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Here are five things you must know for Wednesday, Aug. 16:
1. -- U.S. stock futures rose on Wednesday, Aug. 16, as investors continued to look past tensions between North Korea and the U.S. that weighed on markets last week.
Increasingly aggressive language between the two countries last week pulled the Dow Jones Industrial Average from records and handed the S&P 500 its most punishing week since March 24. President Donald Trump had promised "fire and fury" if North Korea continued to issue threats, while North Korea explored a possible strike on U.S. territory Guam.
Since then, tensions have faded as North Korea's Kim Jong-un appeared to back off his threats, while markets instead focused on retail earnings. A rebound rally on Monday, Aug. 14, pushed the S&P 500 to its best daily gain since April.
While tensions have recently calmed, Bill Stone, global chief investment strategist at PNC Asset Management Group, warns that any new developments could put market stability at risk.
"Though armed conflict remains unlikely and while it is impossible to forecast geopolitics, investors should, however, brace for market volatility if a larger conflict does occur," Stone said in a note. However, "it is worth underscoring that historically the impact of military or terrorist attacks on the market has always faded over time, often in a matter of days."
Political headlines this week have instead focused on racial violence in Charlottesville, VA, and President Trump's response, or lack thereof. A White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi rally on Saturday, Aug. 12, escalated into violence as protesters and counterprotesters clashed, culminating in an intentional hit-and-run that killed one and injured at least 19 others. James Alex Fields, Jr. has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Trump has caused outrage in his response to the tragedy, appearing reluctant to call out the White Supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville and instead blaming violence on "both sides." He doubled down on this stance in a press conference on Tuesday evening.
"You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible, and it was a horrible thing to watch," the president said. "I think there's blame on both sides." He went on to ask why the "alt-left" had not been found culpable of violence.
2. -- Urban Outfitters Inc. (URBN) rocketed higher in premarket trading Wednesday after topping quarterly estimates thanks to strength in its direct-to-consumer sales.
Profit declined to 44 cents a share over its recent second quarter from 66 cents in the same period a year earlier. However, that was above analysts' estimates of 37 cents a share.
Revenue dipped 2% to $873 million, though came in higher than $862 million consensus.
Comparable retail segment sales fell 4.9%, tied to "negative retail store sales," while wholesale segment net sales increased 10%. By brand, Free People sales gained 2.9%, but fell 4% and 7.9% at Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, respectively.
Around 92% of S&P 500 companies have reported earnings so far this season. Of those, 73.7% have exceeded earnings estimates, above the historical average of 64%, according to Thomson Reuters data. More than 68% have topped revenue consensus, also above an average of 59%. Consumer discretionary and staples stocks have seen the slowest earnings growth, up 3.6% and 4.6%, respectively.
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4. -- The Federal Open Market Committee will release minutes from its late July meeting on Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET.
Fed members tiptoed the line between hawk and dove at its July 25-26 meeting.
The Fed left the federal funds rate at 1% to 1.25%, as widely expected. Another rate hike is not expected until at least December. Even then, chances of a year-end increase are only at 49.2%, according to CME Group fed funds futures.
The Fed also said it would implement changes to its balance sheet "relatively soon" provided the economy expands as expected. Previous language in the Fed's statement had said those changes would come this year.
The Fed currently holds $4.5 trillion in Treasuries and mortgage-related bonds on its balance sheet. Unloading those would likely tighten monetary conditions in the same way an interest rate hike would. The Fed has previously emphasized that when it plans to do so it will be a gradual process.
Also on the economic calendar on Wednesday, housing starts for July will be released at 8:30 a.m., while a weekly read on crude stockpiles from the Energy Information Administration is set for its regular time at 10:30 a.m.
5. --Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) has agreed to a board shakeup as the bank attempts to rehabilitate its image after last year's scandal.
Chairman Stephen Sanger will step down as chair and board member by year's end. Current Vice Chair Elibaeth Duke will assume the position. Two other board members, Cynthia H. Milligan and Susan Swenson, will also step down. Wells Fargo has appointed another independent director, Juan Pujades, and intends to add three more in the coming months.
"The changes announced... reflect a thoughtful and deliberate process by the Board that was informed by the company's engagement with shareholders and other stakeholders, as well as the Board's annual self-evaluation that was conducted after the 2017 Annual Meeting and prior to its typical year-end timing," said Sanger.
Shareholders of Wells Fargo rebuked the board sharply at the company's annual meeting in April, where Sanger garnered a reelection tally of just 56%.
The bank agreed to a $185 million settlement with federal and local regulators in September over an investigation into unethical sales tactics. Wells Fargo had been charged with creating more than 2 million unauthorized customers accounts as an attempt to meet ambitious sales targets. The bank was subject to a string of Congressional hearings and led to the abrupt retirement of former Chairman and CEO John Stumpf.
Then, in July, Wells disclosed that some 490,000 car-loan customers were erroneously charged for insurance they didn't need. An additional 60,000 in states with specific disclosure requirements may not have been told about the insurance by the third-party vendor that issued it, Wells said.
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