Hurricane Irma drove toward Florida this morning as it lashed the Caribbean with devastating winds and torrential rain, leaving behind 14 deaths and catastrophic destruction. Forecasters say it was heading for the Bahamas before moving to Cuba. It's expected to slam into southern Florida on Sunday. (Reuters)
*Why Florida is so vulnerable to Irma (NYT)
As of early this morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Irma's maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 155 mph, making it a Category 4 storm, down slightly from a Category 5. The hurricane center said some fluctuations in strength are likely over the next day or two but Irma is expected to stay a Category 4 storm. (USA Today)
In Irma, South Florida is gearing up for a storm that could be more powerful and potentially more devastating than Andrew in 1992, the costliest hurricane to hit the U.S. until Katrina in 2005. Many wonder whether last month's Hurricane Harvey in Texas might top Katrina in total damage costs. (Weather Channel)
Oil prices steadied this morning after almost a week of sharp rises as Irma drives toward Florida after tearing through the Caribbean. Its predecessor, Harvey, shut a quarter of U.S. refineries and 8 percent of U.S. oil production. Analysts say it will take weeks for the U.S. petroleum industry to return to full capacity. (Reuters)
Conservative grumbling aside, the House is heading toward backing a $15.3 billion disaster aid package that President Trump and Democrats have linked to a temporary increase in America's borrowing authority and keeping the government funded through December. A vote is set for today. (AP)
IN THE NEWS TODAY
An earthquake of magnitude 8.1 struck off the southern coast of Mexico late Thursday, killing at least six people and triggering small tsunami waves but no major destruction. Mexico's president said the quake was the biggest to strike the country in 100 years, larger even than a huge temblor that struck in 1985, killing thousands. (CNBC & Reuters)
President Trump's Department of Homeland Security had planned nationwide raids to target 8,400 undocumented immigrants later this month. But after NBC News reported the plans, the agency issued a statement saying it had cancelled nationwide enforcement actions due to Hurricane Irma and the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. (NBC News)
A federal appeals court panel has ruled that grandparents and other extended relatives of people in the U.S. are exempt from President Trump's travel ban, as are refugees with a formal assurance from a government agency. The judges said their ruling would take effect in five days. (Washington Post)
A newly fraying relationship between President Trump and top White House economic advisor Gary Cohn has raised questions about how long Cohn will stay in his job, sources tell Reuters. The concerns stem from a Wall Street Journal report that Cohn was unlikely to be nominated by Trump as a successor to Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
A top Democrat on the committee probing Moscow's interference in the 2016 presidential election said he expects Twitter to brief the panel soon on any Russian activity on its social-media platform during the campaign. On Thursday, Facebook made public it found nearly 500 inauthentic accounts possibly linked to Russia. (WSJ)
Facebook's ad sales team is hitting up the drug industry. On Thursday, the company's New York-based health unit hosted an invite-only breakfast for pharmaceutical marketers to learn about targeting users for their clinical trials. (CNBC)
Federal prosecutors said they want a judge to revoke "Pharma bro" Martin Shkreli's $5 million release bond and throw him in jail, after the convicted fraudster encouraged Facebook followers to grab Hillary Clinton's hair and give him samples of it. (CNBC)
South Korea is closely watching North Korea over the possibility it may launch another intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as tomorrow when it celebrates its founding anniversary. North Korea has previously marked key dates with displays of military power, but now its tests appear to be driven by the need to improve missile capabilities. (AP)
*Most South Koreans doubt the North will start a war (Reuters)
*North Korea plays chicken with US (CNBC)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said his cash-strapped country would seek to "free" itself from the U.S. dollar next week, using the weakest of two official foreign exchange regimes and a basket of currencies. (Reuters)
STOCKS TO WATCH
ADP (ADP) issues a statement thanking activist investor Bill Ackman for presenting his proposals to the ADP board, but said none of the board nominees put forth by Ackman's Pershing Square would bring additional skills to the board, and that the maker of payroll processing and human resources software was confident that it had the right strategy in place.
Western Digital (WDC) is seeking $464 million from Apple (AAPL) to help finance a bid for Toshiba's chip making unit, according to the Kyodo news service. Toshiba is still assessing bids from three groups of suitors, although Reuters reports that Apple is involved in all of them.
Monsanto (MON) filed a petition with the state of Arkansas, seeking to remove a ban on the herbicide dicamba that is scheduled to take effect next April 15. Dicamba has been linked to crop damage, but Monsanto calls the ban "unwarranted and misinformed."
Cloudera (CLDR) lost 17 cents per share for its latest quarter, eight cents smaller than Wall Street analysts had anticipated. Revenue for the data management software company beat estimates, amid improved sales and customer acquisition.
American Outdoor Brands (AOBC) reported a sharp drop in quarterly earnings and revenue, and lowered its fiscal 2018 guidance as well, amid lower than anticipated shipments in the company's firearms business.
Amazon announced the search for a second North American headquarters, saying it would give preference to areas with one million residents or more. It didn't take long for cities to throw their names out for consideration. Here's the list. (CNBC)