U.S. stock futures were pointing to a lower open Thursday after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed at record highs Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke a three-session losing streak with a 115-point advance but still remains nearly 1% away from a new high as investors continue to gauge the impact of the coronavirus on global economic growth. Wall Street investment bank Morgan Stanley has agreed to buy E-Trade for $13 billion, the latest in a consolidation wave for the retail brokerage industry. Before-the-bell, the Labor Department issued its weekly report on first-time filings for unemployment benefits. Claims last week came in as expected at 210,000.
China's National Health Commission reported an additional 114 coronavirus deaths, and 394 new confirmed cases. That brings the total deaths in China to 2,118 and confirmed cases to 74,576 cases. In Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, officials asked companies not to resume work before March 11. South Korea confirmed its first coronavirus death and 22 new confirmed cases. Japan's health ministry confirmed the deaths of two elderly passengers, both in their 80s, who were on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined at Yokohama, near Tokyo.
Just three days before Saturday's crucial Nevada caucuses, Democratic candidates took to the stage in Las Vegas in a contentious debate, firing off rounds of attacks on newcomer Mike Bloomberg, the wealthy former New York City mayor. The harshest attacks came from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who said Bloomberg was a "billionaire who calls women 'fat broads' and 'horse-faced lesbians.'" Later in the debate, Warren called on Bloomberg to release female employees from nondisclosure agreements. Bloomberg said, "None of them accused me of doing anything other than — maybe they didn't like a joke I told."
The White House issued a vigorous defense of the Trump administration's economic agenda Thursday — claiming credit for changing the trajectory of the nation's record expansion, while taking aim at the Obama administration's record. In its annual report to Congress, the White House highlighted GDP growth that has outpaced expectations and a jobless rate that has hit historic lows. In the report, the White House repeatedly compares the economy's performance under current President Donald Trump to that of former President Barack Obama.
L Brands shares were down 13% in the premarket. The retailer could announce a deal as soon as Thursday to sell control of its Victoria's Secret brand to private equity firm Sycamore Partners for just over $1 billion. That's according The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The reports also said L Brands Chairman and CEO Leslie Wexner, under scrutiny for ties to disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein, is expected to step down. The billionaire Wexner started what would become the L Brands global retail powerhouse in 1963 with one store, The Limited, in Columbus, Ohio.