BY THE NUMBERS
U.S. stock futures were flat Thursday after stronger-than-expected retail sales data. The Dow and S&P 500 on Wednesday rallied for their second gain in the past eight sessions. The Nasdaq broke a five-session losing streak. (CNBC)
Ahead of Thursday's open on Wall Street, the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq were all down during the historically rough month of September. The Dow was 2.3% away from its Aug. 16 closing record. The S&P 500 was more than 1.2% from its Sept. 2 closing record. The Nasdaq was 1.4% away from its Sept. 7 closing record.
* Market undergoing a slow motion deterioration with pockets of shares down 20% or more (CNBC)
Retail sales posted a surprise gain in August. Sales increased 0.7% for the month compared with estimates of a 0.8% decline. In a separate report, initial jobless claims for the week ended Sept. 11 came in higher than expected, rising to 332,000 from the prior week's pandemic-era low, which was revised slightly higher to 312,000. (CNBC)
Investors are looking at Thursday's data for signals on how the economy is weathering Covid and how that might figure into the Federal Reserve's thoughts on when to start tapering bond purchases. Central bankers are set to hold their two-day September meeting next week.
The Fed's policy statement next Wednesday and Fed chief Jerome Powell's news conference are wild cards during an already particularly weak period for stocks. Historically, the bulk of September's losses come in the back half of the month. In fact, it appears the S&P 500 usually peaks around the 17th day of the month, which is this Friday.
* Cramer lists 12 ways for stocks to shake off their September struggles (CNBC)
So far in September, the index was down nearly 1%. The Dow and Nasdaq, for the month, were down 1.5% and 0.6%, respectively. However, year to date, the S&P 500 was up nearly 19.3%; the Dow was up over 13.7%; and the Nasdaq was up 17.6%.
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IN THE NEWS TODAY
The FDA's staff has declined to take a stance on whether to back Covid booster shots of Pfizer's (PFE) vaccine, saying U.S. regulators haven't verified all the available data. Government advisers will debate boosters Friday. Pointing to Israeli data, Pfizer argued a third dose of its vaccine six months after the second shot restores protection from infection to 95%. (CNBC & AP)
Moderna (MRNA), which also supports boosters, has released data showing breakthrough cases were less frequent in people who were more recently vaccinated with its two-shot vaccine. (CNBC)
Southwest Airlines (LUV) has introduced new incentives to get staff vaccinated against Covid. The Dallas-based carrier will offer extra pay to workers who show proof of full vaccination by mid-November, according to a company memo, which was reviewed by CNBC.
U.S. airlines have taken varying approaches to get staff vaccinated. United (UAL) has required its roughly 67,000-person U.S. workforce to be vaccinated, saying it will put staff who receive religious exemptions on temporary unpaid leave. Delta Air Lines (DAL) plans to charge unvaccinated employees $200 more per month for company health insurance starting in November.
The U.S. Capitol Police has asked the Pentagon to free up the National Guard in case it's needed for Saturday's rally in support of the deadly Jan. 6 invasion. The "Justice forJ6" rally, organized by an ex-campaign staffer for former President Donald Trump, is expected to draw about 700 people outside the U.S. Capitol building, a Homeland Security Department official said. (CNBC)
A former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday for allegedly violating the civil rights of a teenager in a separate case that involved a restraint similar to the one used on Floyd. Derek Chauvin, convicted earlier this year on state charges, also faces separate federal charges of violating Floyd's civil rights. (AP)
General Motors (GM) is advising some Chevrolet Bolt owners to not park their electric cars within 50 feet of other vehicles to reduce the risk of a potential fire spreading to nearby cars and trucks. The warning follows the Detroit automaker recalling more than 140,000 of the EVs produced since 2016 due to the risk of batteries spontaneously catching fire from "two rare manufacturing defects." (CNBC)
Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian is shaking up the unit's engineering organization in hopes of gaining market share more quickly. Kurian announced a number of changes in a Friday email to staff viewed by CNBC. The changes include replacing Eyal Manor, who led engineering and key Cloud products including Anthos for five years, according to the email.
* Theranos whistleblower testifies blood-test machines were about as accurate as a coin toss (CNBC)
* There was insider trading on NFT platform OpenSea, the $1.5 billion start-up admits (CNBC)
SpaceX launched its Inspiration4 mission on Wednesday evening from NASA's facility in Florida, successfully bringing its all-civilian crew into orbit. The mission is the first private crew launched into orbit by Elon Musk's company and the first time a crew was made up entirely of nonprofessional astronauts. The crew of four, led and paid for by billionaire Jared Isaacman, will spend about three days in orbit. (CNBC)
STOCKS TO WATCH
Beyond Meat (BYND) dipped 2.4% in premarket trading after Piper Sandler downgraded the company to an underweight rating. "Beyond is an early leader in plant-based meat, but we believe its current all-channel retail momentum lags consensus expectations," the firm said in a note to clients.
Macao-related casino stocks dropped again as authorities weigh tighter regulations on Macao's gaming industry. Wynn Resorts (WYNN) declined 1.8%, while Las Vegas Sands (LVS) slid 2.4%. JPMorgan downgraded both stocks to neutral from overweight, writing in a note to clients that it doesn't like "the uncertainty and opacity surrounding Macao and China policy."
U.S.-listed shares of Chinese tech stocks declined against the backdrop of those ongoing fears over what new regulatory measures in a number of industrials could mean for the group. Alibaba (BABA), JD.com (JD) and Pinduoduo (PDD) all dropped more than 1% in premarket trading in the U.S.
Cisco Systems (CSCO) gained 1.2% after several bullish Wall Street calls that followed the company's investor day. Credit Suisse upgraded the stock to an outperform rating, saying Cisco is poised to execute on its long-term guidance while ramping its recurring revenue streams. JPMorgan, meanwhile, reiterated its overweight rating and added the stock to its analyst focus list
Cabot Oil & Gas (COG) advanced 1.3% in Thursday's premarket, a pullback in natural gas futures. Cabot's stock has surged 25% during September during a historic run in natural gas, which has seen prices hit their highest level in more than seven years.