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Stocks Edge Lower, FDA Debates Boosters ,China Evergrande Wobbles - 5 Things You Must Know

Stock futures lower heading into 'quadruple witching hour'; FDA panel debates COVID boosters; U.S. Steel updates on profits and China Evergrande's debt woes have investors asking if it's 'too big to fail'.

Here are five things you must know for Friday, September 17:

1. -- Stock Futures Edge Lower Into "Quadruple Witching Hour"

Wall Street futures slipped lower Friday, while world stocks looked set to book their second consecutive weekly decline, and investors remain focused on slowing growth and financial risk in China and the Delta variant impact of the global economic recovery.

Asia stocks notched a modest rebound Friday, but remain red for the week amid data showing a notable slowdown in China, concerns over Beijing's corporate crackdown and speculation that deeply-indebted property developer China Evergrande may trigger systemic risk to the regional's financial markets. 

In the U.S., a stronger-than-expected reading for August retail sales, as well as continued equity market inflows -- including a record $28.3 billion into big cap funds this week, according to Bank of American 'Flow Show' data - - has provided some support for stocks ahead of next week's Federal Reserve policy meeting, but with Friday's quadruple witching hour expected to bring late-hour volatility, pre-market trading remains relatively muted.   

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average are indicating a 65 point opening bell dip while those linked to the S&P 500 are priced for a 10 point bump to the downside. Nasdaq Composite futures are set for a 25 point fall as benchmark 10-year note yields rise to 1.3338% in overnight trading.

Oil prices slipped from near two-month highs on demand concerns and profit-taking, but traders remain wary of the slow return to production for Gulf drillers and refiners following damage and evacuations linked to Hurricanes Nicholas and Ida. WTI futures for October delivery fell 50 cents from last night's close to trade at $72.11 per barrel.

2. -- FDA Panel Debates COVID Boosters

An advisory panel to the Food & Drug Administration will meet today to debate the case for COVID vaccine booster shots.

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to the FDA will consider data submitted by both companies and make its final recommendation late today. The FDA is not obligated to follow that decision, but typically opts to do so.

FDA staff have said Pfizer's (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report comirnaty' vaccine may generate a higher immune response after a third dose, but noted it may not be needed given its current levels of protection. Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Moderna, Inc. Report has argued a third dose of its mRNA-1273 "has a chance of significantly extending immunity throughout much of next year as we attempt to end the pandemic," while 

Pfizer shares were marked 0.16% lower in pre-market trading Frida to indicate an opening bell price of $44.40 each while Moderna edged 0.5% lower to 438.50 each.

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3. -- U.S. Steel Sees Record Profits, Plans New Mill 

U.S. Steel Corp  (X) - Get United States Steel Corporation Report shares edged lower Friday after the group forecast record third quarter profits and unveiled plans for a new mill that will start producing in 2024. 

U.S. Steel said it expects adjusted current quarter profits of around $2 billion, a 50%-plus increase from the prior period, while launching site-selection process for a greenfield EAF-based mill that would likely increase its flat-rolled steel production by around 20%.

“We remain bullish that market fundamentals will support a stronger for longer steel market and we’ve accelerated the pace of deleveraging to clear the path to transitioning to our Best for All future faster," said CEO David Burritt. "Our best days are ahead.”  

U.S. Steel shares, which have gained around 48.2% so far this year, were marked 0.35% lower Friday to indicate an opening bell price of $25.30 each.  

4. -- China Evergrande Not "Too Big to Fail"

China Evergrande, the deeply indebted property developer that many analysts fear could trigger a mini financial crisis in the world's second-largest economy, is not "too big to fail", according to a state-backed newspaper.

Evergrande, which is teetering under the weight of more than $310 billion in debts, and faces $150 million in coupon payments later this month, can't assume the government will step in and rescue it,  Global Times editor Hu Xijin said Friday.   

JPMorgan analysts, however, noted earlier this week that "with recent events accelerating to the downside, we believe additional manoeuvres are needed by the government to prevent potential spillover" from an Evergrande collapse or a long and complicated debt restructuring.

China Evergrande shares hit a fresh seven-year low in Hong Kong trading Friday to close at HK$2.54 each, extending their 2021 slump to around 83%.

5. -- Britain Set to Ease COVID Travel Restrictions

The United Kingdom is set to announce changes to its COVID travel restrictions that could provide a late-year boost to the region's flagging tourism industry.

A cabinet sub-committee is expected to advise Prime Minister Boris Johnson to scrap both expensive PCR tests for fully-vaccinated travels arriving in Britain, as well as a similar 'pre-departure test' administered 72 hours prior to take-off. The government will also likely simplify its list of safe and unsafe destinations.

Data from Eurocontrol, a pan-European effort to support the region's aviation sector, shows flight traffic in and out of the U.K. is down nearly 40% compared to pre-pandemic levels, and down around a third in major Western European economies.