Here are five things you must know for Thursday, Dec. 5 (plus a bonus):
1. -- Stock Futures Point to Modestly Higher Open For Wall Street
U.S. stock index futures were pointing to a slightly higher open on Thursday as global markets continued to focus their attention on whether a trade agreement between the U.S. and China will be reached - and as OPEC officials met to discuss another potential round of oil-price cuts.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.5%. Japan’s Topix index also closed 0.5% higher after a somewhat muted reaction to the announcement of a 26 trillion yen ($239 billion) government stimulus plan. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index had gained 0.4% by 5:50 a.m. Eastern Time. S&P 500 futures pointed a positive open, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 1.784% and gold was flat.
Markets continued to follow the proverbial ping-pong match of news on global trade developments, specifically whether the world’s two biggest economies were close to agreeing on a so-called “phase one” trade deal.
Stocks closed higher Wednesday following news that a trade deal between the U.S. and China may happen soon, despite President Donald Trump's earlier comments that an agreement might not come until after the 2020 presidential elections.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which rose more than 220 points, finished up 147, or 0.54%, to 27,650. The S&P 500 rose 0.63% and the Nasdaq advanced 0.54%.
Oil prices edged lower on Thursday ahead of a key OPEC meeting where members will be pondering further output cuts as a way to hold up prices and prevent a potential glut next year.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meets on Thursday in Vienna followed by a meeting with Russia and other producers, a group known as OPEC+, on Friday.
Thursday’s batch of earnings reports will include numbers from the likes of Cloudera (CLDR) , Docusign (DOCU) , Dollar General (DG) , Express (EXPR) , Five Below (FIVE) , Kroger (KR) , Lululemon Athletica (LULU) , Michael's (MIK) , Signet Jewelers (SIG) , The Children's Place (PLCE) , Tiffany & Co (TIF) , Workday (WDAY) , and Zoom Video (ZM) .
On the economic-data front, the latest weekly jobless claims and international trade figures for October will be released at 8:30 a.m, followed shortly after by factory orders for October.
2. Huawei Launches Fresh Legal Challenge Against U.S. Ban
Huawei Technologies on Wednesday filed a fresh legal challenge against the U.S., looking to block a Federal Communications Commission decision last month that further restricts the Chinese telecom giant’s ability to operate in the country.
Huawei said the FCC order, blocking rural U.S. wireless carriers from using a $8.5 billion-a-year subsidy fund to buy equipment from Huawei, violates its due process rights and unfairly labels the company as a national security threat, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
“The FCC should not shut down joint efforts to connect rural communities in the U.S.,” said Song Liuping, Huawei’s chief legal officer, in a statement.
The Department of Commerce last month extended for 90 days Huawei's temporary general license, allowing U.S. carriers to continue to do business with the company.
"The Temporary General License extension will allow carriers to continue to service customers in some of the most remote areas of the United States who would otherwise be left in the dark," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
"The Department will continue to rigorously monitor sensitive technology exports to ensure that our innovations are not harnessed by those who would threaten our national security," the secretary added.
In May, the Commerce Department added Huawei Technologies to its Entity List, which barred the sale or transfer of American technology to the company. Huawei has denied U.S. claims that it threatens national security.
The department has recently begun to grant some waivers to American firms so they can resume exports, with Microsoft (MSFT) last week becoming one of the recipients of such a license. Microsoft sells Windows and Office software to Huawei, according to Bloomberg.
3. – PG&E Jumps On $13.5 Billion Wildfire Victims Settlement
Shares of California utility PG&E (PCG) jumped in premarket trading Thursday on reports the company is finalizing terms for a $13.5 billion settlement for the victims of the wildfires tied to its equipment failures that spread across the state in 2017 and 2018.
PG&E stock rose more than 3% to $9.77 a share after Bloomberg News reported on the pending settlement, half of which will be paid in cash with the other half to be paid in stock in a reorganized post-bankruptcy company.
