Morning Brief

What to watch today: Dow to open steady, Carlos Ghosn's $350,000 getaway and Tesla bets on China


U.S. stock futures were little changed following a late-day comeback from early losses spurred by renewed Mideast tensions. The Dow erased an early 216-point loss to finish higher, with the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq now up in three of the past four sessions. By closing higher, the Dow and S&P 500 avoided their first back-to-back losses since Dec. 9-10. (CNBC)

Beijing is expected to increase its purchases of U.S. farm products as part of a phase one trade agreement, though it has yet to confirm the exact figure and has been vague. However, a Chinese spokesman said today that import quotas for wheat, corn and rice will not increase. (CNBC)

On today's U.S. economic calendar, the government issues November trade deficit figures at 8:30 a.m. ET. November factory orders follow at 10 a.m. ET, along with the Institute For Supply Management's non-manufacturing index for December. Meanwhile, no corporate earnings reports are out today. (CNBC)


A stampede erupted at a funeral procession today for the top Iranian general killed in a U.S. airstrike last week, killing 35 people and injuring 48 others. The outpouring of grief was an unprecedented honor for a man viewed by Iranians as a national hero for his work leading the Guard's expeditionary Quds Force. (AP)

* US prepares for possible Iranian reprisal after drone strike (AP)

The U.S. has no plans to target Iran's cultural sites in potential strikes, Pentagon chiefs told reporters, overturning threats from President Donald Trump issued after Iran vowed retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said the U.S. "will follow the laws of armed conflict." (CNBC)

The Pentagon said a U.S. general's letter informing Iraq's Defense Ministry that U.S.-led coalition troops would leave Iraq "was a mistake," and American Defense officials insisted that the troops would remain there. The letter to Iraq's Defense Ministry came to light a day after Iraq's parliament voted to expel all foreign forces from the country. (CNBC)

As Nissan's former Chairman Carlos Ghosn made his way from Osaka, Japan to Istanbul in a private jet, the price of the flight was likely the least of his concerns. A source close to the situation told CNBC that a firm listed in Dubai agreed to pay $350,000 to MNG Jet for two flights. (CNBC)

* The Wall Street Journal shows photos of the box Ghosn hid in to flee Japan

Tokyo prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for the wife of Nissan's former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, on suspicion of perjury, adding to the couple's legal troubles. The move against Carole Ghosn, who is not in Japan, followed her husband's flight to Lebanon last week while he was out on bail awaiting trial for alleged financial misconduct. (AP)

Tesla (TSLA) began production of its Model Y electric SUV at its new Shanghai factory, shortly after opening the factory and delivering its first China-built Model 3 cars. "We intend to continue making a significant investment and increasing the investment in China, making the Model 3 and the Model Y and future models also in China," CEO Elon Musk said. (CNBC)

South Korean carmaker Hyundai is partnering with Uber (UBER) to develop a line of flying taxis for the Uber Elevate aerial ridehailing service that is expected to leapfrog traffic congestion. The ride-sharing giant hopes to launch commercial service in 2023, with operations initially set to debut in Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia. (CNBC)

Goldman Sachs (GS) announced it is reorganizing its businesses to more closely resemble its Wall Street peers and give its nascent retail banking operations its own category, according to a filing early today. Goldman is now calling its four main segments global markets, investment banking, asset management and consumer & wealth management. (CNBC)

Facebook (FB) will remove deepfakes and other manipulated videos from its platform if they have been edited, but not content that is parody or satire, in a move aimed at curbing misinformation ahead of the 2020 election. It would also remove misleading media if it was a result of technologies like AI that "merges, replaces or superimposes content on to a video, making it appear to be authentic," it said. (Reuters)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly told Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell he does not plan to run for a Senate seat in Kansas in 2020. Speculation has swirled for months over whether Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, would run for the seat in his home state. (Reuters)

* Tech firm helping Bloomberg campaign lands ex-Goldman executive, ex-Facebook employees (CNBC)
* Julian Castro endorses Elizabeth Warren for president days after quitting Democratic primary (CNBC)


Boeing (BA) and American Airlines (AAL) reached a settlement over damages incurred due to the grounding of Boeing's 737 Max jet.

Spirit Aerosystems (SPR) is offering voluntary layoffs to employees, amid the Boeing supplier's uncertainty over how long 737 Max production will remain idled. More than half of the company's revenue comes from production of 737 aircraft components.

Pier 1 Imports (PIR) will close up to 450 stores and cut jobs, as it tries to deal with ongoing losses and slumping sales.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) settled a claim involving its talc products in mid-trial, Bloomberg reported. J&J is said to have agreed to pay more than $2 million to settle a claim that its baby powder caused cancer.

T-Mobile US (TMUS) was upgraded to "buy" from "neutral" at Nomura/Instinet, which said that shareholders are likely to win whether or not the mobile operator's planned merger with Sprint (S) is approved.

Marriott (MAR) was downgraded to "market perform" from "outperform" at Raymond James. The firm said the hotel operator's stock is trading at the upper end of historical ranges after a strong 2019, with the market environment now more challenging.


Starbucks announced today it would introduce oat milk regionally and add two new dairy-free drinks, the Almondmilk Honey Flat White and Coconutmilk Latte, to its U.S. and Canadian menus. Oat milk will be coming to 1,300 cafes in the Midwest, including locations in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. (CNBC)