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Bitcoin, Ford F-150 Lightning, Applied Materials - 5 Things You Must Know

Stock futures fall as investors assess the Fed's surprising talk on easing back bond purchases; Applied Materials reports earnings; Bitcoin edges higher after a volatile session; Ford unveils the F-150 Lightning.

Here are five things you must know for Thursday, May 20:

1. -- Stock Futures Fall on Fed Taper Discussions

Stock futures fell Thursday following three days of losses for the S&P 500 as investors assessed the Federal Reserve's somewhat surprising discussion on easing back bond purchases if the economy improves rapidly.

Bitcoin and the prices of other cryptocurrencies steadied after Wednesday's volatile session.

Bitcoin Is Tanking: Here Are the Support Levels to Watch

Contracts linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 147 points, S&P 500 futures declined 16 points and Nasdaq futures were down 45 points.

Stocks finished lower Wednesday but cut losses late in the session after some members of the Federal Reserve indicated in the central bank's meeting minutes they were open to discussing the scaling back of asset purchases "at some point" if the economy improves faster than expected from the coronavirus pandemic.

The discussions marked the first time the Fed has made mention of the possibility of scaling back its $120 billion of monthly bond purchases. 

“It was a surprise to hear the talk about Fed tapering,”
Joyce Chang, JPMorgan Chase's chair of global research, said on
Bloomberg TV. “The market had been thinking there might be a
couple of months before you really saw this particular issue
come into focus.” 

Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance, said he believes the Fed "intends to be patient and keep rates lower for longer, but by the end of this year the unanimous desire of the committee to keep rates low may dissipate and more disagreement may spill out into the public eye."

2. -- Thursday's Calendar: Jobless Claims, Applied Materials Earnings

The U.S. economic calendar Thursday includes weekly Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m. ET and the Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index for May at 8:30 a.m.

Earnings reports are expected Thursday from Applied Materials  (AMAT) - Get Applied Materials Inc. Report, Kohl's  (KSS) - Get Kohl's Corporation Report, Ralph Lauren  (RL) - Get Ralph Lauren Corporation Report, Petco Health and Wellness  (WOOF) - Get Petco Health and Wellness Company Inc. Report, Palo Alto Networks  (PANW) - Get Palo Alto Networks Inc. Report and Hewlett Packard Enterprise  (HPE) - Get Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company Report.

Semiconductor Watchlist: Cramer Says Keep an Eye on Applied Materials

3. -- Bitcoin Edges Higher After Wednesday's Wild Ride

Bitcoin was rising Thursday following a session that saw the world's biggest cryptocurrency drop as much as 31% and then regain those losses. 

Prices rebounded late Wednesday after Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc. Report CEO Elon Musk indicated his electric vehicle company could hold its billion-dollar position in Bitcoin.

Musk, whose criticism of bitcoin's energy use, coupled with a suggestion Tesla could sell its $1.5 billion in holdings acquired earlier this year, helped tilt the digital currency into its biggest tailspin of the year, with prices falling below $30,000 briefly on Wednesday. A renewed crackdown on virtual currencies markets in China also pressured Bitcoin.

However, Musk tweeted later Wednesday emojis of so-called diamond hands, images that are typically interpreted as indications of a "hold" strategy for key assets. 

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Bitcoin was up 2.76% on Thursday to $40,294, according to Coindesk. The second-biggest digital currency, Ethereum, fell 4.73% to $2,698.

Bitcoin has returned 37.43% year to date, while Ethereum has soared more than 262%.

Bitcoin Selloff: Why Jim Cramer Isn't Buying the Dip

4. -- Ford's Electric F-150 Lightning Starts at Below $40,000

Ford's  (F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report new battery-powered F-150 will come with a starting price of $39,974 when it goes on sale next year.

"That is a lot of truck for that starting point," said Darren Palmer, Ford's general manager of battery electric vehicles, at an unveiling of the truck Wednesday night in a ceremony in Dearborn, Mich. "People are just making their first moves into electric, and we want to tempt them."

Ford's F-150 Lightning pickup truck is the automaker's first full electric version of its top selling vehicle. 

The truck will be built by Ford-United Auto Workers staff at the Ford Rouge Complex in Dearborn, beginning next spring.

President Joe Biden visited Ford's test track on Tuesday and took the truck for a ride, declaring "This sucker’s quick!"

Ford is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells F? Learn more now.

5. -- Cisco Systems Tumbles on Weak Profit Guidance

Cisco Systems  (CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems Inc. Report tumbled nearly 6% in premarket trading Thursday after the networking products maker issued weaker-than-expected earnings guidance for the current quarter.

Cisco said it expects adjusted profit in the fiscal fourth quarter of 81 cents to 83 cents a share, below analysts' estimates of 86 cents.

Sales in the period were forecast to rise 6% to 8% from
a year earlier, implying revenue of $12.9 billion to $13.1 billion vs. Wall Street projections of $12.8 billion. 

Like many companies, Cisco has felt the impact of a global chip shortage.

CEO Chuck Robbins told Bloomberg in an interview the company was paying more per component and paying fees to expedite shipments.

Its profit projection was below Wall Street estimates after the company chose to “endure short-term pain” to make sure it has enough chips to meet its order obligations, Robbins said.