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Wall Street awaits key economic reports and Fed speeches

BY THE NUMBERS

U.S. stock index futures were flat this morning ahead of a number of key economic reports, speeches by Fed policymakers, and an ECB meeting. The S&P 500 has risen in seven of the past eight sessions, with the Nasdaq up in six of seven days and the Dow higher in five of six. (CNBC)

Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, New York Fed President William Dudley, and Kansas City Fed President Esther George all have public appearances today, although Dudley and George will speak after the markets close. (CNBC)

The European Central Bank will issue its latest rate decision and policy statement at 7:45 a.m. ET, with ECB President Mario Draghi holding his usual post-meeting news conference at 8:30 a.m. ET. The bank is expected to leave rates unchanged but possibly start laying the groundwork for the eventual removal of accommodation. (CNBC)

Two economic reports will be out at 8:30 a.m. ET, with the Labor Department issuing both weekly jobless claims and a revised look at second quarter productivity. The Energy Department issues its weekly look at natural gas inventories at 10:30 a.m. ET, and the holiday-delayed report on oil and gasoline supplies at 11 a.m. ET. (CNBC)

GoPro (GPRO) shares were up 17 percent in premarket after the company said that revenue and gross margin for the third quarter are both expected to be at the high end of their previously announced ranges. The action camera maker sees Q3 revenue between $290 million to $310 million and gross margins at 36-38 percent. (CNBC)

HURRICANE IRMA

Hurricane Irma has killed at least eight people, and the toll is likely to rise, on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin and also caused devastation on other islands on Thursday as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century took aim at Florida. (Reuters)

*Maps: Tracking the path of Hurricane Irma (NYT)

Irma sent farmers and food companies scrambling to protect processing facilities, farm fields and animal herds in the south and southeastern parts of the United States. Worries about the storm hitting growing regions in the Caribbean and Florida helped boost raw sugar futures on the Intercontinental Exchange on Wednesday. (Reuters)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation Wednesday night that would pair a $15.25 billion disaster aid package with an agreement struck by President Trump and congressional Democrats to raise the federal borrowing limit and keep the government open until mid-December. (Washington Post)

*Trump splits with GOP to support Democrats' plan to package Harvey aid, debt ceiling, spending (CNBC)

Oil prices held steady this morning, supported by rising demand from the United States where Gulf Coast refineries are restarting in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which hammered Louisiana and Texas almost two weeks ago. (Reuters)

IN THE NEWS TODAY

President Trump is unlikely to choose his top economic advisor Gary Cohn as the next Federal Reserve chairman, according to the Wall Street Journal. Trump reportedly soured on appointing Cohn to lead the Fed after the advisor criticized the president's reaction to violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia last month. (WSJ via CNBC)

*Vice Chair Stanley Fischer stepping down from Fed, citing 'personal reasons' (CNBC)

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Wednesday that if the U.N. does not put additional sanctions on North Korea over nuclear tests, he has an executive order ready for President Trump to sign that would impose sanctions on any country that trades with Pyongyang. (Reuters)

*China agrees more UN actions needed against North Korea after nuclear test (Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned it is "impossible to scare" North Korea today, adding that Pyongyang would always be opposed to quitting its nuclear program because the country views this as its only means of self defense. (CNBC)

Facebook turned over all information about ads likely purchased by Russian operatives to special counsel Robert Mueller, a report says. The report followed news that an internal Facebook investigation found agents of the Kremlin may have spent $100,000 on ads with "divisive messages" between June 2015 and May 2017. (CNBC & Reuters)

The Syrian army said Israel targeted a military site in Hama province early today which a war monitor said could be linked to chemical weapons production. The air strike killed two soldiers and caused damage near the town of Masyaf, an army statement said. (Reuters)

Toys R Us has hired a law firm to help restructure its roughly $400 million in debt due in 2018, a move that could include the marquee toy store filing for bankruptcy protection, sources familiar with the situation said Wednesday. (CNBC)

IBM says it will spend $240 million to open a Watson-branded artificial intelligence research lab in collaboration with a long-time partner, MIT. IBM has made larger financial commitments in the past. Still, the amount of money is notable in the world of AI research. (CNBC)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Apple (AAPL) has finalized a deal with Warner Music for music streaming rights for its Apple Music service, according to Bloomberg. The report said Apple could be close to a similar deal with Sony (SNY).

Royal Caribbean (RCL) increased its quarterly dividend to 60 cents per share from 48 cents, an increase of 25 percent. The cruise line operator's stock has been down the past three sessions on concerns about the financial impact of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

RH Inc. (RH) is among our stocks to watch today, after the Restoration Hardware parent reported adjusted quarterly profit of 65 cents per share, 18 cents above estimates. The retailer also saw revenue beat forecasts, and a same-store sales increase of 7 percent was better than the 5.4 percent consensus estimate by analysts. RH also raised its full-year forecast, as it benefits from a shift to a membership model.

CBS (CBS) will see a delay in its planned buyout of Australian broadcaster Ten Networks, after a court agreed to put the deal on hold to hear a challenge by a rival consortium led by News Corp (NWSA) co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch.

AstraZeneca (AZN) said its Duaklir drug showed significant improvement in lung function for COPD patients. The drug maker said it sees a submission to the FDA for approval in the first half of 2018.