5 Things to Know

5 things to know before the stock market opens Thursday

1. U.S. stocks set to drop after two down days

A stock trader wearing a mask walks near social distancing signs the day a new IPO is launched at the New York Stock Exchange as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on August 27, 2020 in New York City. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production.
Alexi Rosenfeld | Getty Images

Dow and S&P 500 futures pointed to declines of about 1% at Thursday's open after back-to-back losses for the first time in three weeks. There were several factors putting a pall on the markets, including spiking coronavirus cases in Europe, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying a stimulus deal before next month's election was going to be tough, and EU nations lining up against Big Tech. Nasdaq futures, dragged lower by falling technology stocks, tracked for an even bigger 1.5% drop at the start of trading on Wall Street at 9:30 a.m. ET.

The Labor Department on Thursday morning reported a higher-than-expected 898,000 new filings for unemployment benefits last week. Initial jobless claims have remained at historically off-the-charts levels above 800,000 every week since mid-March. But that's down from the weekly coronavirus-driven peak of 6.6 million in late March.

2. 'We're at a critical moment in our fight,' says London's mayor

Commuters wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walk past a London underground tube train at Victoria station, during the evening 'rus hour' in central London on September 23, 2020.
TOLGA AKMEN | AFP via Getty Images

London will move to a so-called high alert level starting midnight Friday, up from the current "medium" alert level. That would mean millions of people in Europe's richest city will soon be unable to meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in public. "We're at a critical moment in our fight against Covid-19 in London. The virus is spreading rapidly in every corner of our city," London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in his opening statement to the London Assembly on Thursday.

3. France and the Netherlands reportedly join call to crack down on Big Tech

The logo of Apple company is seen outside an Apple store in Bordeaux, France, March 22, 2019.
Regis Duvignau | Reuters

France and the Netherlands have signed a position paper calling for the European Union to crack down on giant tech companies, according to the Financial Times. The paper urges EU regulators to consider measures, including breaking up companies such as Facebook and Apple, the FT reports. "France and the Netherlands have different cultures and come from different positions. But we have a common interest, from a sovereignty point of view, from a competition point of view to regulate tech players," said France's digital minister.

4. Morgan Stanley, Walgreens, United report earnings

Morgan Stanley on Thursday delivered third-quarter profit of $2.7 billion, or $1.66 per share, exceeding estimates. The Wall Street firm generated revenue of $11.7 billion in the quarter, 16% higher than a year earlier and a billion dollars more than what analysts had expected. Morgan Stanley was the last of the six biggest U.S. banks to report.

Drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance, one of the Dow 30 components, said Thursday it expects profit to grow in single digits in 2021 after posting a better-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter profit, helped by higher sales at U.S. pharmacies.

After the bell Wednesday, United Airlines reported a third-quarter loss of $8.16 per share, wider than the loss of $7.53 predicted by analysts. Revenue of $2.49 billion essentially matched estimates. United cut its daily cash burn in the quarter to $25 million a day, including debt and severance payments, down from an average of $40 million a day in the previous quarter.

5. Trump vs. Biden: Dueling town halls, polls and fundraising

US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden are seen during the first presidential debate on a YouTube video displayed on a screen of a smartphone. United States presidential election scheduled on November 3, 2020.
Pavlo Conchar | LightRocket | Getty Images

With Thursday's second debate scuttled, President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will compete Thursday night for TV audiences in dueling town halls instead of meeting face to face as originally planned.

According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Biden's lead over Trump narrowed to 11 percentage points. The survey was conducted after the president returned to the White House earlier this month from his coronavirus hospitalization. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll after the Sept. 29 debate gave Biden a 14-point lead. However, the change between then and now was within the survey's margin of error.

Biden and the Democrats raised a record-breaking $383 million in September for his presidential bid, a nearly 5% increase from their August haul. The Trump campaign and Republicans have not yet announced their September total, but they pulled in $210 million in August.

— The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. Follow all the developments on Wall Street in real-time with CNBC's live markets blog. Get the latest on the pandemic with our coronavirus blog.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the Labor Department's latest jobless claims report was for last week.