Morning Brief

What to watch today: Wall Street heads for first monthly decline since March

BY THE NUMBERS

U.S. stock futures were pointing to a mixed Friday open, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 looking at losses and the Nasdaq tracking higher. All three squeaked out gains in Thursday's volatile session. (CNBC)

With four trading days left in September, the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq were tracking for their first monthly losses since March, a month in which all three benchmarks hit their coronavirus lows. The end of September also brings an end to the third quarter, which actually stands to return healthy gains. (CNBC)

On Friday's economic calendar, the government reported a weaker-than-expected increase of 0.4% for August durable goods orders. Economists had expected a 1.5% advance. The strong July gain was revised slightly higher to 11.7%. (CNBC)

IN THE NEWS TODAY

House Democrats are preparing a new, smaller coronavirus relief package expected to cost about $2.4 trillion. The bill would include a federal unemployment benefits boost, direct payments to Americans, small-business loan funding and aid to airlines. Republicans want a much lower overall price tag. (CNBC)

* Banks and small businesses look to Congress to streamline PPP forgiveness (CNBC)

Nearly 500 generals, admirals and former national security officials from both parties endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. In a letter released Thursday, they also blasted President Donald Trump as "not equal" to the challenges of the job. (USA Today)

Trump, campaigning in battleground states North Carolina and Florida, said the nation's economic prosperity depends on the election. Trump did not mention at either event anything about his incendiary refusals this week to accept a peaceful transfer of power if he were to lose the election. (Reuters)

* Trump, in Charlotte, signs health-care executive orders that may have little impact (Reuters)
Trump, in Jacksonville, calls for Biden to release list of Supreme Court choices (Florida Times-Union)

Capping days of commemorations of her extraordinary life, late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg becomes the first woman in American history to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol. Ginsburg's casket will be brought to the Capitol Friday morning. (AP)

Total U.S. coronavirus cases neared 7 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University on Friday morning. Deaths in the U.S. from Covid-19 exceeded 200,000 earlier this week as global fatalities approached 1 million on almost 32.3 million infections.

Maryland-based Novavax started a late-stage trial of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine in the U.K., in partnership with the British government's Vaccines Taskforce. Shares of Novavax, already up nearly 2,500% in 2020, gained more than 6% in Friday's premarket trading. (Reuters)

* EU gives AstraZeneca partial immunity from potential liability related to its Covid-19 vaccine candidate (Reuters)

Carnival (CCL), Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) and Royal Caribbean (RCL) were higher after barclays upgraded the cruise line stocks to "overweight" from "equal weight." The firm said that although the call may be early, the risk/reward profile is attractive and it's anticipating that the CDC may make positive comments about a return to cruising when it addresses the issue within a few days.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has reached a tentative $2.7 billion antitrust settlement to resolve claims that the insurance group's member companies conspired to limit competition and boost prices for policyholders, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

A federal judge said the Trump administration must either delay a ban on U.S. app stores offering TikTok for download or file legal papers defending the decision by Friday. An offer submitted by Oracle and Walmart to take minority stakes in a newly created U.S. company, TikTok Global, has been mired in confusion and remains stalled. (Reuters)

* Palantir is expected to be valued at nearly $22 billion next week's trading debut (WSJ)
* Facebook adds more guidelines for internal employee speech, banning political images in profiles (CNBC)
EU appeals against Apple ruling in $15 billion tax battle (CNBC)

Amazon (AMZN) unveiled new products Thursday, including two new Fire TV sticks featuring a redesigned home screen. Amazon through its Ring unit also unveiled an autonomous indoor security camera attached to a drone. (CNBC)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Costco (COST) reported quarterly earnings of $3.04 per share, 20 cents a share above estimates. The warehouse retailer's revenue also beat Wall Street forecasts. Comparable-store sales rose 11.4% compared to the 7.8% consensus estimate of analysts polled by Refinitiv. Costco also saw digital sales jump by 91% from a year earlier.

Harley-Davidson (HOG) is close to a distribution deal with India's Hero MotoCorp, according to sources who spoke to Reuters. Harley had announced Thursday that it would stop sales and shut its India manufacturing plant, but the potential deal would allow Hero to import and sell Harley motorcycles in India.

The European Union will appeal a July court decision that favored Apple (AAPL) in a dispute over tax breaks Apple received in Ireland. The EU's top court will rule on whether that tax deal constituted illegal state aid and whether a nearly $15 billion tax bill for Apple should be reinstated.

Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google services experienced a brief shutdown Thursday evening, with users reporting issues with services like Gmail, YouTube, Google drive and the flagship search engine. Google is investigating the cause of the disruption, but a person with knowledge of the situation told The New York Times the company has ruled out a cyberattack.

Churchill Downs (CHDN) – Susquehanna Financial upgraded the stock to "positive" from "neutral," following a 10% drop Thursday. The stock fell after the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that certain slot-like machines that bet on old horse races were in violation of current law. However, both Churchill Downs and Susquehanna point out that Churchill Downs does not use the system specifically addressed in the court case.

Boeing (BA) supplier Impresa filed for bankruptcy protection, stemming from the grounding of Boeing's 737 Max jet after two fatal plane crashes. The Max was a key source of revenue for privately held Impresa.

Vail Resorts (MTN) lost $3.82 per share for its latest quarter, wider than the loss of $3.43 that analysts were anticipating, while the resort operator's revenue was below forecasts as well. Vail did say that it expects the number of season passes for this year to be roughly the same as a year ago.

WATERCOOLER

The Pac-12 set a Nov. 6 start date for a seven-game football season, following the Big Ten in overturning an August decision to postpone until spring because of concerns about playing through the pandemic. Trump has been pushing the sports conferences to play. (AP)