The U.S. futures indices are showing an increase in pre-market trading on Friday, with the Dow Jones aiming to consolidate this week’s gains. This positive trend suggests the possibility of a seventh consecutive week of gains, marking the index’s momentum in reaching new all-time highs.

At 06:23 AM, the Dow Jones futures (DOWI:DJI) rose 95 points, or 0.25%. S&P 500 futures were up 0.25% and Nasdaq-100 futures were up 0.33%. The yield on 10-year Treasury bonds was at 3.922%.

In the commodities market, West Texas Intermediate crude oil for January rose 0.38% to $71.87 per barrel. Brent crude oil for February rose 0.33%, close to $76.86 per barrel. Iron ore with a 62% concentration, traded on the Dalian exchange, fell 1.37% to $132.58 per ton.

On the economic agenda, investors await, at 08:30 AM, data from the December Empire manufacturing. At 09:15 AM, the November industrial production numbers. At 09:45 AM, the preliminary December PMI. At 1:00 PM, the Baker Hughes numbers of operating oil wells.

European markets are showing a positive performance and are poised to conclude the week with significant gains, driven by a series of crucial policy decisions made by major central banks. European stock exchanges are following the upward trend seen in the US markets, which continue to experience a robust rally this week.

Asian markets, led by the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index, mostly closed higher, reflecting optimism after the Fed maintained interest rates and signaled possible cuts in 2024. Meanwhile, China reported impressive growth in industrial production in November, the highest since February 2022. However, the Shanghai SE bucked the trend, registering a 0.56% decline, in a context where retail sales fell short of expectations. Other indices such as Nikkei, Kospi, and ASX 200, however, posted significant gains.

On Thursday, stocks continued to rise in response to the Fed keeping interest rates unchanged and planning to reduce them three times in 2024. The Dow Jones reached a new record closing high. Powell’s dovish stance is still to be tested with data in the coming months, so the market still wants to understand if a rate cut in the first or second quarter of 2024 is possible. Additionally, there was an unexpected increase in US retail sales in November, and initial unemployment claims decreased. Sectors such as real estate and banking stood out, while the price of oil also rose.

On the corporate earnings front on Friday, investors will be watching for reports from Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI).

Corporate Highlights from Wall Street for Today

Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) – Google will start tests in Chrome to restrict third-party cookies with the Tracking Protection feature on January 4. The total elimination is planned for the second half of 2024, subject to the resolution of antitrust concerns. Additionally, Google is modifying the Location History feature in Google Maps to protect user privacy, preventing the company’s access to individual location histories and making it harder for authorities to obtain bulk data. The change follows concerns about the use of location warrants by US police.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) – Advances in AI chips increase the demand for efficient cooling in data centers. Microsoft plans to use liquid cooling in its Maia 100 chips, aiming for efficiency and cost reduction. This change is crucial for advanced AI data centers.

Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META) – Meta and TikTok restricted a record number of posts and accounts in Malaysia in the first half of 2023. This occurred amid an increase in requests from the Malaysian government for content removal, generating criticism about freedom of expression under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration. Meta restricted 3,100 items and TikTok 890 posts and accounts, both complying with government requests.

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) – Intel announced its new line of chips, including the Gaudi3 for AI, scheduled for 2024, challenging Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) and AMD (NASDAQ:AMD) in the AI market. At the Intel AI Everywhere event, new chips for PCs and data centers were revealed. CEO Pat Gelsinger highlighted Intel’s AI strategy, maintaining its internal production.

United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS) – Italian financial police seized about $94.5 million from UPS Italia, part of United Parcel Service, on suspicions of tax fraud and illegal labor practices. The action is part of a broader investigation in the logistics sector in Italy. Prosecutors and police allege the use of fake invoices and fictitious employment contracts by UPS, which officially has 1,000 employees in Italy.

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) – The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Amazon does not have to repay $273 million in taxes to Luxembourg, marking a defeat for the EU’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, in her effort against tax deals for multinationals. Amazon welcomed the decision, while critics like Oxfam call for tax reforms in the EU.

Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) – Walt Disney faces a proxy dispute after activist investor Nelson Peltz self-nominated for the board, his second attempt to influence the company’s strategy. Disney, trying to revitalize its franchises and make its streaming business profitable, faces criticism from Peltz’s Trian Fund Management, which owns shares in the company and proposes changes. Peltz and former Disney executive James “Jay” Rasulo are the candidates proposed by Trian.

AT&T (NYSE:T), Rivian (NASDAQ:RIVN) – AT&T will acquire electric vehicles from Rivian in a pilot program aiming to reduce costs and carbon emissions, as well as increase safety. This is Rivian’s first deal after the end of its exclusivity with Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). AT&T plans to include Rivian’s vans, pickups, and SUVs in its fleet starting in 2024, although financial details and quantities were not disclosed.

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) – Nordic investors asked Tesla to reconsider its approach to collective bargaining in conflict with unions in Sweden. Tesla faces strikes and backlash from pension funds in the region for refusing Swedish mechanics’ union demands regarding wages and working conditions. Tesla, known for avoiding collective agreements, faces solidarity strikes and stock sales by some pension funds. Additionally, the RDW, the Dutch automotive authority, stated that it does not plan a recall of Tesla in Europe following a recall in the US due to concerns with autopilot. The RDW issues approvals for Tesla cars in Europe, citing differences in autopilot functions and maintaining contact with Tesla.

