Trump and Stimulus, Apple and Tesla, Pfizer - 5 Things You Must Know Wednesday

President Trump criticizes the $900 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief package; Wedbush's Dan Ives releases Apple's Christmas Wish List - Tesla is on it; Pfizer reaches a deal to supply the U.S. with more vaccine doses.
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Here are five things you must know for Wednesday, Dec. 23:

1. -- Stock Futures Rise Despite Trump's Criticism of Relief Bill

Stock futures rose modestly Wednesday even after President Donald Trump criticized the $900 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief package just passed by Congress and demanded higher direct payments to most Americans.

Contracts linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 59 points, S&P 500 futures were up 7 points and Nasdaq futures gained 4 points.

Trump, calling the stimulus bill a "disgrace," urged that lawmakers boost the stimulus checks due to most Americans to $2,000 from $600. 

The legislation passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, meaning Congress can override a veto by Trump. The president didn't say whether he would veto the bill.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supported increasing the size of the stimulus checks and said the House would try to pass the additional measure during a pro forma session on Thursday.

“For now, markets appear to be holding off pressing the sell button until the situation clarifies,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda.

Stocks were coming off a mixed session on Tuesday, with the Nasdaq closing at a record high but the broader market finishing mixed as optimism from passage of the pandemic relief package was dented by the emergence of a new variant strain of the coronavirus in the U.K.

2. -- Wednesday's Calendar: Jobless Claims, Consumer Sentiment

The economic calendar for Wednesday includes Durable Goods Orders for November at 8:30 a.m. ET, weekly Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m., Personal Income and Outlays for November at 8:30 a.m., New Home Sales for November at 10 a.m., Consumer Sentiment for December at 10 a.m. and Oil Inventories for the week ended Dec. 18 at 10:30 a.m.

Paychex  (PAYX) - Get Report is scheduled to report quarterly earnings Wednesday.

3. -- An Apple and Tesla EV Partnership?

In his "Top 10 Christmas Wish List" for Apple  (AAPL) - Get Report investors heading into 2021, Wedbush's Dan Ives said the tech giant should announce an electric vehicle strategic partnership and suggested Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Report would make a good partner.

"The company has been working in Cupertino for years around this autonomous vision and we believe a potential strategic partnership with an established EV player such as Tesla or VW would be a golden partnership for the next decade tapping into this EV opportunity," Ives wrote in a note to clients.

Ironically, Tesla shares tumbled this week following a Reuters report that said Apple has targeted 2024 to build a passenger vehicle that has both self-driving technology and uses the tech giant's own battery technology.

Citing people familiar with the matter, Reuters reported that Apple’s “Project Titan,” which began developing a vehicle in 2014, has progressed to the point where the company will aim to build a car for consumers.

Meantime, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Tuesday that Apple CEO Tim Cook refused to take a meeting years ago to discuss acquiring the electric vehicle maker.

Musk said he contacted Apple "during the darkest days of the Model 3 program" to discuss a possible deal. He said he planned to discuss the possibility of selling Tesla to Apple for one-tenth of its current value of more than $600 billion.

Apple shares rose 0.36% to $132.36 in premarket trading Wednesday, while Tesla was down 0.82% to $635.10.

4. -- Pfizer Reaches Deal With U.S. for More Vaccine Doses

Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Report reaches an agreement with the Trump administration to boost its supply of its coronavirus vaccine for the U.S. by at least tens of millions of doses next year in exchange for a government directive giving it better access to manufacturing supplies.

The New York Times was the first to report an agreement could be announced Wednesday. The deal was valued at just under $2 billion.

The U.S. government has asked for 100 million additional doses from Pfizer from April through June. The drugmaker has signaled that it should be able to produce at least 70 million, and maybe more, if it can get more access to supplies and raw materials, the Times reported.

5. -- Walmart Sued by Justice Department Over Opioid Crisis

Shares of Walmart  (WMT) - Get Report declined slightly in premarket trading Wednesday after the world's largest retailer was sued by the Justice Department over its role in the opioid crisis.

“In a civil complaint filed (Tuesday), the Department of Justice has alleged that Walmart Inc. unlawfully dispensed controlled substances from pharmacies it operated across the country and unlawfully distributed controlled substances to those pharmacies throughout the height of the prescription opioid crisis,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

The complaint also alleged Walmart failed to report hundreds of thousands of suspicious orders to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Walmart, in a statement, said the government's suit was "riddled with factual inaccuracies and cherry-picked documents taken out of context."

"Blaming pharmacists for not second-guessing the very doctors the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) approved to prescribe opioids is a transparent attempt to shift blame from DEA's well-documented failures in keeping bad doctors from prescribing opioids in the first place," the statement said. 

"Walmart always empowered our pharmacists to refuse to fill problematic opioids prescriptions, and they refused to fill hundreds of thousands of such prescriptions. Walmart sent DEA tens of thousands of investigative leads, and we blocked thousands of questionable doctors from having their opioid prescriptions filled at our pharmacies," the statement said.