Here are five things you must know for Thursday, December 23:
1. -- Stock Futures Edge Higher As Omicron Concerns Give Way To Bulls
U.S. equity futures bumped higher Thursday, setting up the potential for a three-day rally heading into the Christmas break, as investors look past Omicron risks following a raft of data suggesting the rapidly-spreading variant carries milder symptoms than is predecessors.
The Food & Drug Administration's decision to approve Pfizer's Covid antiviral treatment -- which has also shown to be highly effective against Omicron -- is also adding to investor confidence that global growth won't be derailed by the virus, which is doubling its infection rate every one to three days.
A stronger-than-expected reading of consumer confidence yesterday, alongside lingering bets that President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion 'Build Back Better' spending bill can find support despite Senator Joe Manchin's refusal, is also providing market support over one of the few final trading days of 2021
On Wall Street, futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average are indicating a 100 point opening bell gain, while those linked to the S&P 500 are priced for a 11 point bump.
The Nasdaq Composite is looking to open modestly higher, albeit with thin pre-market trading volumes, as futures indicate a 25 point gain as benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields ease to 1.462% in overnight trading.
2. -- Novavax Posts Solid Data On Vaccine Efficacy Against Omicron
Novavax (NVAX) - Get Novavax, Inc. Report shares bounced higher in pre-market trading after the drugmaker published promising data suggesting its coronavirus vaccine generates a solid immune response against the Omicron variant.
Novavax said a third dose of its vaccine, which was recently approved in Europe, ignites an improved response, adding that it's developing an Omicron-specific dose that it hopes to begin manufacturing next month.
"We are encouraged that boosted responses against all variants were comparable to those associated with high vaccine efficacy in our Phase 3 clinical trials,” said Novavax's head of research and development Gregory Glenn.
Novavax shares were marked 5.84% higher in pre-market trading to indicate an opening bell price of $194.00 each.
3. -- Intel Apologizes For Statement On Forced Labor In China
Intel Corp. (INTC) - Get Intel Corporation Report shares edged lower in pre-market trading after the chipmaker issued a formal apology in China over its stance on sourcing products from the Uyghur region of Xinjiang.
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Intel had told suppliers earlier this month not to source materials from the area, where the U.S. State Department says Muslim Uyghurs are often made to work in forced labor camps, an accusation the Beijing has repeatedly denied. The directive triggered some backlash on social media and raised the prospect of reprisal from the Chinese government.
"We apologise for the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners and the public. Intel is committed to becoming a trusted technology partner and accelerating joint development with China," Intel said in the statement.
Intel shares were marked 0.1% lower in pre-market trading to indicate an opening bell price of $50.93 each.
4. -- Elon Musk Sells More Tesla Shares, Now 'Almost Done'
Tesla (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report shares extended gains in pre-market trading following some clarifying statements from founder and CEO Elon Musk over his plan to sell around 10% of this stake in the carmaker.
In late Tuesday interview with the Babylon Bee website, Musk insisted he had "sold enough stock to get to around 10%" -- a tally he had put to his 67.2 million Twitter followers last month -- and hadn't planned to offload any more shares in order to meet a pending tax bill.
However, the 50-year old Musk said yesterday that "there are still a few tranches left" of what he called 'pre-programed' sales, stating via is verified Twitter account that his is "almost done".
Securities and Exchange Commission filings show Musk has sold around 14.77 million shares -- including another 934,091 last night -- on the way to a presumed total of 17 million.
Tesla shares were marked 1.8% higher in pre-market trading to indicate an opening bell price of $1,027.15 each.
5. -- Tencent Dumps JD.Com Stake in Latest China Investment Wildcard
JD.com (JD) - Get JD.com Inc. Report shares tumbled in pre-market trading Thursday after China-based gaming and social media group Tencent Holdings (TCHEY) dumped $16.4 billion shares in the e-commerce group.
In a surprise move Thursday, Tencent unveiled plans to transfer most of its JD.com stake to existing shareholders, cutting its holding from 17% to around 2.3%, leaving Walmart WMT, with a 9.3% stake, as JD.com's biggest investor.
The decision follows a series of orders and penalties levied by the Chinese government amid a broader crackdown on the tech sector, including Tencent, which has clashed with Beijing over a number of issues this year.
JD.com's U.S.-listed shares were marked 8.5% lower in pre-market trading to indicate an opening bell price of $67.51 each. Tencent