General Motors (NYSE:GM) – General Motors announced the layoff of 1,300 employees at two Michigan factories, with 945 workers from the Orion assembly plant affected by the conversion to electric truck production and 350 from Lansing Grand River due to the end of the Chevrolet Camaro. Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, announced the layoff of 900 employees, 24% of its staff, primarily affecting commercial and administrative areas. The decision follows the dismissal of key leaders and an October incident with an autonomous vehicle that injured a pedestrian. Cruise will offer severance packages to those affected.

First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), Enphase Energy (NASDAQ:ENPH), SunRun (NASDAQ:RUN) – Jefferies initiated coverage of alternative energy stocks, rating First Solar, Enphase Energy, and SunRun as Buy. Companies with exposure to utilities, strong order books, and balance sheets are preferred in uncertain times. SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) and Array Technologies (NASDAQ:ARRY) received a Hold rating. Catalysts include clear regulations and stability in interest rates. First Solar is the top pick, due to its robust order book, competitive pricing, and growing margins.

Shell (NYSE:SHEL) – Shell agreed to sell its 37.5% stake in the German refinery PCK Schwedt to the Prax Group, as part of its efforts to reduce its global refining portfolio. The transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of 2024, subject to regulatory approvals. Financial details were not disclosed.

Boeing (NYSE:BA) – Boeing appointed Chris Raymond, head of sustainability, as CEO of its services division, succeeding Stephanie Pope. Raymond takes the position on January 1, after leading sustainability since 2020. Global Services remain profitable, with $17.6 billion in revenue in 2022. Brian Moran, vice president of global sustainability policies and partnerships at Boeing, will take over as head of sustainability.

RTX Corp (NYSE:RTX) – Christopher Calio, current chief operating officer of RTX, was named to succeed Gregory Hayes as CEO of the aerospace and defense company. Under Hayes, RTX, formerly Raytheon, became the largest defense company in revenue after merging with United Technologies Corp in 2020. Calio, who restructured the company into three units, will take over the position until the annual shareholders’ meeting in May, with Hayes becoming executive chairman of the board.

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) – The US labor agency accuses Starbucks of closing 23 stores to discourage union campaigns, demanding their reopening. Eight of these stores were already unionized when they closed. Starbucks denies wrongdoing, justifying closures for legitimate reasons. The complaint from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeks the rehiring of employees and negotiations with unions.

Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST) – Costco exceeded first-quarter profit forecasts, with earnings per share of $3.58 and revenue of $57.8 billion, surpassing expectations. The company announced a special dividend of $15 per share and also recorded growth in net sales and membership fee revenue.

Citigroup (NYSE:C) – Citigroup decided to close its municipal underwriting and market operations, according to Reuters. The reason is the economic unviability of these activities for the company’s global returns. Most employees in the unit will leave the bank in the first quarter. Elsewhere, Citigroup’s Mexican retail unit, Banamex, plans to disengage from the parent company by the second half of 2024, according to the bank’s head in Mexico, Manuel Romo. After the separation, Banamex will begin the process of going public in 2025. Citigroup previously canceled the sale of the unit for $7 billion, maintaining its corporate and investment banking operations in Mexico as Citi Mexico.

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) – Following his economic reform plan, Argentine President Javier Milei gained support from Goldman Sachs, which recommended the country’s bonds. The peso remained stable, and the Central Bank managed to roll over short-term notes. The economic recovery under Milei generated optimism, with hopes of normalizing the economy and eliminating the difference between the official and parallel peso rate. The International Monetary Fund also praised the Argentine government’s “bold initial actions.”

Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) – TC Ziraat Bankasi, Turkey’s main lender, is close to securing a $1.92 billion loan from Deutsche Bank, signaling the willingness of international companies to do business in Turkey. The loan will support SMEs and international trade.

BlackRock (NYSE:BLK) – BlackRock launched the BlackRock Total Return ETF, an ETF version of its successful mutual fund. Active bond ETFs, due to lower costs and easy intraday trading, are gaining popularity among notable asset managers, reflecting the growing interest in active bond management.

PayPal Holdings (NASDAQ:PYPL) – Dan Schulman, former CEO of PayPal, will leave the company’s board earlier than planned, ending his direct involvement sooner. He originally planned to stay until the next annual shareholder meeting in May.

Lincoln National (NYSE:LNC) – Lincoln National will sell its wealth management unit, Lincoln Wealth, to Osaic, with estimated capital benefits of $700 million. The transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of 2024, as part of the brokerage sector consolidation.

Quanex Corp (NYSE:NX) – Quanex reported a 3.9% decrease in fiscal fourth-quarter sales compared to the previous year, totaling $295.5 million. The company is cautious for the first half due to economic challenges and seasonality, but expects improvement in the second half with the recovery of consumer confidence.

Lennar (NYSE:LEN) – Lennar reported profits in the fourth quarter and for the year that exceeded estimates. Lennar reported earnings of $4.82 per share on revenue of $11 billion, surpassing expectations. Mortgage rates fluctuated during the quarter, impacting homebuyer sentiment.

Scholastic (NASDAQ:SCHL) – Scholastic reported a decline in revenue for the back-to-school quarter due to the decline in the book club business. The company also lowered its profit projections for fiscal year 2024, facing challenges in US schools. In the second fiscal quarter, it reported a profit of $76.9 million and revenue of $562.6 million, a 4% decrease.

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