Morning Brief

Wall Street is wavering as hotspots in Syria and North Korea simmer

Key Points


U.S. stock futures were back-and-forth this morning as international tensions over Syria and North Korea continue to simmer. Wall Street has been rather indecisive recently, alternating between weekly gains and losses for the past six weeks. (CNBC)

Oil was sharply higher this morning, supported by another shutdown at Libya's largest oilfield and heightened tension over Syria following last week's U.S. airstrikes. U.S. crude jumped 3.2 percent last week. (Reuters)

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the White House does not see stability with Syrian President Bashar Assad still in power. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Russia failed carry out a 2013 agreement to secure and destroy chemical weapons in Syria. (NBC News & Reuters)

That tough talk on Russia may prove to be awkward when Tillerson arrives tomorrow for the first visit to Moscow by a top Trump administration official. (NY Times)

North Korea said last week's U.S. missile strikes on a Syrian airfield over Assad's alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians prove its nuclear weapons are justified for protection. Meanwhile, the U.S. military has ordered an aircraft carrier group to move closer to the Korean Peninsula. (NBC News)

Two blasts targeting Egyptian churches on Palm Sunday killed at least 38 people and wounded more than 100 others. President Donald Trump expressed support and confidence in Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who met the president at the White House last week. (NBC News)

Trump will ask K.T. McFarland to step down as deputy national security advisor and serve instead as ambassador to Singapore, giving National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster a chance to pick his own lieutenant. (USA Today)

Neil Gorsuch is set to be sworn in today as the newest justice on the Supreme Court, filling the spot vacated 14 months ago when conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died. Gorsuch, Trump's pick to fill the vacancy, was confirmed Friday. (NBC News)

Trump plans to nominate Kevin Hassett, an expert in tax policy and one of the most prominent economists at the conservative AEI, to serve as the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. (WSJ)

Toyota is investing $1.3 billion to retool a sprawling Kentucky factory where nearly a quarter of the Japanese automaker's vehicles for North American are made. Trump has been pressuring industry to manufacture in America. (AP)

Wells Fargo's (WFC) independent directors have concluded a six-month investigation into the beleaguered institution's retail banking sales practices, deciding to initiate some of the largest clawbacks in history. (CNBC)

Barclays (BCS) has announced Chief Executive Jes Staley is being investigated by two U.K. regulators regarding his individual conduct after he attempted to identify a whistleblower at the bank in 2016. (CNBC)

Flipkart has received investments totaling $1.4 billion from Microsoft (MSFT), eBay (EBAY), and China's Tencent, valuing India's leading e-commerce marketplace at $11.6 billion. (CNBC)

Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google has offered to invest at least $880 million in LG Display, to help the South Korean electronics maker to boost OLED production. Google wants to use the LG screens in its next Pixel phone. (Reuters)

Despite a report in a Chinese newspaper to the contrary, Tesla (TSLA) said the electric automaker has no current plans to build a factory in China's Guangdong province. Meanwhile, Piper Jaffray raised its price target on Tesla to $368 per share, the highest price target on Wall Street. (CNBC)

Streaming video provider Netflix (NFLX) is shaking up the ranks of its senior management, announcing departures of its long-time chief product officer and chief talent officer. (TechCrunch)


Investors are buying record volumes of new bonds, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, signaling that many remain skeptical about the prospects for faster economic growth and are reluctant to move on from a strategy that has worked for years.

Traders won't get any help gauging the economy during today's trading session. There are no government economic reports out this morning, and a scheduled 4:10 p.m. ET speech by Fed chair Janet Yellen does not begin until after the bell this afternoon.

Last Friday's soft jobs report left little doubt about the trouble facing the retail industry. And this Friday will be a huge day again this week. That's when March retail sales are out, despite the stock market being closed for the Good Friday holiday.


Twitter (TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey continued to forego direct compensation and Peter Fenton, a board member since 2009, will leave after the social network's annual meeting in May, a regulatory filing showed.

Swift Transportation (SWFT) and Knight Transportation (KNX) have agreed to merge, in a deal that would combine two of the biggest US trucking companies.

Elliott Advisors is urging BHP Billiton (BHP) to scrap its London Stock Exchange listing. The activist investor group also wants the mining giant to spin off its U.S. oil and petroleum arm into a separate NYSE listing.

U.S. Cellular (USM) will not sell itself, according to the New York Post, despite urgings from investor Mario Gabelli and his firm, Gabelli Asset Management.

McCormick (MCK) is reportedly considering a bid for brands being shopped by Britain's Reckitt Benckiser, including French's Mustard and Frank's RedHot. Unilever (UL) and an Asian competitor may also be interested.

Mondelez (MDLZ) is preparing to seek a successor to CEO Irene Rosenfeld, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The snack giant is said to have retained executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles.

Morgan Stanley (MS) shareholders plan to vote on a proposal to prevent executives who leave for government jobs from collecting stock awards. A similar proposal was defeated at last year's annual meeting.

Delta Air Lines (DAL) continued to have difficulty over the weekend with flight cancellations following last week's storms. The carrier is offering refunds and penalty-free flight changes.


Family-friendly holdovers "The Boss Baby" and "Beauty and the Beast" were neck-and-neck again as No. 1 and No. 2 at the domestic weekend box office. The third Smurfs movIe "Smurfs: The Lost Village," debuted in third. (AP)

Sergio Garcia, 37, finally sheds the title of the richest golfer without a major. Garcia, who burst into the spotlight at 19-years-old as runner-up to Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship, won the Masters on Sunday. (Forbes)