Morning Brief

What to watch today: S&P 500 heads for best August in 34 years

BY THE NUMBERS

U.S. stock futures were pointing to further gains at Friday's open, with the S&P 500 soaring 6.5% this month and heading for its best August since 1986. The S&P and the Dow Jones Industrial Average continued their summer rallies Thursday on the Federal Reserve's announcement of a new inflation strategy that could keep interest rates lower for longer. (CNBC)

* Fed's Mester: Recovery will be 'a slow one' and continuous economic support needed (CNBC)

The S&P 500 closed at another record high, though below the best levels of the day, which saw the index top 3,500 for the first time ever. The Dow closed higher but off the day's highs, which saw blue chips turn briefly positive for 2020. The Dow has been the laggard on Wall Street, still about 3.5% from its Feb. 12 record highs. The Nasdaq hit another all-time during Thursday's session but closed modestly lower. (CNBC)

Ahead Friday, the Chicago purchasing managers index is out at 9:45 a.m. ET. The University of Michigan's final August consumer sentiment index is released at 10 a.m. ET. Shares of Tesla, up an astonishingly 435% in 2020, were higher in premarket trading after closing higher at $2,238. Tesla's 5-for-1 stock split happens after Friday's close, with shares starting to trade on a split-adjusted basis Monday. (CNBC)

* U.S. consumer spending beats expectations in July (Reuters)

Dow stock Coca-Cola was higher in the premarket after the beverage giant announced Friday a restructuring plan, which will include voluntary job cuts. Coca-Cola will offer buyouts, starting with about 4,000 workers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico who were hired on or before Sept. 1, 2017. The company estimates that the severance program will cost $350 million to $550 million. (CNBC)

Our friends over at CNBC Select reviewed the best credit card options for people who want luxury perks and premium benefits. You can see their August 2020 review here.

IN THE NEWS TODAY

President Donald Trump capped the 2020 Republican National Convention on Thursday night by accepting his party's presidential nomination for the second time. Speaking from the White House, Trump blasted Joe Biden, saying that electing his Democratic rival would lead to an economic collapse and violence in American cities. (CNBC)

* Highlights from all four nights of the RNC: Leaders tout Trump's fighting spirit (CNBC)
* 75% of top CFOs say Biden will win the 2020 Presidential election: CNBC survey

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, speaking before Trump's address, said the president failed to protect Americans from the coronavirus pandemic. She charged that Trump "caved" when he needed "to be tough" over China's refusal to share information about the virus months ago. (CNBC)

Democrats and White House are at a ‘tragic impasse’ on coronavirus stimulus (CNBC)

Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, announced Friday that he will step down due worsening health, bringing an early end to his leadership of the world's third-largest economy. Abe, 65, who suffers from a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, said he did not want his illness to result in any policy mistakes. Abe said he would fulfill his duties as prime minister until the next leader is appointed. (CNBC)

Walmart and Microsoft might seem like an unlikely partnership to acquire TikTok's U.S. assets, but until very recently the retailer had other plans. Walmart was originally in a consortium with Google-parent Alphabet before switching in recent days to partner with Microsoft. TikTok is set to choose between the Microsoft-Walmart offer and a bid from Oracle in the next couple of days. (CNBC)

* TikTok likely to announce sale of U.S. operations in $20 billion to $30 billion range (CNBC)

Apple rejected one of Facebook's new app updates, according to Reuters. The app tried to inform users that Apple collects 30% of in-app purchases from a new online events feature.

Amazon (AMZN) announced Friday that it has ordered more than 1,800 electric vans from German automaker Daimler's Mercedes-Benz unit as part of its bid to become carbon-neutral by 2040. (CNBC)

Capping a week of protests and outrage over the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin, civil rights advocates will highlight Friday the scourge of police and vigilante violence against Black Americans at a commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington. (AP)

* Mets, Marlins walk off field in social injustice protest (AP)
* Analysis: The NBA restart is about to restart, with purpose (AP)

The heart of the U.S. oil industry in Louisiana and Texas appears to have avoided the worst of Laura, which caused devastation along the Gulf Coast when it crashed ashore as a powerful Category 4 hurricane early Thursday. Forecasters are warning of new dangers as tropical weather blows toward the Eastern Seaboard this weekend. (AP)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Gap (GPS) reported a quarterly loss of 17 cents per share, smaller than the 41 cents a share loss that Wall Street had anticipated. The apparel retailer's revenue also beat estimates, as it benefited from the pandemic-related shift to casual clothing and also sold $130 million in masks.

Discount retailer Big Lots (BIG) beat estimates by 5 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of $2.75 per share. Revenue topped estimates as well. Comparable-store sales were up 31.3%, beating the consensus FactSet estimate of a 28.1% rise. Additionally, Big Lots announced a $500 million stock buyback program.

Hibbett Sports (HIBB) reported quarterly earnings of $2.95 per share, blowing past the consensus estimate of $1.15 a share. Revenue was also well above forecasts, with comparable-store sales up more than 79% and e-commerce sales more than tripling during the quarter.

HP Inc. (HPQ) beat estimates by 6 cents a share, with quarterly profit of 49 cents per share. The computer and printer maker's revenue was also above estimates. HP's results got a boost from a surge in demand for laptops, as more people were forced to work at home due to the pandemic.

Dell Technologies (DELL) reported quarterly profit of $1.92 per share, 52 cents a share above estimates, with the computer and data center company also reporting better-than-expected revenue. Remote working helped boost demand for Dell's notebooks and software products.

Workday (WDAY) earned 84 cents per share for its latest quarter, beating the 66 cents a share consensus estimate. The maker of cloud-based human resources and finance software's revenue came in above analysts' forecasts. Workday also increased its revenue forecast, and named co-president Chano Fernandez as a new co-CEO working alongside current CEO Aneel Bhusri.

Okta (OKTA) reported quarterly profit of 7 cents per share, compared with forecasts of a loss of 2 cents per share. The maker of identity management software's revenue came in better than expected, and also raised its revenue forecast. The company said, however, that it would be "prudent" to expect some near term economic uncertainty due to the business impact of Covid-19.

Ulta Beauty (ULTA) reported better-than-expected profit for its latest quarter, despite revenue that came in very slightly below Street forecasts. The cosmetics retailer saw sales rebound through the quarter as stores reopened, and e-commerce sales more than tripled from a year earlier.