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Investors search out good news in data, earnings

IN THE NEWS TODAY

U.S. stock futures were higher this morning, after Wednesday's Wal-Mart-induced decline on Wall Street. Europe and Asia rallied Thursday on hopes for a delayed Fed interest rate hike. (CNBC)

Dow stock Goldman Sachs (GS) this morning missed estimates on earnings and revenue. Citigroup (C) is also out before the bell, with the latest numbers from Mattel (MAT), Schlumberger (SLB), and Wynn Resorts (WYNN) this afternoon. (CNBC)

Netflix (NFLX) late Wednesday missed estimates on earnings and revenue. The video streaming service said subscriber additions missed estimates, due to the ongoing transition to chip-based credit cards.

Wal-Mart was lower in premarket trading. The stock had its worst day in 15 years Wednesday, after the retailer forecasted at an analyst meeting a potential double-digit earnings decline in the coming fiscal year. (CNBC)

First Data's IPO was priced last night at $16 per share, below the expected range, giving the payment processor a market value of $14 billion. The stock is set to begin trading today. (Reuters)

Hours after delaying its initial public offering last night, grocery chain Albertsons was making plans to price the offering as soon as today, but other sources say it might be much longer. (CNBC & Reuters)

Mobile payments firm Square has filed for its long-expected IPO, in a test of founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, who at the same is turning around Twitter (TWTR), a company he co-founded and also leads as CEO. (Reuters)

President Barack Obama is set to announce today plans to slow the draw down of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and instead keep the current force of 9,800 through most of 2016 before beginning to trim levels. (Reuters)

Valeant (VRX) was subpoenaed by U.S. officials who want more information about its drug pricing practices. Valeant, which has come under criticism recently for large price hikes, said it would cooperate with the investigation. (CNBC)

In another blow to daily fantasy sports operators, the Justice Department and FBI are reportedly investigating whether the business model of these companies violates federal law. (WSJ)

Germany's automotive watchdog has ordered Volkswagen to recall 2.4 million vehicles in the country, after Europe's biggest carmaker admitted to cheating on emissions tests for diesel vehicles. (Reuters)

Tesla (TSLA) is giving Model S and Model X owners the ability to take their hands off the wheel and let their vehicle take control when driving in certain conditions. (CNBC)

Apple (AAPL) expanded its stock award program to all employees, including workers in its Apple retail stores, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing an email from CEO Tim Cook.

BY THE NUMBERS

Oil prices were under pressure again this morning, after slipping Wednesday on a much larger-than-expected jump in U.S. crude stockpiles, according to the American Petroleum Institute. (Reuters)

It's a busy day for economic numbers, beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET, with the release of weekly initial jobless claims, September consumer prices, and the Fed's Empire State survey for October. Then at 10 a.m. ET, it's the October Philadelphia Fed index.

The Social Security Administration this morning is set to announce its annual cost-of-living-adjustment. An increase in benefits for next year is unlikely because of low inflation.

There's also a busy line up of Fed-related speakers today, with St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, New York Fed President William Dudley, and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester all making appearances.

A recent paper from the San Francisco Fed surprisingly questions whether easy monetary policies are holding back the economy's potential and keeping inflation below target.

New foreclosures may be back to nearly normal, but the mess from the epic housing disaster in the last decade is far from over. Bank repossessions, the final stage of the foreclosure process, rose 66 percent in the third quarter.

STOCKS TO WATCH

UnitedHealth Group (UNH) earned $1.65 per share for its latest quarter, 1 cent above estimates, while revenue was well above forecasts. The insurer's results were helped by an increase in membership.

Philip Morris's (MO) quarterly profit came in at an adjusted $1.24 per share, 13 cents above estimates, with revenue also above forecasts. The company said it is being impacted by negative currency effects, but added that its overall business outlook is improving.

Garmin (GRMN) cut its earnings forecast for its third quarter and for the full-year. The maker of GPS products blamed the global economic climate and competitive pricing.

Sales at Syngenta (SYT) fell a greater-than-expected 12 percent during its latest quarter. The agricultural chemicals maker, recently the takeover target of rival Monsanto (MON), said it was hurt by currency issues.

The EU is set to rule that tax deals struck by both Starbucks (SBUX) and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) are illegal, according to the Wall Street Journal. The ruling is expected to come down next week.

AT&T (T), owner of DirecTV, is not opposed to the proposed merger of Charter (CHTR) and Time Warner Cable (TWC). Earlier this week, Dish Network (DISH) registered its opposition.

Southwest Airlines (LUV), known for short, domestic-only flights with no baggage fees, begins international service today. All of the new routes depart from Houston and Ft. Lauderdale.

WATERCOOLER

Restaurateur Danny Meyer, also founder of Shake Shack, said all 13 restaurants in his Union Square Hospitality Group will eliminate tipping and hike menu prices as a result. No changes were planned at the burger chain, now a public company after being spun off. (NY Times)

Thanks to a brilliant performance by Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Los Angeles will play a winner-take-all Game 5 before a home crowd against the New York Mets tonight. (USA Today)