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Stimulus Checks, PayPal, Dogecoin, Merck, Ford - 5 Things You Must Know Thursday

Stock futures rise slightly; President Biden commits to $1,400 stimulus checks; Dogecoin soars as Tesla CEO Elon Musk voices support for the cryptocurrency.

Here are five things you must know for Thursday, Feb. 4:

1. -- Stock Futures Edge Slightly Higher

Stock futures rose slightly Thursday, a day after the S&P 500 closed only modestly higher but extended its winning streak to three trading sessions.

Contracts linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 29 points, S&P 500 futures rose 7 points and Nasdaq futures gained 63 points. 

Stocks finished mixed Wednesday following better-than-expected sales and earnings from  (AMZN) - Get, Inc. Report and Alphabet  (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report

The Dow gained 36 points, or 0.12%, to close at 30,723 and the S&P 500 rose 0.1% following its biggest two-day rally in nearly three months. The Nasdaq lost steam late in Wednesday's session to finish down 0.02%. 

The yield on the benchmark 30-year Treasury bond, meanwhile, rose to its highest level since last March ahead of the expected passage of the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.

President Biden signaled Wednesday he wasn't willing to reduce his proposed $1,400 stimulus checks, saying that if he did so he'd be breaking a campaign promise. Biden, however, said he was open to tightening the eligibility for the checks.

Republican lawmakers have called Biden’s plan too expensive.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet with officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory agencies Thursday to discuss recent volatility in financial markets driven by retail trading in stocks like GameStop  (GME) - Get GameStop Corp. Class A Report.

2. -- Thursday's Calendar: Ford and Bristol Myers Earnings, Jobless Claims

Merck  (MRK) - Get Merck & Co., Inc. Report reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of $1.32 a share, below estimates of $1.38, and the drug company said Kenneth Frazier wold retire as CEO. The stock rose slightly in premarket trading.

Bristol Myers Squibb  (BMY) - Get Bristol-Myers Squibb Company Report earned $1.46 a share on an adjusted basis in the fourth quarter, 4 cents ahead of Wall Street forecasts.

Earnings reports are also expected Thursday from Ford  (F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report, Peloton Interactive  (PTON) - Get Peloton Interactive, Inc. Class A Report, Philip Morris International  (PM) - Get Philip Morris International Inc. Report, Penn National Gaming  (PENN) - Get Penn National Gaming, Inc. Report, Snap  (SNAP) - Get Snap, Inc. Class A Report, Activision Blizzard  (ATVI) - Get Activision Blizzard, Inc. Report, Pinterest  (PINS) - Get Pinterest, Inc. Class A Report, Yum! Brands  (YUM) - Get Yum! Brands, Inc. Report, Hershey  (HSY) - Get Hershey Company Report, Clorox  (CLX) - Get Clorox Company Report, Ralph Lauren  (RL) - Get Ralph Lauren Corporation Class A Report, New York Times  (NYT) - Get New York Times Company Class A Report, World Wrestling Entertainment  (WWE) - Get World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. Class A Report, Gilead Sciences  (GILD) - Get Gilead Sciences, Inc. Report, T-Mobile US  (TMUS) - Get T-Mobile US, Inc. Report, NortonLifeLock  (NLOK) - Get NortonLifeLock Inc. Report and Wynn Resorts  (WYNN) - Get Wynn Resorts, Limited Report.

Bristol Myers, Ford and NortonLifeLock are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells the stocks? Learn more now.

The U.S. economic calendar for Thursday includes weekly Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m. ET, Productivity and Costs for the fourth quarter at 8:30 a.m. and Factory Orders for December at 10 a.m.

3. -- Dogecoin Soars as Elon Musk Voices Support for the Cryptocurrency

Dogecoin, which started as a "joke" cryptocurrency based on a popular internet meme, soared following this one-word tweet from Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report CEO Elon Musk: "doge."

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At last check, the digital currency was trading at $0.0526 per coin. Over the past 24 hours it has risen more than 63% and 607% over the past seven days, according to CoinGecko.

Dogecoin skyrocketed at the end of last week - as much as 800% in one 24-hour period - as retail investors expanded their buying frenzy to digital currency. A Reddit group called SatoshiStreetBets had touted the gains in Dogecoin.

Musk early Thursday sent a follow-up tweet, writing that "Dogecoin is the people’s crypto."

The Tesla CEO had said earlier this week he would be taking a break from Twitter. His break lasted two days.

4. -- PayPal's Profit Surges as Pandemic Drives Demand

PayPal  (PYPL) - Get PayPal Holdings, Inc. Report was rising in premarket trading Thursday after the digital payments company reported fourth-quarter earnings that tripled from a year earlier and topped Wall Street estimates.

PayPal earned $1.57 billion, or $1.32 a share, in the fourth quarter, up from $507 million, or 43 cents, a year earlier. 

Adjusted earnings in the quarter were $1.08 a share, topping analysts' estimates of $1.

Revenue surged 23% in the fourth quarter to $6.12 billion from $4.96 billion last year. Analysts had called for revenue of $6.09 billion.

“PayPal delivered record performance in 2020, as businesses of all sizes have digitized in the wake of the pandemic,” PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said in a statement. “In this historic year, we released more products than ever before and have dramatically scaled our acceptance worldwide, giving our 377 million consumer and merchant accounts even more reasons to use our platform.”

Total payment volume in the quarter climbed 36% to $277 billion. Net new active accounts soared 72% in the quarter to 16 million.

The stock gained 5% to $264.50 in premarket trading.

5. -- Nokia Expects a 'Challenging' 2021

Nokia  (NOK) - Get Nokia Oyj Report, which last week became a favorite for the retail trading crowd on Reddit, posted fourth-quarter profit that fell less than expected but said 2021 would be a "challenging" year for the telecom-equipment maker.

Sales in the quarter fell 4.8% to €6.57 billion.

Revenue in 2021 - "a year of transition" - is expected to keep declining in 2021, "with meaningful headwinds due to market share loss and price erosion in North America,” said CEO Pekka Lundmark in a statement. 

Sales are expected at between €20.6 billion and €21.8 billion. Analysts had predicted sales of about €21.5 billion in 2021, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.