U.S. stock futures were largely pointing to a lower Thursday open on Wall Street after Bloomberg reported that Chinese officials have been casting doubt over the possibility of a long-term trade deal with the U.S. The S&P 500 was coming off another record close Wednesday as the Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the third time this year and signals no rate hikes until inflation rises "significantly." The Nasdaq was looking to buck the Thursday down trend, with Apple and Facebook shares up sharply in the premarket after the tech giants reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings and revenues. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq were all tracking higher for the month ahead of the final day of October, Halloween. The Dow and Nasdaq, as of Wednesday's close, were each less than 1% away from their July record highs.
Altria said Thursday it wrote down its investment in Juul by about one-third, recording a $4.5 billion pre-tax charge against its third-quarter earnings. Since Altria invested $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul late last year, the e-cigarette maker has been embroiled in controversy and regulator scrutiny. Juul is largely blamed for fueling an epidemic of teen vaping. Consumers are also questioning the safety of e-cigarettes, with the outbreak of a mysterious vaping-related lung injury. Altria, behind the Marlboro and other traditional smoking brands, saw adjusted third-quarter earnings and revenue actually beat expectations. Shares were higher in the premarket.
The strong earnings from Apple and Facebook were pushing those stocks higher in premarket trading Thursday. In its fiscal fourth-quarter, Apple reported after-the-bell Wednesday earnings of $3.03 per share on quarterly revenue of $64 billion. Although Apple's iPhone business was down 9% year-over-year, the company signaled that it expects a big holiday quarter. Facebook posted earnings of $2.12 per share in the third quarter on quarterly revenue of $17.65 billion. Facebook said it counts more than 2.8 billion monthly users across the its family of apps, up slightly from the previous quarter.
As Facebook was reporting earnings late Wednesday, Twitter said it would no longer allow political ads. Without naming Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey seemed to take a shot at his rival's policy to keep accepting political ads. Zuckerberg on Facebook's earnings conference call defended that decision. Like at Facebook, political ad spending on Twitter is a relatively small portion of the business. President Donald Trump's 2020 presidential campaign manager called Dorsey's announcement "a very dumb decision."
Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot confirmed on Thursday their intention to merge, in what would be a 50-50 stock swap to create the world's fourth-largest automaker. The new company's shares will be listed in New York, Paris and Milan, with FCA's John Elkann becoming the chairman of the new company and Peugeot's Carlos Tavares becoming its CEO. Shares of Peugeot in France were sinking about 13% on Thursday morning, while shares of Fiat Chrysler in the U.S. were up about 3.5% in premarket trading.