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Amazon, GameStop, Jefferies, Covid Concerns and Stock Markets - Five Things You Must Know

Stock futures slip lower as Covid worries and inflation concerns come into focus; AstraZeneca gets FDA nod for its antibody treatment; Jefferies sends bankers home after NY Covid outbreak; Amazon hit with record $1.3 billion fine in Italy and GameStop unveils a wider third quarter loss and details of a new SEC subpoena.

Here are five things you must know for Thursday, December 9:

1. -- Stock Futures Slip Lower On Covid Worries, Inflation Focus

U.S. equity futures slipped lower Thursday as investors hit pause on a solid three-day rally that has taken the S&P 500 to within less than 1% of its all-time highs amid concern over a developing winter wave of coronavirus infections and uncertainty linked to Evergrande's pending default in China.

Britain unveiled stricter Covid restrictions heading into the Christmas holidays last night, following on from similar decisions taken on Continental Europe, as case counts and hospitalizations continue to rise. The moves have been muted somewhat by advances in therapy treatments and vaccine efficacy, but are nonetheless concerning heading into the worst of the pending winter wave.

In China, indebted property developer Evergrande was officially declared to have defaulted on portions of its domestic obligation by Fitch Ratings, potentially triggering a so-called 'cross default' on some $19 billion in foreign currency debt.

On Wall Street, the market's focus Thursday will likely center on weekly jobless claims data at 8:30 am, coming just ahead of tomorrow's November inflation reading, as well as after-the-bell earnings from Oracle  (ORCL) - Get Oracle Corporation Report, Broadcom  (AVGO) - Get Broadcom Inc. Report and Costco Wholesale  (COST) - Get Costco Wholesale Corporation Report.

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average are indicating a modest 90 point opening bell gain slide while those linked to the S&P 500 are priced for a 14 point pullback. Futures tied to the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite are indicating a 60 point dip at the start of trading as benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields hold at 1.502%, in overnight trading following yesterday's solid auction of $36 billion in re-issued notes.

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2. -- AstraZeneca Gets FDA Nod for Covid Therapy 

AstraZeneca Plc's  (AZN) - Get Astrazeneca PLC Sponsored ADR Report U.S.-listed shares edged higher in pre-market trading after the Food and Drug Administration approved its antibody cocktail for use in prevention of Covid-19 in at-risk patients.

Evusheld, which was shown to cut the risk of developing Covid symptoms in patients with compromised immune systems -- or who may suffer from side-effects linked to current vaccines -- by aruond 77% in late-stage trials, and has been purchased in bulk by the U.S. government. The drugmaker noted it's testing its efficacy against the newly-discovered Omicron variant.  

 “We are proud to play a leading role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and, with Evusheld, we now have the first antibody therapy authorised in the US to prevent COVID-19 symptoms before virus exposure, while also providing long lasting protection with a single dose," said AstraZeneca's Mene Pangaos. "We thank our clinical trial participants, the investigators, scientists, and government agencies and our colleagues at AstraZeneca who have all contributed to the development of Evusheld.”  

AstraZeneca shares were marked 0.1% higher in pre-market trading Thursday to indicate an opening bell price of $55.17 each.

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3. -- Jefferies Sends Bankers Home After Covid Outbreak 

 Jefferies Financial Group  (JEF) - Get Jefferies Financial Group Inc. Report said late Wednesday that it's asking employees to work from home, while cancelling holiday client events and corporate travel, following an outbreak of Covid infections in its New York office.

The investment bank said it has seen forty new Covid cases this month -- around a quarter of them on Tuesday alone -- even as it issued mask and booster shot mandates for all its 4,500 global employees by the end of next month. 

"Our priority now is to best protect every one of you and your families," CEO Richard Handler told employees in a company-wide memo. "Effective today, we are cancelling all social events and entertainment until January 3rd. When you can, we ask that you work from home."

Jefferies shares were marked 0.6% higher in pre-market trading to indicate an opening bell price of $38.82 each.

4. -- Amazon Slapped With Record $1.3 Billion Fine in Italy 

Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report shares slipped lower in pre-market trading after the world's biggest online retailer was fined a record $1.3 billion by competition authorities in Italy.

 “Amazon holds a dominant position in the Italian market for intermediation services on marketplaces, which Amazon leveraged to favor the adoption of its own logistics service,” the Italian Competition Authority said, accusing Amazon of preventing third-party sellers from getting the benefit of a 'Prime' label on its marketplace unless they use Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) logistics services. 

Amazon said FBA is a "completely optional service" and called the fine "unjustified and disproportionate'.

Amazon shares were marked 0.15% lower in pre-market trading to indicate and opening bell price of $3,518.00 each.

5. -- GameStop Posts Wider Q3 Loss, Notes SEC Subpoena

GameStop  (GME) - Get GameStop Corp. Class A Report shares slumped lower in pre-market trading after the video game retailer, and meme stock favorite, posted a bigger-than-expected third quarter loss and unveiled detail of a Securities and Exchange Commission subpoena.

GameStop said its loss for the three months ending on October 30 was pegged at $1.39, nearly triple the Street consensus forecast, even as sales rose 29% from last year to $1.3 billion. The Grapevine, Texas-based retailer added in a separate statement that it received an SEC subpoena for documents linked to an earlier probe into trading activity linked to the stock. 

"We are in the process of producing the documents and have been and intend to continue cooperating fully with the SEC Staff regarding this matter," the company said.   

GameStop shares were marked 4.22% lower in pre-market trading to indicate an opening bell price of $166.33 each.