Morning Brief

What to watch today: Stock futures plunge, Strike kills Iranian commander, Fed minutes released

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BY THE NUMBERS

Wall Street is set to give back a good chunk of Thursday's strong rally, with U.S. stock futures plunging after a U.S. military strike killed a top Iranian general. The major averages closed at record highs yesterday in 2020's first trading session. The military strike also sent crude and gold prices higher and helped push the dollar to a nine-week low. (CNBC)

Though the military strike will capture the bulk of investor attention, several economic reports are on today's calendar. The Institute For Supply Management is out with its December manufacturing index at 10 a.m ET, along with the government's November construction spending report. (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve will have a rare Friday release of minutes from its most recent policy meeting, scheduled for 2 p.m. ET. It's a Fed-heavy day, with Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly, Fed Governor Lael Brainard, Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan all making public appearances. (CNBC)

Frozen potato products maker Lamb Weston (LW) is the only earnings report on this morning's calendar, with no reports scheduled after the bell. Meanwhile, most automakers will be out with fourth-quarter U.S. sales figures today, with Ford (F) a notable exception: It plans to issue those numbers Monday. (CNBC)

IN THE NEWS TODAY

Iran's top commander, General Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad at the direction of President Donald Trump. The news exacerbates already-high tensions between Iran and the U.S, and trigger concerns of retaliation from Iranian forces. Oil prices jumped more than 4% in the morning, while Brent crude climbed nearly 4% to $68.90 per barrel and U.S. crude also rose nearly 4% to $63.55 per barrel. (CNBC)

* Iran vows to retaliate over the killing of its top military commander (CNBC)
* US Embassy urges Americans to flee Iraq 'immediately' following Soleimani killing (CNBC)
* Democrats call US killing of Iranian general 'reckless' (AP)

Joe Biden's campaign took in $22.7 million in the fourth quarter, an improving fundraising pace that still lags some of his rivals for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Biden's fourth-quarter total ranks third so among the Democratic hopefuls who have announced their numbers so far during the time period, with Sen. Bernie Sanders taking in a staggering $34.5 million and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg raising $24.7 million. (CNBC)

Meanwhile, Trump's reelection campaign announced it raised $46 million in the final quarter of 2019, as the president cashed in while being impeached by the Democratic-led House. Trump's campaign also said it had $102.7 million in cash on hand heading into 2020. (CNBC)

* Julian Castro drops out of 2020 Democratic primary race (CNBC)
* Marianne Williamson stays in presidential race after firing her entire 2020 campaign staff (CNBC)

Turkish private jet operator MNG Jet said today that ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn used two of its planes illegally in his escape from Japan, with an employee falsifying lease records to exclude his name from the documents. Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Ghosn Thursday, who says he fled to Lebanon to escape what he called a "rigged" justice system in Japan, where he faces charges relating to alleged financial crimes. (Reuters)

Fast-growing Indian start-up Oyo, which offers budget hotel rooms and is valued at $10 billion, is said to have built up its domestic business by employing questionable tactics that are casting doubts on the company's health. SoftBank is a major investor in Oyo, while other backers include Sequoia Capital India and Lightspeed India Partners. (CNBC)

Indonesia will carry out cloud seeding today in a bid to prevent further rainfall over Jakarta, after deadly flash floods and landslides came with some of the heaviest rains ever recorded. The death toll in Jakarta and surrounding areas rose to 43, while tens of thousands of people have been displaced. (Reuters)

One of the largest evacuations in Australia's history is underway today ahead of hot weather and strong winds that are forecast to worsen devastating wildfires raging across the country. More than 200 fires were burning, and warnings of extreme danger still to come prompted mass evacuations. (AP)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Illumina (ILMN) has called off its deal to buy rival gene sequencing company Pacific Biosciences (PACB). The companies had announced the deal in November 2018, but ended it several weeks after US regulators filed a complaint to block the transaction.

Acorda Therapeutics (ACOR) is seeing its shares jump on news that investor Steven Cohen's Point72 disclosed a 9.8% stake in the drugmaker.

Incyte (INCY) is under pressure after a phase-3 study of an experimental treatment failed to meet its goals. The therapy was designed to treat patients who have negative reactions to bone marrow transplants.

Tesla (TSLA) cut the starting price for Model 3 sedans produced in China by 16%, after receiving government subsidies for its electric vehicles.

Lowe's (LOW) is looking to hire at least 53,000 people ahead of the spring season, the home improvement retailer's busiest time of year. That's less than Lowe's goals for a total of 65,000 workers in 2019, of which 50,000 were seasonal hires.

McClatchy (MNI) froze pension payments to some of its former executives, as the newspaper publisher engaged a bankruptcy administration firm. McClatchy is seeking a government takeover of its pension plan, after saying in November that it would be unable to make a required $124 million payment to the plan due this year.

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary said the budget airline may only receive its first delivery of Boeing (BA) 737 Max in October. The airline currently has 135 of the planes on order, though none are in service.

Avon Products (AVP) CEO Jan Zijderveld stepped down, as the company nears closing in on its sale to Brazilian group Natura & Co.

WATERCOOLER

If you're doing "Dry January," or abstaining from alcohol for the month, some brewers still want you to drink their beer. Heineken is giving away cans of its alcohol-free beer, Heinekin 0.0, in its January Dry Pack, while Molson Coors is promoting its low-alcohol beer Miller64 through an advertising campaign. No- and low-alcohol beer is the fifth-fastest growing type of beer in the U.S., CNBC reported.