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Morning Brief

Stock futures edge higher | Pence backs lower rates | WikiLeaks's Assange arrested

BY THE NUMBERS

U.S. stock futures were modestly higher this morning. That follows a modestly positive day Wednesday, which did see the S&P 500 rise for the ninth time in 10 sessions and the Nasdaq for the eighth time in ten days. The Nasdaq also posted its highest close since Oct. 3. (CNBC)

The government will release Initial jobless claims and the March Producer Price Index at 8:30 a.m. ET. Consensus forecasts call for a rise of 8,000 in claims for the week ending April 6 to a total of 210,000. Producer prices are expected to be up 0.3 percent for headline inflation. (CNBC)

Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will be talking about monetary policy in separate public appearances today, while Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari will be holding a Twitter Q&A session. Bullard is a voting member of the FOMC for 2019. (CNBC)

Fastenal (FAST) and Rite Aid (RAD) are out with quarterly earnings this morning, while there are no earnings reports scheduled after today's closing bell. (CNBC)

IN THE NEWS TODAY

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange was arrested in London today, nearly seven years after he first sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy. Police said he was arrested for failing to surrender to a court on a warrant issued back in 2012. (CNBC)

Herman Cain's path to the Federal Reserve Board could get blocked before President Donald Trump even nominates him. At least three GOP senators plan to vote against him if Trump formally chooses him, multiple reports say.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will meet with Democrats as Trump increases pressure on the central bank (CNBC)

Vice President Mike Pence told CNBC's Joe Kernen in an interview that aired today that despite his bullish view of the state of the economy, he backs the president's calls for further rate cuts from the Federal Reserve.

Mike Pence, facing criticism from 2020 Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg over his record on gay rights, says South Bend mayor 'knows better' (CNBC)

EU leaders and the U.K. have agreed to a "flexible extension" of the Brexit deadline until Oct. 31. Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said this provides an "additional six months for the UK to find the best possible solution." (CNBC)

CNBC has learned Chris Phillips, the head of men's and kids' clothing at Stitch Fix (SFIX), is leaving the subscription-based styling platform to become CEO of online-based menswear brand Mizzen+Main. 

The National Enquirer's parent company, American Media Inc., said it will "explore strategic options" for the National Enquirer and the National Examiner, adding that this "will likely result in their sale in the near future. " (CNBC)

Amazon has thousands of workers around the world who listen to and review private Alexa conversations with the goal of helping improve the speech assistant's technology, according to a Bloomberg report.

Jeff Bezos challenges rival retailers to match Amazon's pay and benefits (CNBC)

Interviews with former Pinterest employees describe a culture of decision-making by committee where a lack of direct feedback and quick decisions resulted in employee turnover and competitive missteps. (CNBC)

JetBlue (JBLU) said that it would begin flights between the United States and London in 2021. Shares of the airline rose after CNBC had reported yesterday that the airline appeared to be readying an announcement for flights to Europe. 

The American public overwhelmingly says it's a good idea for employers to offer workers programs that promote healthy behavior, but a solid majority also firmly oppose financial penalties linked to those programs, a new poll finds. (CNBC)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Costco (COST) posted a comparable store sales increase of 5.9 percent for March, excluding gasoline prices, foreign exchange, and the impact of a previously disclosed accounting change. Online comparable sales rose 20.6 percent.

Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) reported adjusted quarterly profit of $1.20 per share, beating consensus estimates by nine cents. The housewares retailer also saw revenue come in above Street forecasts, and it gave better than expected 2019 earnings guidance. The company also increased its quarterly dividend by one cent to 17 cents per share.

ASML (ASM) said its U.S. software subsidiary had been the victim of corporate theft several years ago, but the Dutch semiconductor equipment maker added that it had discovered the theft on its own and taken immediate action. A Dutch newspaper had reported that high-level Chinese employees had stolen technology and leaked the information to a China government-linked company.

PG&E (PCG) may expand its board as part of a settlement with a large shareholder, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to Reuters. BlueMountain Capital has been seeking to put its own nominees on the board, as the utility deals with the financial impact of its involvement in recent California wildfires.

Amazon (AMZN) and Microsoft (AMZN) remain in the competition for a Pentagon cloud computing contract that could be worth up to $10 billion, according to announcement by the Defense Department. That decision pushes Oracle (ORCL) and IBM (IBM) out of the bidding.

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) will seek voluntary retirements and may cut jobs as it undergoes a restructuring. The grain processor said it is trying to implement improvements in productivity, growth, and service between now and June 30.

Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) was downgraded to "hold" from "buy" at Jefferies, which said the stock now reflects improvements in same-store sales and profit margins after jumping 65 percent during the first quarter.

Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) was downgraded to "underweight" from "equal-weight" at Morgan Stanley, expressing concern about growth rates for the single-serve coffee business.

Waste Management (WM) was downgraded to "hold" from "buy" at Stifel Nicolaus, which points to headwinds in the company's recycling business.

WATERCOOLER

Astronomers have revealed the first ever close-up images of a black hole, a landmark finding that strengthens Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. The black hole is 53.49 million light-years away from Earth. (CNBC)