Morning Brief

What to watch today: Dow to fall, Tesla delivers Shanghai-built cars and US box office haul


U.S. stock futures are hugging the flat line ahead of the final two trading days of 2019, but the major averages are all at or near milestones. The Dow and S&P 500 both closed at record highs Friday, and the S&P 500 is just 0.35% away from posting its best annual gain since 1997. The Nasdaq did see an 11-day win streak come to an end Friday, but it still leads the major averages with an annual gain of nearly 36%. (CNBC)

* Key reports to watch for this week as the S&P aims for its best year in 2 decades (CNBC)

On today's economic calendar, the Chicago purchasing managers index is out at 9:45 a.m. ET. The National Association of Realtors issues its pending home sales report for November at 10 a.m. ET. Meanwhile, no earnings reports of note are out today. (CNBC)

Tesla (TSLA) has started delivering Model 3 electric cars built at its Shanghai factory in just under a year since it began work on the $2 billion plant, a record for global automakers in China. Tesla said it would ramp up deliveries from next month. The Shanghai plant is part of Tesla's plans to bolster its presence in the world's biggest car market and minimize the impact of the U.S.-China trade war. (Reuters)

YouTube will soon limit the data it collects on videos designed for children in order to comply with a federal privacy clampdown, according to The Wall Street Journal. The unit of Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google recently began requiring that content creators let users know if posts are meant for kids or a broader audience.


President Donald Trump retweeted a post that included the alleged name of the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint ultimately led to Trump's impeachment by the House. Unmasking the whistleblower, who works in the intelligence field, could violate federal protection laws that have historically been supported by both parties. (AP)

* Twitter system 'outage' briefly blocked Trump whistleblower tweet (Reuters)

Democratic Rep. John Lewis will undergo treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Lewis, who represents Georgia's fifth Congressional District, said he plans to return to Washington "in coming days to continue our work and begin my treatment plan, which will occur over the next several weeks." (NBC News)

The EU's new trade commissioner, Phil Hogan, said he would seek a reset of EU/US trade relations on a number of contentious issues when he meets his U.S. counterpart next month. The two sides are in theory trying to forge a deal to remove overall import duties, but are stuck over farm products, which DC said must be included and Brussels said cannot feature. (Reuters)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for his military and diplomats to prepare unspecified "offensive measures" to protect the country's security and sovereignty, the North's state media said today, before his end-of-year deadline for the Trump administration to make major concessions to salvage a fragile nuclear diplomacy. (AP)

* US promises action on any North Korea missile test, says White House (Reuters)

The U.S. military carried out "precision defense strikes" in Iraq and Syria against a militia group following a string of attacks on Iraqi bases that host U.S. service members. The locations included weapon storage facilities and command and control locations that the Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim militia uses to plan and execute attacks on OIR coalition forces. (CNBC)

A Chinese scientist, who set off an ethical debate with claims that he had made the world's first genetically edited babies, was sentenced today to three years in prison because of his research. He Jiankui, convicted of practicing medicine without a license, was also fined $430,000. Two other researchers involved in the project received lesser sentences and fines. (AP)

Congregants shot and killed a man who opened fire in a church near Fort Worth, Texas, yesterday, killing the attacker. A person shot by the suspect also died and a second parishioner has life-threatening injuries following the attack. Authorities have released scant details about the victims, the shooter and what led to the attack. (AP)

A knife-wielding man stormed into a rabbi's home and stabbed five people as they celebrated Hanukkah in an Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City, an ambush the governor said was an act of domestic terrorism fueled by intolerance and a "cancer" of growing hatred in America. (AP)


Restaurant Brands International (QSR) said Tim Hortons unit president Alex Macedo would leave the company in March after two years in the job. The company's most recent quarter saw results negatively impacted by Tim Hortons, while its Burger King and Popeyes chain had more positive performances.

AstraZeneca (AZN) received FDA approval to use its pancreatic cancer drug Lynparza as a first-line treatment for the disease.

LendingTree (TREE) was upgraded to "buy" from "neutral" at Compass Point in what the firm characterizes as a valuation call. Its price target for the online lender remains at $340 per share.

The purchase of iHeartMedia (IHRT) by Liberty Media may be blocked by the Justice Department, according to the New York Post. The paper said regulators are going to examine whether such a combination might be anti-competitive.

Goodyear Tire (GT) was rated "buy" in new coverage at Nomura/Instinet, with a price target of $20 per share.


The 2019 U.S. box office is headed toward the second-best annual haul in cinematic history. As of Sunday, the movies released this year garnered $11.26 billion domestically. Current estimates have the year's final tally as high as $11.4 billion, but likely to fall between $11.36 billion and $11.39 billion. (CNBC)

In the U.S., Disney-produced films tallied more than $3.72 billion at the box office, the most of any studio in history. Combine Disney-produced films with that of 20th Century Fox, which the company acquired earlier this year, and Disney as a whole represented 38% of the U.S. movie industry's haul in 2019. (CNBC)