The cash portion of the settlement would be paid up front in a lump sum, with the remainder being paid over the next 18 months. While no final agreement has been reached, reportedly, the structure of the deal is being ironed out.
The company first proposed the $13.5 billion settlement in November. The company has already agreed to pay insurers $11 billion and also has a deal to pay local government agencies another $1 billion.
The company filed for protection in January under the weight of $30 billion in liabilities tied to the fatal wildfires. PG&E’s case is the largest utility bankruptcy in U.S. history.
Shares of PG&E were up 4.54% at $9.90 in premarket trading on Thursday.
4. – Slack Shares Boomerang After Third-Quarter Earnings
Shares of work messaging app Slack (WORK) slumped in extended trading on Wednesday though rebounded in premarket trading on Thursday after reporting third-quarter results that handily beat forecasts, though offered forward guidance that wasn’t quite as rosy as analysts were expecting.
The messaging company reported a third-quarter net loss of 2 cents a share on revenue of $168.73 million, a nearly 60% increase year over year. Analysts were expecting a loss of 8 cents a share on revenue of $156.02 million.
Slack continues to grow at a rapid clip by selling its messaging service to businesses of all sizes, particularly to large companies. The company said it now has 821 customers paying more than $100,000 in annual recurring revenue, up from 720 in the second quarter.
Fourth-quarter guidance was slightly off, however, with the company expecting to lose between 6 cents and 7 cents per share, a penny more than the 6-cent-a-share loss analysts were expecting.
Slack shares were down nearly 6% to $20.42 after hours Wednesday. In premarket trading on Thursday the stock was up 3.09% at $22.33.
5. – A Make or Break Kind of Day For Biogen
Drugmaking giant Biogen (BIIB) is facing a make it or break it kind of day on Thursday ahead of unveiling the latest clinical trial results for its Phase III EMERGE trial of its aducanumab treatment on patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.
In March, Biogen and its collaboration partner, Tokyo-based Eisai, announced they were discontinuing the global Phase III trials, ENGAGE and EMERGE, of aducanumab in patients with mild cognitive impairment from Alzheimer’s, as well as the EVOLVE Phase II trial and the long-term extension PRIME Phase Ib trial.
In late October, however, the companies announced that after discussions with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and further analysis of the data, they were going to pursue regulatory approval for the drug.
The Phase III EMERGE trial met its primary endpoint, showing a significant decrease in clinical decline. The company believes that data from a subset of patients that were given a high enough dose of the drug had significant benefits on measures of cognition and function, including memory, orientation, and language, as well as benefits on activities of daily living.
Biogen will announce the findings at the 12th Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease (CTAD) conference in San Diego.
Shares of Biogen were up 0.34% at $290.50 in premarket trading on Thursday.
Bonus – Is a 2020 Recession in the Cards?
The base case on Wall Street is for no recession in 2020, but a little-talked-about chain of events in the economy could cause a recession sooner than many observers expect.
Currently, most strategists and economists see a roughly 20% to 30% chance of a recession by the end of 2020. Many experts’ base cases are for 1% to 1.8% GDP growth in the year. The S&P 500 has risen 24% year-to-date, powered partly by low interest rates
Sure this hasn’t been a classic risk-on market, with money flowing away from safe treasury bonds. The need for stimulus and subsequently lower rates has driven capital flows into treasurys, pushing yields lower, accompanying the stock gains.
And strategists are looking for gains on the S&P 500 for the next year of 5% to 7%, still putting the bond market to shame.
But the Wells Fargo Investment Institute cited a risk that could easily kickstart negative growth, in turn posing a clear risk to stocks.
“The likelihood of a U.S. recession depends upon whether (or how quickly) weak manufacturing cracks the economic expansion’s foundation in job and wage growth and associated consumer confidence,” wrote a team of strategists at Wells Fargo.
Simply put, with weak manufacturing activity comes less business investment. When companies invest less, they hire less. This hasn’t yet shown up in the job market, but if the trend continues, it almost certainly will. If workers are laid off and lower demand for workers sharply pressures wages, consumer spend would weaken.