Morning Brief

What to watch today: Dow, S&P 500 look to extend their rallies to four straight days

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U.S. stock futures rose Thursday as the Dow and S&P 500 looked to add to their three-session winning streaks. The Nasdaq on Wednesday dipped after two straight days of strong advances. The Dow and S&P 500 eked out gains Wednesday following rallies Monday and Tuesday as the Reddit-fueled retail trading frenzy dissipated. (CNBC)

* Thursday's biggest analyst calls: Best Buy, Qualcomm, PayPal & more (CNBC Pro)

GameStop (GME) was once again volatile, finishing up nearly 2.7% at $92.41 per share Wednesday but still down 71% from Friday's close of $325. In last week's 400% surge, shares reached an all-time intraday high of $483 each. GameStop rose modestly in Thursday's premarket. (CNBC)

* Wall Street worries about regulatory fallout from the GameStop saga (CNBC)

Cryptocurrency Dogecoin surged Thursday after Elon Musk tweeted his support for it, two days after he said he was to take a break from Twitter "for a while." The Tesla chief's tweets about certain companies and cryptocurrencies have sent their prices soaring in recent weeks. (Reuters)

The Labor Department on Thursday morning reported 779,000 new filings for unemployment benefits for the week ending Jan. 30. That was lower than estimates and the lowest tally in two months. The previous week's level was revised down by 35,000 to 812,000. The government reports its January employment report Friday. (CNBC)

* U.S. is worst among developed nations for worker benefits (CNBC)

Merck Chairman and CEO Ken Frazier is retiring. He will be succeeded as CEO on June 30 by CFO Robert Davis. Frazier, 66, will become executive chairman for an undetermined "transition period." Frazier, one of the few Black corporate leaders in the U.S., has served as Merck's CEO since January 2011. (CNBC)

Frazier's retirement was announced shortly before Merck reported fourth-quarter earnings and revenue that fell short of estimates. Per-share profit was $1.32 on $12.5 billion in revenue. Merck forecast full-year 2021 earnings between $6.48 to $6.68 per share, which were higher than analyst expectations. (CNBC)

* Quest says high demand for Covid testing drove record revenues (CNBC)
* Yum Brands earnings top estimates, despite blow from Covid restrictions (CNBC)
* Tapestry holiday sales fall 7%, sees 2021 revenue up high-single digits (CNBC)
* Kohl's sees holiday-quarter sales falling 10%, says sales strengthened toward end (CNBC)

IN THE NEWS TODAY

Apple (AAPL) shares rose in Thursday's premarket, the morning after CNBC reported that the tech giant is close to finalizing a deal with Hyundai-Kia to manufacture an Apple-branded autonomous electric vehicle at the Kia assembly plant in West Point, Georgia. (CNBC)

* Amazon using AI-equipped cameras in delivery vans; some drivers are concerned (CNBC)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., unveiled a sweeping antitrust reform bill, setting a tough tone in her new role as chair of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. If enacted, it would bring significantly more risk to companies like Facebook and Alphabet-owned Google, which are already facing federal lawsuits, and to any dominant firm seeking to acquire another company. (CNBC)

President Joe Biden encouraged Democratic lawmakers to "act fast" on his $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan but also signaled flexibility. Changes he indicated he would consider include limiting proposed $1,400 direct payments to Americans with lower income levels, which could draw support from Republicans who want a much smaller package. (AP)

* Poll: More than two-thirds of Americans support Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan (CNBC)

John Matze said he's fired as CEO of Parler, which was among social media services used to plan the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Matze's announcement Wednesday followed Amazon's Jan. 11 decision to remove Parler from its web-hosting service. (AP)

* Cheney holds House GOP leadership position despite Trump impeachment vote (CNBC)
* Defend or rebuke? House GOP faces difficult vote over far-right Greene (CNBC)

American Airlines (AAL) said it will send furlough notices this week to about 13,000 employees as a second round of federal payroll aid is set to expire next month and travel demand remains in tatters due to the pandemic. (CNBC)

British scientists are starting a study Thursday to find out if it's OK to mix and match COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccines being rolled out now require two doses, and people are supposed to get two shots of the same kind, weeks apart. (AP)

Consumer genetics company 23andMe is going public via a merger with Richard Branson's special purpose acquisition corporation VG Acquisition Corporation. (VGAC), in a deal with an enterprise value of about $3.5 billion. (MarketWatch)

Consulting firm McKinsey & Co has agreed to pay at least $573 million to resolve claims by 40-plus U.S. states related to its role in the opioid epidemic and advice it gave to OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, according to a person familiar with the matter. (Reuters)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Canada Goose (GOOS): canada Goose shares surged more than 15% in the premarket after the outerwear maker beat estimates on both the top and bottom lines. Results were helped by strong growth in China sales as well as a surge in online buying.

EBay (EBAY): EBay shares jumped 10% in premarket trading, following an earnings beat and strong guidance. The online marketplace operator beat estimates by 3 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of 86 cents per share. Revenue came in above estimates as well and EBay increased its quarterly dividend by 13% and added $4 billion to its stock buyback program.

PayPal (PYPL): PayPal reported quarterly earnings of $1.08 per share, 8 cents a share above consensus. The digital payment service's revenue also topped Wall Street forecasts. The pandemic-induced growth in online shopping helped drive record payment volume for both the quarter and the full year.

Becton Dickinson (BDX): The medical products maker earned $4.55 per share for its latest quarter, well above the consensus estimate of $3.11 a share. Revenue beat estimates as well, boosted by strong demand for its Covid-19 tests. The company also raised its full-year forecast.

Clorox (CLX): The household products maker reported quarterly earnings of $2.03 per share, 25 cents a share above estimates. Revenue also came in above analysts' forecasts and Clorox raised its full-year revenue forecast on continued elevated sales of cleaning and disinfectant products.

Costco (COST): The warehouse retailer reported a 15.9% jump in January comparable sales, beating the consensus StreetAccount estimate of 11.7%. E-commerce sales more than doubled from a year earlier.

UnitedHealth (UNH) : David Wichmann has stepped down as the health insurer's CEO, to be replaced by Sir Andrew Witty. Witty has been CEO of the company's Optum unit.

Qualcomm (QCOM): Qualcomm came in 7 cents ahead of estimates, with quarterly earnings of $2.17 per share. The chip maker's revenue beat estimates as well, however its shares fell more than 6% in the premarket after Qualcomm said that chip supply constraints will hold back sales growth during the first half of 2021.

GrubHub (GRUB): GrubHub lost 41 cents per share for its latest quarter, wider than the 5 cents a share profit that analysts had predicted for the food delivery company. Revenue missed estimates as well, hurt by increased costs for marketing as well as promotional support for restaurants.

Align Technology (ALGN): Align Technology earned $2.61 per share for the fourth quarter, beating the $2.14 a share consensus estimate. Revenue beat forecasts as well. The maker of the Invisalign dental brace system saw fourth-quarter sales jump 28% from a year earlier.

Alibaba (BABA): The China-based e-commerce company set initial prices for a planned $5 billion U.S. debt offering. According to a term sheet seen by Reuters, 10-year debt will be priced at 130 basis points over the 10-year Treasury note, and 20-year debt will be priced at 140 basis points over the 20-year Treasury bond.

e.l.f. Beauty (ELF): e.l.f. Beauty missed estimates by 2 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of 22 cents per share. The discount cosmetics seller's revenue beat forecasts. The bottom line took a hit from increased selling and administrative expenses.