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Microsoft, Tesla, Fed, Facebook 'Libra' And Markets - Five Things You Must Know

Stock futures power higher with the Fed and earnings in focus; Chairman Jerome Powell likely to signal a series of 2022 rate hikes, with the first expected in March; Microsoft's solid near-term sales outlook offsets a muted Q2 earnings report; Tesla Q4 earnings on deck, with delivery targets and production timelines in focus and Facebook's 'Libra' stablecoin project is reportedly on the brink of collapse.

Here are the five things you must know for Wednesday, January 26:

1. -- Stock Futures Power Higher With Fed and Earnings in Focus

U.S. equity futures powered higher Wednesday, while oil prices moved back towards their seven-year peak and Treasury yields advanced ahead of a crucial statement on interest rates later today from the Federal Reserve.

U.S. stocks, which finished lower again Tuesday following another whipsaw session that lifted the CBOE's VIX volatility gauge close to the highest level of the year, are looking at one of their worst starts to any year in more than a decade, pinched by concerns over slowing economic growth, rising interest, a Covid-hit supply chain and waning corporate profits.

Still, a solid near-term sales forecast from Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report -- which offset a muted reading of the tech giant's second quarter earnings -- and the prospect of a record profits from Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report after the bell has steadied some of the market's nerves ahead of the Fed rate decision at 2:00 pm Eastern time.

The simmering tensions between Russia and the U.S., played out in the form of a possible incursion into the Ukraine, has lifted global oil prices back towards their recent seven-year highs, with Brent crude futures for  March delivery rising 74 cents to $88.93 per barrel in the overnight session.

On Wall Street, futures tied to the Dow are indicating a 340 point opening bell gain ahead of earnings from AT&T  (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report and Boeing  (BA) - Get Boeing Company Report while those linked to the S&P 500 are priced for a 60 point move to the upside.

Nasdaq Composite futures are indicating a 280 point opening bell advance as benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields hold at 1.778% in overnight trading.

2. --  Fed Likely To Signal Multiple Rate Hikes - But Not Until March

The Federal Reserve is set to signal a series of interest rates hikes between now and the end of the year following its pivotal two-day policy meeting in Washington, but slowing growth, rising geopolitical tensions and the lingering impact of the Covid pandemic on corporate profits could keep the central bank from acting on its inflation fighting strategy. 

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues on the Open Markets Committee are likely to hold rates steady at their current record low, but possible quicken the withdraw of certain forms of stimulus -- such as government bond purchases -- while teeing-up the first of three 2022 rate hikes for the middle of March.

"The combination of deep uncertainty over the path of the economy over the next few months, thanks to a bigger hit from Omicron than many Fed officials appear to have expected, alongside the sudden surge in market volatility, means that this is not the time for the Fed to spook investors even further," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.

That said, with inflation at the highest levels in nearly four decades, and the headline unemployment rate falling to 3.9% -- with more than 10.5 million job openings yet to taken up -- Fed officials will still feel comfortable with a clearly-telegraphed tightening policy heading into the first few months of the year.  

The Fed will reveal its headline decisions at 2:00 pm Eastern time, with Chairman Powell taking questions from the media thirty minutes later.

3. --  Microsoft Sales Outlook Turns Shares Higher After Mixed Q2

Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report shares jumped higher in pre-market trading, reversing significant losses from last night, as investors reacted to solid near-term sales forecasts that offset a mixed batch of second quarter earnings for the world's second-largest tech giant.

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Microsoft told investors on a conference call late Tuesday that current quarter revenues for Azure, its benchmark cloud offering, would rise "significantly" from last year's levels, while sales from its More Personal Computing division would come in between $14.15 billion and $14.5 billion.

The better-than-expected outlook offset concerns linked to slowing Azure growth rates -- albeit the unit still paced a 26% increase in Intelligent Cloud division revenues -- that marred an otherwise solid set of second quarter earnings figures, including record revenues of $51.7 billion and a Street-beating bottom line of $2.48 per share.

Microsoft shares were marked 3.57% higher in pre-market trading to indicate an opening bell price of $298.90 each.

4. --  Tesla Q4 Earnings On Deck;  Delivery Targets, Production In Focus

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report shares moved higher in pre-market trading ahead of its fourth quarter earnings report that is expected to show record revenues for the clean energy carmaker.

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Tesla, which delivered a record 936,000 cars last year, is forecast to post total revenues of $16.35 billion for the three months ending in December, a more than 52% increase from the same period last year. The Street is also expecting a bottom line of $2.31 per share, up from 80 cents per share in the final quarter of 2020.

Investors will also be looking for updates on this year's delivery target, which Moody's Investors Service pegged at around 1.4 million units, the timing of production starts at the group's gigafactories in Austin, Texas and Berlin and the impact of supply-chain shortages, particularly semiconductors. 

Commentary from founder and CEO Elon Musk, who may or may not join the earnings call, will also be studied for clues as to when, or if, the group's new Model 2 sedan will debut in China later this spring.

Tesla shares were marked 3.9% higher in pre-market trading to indicate an opening bell price of $954.32 each.

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5. --  Facebook 'Libra' Project Near Reportedly Collapse 

Libra, the controversial cryptocurrency project launched by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2019, is reportedly on the brink of collapse.

Bloomberg News reported late Monday that the Diem Association, a consortium of companies that initially backed the Libra stable coin launched -- before it changed its name to Diem in December of 2020 -- is looking to sell its remaining assets and intellectual property and cash out of the venture. 

Regulators around the world had expressed concern for the project, which was based in Switzerland, with lawmakers on the U.S. Senate Banking Committee saying in October that "Facebook cannot be trusted to manage a payment system or digital currency when its existing ability to manage risks and keep consumers safe has proven wholly insufficient.'

Meta Platforms, the new parent company of Facebook, was marked 1.6% higher in pre-market trading at $305.00 each.