Morning Brief

What to watch today: Wall Street set for flat open following first presidential debate

BY THE NUMBERS

Dow futures were pointing to a basically flat open, one day after the chaotic first debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about being hopeful for a new stimulus deal and better-than-expected corporate America hiring were added to the mix Wednesday morning. (CNBC)

Dow futures were up more than 150 points at one stage during Tuesday night's debate, but quickly retreated as the debate ended and headed sharply lower overnight and early Wednesday morning. Traders hoping that the start of the debate season would lead to a clear winner on Election Day and not a drawn-out electoral process got little sign of that Tuesday night.

Wall Street snapped a three-session winning streak at Tuesday's close. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq fell to their lows of the day after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city's daily positive coronavirus test rate was back above 3% for the first time in months. De Blasio's comments came one day before indoor dining in the city returns.  With one day left in September and the third quarter, the market was tracking for its first monthly loss since March but a strong quarterly advance. (CNBC)

Positive data on a potential Covid-19 treatment from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN) after the bell gave futures a boost that later faded. Moderna's (MRNA) experimental Covid-19 vaccine appears safe and shows signs of working in older adults, according to study results published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Ahead of the Labor Department's monthly employment report Friday, ADP said Wednesday morning its latest look at hiring trends at American companies showed 749,000 jobs were created in September. Economists had expected a gain of 600,000 private-sector jobs this month after adding an upwardly revised 481,000 in August. During the pandemic, the ADP numbers have differed widely from the government's data. (CNBC)

* Mortgage demand falls nearly 5%, even as interest rates set another record low (CNBC)

"The News with Shepard Smith," premieres tonight at 7 p.m. ET on CNBC. The nightly newscast will provide deep, nonpartisan news coverage. During the day Wednesday, CNBC's Delivering Alpha investor conference is back for its 10th year, with Steven Mnuchin, Stephen Schwarzman, Public Investment Fund Governor H.E. Yassir Al Rumayyan, Chamath Palihapitiya and more.

IN THE NEWS TODAY

Trump and Biden brawled on their first chance to challenge each other face to face Tuesday night. Hardly a minute went by without one of the candidates interrupting the other, whether on the coronavirus, the Supreme Court or the economy. Even the moderator, Fox News' Chris Wallace, couldn't always stay above the fray. The candidates traded insults and accusations. They also spared over Obamacare, their adult children and mail-in voting. (CNBC)

GOP pollster sees Trump-Biden debate as embarrassing, says it 'encouraged people not to vote' (CNBC)
BET founder Robert Johnson says 'I will take the devil I know,' adding he doesn't know what Biden will do (CNBC)
* Proud Boys say they are 'standing down and standing by' after Trump's debate callout (NBC News)
* AP fact check: False claims flood Trump-Biden debate
* Former FBI Director James Comey to testify just weeks before election (USA Today)

Despite pockets of Covid-19 infection increases in New York City, the Big Apple is moving forward with allowing indoor dining to resume at 25% capacity Wednesday. " Indoor dining in the city has been prohibited since March when New York saw its initial coronavirus surge and went on lockdown. (Eater)

Prolonged closures at Walt Disney's California-based theme parks and limited attendance at its open parks have forced the company to lay off 28,000 employees across its parks, experiences and consumer products division. Around 67% of the laid off workers were part-time employees, according to a statement from Disney's head of parks, Josh D'Amaro. (CNBC)

Palantir, a provider of data analytics services to government agencies and large companies, is set to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The reference price was set at $7.25 per share, valuing the company at $15.8 billion. Following Spotify and Slack, Palantir chose a direct listing instead of a traditional IPO. Among Palantir's co-founders are billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel and CEO Alex Karp. (CNBC)

In another direct listing, Asana, co-founded by billionaire Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, is also set to begin trading Wednesday on the NYSE, with a reference price of $21 per share for a direct listing. Moskovitz, also CEO of Asana, left Facebook in 2008 to start the provider of cloud-based software for tracking group projects. Thiel was also an early investor in Asana. (CNBC)

* Baidu's voice assistant and smart device business is valued at $2.9 billion after cash injection (CNBC)
* Warren Buffett-backed Chinese car maker announces strong demand for its new luxury electric sedan (CNBC)
* Alibaba expects cloud business to turn profitable for the first time within the next few months (CNBC)

The Treasury Department said airlines could receive larger federal loans than previously expected after some carriers opted out, freeing up more funds in the program. The original $25 billion in federal pandemic relief in March and a related prohibition on workforce reductions expires Thursday. (CNBC)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Micron Technology (MU) beat estimates by 9 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of $1.08 per share. The chip maker's revenue also beat forecasts. Micron gave a lower-than-expected current-quarter revenue estimate, however, partly due to the U.S. government ban on shipments to China's Huawei Technologies.

Apple (AAPL)  CEO Tim Cook was granted 333,987 restricted stock units, his first stock grant since 2011. Apple's board said it made the award in recognition of Cook's "outstanding leadership."

Dow Inc. (DOW), the materials science giant, announced plans to reduce its global workforce costs by 6%, although it did not announce how many jobs might be cut. It will take a current quarter charge of $500 million to $600 million in connection with the restructuring.

General Motors (GM) will not close its deal to buy a stake in electric truck maker Nikola (NKLA) today, according to sources who spoke to CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Talks between the two sides will continue, however, after short-seller Hindenburg Research accused Nikola of fraud and sexual assault allegations surfaced against Nikola founder and former executive chairman Trevor Milton.

Caesars Entertainment's (CZR) $3.7 billion bid to buy William Hill was accepted by the British betting firm, with William Hill saying it believed the deal was the best option for shareholders at an attractive price.

Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A, RDS.B) said it plans to cut up to 9,000 jobs, after completing a broad cost-cutting review. Those cuts will be completed by the end of 2022, at a projected savings of up to $2.5 billion annually.

Duke Energy (DUK) was approached by NextEra Energy (NEE) about a takeover recently, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Wall Street Journal The paper said Duke rejected the approach but that NextEra was still interested in pursuing a combination of the two Southern utility companies.

WATERCOOLER

Monday night's Chiefs-Ravens game featured the last two NFL most valuable players, quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, and peaked at 16.2 million viewers. After reporting a 17% drop in week 1 compared with last year, ESPN said now that Monday Night Football ratings are up 4% over last year. (CNBC)

* Titans have NFL's 1st COVID-19 outbreak; next game still on (AP)