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Travel Chaos, Tesla Record, Evergrande and Amazon - 5 Things You Must Know

Stocks set to open higher as omicron unleashes more chaos. Tesla rolls out a record, while Evergrande hits another bump and Amazon wrestles with labor costs.

Stocks set to open higher in first trading day of 2022 as omicron unleashes more travel and back-to-work chaos. Tesla rolls out a record number of Teslas, while Evergrande hits another bump and Amazon wrestles with worker unrest.

Here are five things you must know for Monday Jan. 3:

1 -- Stock Futures Higher Amid Omicron Economic Fallout

U.S. stock futures rose early Monday morning, setting the stage for a positive 2022 kickoff for Wall Street despite ongoing uncertainty unleashed by the now-dominant omicron variant of Covid-19 and its impact on businesses and consumer spending.

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average are indicating a 161-point opening gain, while those linked to the S&P 500 are priced for a 26-point rise. Futures tied to the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite are indicating a 101-point rise at the start of trading as benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields hold at 1.5% in overnight trading.

The move in futures comes after markets closed out a strong 2021 last week. The S&P 500 rose nearly 27% for the year, with the Nasdaq Composite and Dow also posting large returns. Stocks fell slightly on Friday, but the S&P 500 and Dow were positive for the final week of the year.

2 -- Omicron Unleashes More Travel Chaos

Thousands of U.S. flights were canceled over New Year's weekend as a combination of Covid-19 disruptions and winter weather delivered more blows to the already reeling airline industry -- not to mention travel-weary consumers. 

Data from flight tracker website FlightAware showed more than 4,464 flights were canceled globally on Sunday -- the second-largest day of cancellations since Christmas Eve. At least 2,709 of the cancellations were within, into or out of the U.S.

Including Sunday, airlines have canceled more than 16,000 flights in the last 10 days, including Christmas Eve, amid ongoing staffing issues related to airline personnel calling in sick due to omicron as well as weather-related delays. 

As of Monday morning, more than 3,075 flights had been cancelled globally, including 1,742 U.S. flights.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that U.S. health officials may soon update guidelines that would include having a negative test in hand after previously testing positive for Covid and isolating for five days.

3 -- Tesla Delivers Record Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year Sales

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report bucked the industry-wide trend of reduced sales due to the shortage of computer chips and other parts, posting record sales in the fourth quarter, up 71% from a year earlier.

Tesla said it delivered a record 308,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter, a record for the electric vehicle (EV) company. That caps a year in which the company delivered over 936,000 vehicles.

Model 3s and Ys made up the vast majority of Tesla's deliveries, accounting for 296,850 deliveries in the fourth quarter and 911,208 for the year, Tesla said. Model S and X production accounted for the rest of the vehicles delivered.

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Even with the company hitting a record, Tesla noted that the actual numbers might be higher.

"Taking a step back, with the chip shortage a major overhang on the auto space and logistical issues globally these delivery numbers were jaw dropping," Dan Ives, analyst for Wedbush Securities, said in a note to clients Sunday. 

4 -- Evergrande Suspends Trading of Shares of Hong Kong

Embattled Chinese property developer Evergrande suspended trading in Hong Kong on Monday as the heavily indebted company contends with an ongoing real estate crisis.

Evergrande said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that its trading halt was pending an "announcement containing inside information," though it did not elaborate.

The company has about $300 billion in total liabilities, and analysts have worried for months about whether a collapse could trigger a wider crisis in China's property market, hurting homeowners and the broader financial system. 

In December, Fitch Ratings declared that the company had defaulted on its debt, a downgrade the credit ratings agency said reflected Evergrande's inability to pay interest due that month on two dollar-denominated bonds.

Chinese creditors have sued the now-defaulted mega developer for $13 billion in an attempt to receive money on late payments. 

5 -- Amazon Spending Surges on Higher Labor Costs

Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report always hires extra workers during the busy holiday season, but this year the labor shortages that have caused Amazon to lose out on revenue and rising compensation will eat into the company's fourth-quarter profits.

In its third-quarter earnings call, Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said that the company anticipates labor-related productivity losses and cost inflation to add $4 billion in operating costs to the fourth quarter.

That number was about $2 billion in the previous quarter. About a billion of that was tied primarily to wage increases and incentives in operations.

During the third quarter, Amazon's inventory placement was "frequently" redirected to fulfillment centers that had the necessary amount of labor to receive the products, according to Olsavsky -- an issue that led to longer waits and more expensive transportation routes for the packages it delivered.

As of Friday, Amazon stock was up only 2.5% for the year, badly lagging the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq as well as all of its FAANG peers and other mega-cap companies like Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report and Nvidia  (NVDA) - Get NVIDIA Corporation Report.

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