Morning Brief

What to watch today: Futures fall after Trump's trade comments, NATO allies meet


December may be the best month of the year on average for stocks, but the month is not off to a good start this year. Monday's losses were the worst since early October for the major averages, and U.S. stock futures were indicating more losses today after President Donald Trump said a trade deal may not come until after the 2020 election. (CNBC)

The U.S. government said it may put punitive duties of up to 100% on $2.4 billion in imports from France of Champagne, handbags, cheese and other products, after concluding that France's new digital services tax would harm U.S. tech companies. The U.S. is looking at opening similar investigations into Austria, Italy and Turkey. (Reuters)

* France and EU ready to fight back over U.S. tariff threat, ministers say (Reuters)
* Read the full list of proposed US tariffs on French goods (CNBC)

No government economic reports are on today's calendar. Lands' End (LE) is out with quarterly earnings this morning, while (CRM) and Workday (WDAY) issue their numbers after the closing bell. (CNBC)

That big fourth-quarter growth scare looks like it's not happening (CNBC)


Trump is in the U.K. today for a NATO meeting, marking 70 years since the alliance's creation. The gathering comes amid overt tensions between some leaders regarding spending pledges and how to tackle the challenges posed by Russia and China. Trump met with his French counterpart today and will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel tomorrow. (CNBC)

* Trump slams Macron for 'insulting' and 'disrespectful' NATO comments (CNBC)
* China's military might has now become a top issue for NATO (CNBC)
* Impeachment shadows Trump on trip to NATO leaders meeting (AP)

The House is poised to release a landmark impeachment report today outlining evidence of what it calls Trump's wrongdoing toward Ukraine, findings that will push Congress toward a debate over whether the 45th president should be removed from office. The House votes today on whether to send the report to the Judiciary Committee for a hearing set for tomorrow. (AP)

Rep. Duncan Hunter is reportedly expected to appear in federal court today to plead guilty for spending more than $200,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. Hunter and his wife were charged with 60 criminal counts of campaign finance violations in August 2018 after allegedly misusing campaign funds, spending it on vacations, gas, groceries and surgeries, among other personal expenses. (CNBC)

The founder of Huawei says the Chinese tech giant is moving its U.S. research center to Canada due to American sanctions on the company. Ren Zhengfei said the move was necessary because Huawei would be blocked from interacting with U.S. employees since the U.S. declared the company a security risk. (AP)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is going on trial today for his tweets in a defamation case pitting the billionaire against a British diver he allegedly branded a pedophile. Musk will be called to explain what he meant when he called Vernon Unsworth, who helped rescue youth soccer players trapped underwater in a Thailand cave, "pedo guy" in a Twitter spat more than year ago. (AP)

California power producer PG&E Corp (PCG) did not properly inspect and replace transmission lines before a faulty wire sparked a wildfire that killed more than 80 people in 2018, a probe by a state regulator has concluded. The utility filed for bankruptcy in January, citing potential civil liabilities of more than $30 billion from wildfires linked to its gear.

Cyber Monday sales are expected to bring in $9.2 billion this year, up 16.9% from a year ago. The day dedicated to online deals is also expected to become the first day in history where consumers spend over $3 billion, in a 24-hour window, via their smartphones. (CNBC)


UnitedHealth Group (UNH) issued a 2020 adjusted earnings forecast of $16.25 to $16.55 per share, compared to a consensus estimate of $16.46 per share. The health insurer's revenue forecast for 2020 does come in mostly above Street forecasts.

Wells Fargo (WFC) appointed former Santander USA CEO Scott Powell as chief operating officer, effective Dec. 9. He will report directly to Chief Executive Officer Charles Scharf.

Facebook (FB) was rated "overweight" in new coverage at Piper Jaffray, which points to an easing of growth in expenses as well as evidence that neither users nor advertisers have moved away from the platform despite the controversy surrounding the social media giant.

Alphabet (GOOGL) was rated "overweight" in new coverage at Piper Jaffray, citing a continued benefit of the shift of ad dollars from offline to online.

Intel (INTC) is in talks to buy Tel Aviv-based artificial intelligence chipmaker Habana Labs for more than $1 billion, according to Israeli financial publication Calcalist.

Ulta Beauty (ULTA) was rated "buy" in resumed coverage at Deutsche Bank, which feels the cosmetics retailer is well positioned to keep gaining share in what it calls a "favorable corner of retail."


McDonald's is entering the chicken sandwich wars. The chain is testing a Crispy Chicken Sandwich in Houston and Knoxville, Tennessee. The sandwich features a fried chicken filet served on a buttery potato roll, topped with butter and pickles, and will be served through Jan. 26. (CNBC)

Starbucks (SBUX) is launching its latest holiday drink Friday, the Irish Cream Cold Brew. The cold brew, mixed with Irish cream syrup, comes topped with vanilla sweet cream cold foam and cocoa powder. Two years ago, Starbucks' midseason addition to its holiday lineup was the Christmas Tree Frappuccino. (CNBC)