Morning Brief

What to watch today: Dow to open slightly lower as Wall Street eyes weekly jobless claims

BY THE NUMBERS

Dow futures indicated a modestly lower open for Thursday, following a Wednesday rally on Wall Street that saw the S&P 500 end the day about six points short of its Feb. 19 record close. Dow futures implied a roughly 60-point drop at the bell. S&P 500 futures were flat while Nasdaq futures were slightly higher. (CNBC)

The benchmark S&P rose 1.4% Wednesday in its best daily gain since July 6, while the Nasdaq gained 2.1%, registering its largest one-day advance since July 20. The Dow and S&P 500 have both been higher in eight of the past nine sessions, and the Nasdaq broke a three-day losing streak, its longest since March, with its Wednesday gain.

U.S. Treasury yields fall from five-week highs as investors monitor auctions, data (CNBC) 

The Labor Department will release its weekly report on initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET. Consensus forecasts call for 1.1 million new claims for the week ending August 8. Claims had been up by 1.186 million the prior week. At the same time, the government will issue July import and export prices.

Tapestry (TPR) is one of the few companies issuing quarterly earnings this morning, while Applied Materials (AMAT) and Baidu (BIDU) report after today's closing bell.

IN THE NEWS TODAY

New daily cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. have fallen in the last two weeks, but the decline has coincided with a drop in testing, causing some epidemiologists to wonder whether the nation's Covid-19 outbreak is actually improving. The testing declines are particularly acute in hard-hit states like Texas. Some say the testing decline could be partly attributed to a delay in results. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the testing declines is "likely multifactorial," including there being "less cases, and therefore less need for testing cases and contact." (CNBC) 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY., said they were not willing to rekindle negotiations with Trump administration officials on a broad coronavirus relief package until they "start to take this process seriously." Although talks broke down last week, Pelosi had a phone call Wednesday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who later rejected her characterization of their conversation. "The Democrats have no interest in negotiating," Mnuchin said in a statement. The two sides have struggled to reconcile large differences in the size of a potential relief bill. (CNBC) 

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., made her campaign debut alongside presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, one day after she officially joined Biden's ticket as the vice presidential candidate. Speaking from Wilmington, Delaware, Harris criticized President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus and said the case against Trump and Vice President Mike Pence is "open and shut." (CNBC) 

Facebook, Twitter step up fight against misinformation on U.S. elections (Reuters) 

Lyft (LYFT) may have to suspend operations in California later this month if a court does not overturn its recent ruling that ordered the company and rival Uber (UBER) to classify their drivers in the state as full-time employees, according to Lyft co-founder and president, John Zimmer. His comments came on the ride-hailing company's earnings call after reporting a 61% year-over-year decline in quarterly revenue due to the coronavirus. Earlier Wednesday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi indicated it also may have to temporarily pause operations in California if the court maintains its current ruling. (CNBC) 

Palantir Technologies plans to go public through a direct listing in September, forgoing the traditional IPO process, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Palantir, a data analytics software company founded in 2004, confidentially filed to go public early last month. The company, which expects to reach $1 billion in revenue this year, may still change its plans to list shares directly, Bloomberg reported. Companies do not raise capital in a direct listing. (Bloomberg) 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Trump's recent executive orders regarding ByteDance's TikTok and Tencent's WeChat could be "broader" than those two popular apps. Pompeo, speaking in Prague, Czech Republic, did not elaborate so it's not clear if he was hinting at action against additional Chinese firms or a more strict crackdown on ByteDance and Tencent. But Pompeo stressed the Trump administration was "going to make sure that American data" does not "end up in the hands of an adversary like the Chinese Communist Party." (CNBC) 

Corporate America worries WeChat ban could be bad for business (Wall Street Journal) 
Released tycoon Lai says Hong Kong needs patient, not radical, democracy campaign (Reuters) 

STOCKS TO WATCH

SmileDirectClub (SDC) reported an adjusted quarterly loss of 17 cents per share, 3 cents wider than expected, although the maker of dental aligners did see revenue come in above analyst projections. Revenue was down 82% from a year earlier, as the pandemic shut many of the company's stores and led customers to delay purchases.

Vroom (VRM) reported a wider than expected loss in its first quarter as a publicly traded company, although the online used car seller did see revenue come in above estimates. The pandemic was a key factor as sales tumbled more than 60% from a year earlier, although it did see a surge in its e-commerce business. Vroom also gave a lower than expected current quarter revenue forecast.

Walt Disney (DIS) and actors at its Walt Disney World theme park have resolved a dispute over Covid-19 testing, with Disney agreeing to provide a virus testing area outside the park that will be run by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The actors – who cannot wear protective masks while performing – had argued that the company's proposed safeguards were inadequate.

United Airlines (UAL) will add 28 daily flights to four destinations in Florida in November, but said it was prepared to cut those flights back if coronavirus case levels in Florida remain high.

Simon Property (SPG) and Brookfield Property (BPY) are in advanced talks to jointly purchase J.C. Penney's retail business, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to the Wall Street Journal. The shopping center operators are two of the bankrupt retailer's biggest landlords.

Fossil (FOSL) reported an adjusted quarterly loss of 23 cents per share, compared to the consensus estimate of a $1.71 per share loss. Revenue easily exceeded estimates for the maker of watches, handbags, and other fashion goods, despite pandemic-related store closures.

Aspen Technology (AZPN) earned an adjusted $1.54 per share for its fiscal fourth quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $1.17 per share, with the maker of asset optimization software also seeing revenue come in above Wall Street forecasts. Aspen said customers continued to invest in its products despite pandemic-related challenges to their own businesses.

WATERCOOLER

The publisher of the New York Daily News said it's permanently closing its Lower Manhattan newsroom, citing the coronavirus pandemic. Although the paper that once had the largest circulation in the U.S. will still be published, the company said operations for now can be maintained without operating the current newsroom. (The New York Times)