Here are the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:
- Dow futures rise after Fed keeps rates near zero
- Latest GDP, initial jobless claims weaker than expected
- Robinhood to make its public debut after pricing IPO
- Facebook warns about growth, sets vaccine mandate
- Disney, Apple bring Covid mask requirements back
1. Dow futures rise after Fed keeps rates near zero
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Dow futures rose more than 100 points Thursday, one day after the 30-stock average and the S&P 500 dipped slightly and the Nasdaq rose modestly. All three benchmarks finished less than 1% away from Monday's record closes after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said at his post-meeting news conference that substantial economic improvement would be needed for the central bank to start dialing back its easy-money policies. On the fiscal side, the Senate voted to advance a bipartisan infrastructure plan Wednesday evening, a critical step toward Democrats passing their sweeping economic agenda.
- In stocks to watch: Dow stock Merck fell in the premarket after the drugmarker matched estimates with quarterly earnings and topped expectations on revenue. Amazon reports earnings after the bell Thursday.
- Trevor Milton, founder of Nikola, has been charged with three counts of fraud by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan in connection with its investigation into the embattled electric vehicle start-up. Shares of Nikola, which lost more than half their value in the past 12 months, were down 6% in Thursday's premarket trading.
- Uber Technologies dropped 5.1% in premarket trading after sources told CNBC that Japanese investment giant Softbank is selling a chunk of its stake in Uber to cover losses related to its investment in another ride-hailing company, Didi Global.
- Didi itself is in the news, denying an earlier Wall Street Journal report that it was considering going private. Didi had been up well over 30% in the premarket before that denial, before trimming that still-large gain to 17.5%.
2. Latest GDP, initial jobless claims weaker than expected
In the latest snapshot of the economic recovery from the Covid pandemic, the Commerce Department said Thursday morning that its first look at second-quarter gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 6.5%, a big miss compared to estimates for 8.4% growth.
The Labor Department also reported before the opening bell on Wall Street that initial jobless claims came in at 400,000 last week, slightly worse than expectations. The previous week's level was revised up to 424,000. Initial claims for the week ended July 10 of 368,000 matched last month's Covid-era low.
3. Robinhood to make its public debut after pricing IPO
Robinhood, whose stock trading app surged in popularity among retail investors, is expected to make its debut on the Nasdaq on Thursday. The initial public offering was priced Wednesday night at the low of the range at $38 each, raising about $2 billion and valuing the firm at about $32 billion. However, the company is not without controversy.
- Earlier this year during the initial meme stock frenzy, Robinhood angered some investors and lawmakers when it restricted trading in some popular stocks following a tenfold rise in deposit requirements at its clearinghouse.
- The company disclosed this week that it has received inquiries from U.S. regulators about whether its employees traded shares of GameStop and AMC Entertainment before trading curbs were placed at the end of January.
- In June, Robinhood agreed to pay nearly $70 million to settle an investigation by Wall Street's own regulator.
4. Facebook warns about growth, sets vaccine mandate
Facebook shares fell roughly 3.5% in Thursday's premarket, the morning after the social network said revenue growth will slow during the second half of the year. Facebook cited a change in Apple's privacy policies, which it said will hurt the social network's ability to target ads. In its second quarter, Facebook reported earnings of $3.61 per share on revenue of $29.08 billion. Both topped estimates. Daily active users and monthly active users each matched expectations.
Facebook will require workers returning to its U.S. offices to be vaccinated, the company said Wednesday. "How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations," Facebook executive Lori Goler said in a statement. Facebook will create processes for those who can't be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, Goler said, adding the company will continue to evaluate its approach outside the U.S.
5. Disney, Apple bring Covid mask requirements back
Disney has amended the mask policy at its U.S.-based theme parks in the wake of new guidance from health and government officials. Starting Friday, the company will require all guests, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks in indoor locations at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the Disneyland Resort in California. Children under age 2 are exempt.
Apple will require vaccinated and unvaccinated customers as well as staff members to wear masks in many of its U.S. retail stores starting Thursday, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC's Josh Lipton. Earlier this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC the company had pushed back its return-to-work plans for corporate employees from September to October and that it could be delayed again.
— Reuters and CNBC Peter Schacknow contributed to this report. Follow all the market action like a pro on CNBC Pro. Get the latest on the pandemic with CNBC's coronavirus coverage.