August 11 Premarket Briefing: 10 Things You Should Know

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Here are 10 things you should know for Monday, Aug. 11:

1. -- U.S. stock futures were rising going into Monday, following a rocky week in the markets and despite continuing geopolitical instability.

European stocks were shrugging off last week's geopolitical gloom on Monday, as Russia appeared to step back from the brink over Ukraine and on hopes that U.S. airstrikes in Iraq may have slowed the advance of Islamist rebels there. A renewed three-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza also played a part.

2. -- The economic calendar in the U.S. on Monday includes the weekly update on the Federal Reserve funds rate, but little change is expected. 

3. -- On Friday U.S. stocks rebounded a bit after a rocky week in which the market initially sank and gave back some of its end-of-July gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DIA) closed up 1.13% to 16,553.93 on Friday. The S&P 500 (SPY) rose 1.15% to 1,931.59. The Nasdaq (QQQ) moved up 0.81% to 4,370.90.

4. -- In its continued drive for low prices, Amazon (AMZN) has been in a months-long battle with book publisher Hachette in an attempt to pay the publisher less for e-books. Now writers are pushing back against Amazon as well, generating an open letter in the New York Times signed by more than 900 authors. Amazon slapped back at one of the letter-writers, Douglas Preston, as a spokeswoman called him "entitled" and an "opportunist."

And Amazon is also taking on Walt Disney (DIS), blocking preorders for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and other DVDs to win price concessions. Online sales of home entertainment are about one-third of the market, and are a key source of profit for entertainment companies.

Amazon is also in hot water for its $800 million in losses this quarter. Amazon's Jeff Bezos has long insisted on the long view on Amazon's profits. The question is whether Amazon is trying to get more concessions from publishers because the "everything store" increasingly needs to support its bottom line. 

5. -- McDonald's (MCD) and Yum! Brands (YUM) have published data about their Chinese suppliers, after Shanghai's food safety administration sought more oversight over them, as well as Burger King (BKW), Dicos and Carl's Jr. The move comes after recalls of meat supplied by Shanghai Husi, itself owned by the American company OSI.

Shanghai Husi was accused of selling expired and relabeled meat, as well as meat that was not processed properly. Yum!'s Chinese website showed that it had 26 suppliers.

Friday McDonald's reported its weakest performance in 10 years. In premarket trading Monday the stock was up 0.26% to $93.55.

6. -- The Keystone XL pipeline has been a source of political dispute for years now. And President Obama has said that he will not allow the oil pipeline to be completed unless it does not make carbon dioxide emissions worse. However, a new study says that the Keystone pipeline could case emissions four times worse than were previously projected by the government.

Estimates from Peter Erickson and Michael Lazarus of the Stockholm Environment Institute in Seattle found that the pipeline would lower gas prices and drive up consumption as a result. The supply-focused analysis is an unusual tack in energy resource analysis. The new paper may further delay the pipeline. 

7. -- Brent crude oil was close to its lowest level in nine months, a reflection of concern over U.S. bombings in Iraq. Oil supply disruptions could follow the strikes. West Texas Intermediate crude oil was up.

In other commodities, wheat was dropping based on easing fears in the Black Sea region and on expectations of a strong harvest in the U.S. 

8. -- U.S. worker productivity was up seasonally adjusted 2.5% for the April to June quarter, and labor costs went up as well, the Department of Labor announced. In the prior quarter, productivity had dropped 4.5%, the worst drop in 31 years.

Productivity measures the amount of work accomplished in an hour. Despite the gains, wages for workers have dragged behind inflation in the current recovery. 

9. -- Video game maker Zynga (ZNGA) once delighted customers with FarmVille and other games, but its stock is dropping after the company announced a flat second quarter. New games are delayed and the company is reinvesting in its titles, as Zynga prepares to introduce sports-themed titles about the NFL and Tiger Woods.

In premarket trading, Zynga shares dropped 1.37% to $2.88.

10. -- A former Microsoft (MSFT) employee, Brian Jorgenson, pleaded guilty to securities fraud and was sentenced to two years in prison over an insider trading plot. Jorgenson gave insider information to a confederate who then traded options and stocks.

Microsoft stock was off slightly in premarket trading, down 0.07% to $43.20 on Monday morning.

To submit a news tip, send an email to:tips@thestreet.com


Nora Morrison is an editor, writer and researcher on music, popular culture and business. She is an associate editor at TheStreet, and is on Twitter at No Ticker.

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