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S&P 500 aims for best week of 2015

IN THE NEWS TODAY

U.S. stock futures were searching for direction this morning, after the Dow powered higher for a fifth straight session Thursday, closing back above the 17,000 level, on dovish signals from the Fed minutes. The S&P 500 was poised to log its best week of the year. (CNBC)

Helping to boost the overall stock market was a rebound in oil, holding over $50 a barrel this morning, after exceeding that mark Thursday for the first time since late July. Crude prices were set for their biggest weekly rise since 2009. (Reuters)

Asian stocks marched higher today, fueled by indications in the Fed minutes from the September meeting that policymakers remain concerned about low inflation and the global economic slowdown. (CNBC)

The Fed should have raised interest rates in March, said Morgan Stanley (MS) CEO James Gorman. Speaking at the Stern School of Business, he added the central bank has kept rates "too low too long." (Reuters)


Apple (AAPL) has removed some insecure ad-blocking products from its App Store over concerns they could compromise sensitive user data in certain circumstances. (CNBC)

Elon Musk called Apple a "Tesla graveyard," where failed employees of his electric carmaker go to work — criticizing the iPhone maker's ambitions in the auto space. (CNBC)

Starbucks (SBUX) will soon accept Apple Pay, with KFC and Chili's on board sometime next year. Meanwhile, Delta (DAL) passengers can now book and pay for flights using Apple Pay through the Fly Delta app. (The Verge)

Investigators looking into last year's data breach and theft of driver records from Uber have found indications implicating an executive at rival ride-hailing app Lyft. (WSJ)

Twitter (TWTR) has added new capabilities to its video ad platform, allowing advertisers to more easily place short roll ads that run before video chosen by users. (Re/code)

Medicare Part B premiums are expected to rise 52 percent next year for 7 million enrollees or 30 percent of beneficiaries because of a provision in cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security. (USA Today)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled out of the race for House speaker Thursday, throwing uncertainty on congressional leadership ahead of crucial budget negotiations. (CNBC)

Four Russian cruise missiles fired at rebels in Syria from a warship in the Caspian Sea Wednesday crashed in Iran, according to U.S. officials. Russia insisted they reached their targets in Syria. (Reuters)

Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet won the Nobel Peace Prize today for its contribution to building democracy after the Jasmine Revolution in 2011. (Reuters)

BY THE NUMBERS

Following the September meeting Fed minutes, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart speaks at 9:10 a.m. ET in New York City; New York Fed President Bill Dudley talks to CNBC at 11 a.m. ET; and Chicago Fed President Charles Evans speaks at 1:30 p.m. ET in Milwaukee.

The government issues two economic reports today: Import and export prices for September at 8:30 a.m. ET and wholesale inventories and sales for August at 10 a.m. ET.

There are no major companies reporting earnings before or after the bell today. But late Thursday, Alcoa (AA) posted quarterly profit well below expectations, with revenue slightly missing, as high-growth aerospace and automotive materials couldn't overcome the effects of low commodity prices.

Same-store sales at Gap (GPS) dropped a smaller-than-expected 1 percent last month. The company's Old Navy brand saw the biggest decline, down 10 percent, with Gap stores flat and Banana Republic up 4 percent.

United Continental (UAL) raised its profit margin forecast for the just-ended third quarter. The increase stems in part from a new credit card agreement for frequent fliers, which will provide the airline with extra revenue.

STOCKS TO WATCH

Private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital disclosed a 9 percent stake in Ascena Retail Group (ASNA) — behind brands including Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, and Justice — and discussions with the retailer on ways to boost shareholder value. That's according to Dow Jones.

SABMiller is increasing its cost saving target by $550 million, emphasizing its plan assumes no change in ownership. SABMiller rejected this week Anheuser-Busch InBev's (BUD) sweetened $104 billion takeover bid.

Chevron (CVX) has extended planned job cuts to its global energy trading desks, according to Reuters. The oil giant is in the midst of implementing a $3 billion cost-cutting plan amid slumping crude prices.

Fiat Chrysler's (FCAU) new tentative four-year contract with the United Auto Workers union eliminates the controversial two-tier pay system, according to Reuters. A prior agreement was rejected last week by union members.

Ride-hailing service Lyft has partnered with Hertz (HTZ) to offer rental cars to drivers in Las Vegas, as part of a pilot program aimed at people who don't have their own cars or those that meet Lyft standards.

WATERCOOLER

The American League Division Series kicked off Thursday, but baseball playoffs will be full swing today, when all eight teams alive in the postseason will take the field. (USA Today)

The international team wound up winning two holes in one at the Presidents Cup today, when American golfer Phil Mickelson didn't know the rules. (USA Today)

A Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather boxing rematch may possibly be in the works. Pacquiao, who lost the first fight, said a decsision could be made soon. (AFP)

Basketball star LeBron James has decided not to renew his endorsement deal with McDonald's (MCD), instead choosing to be part of a marketing campaign for Blaze Pizza, where he's an investor and a franchisee. (CNBC)