buyback authorization remaining under that program.
Nathan Anderson, head of short-selling firm Hindenburg Research, told The Wall Street Journal that more bad news will emerge about the electric truck maker Nikola (NKLA). Hindenburg recently released a report about a series of improprieties at Nikola, which has hit the stock hard even as Nikola calls the report “false and misleading.”