Morning Brief

What to watch today: Stocks to rise after Dow, S&P 500 had best month since November

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BY THE NUMBERS

U.S. stock futures were starting April higher after the S&P 500 closed out its best month since November with a gain of 4.2%. The index hit an all-time intraday high Wednesday but failed to close at a record. (CNBC)

The Dow, which closed at a record Monday, saw its second modest decline in a row Wednesday. But the 30-stock average, like the S&P 500, had its best month since November, posting a March gain of 6.6%. For the first quarter, the Dow and the S&P 500 rose 7.8% and 5.8%, respectively, for their fourth positive quarter in a row. (CNBC)

The Nasdaq broke a two-session losing streak with a 1.5% gain Wednesday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq has recently been the underperformer as technology stocks are especially sensitive to rising market interest rates because they depend on borrowing money cheaply to invest in future growth. For March, the Nasdaq gained just 0.4%. For the quarter, it gained 2.8%. (CNBC)

The government this morning reported a higher-than-expected 719,000 new filings for unemployment benefits last week. The prior week was revised lower to 658,000 initial jobless claims, the lowest level in over a year. The Labor Department is set to issue its monthly employment report Friday despite the Good Friday closure of the stock market.

* 10-year Treasury yield dips below 1.7% after of jobless claims data (CNBC)
* Oil gains ground ahead of OPEC+ meeting on output policy (Reuters)

IN THE NEWS TODAY

President Joe Biden is scheduled to hold his first Cabinet meeting Thursday. The timing comes a week after Biden's full Cabinet was confirmed and a day after the president released his long-awaited infrastructure package, which would spend roughly $2 trillion over eight years. An increase in the tax rate on U.S. companies to 28% would pay for the sprawling plan. (AP & CNBC)

* Business world divided on whether to fight Biden corporate tax hike (CNBC)

Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) said Thursday their two-shot Covid vaccine is around 91% effective, citing updated trial data, which included people inoculated for up to six months. The vaccine was also 100% effective, among trial participants in South Africa, where a new variant is dominant. However, the number of those South Africa participants was relatively small at 800. (Reuters)

Shares of Emergent BioSolutions (EBS) , the company at the center of problems that led Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) to discard an unknown amount of its Covid vaccine, dropped 7% in Thursday's premarket. According to records obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, Emergent has had a string of citations from U.S. health officials for quality control problems.

The FDA cleared Abbott Laboratories' (ABT) Covid-19 rapid antigen test for over-the-counter sales and use at home for people without current Covid symptoms. The retail price is still undetermined, but a company spokeswoman told Reuters the tests will be sold to retailers for less than $10 each. At the same time, the FDA also approved an at-home test for Covid-19 made by diagnostics company Quidel (QDEL).

Employees at Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google will begin returning to offices in a "limited" capacity in April, according to internal documents viewed by CNBC. After Sept. 1, if employees want to work remotely for more than 14 days per year, they will need to formally apply. Google advised employees to get a Covid vaccine but said it's not mandatory.

* Frontier Airlines raises $570 million in IPO, starts trading today (CNBC)
* SoftBank-backed Compass raises $450 million in downsized IPO (Reuters)

Microsoft (MSFT) will deliver to the U.S. Army over 120,000 devices based on its HoloLens augmented reality headset. The deal, which could be worth as much as nearly $22 billion over 10 years, comes a year and a half after Microsoft won a cloud contract from the Pentagon that could be worth up to $10 billion. (CNBC)

* Elon Musk tapped to join board of Endeavor Group, owner of UFC and Miss Universe contest (CNBC)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Shares of Funko (FNKO) surged in premarket trading Thursday after the pop culture collectible maker said it acquired a majority stake in TokenWave, putting it into the NFT, nonfungible token, market.

Exxon Mobil (XOM) released data in a SEC filing that points to the possibility of the company's first profit in five quarters. Raymond James analyst Justin Jenkins said the data points to a profit of $2.55 billion, or 60 cents per share, with Exxon benefiting from higher oil and gas prices.

Auto retailer CarMax (KMX) quarterly earnings of $1.27 per share, with revenue essentially in line with forecasts. CarMax also announced it would acquire the remaining part of Edmunds that it didn't already own, in a cash-and-stock deal valuing the auto information provider at $404 million. CarMax shares slid 3.5% in the premarket.

Micron Technology (MU) reported quarterly profit of 98 cents per share, beating estimates. Revenue was slightly above Wall Street forecasts. The computer chip maker also issued an upbeat forecast. Separately, The Wall Street Journal reported Micron is exploring a deal for Kioxia that could value the Japanese chip maker at around $30 billion. Micron shares jumped 4.5% in the premarket.

Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM) will invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase manufacturing capacity at its plants, in a move to deal with increased demand and a worldwide shortage of chips. Taiwan Semi rose 2.1% in the premarket.

China-based electric vehicle maker Nio (NIO) said it delivered 7,257 vehicles in March, a 373% increase over the same month last year. Nio surged 5.8% in premarket trading.

Sherwin-Williams' (SHW) 3-for-1 stock split, announced on March 2, is effective as of today. It's the first time the paint company has split its stock since 1997. Sherwin-Williams gained 1.2% in the premarket.

FuboTV (FUBO), a live streaming sports TV platform, announced an agreement to carry all non-nationally televised Chicago Cubs games this season. FuboTV shares jumped 4.8% in the premarket.