Here are five things you must know for Thursday, December 2:
1. -- Stock Futures Higher As Omicron Worries Trigger Renewed Volatility
U.S. equity futures moved higher Thursday, as investors looked to reverse the biggest two-day declines on Wall Street in more than a year, amid concerns over the confirmation of the Omicron variant in the world's largest economy.
A fully-vaccinated traveler returning to the United States from South Africa, where the variant was first identified, was confirmed infected by the Omicron variant, health officials said late Wednesday, sending the Dow into a 900 point reversal in the final hours of trading.
Markets appear to have stabilized in early pre-market trading, but the CME Group's benchmark volatility index, the VIX, is trading at six month highs heading into the start of the session as questions remain regarding the potential prevalence of the variant, its resistance to current vaccines and the severity of symptoms associated with infection.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's hawkish comments on rates and inflation, as well as what appears to be a pledge to complete the central bank's bond purchase tapering in the first half of next year, is adding to investor caution heading into the Thursday session.
Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average are indicating a 290 point opening bell gain while those linked to the S&P 500 are priced for a 29 point advance. Futures tied to the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite are indicating a modest 60 point surge at the start of trading as benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields hold at 1.434%, in overnight trading.
2. -- Apple Shares Slide On iPhone Demand Concerns
Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report shares slumped lower in pre-market trading following reports that the world's biggest tech company has cautioned suppliers over waning iPhone demand heading into the peak of the holiday shopping season.
Bloomberg News reported that Apple, which has already cut its iPhone 13 production run owing to supply chain disruptions and chip shortages, is instructing vendors to prepare for tamer holiday sales thanks in part to Omicron concerns, delivery delays and the broader impact on consumer spending from the highest levels of domestic inflation in more than 30 years.
In late October, CFO Luca Maestri told investors on a conference call that December quarter sales would be "very solid", and likely hit a record high, with gross margins in the region of 41.5% to 42.5%.
Apple shares were marked 2.25% lower in pre-market trading Thursday to indicate an opening bell price of $161.06 each.
3. -- Square Going Block In Dorsey Rebranding
Square Inc., (SQ) - Get Square, Inc. Class A Report the payments group founded by former Twitter (TWTR) - Get Twitter, Inc. Report CEO Jack Dorsey, is changing its name to Block Inc. as part of a re-branding effort.
The San Francisco-based tech group's business units will now operate under the Block Inc. umbrella, but continue to trade as Cash App, the payments division, and Tidal, the music streaming division.
Alongside that, Square's bitcoin team -- Square Crypto -- is changing its name to Spiral, with all changes expected to take effect on December 10, although the group's NYSE Ticker symbol will remain the same.
"The name has many associated meanings for the company — building blocks, neighborhood blocks and their local businesses, communities coming together at block parties full of music, a blockchain, a section of code, and obstacles to overcome," Square said.
Square shares were marked 0.4% higher in pre-market trading to indicate an opening bell price of $195.30 each.
4. -- Disney Names Iger Successor on Executive Board
Walt Disney (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report shares edged higher in pre-market trading after naming a successor to iconic chairman Bog Iger, who is departing the media and entertainment group later this year.
Susan Arnold, a Disney veteran who has served on the board since 2007, will replace Iger as chairperson starting January 1, the company said late Wednesday, ending a decades-long career for the 70-year old former CEO at the House of Mouse.
"Bob has led Disney to amazing heights both creatively and financially, with his clear strategic vision for delivering high-quality branded storytelling, embracing cutting-edge technology, and expanding internationally, and he’s left an indelible mark on The Walt Disney Company that will be felt for generations to come," Arnold, 67, said in a statement. "As I step into this new role as Chairman of the Board, I look forward to continuing to serve the long-term interests of Disney’s shareholders and working closely with CEO Bob Chapek as he builds upon the Company’s century-long legacy of creative excellence and innovation.”
Disney shares were marked 0.5% higher in pre-market trading to indicate and opening bell price of $142.85 each.
5. -- Major League Baseball Lockout
Major League Baseball owners failed to reach an agreement on salaries and revenue sharing with the Players' Association late Wednesday, triggering the first work stoppage in the national pastime in more than 20 years.
MLB officially declared a lockout, effective Thursday, following the expiration of the previous collective bargaining agreement at midnight, a move that freezes all trade, free agency and salary negotiations between the league's 30 teams and its 1,000-plus players.
“Despite the league’s best efforts to make a deal with the Players Association, we were unable to extend our 26 year-long history of labor peace and come to an agreement with the MLBPA before the current CBA expired,” MLB said in a statement.
"It was the owners' choice, plain and simple, specifically calculated to pressure Players into relinquishing rights and benefits, and abandoning good faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not Just Players, but the game and industry as a whole," the Players' Association countered.