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Minor losses seen for US stocks after rally

IN THE NEWS TODAY

Futures are pointing to small losses for the major averages at the Wall Street open, but the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq are on track for their third weekly gains in four weeks after a strong three-day rally. The Nasdaq is coming off yet another record close, while the S&P 500 is within less than one percent of an all-time high. (CNBC)

Major European averages are in the red following the release of euro zone data that showed business growth in the region hit a 20-month low. (CNBC)

U.S. crude pared earlier losses and Brent turned positive after Reuters reported Saudi Arabia has offered to cut its crude production if Iran freezes its output at current levels. The report comes ahead of informal talks next week among OPEC members and other crude-producing nations to discuss stabilizing oil prices. (Reuters)


Hillary Clinton on Thursday increased her proposed estate tax rate for estates worth $1 billion or more to 65 percent. Clinton previously put forward a top rate of 45 percent, a roughly 5 percentage point increase from the current level. (CNBC)

Donald Trump said Thursday he would leverage federal funding and tax breaks to pressure colleges and universities to lower tuition costs. (Reuters)

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner is being investigated by federal prosecutors for allegedly sending sexual text messages to a 15-year-old girl, NBC News reported, citing sources. (NBC News)

Efforts to avoid a U.S. government shutdown broke down Thursday after Senate Democrats rejected a stop-gap spending measure presented by Republicans that would fund federal agencies through December. (Reuters)

A 26-year-old man shot on Wednesday during protests in Charlotte, North Carolina has died. Demonstrations over the shooting of 43-year-old Keith Scott by police continued overnight Thursday despite a curfew being announced earlier. (NBC News/Reuters)

Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer Betty Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, 40. (USA Today)

Yahoo (YHOO) confirmed that information associated with at least 500 million user accounts was stolen. User information may now be in the hands of a state-sponsored actor that no longer appears to be in the Yahoo network, the company said. (CNBC)

Facebook (FB) overestimated average viewing time for its video ads for two years by 60 to 80 percent, according the Wall Street Journal. Facebook has reportedly fixed the issue which caused the problem. (WSJ)

Marriott (MAR) has completed its acquisition of Starwood Hotels, creating the world's largest hotel company. Marriott is estimating it will save $250 million annually as a result of the deal. (AP)

Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorenson will appear on CNBC's "Squawk Box" at 8 a.m. ET.

Wells Fargo (WFC) Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf has stepped down from his role on the San Francisco Federal Reserve's advisory council following the controversy over the bank's sales practices. (USA Today)


BY THE NUMBERS

There are no economic reports due today, but after a nearly two-week pause surrounding the most recent FOMC meeting, no less than four Fed officials are back out in public with appearances today.

Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester attend an event in Philadelphia, while Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan has a lunchtime speech in Dallas. Of the four, only Mester is a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee for 2016, although Harker and Kaplan will be voting members in 2017.

Athletic footwear and apparel retailer Finish Line (FINL) is the only earnings report of note this morning on an extremely thin earnings calendar, while no reports of note are due after today's closing bell.


STOCKS TO WATCH

Twitter (TWTR) is among the stocks to watch today, following a downgrade by widely followed RBC tech analyst Mark Mahaney. Twitter was downgraded to "underperform" from "market perform," with Mahaney predicting a 25 percent drop in the stock because of weak ad revenue.

Valvoline (VVV) will debut today on the New York Stock Exchange after the automotive maintenance company saw its IPO price at $22 per share, within the expected range of $20 to $23 and raising about $660 million. Valvoline was spun off from chemical maker Ashland (ASH).

Bats Global Markets (BATS) is in talks to be bought by exchange operator CBOE Holdings (CBOE), according to a Bloomberg report. It's possible a deal could be announced within weeks, although the report also said the talks could fall apart.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMHC) Chief Executive Linda Zecher has resigned after five years. The publishing company said it has begun a search for her replacement, with board member Gordon Crovitz serving as interim CEO.

Vanda Pharmaceuticals (VNDA) is considering strategic alternatives, according to Reuters, including a potential sale. Vanda specializes in treatments for central nervous system disorders.


WATERCOOLER

Sneakerheads are expected to line up for the release of Kanye West's latest pair of kicks when they go on sale this weekend. The Adidas sneakers retail for about $220. (CNBC)

Following in the footsteps of President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton sat down for an interview with actor Zack Galifianakis on his internet show Between Two Ferns, which is known for its extreme awkwardness. (Recode)