In the pre-market on Thursday, U.S. index futures show mixed performance ahead of the last two trading sessions of the year, with a focus on the possibility of the S&P 500 reaching a record high.

At 05:20 AM, Dow Jones futures (DOWI:DJI) fell 38 points, or 0.10%. S&P 500 futures rose 0.04%, and Nasdaq-100 futures advanced 0.23%. The yield on 10-year Treasury bonds was at 3.818%.

In the commodities market, West Texas Intermediate crude oil for February fell 1.30% to $73.15 per barrel. Brent crude oil for February fell 1.13%, nearing $78.75 per barrel. Iron ore with a 62% concentration level, traded on the Dalian exchange, dropped 1.33% to $136.63 per ton.

On the economic calendar for Thursday, investors are awaiting wholesale inventories for November at 08:30 AM, as well as jobless claims for the week ending last Saturday. Pending home sales for November by the NAR will be released at 10:00 AM. At 10:30 AM, the inventory position of oil as of last Friday will be published by the Department of Energy (DoE).

European markets are operating with mixed results. The European Stoxx 600 is stable, with healthcare stocks rising by 0.4% and oil and gas stocks falling by 0.6%. The blue-chip index was close to the November 2021 record of 483.44, on track for a gain of about 13% this year.

Chinese stocks led gains in Asia, heading for their best day in four months, benefiting from the recovery of weaker sectors in 2023, particularly in tourism and semiconductors. Markets in Hong Kong, India, and Australia also saw gains, while Japan’s Nikkei recorded a slight decline.

The U.S. markets experienced an indecisive trading session on Wednesday, with major indexes fluctuating, but the Dow Jones reached a new closing record at 37,656.52, and both Nasdaq and S&P 500 hit their highest closing levels in nearly two years. Treasury yields fell, boosting optimism about interest rates. However, traders showed reluctance to buy more stocks due to the recent market strength. Various sectors had modest movements, with tobacco and gold stocks standing out, while energy stocks fell with oil prices.

Wall Street Corporate Highlights for Today

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) – After winning a legal dispute, Apple resumed sales of the Apple Watches, including Series 9 and Ultra 2. The decision followed a temporary block of an import ban due to a patent dispute with Masimo Corp (NASDAQ:MASI). The watches are available in stores and online. The company awaits a decision on a longer suspension of the ban, while U.S. Customs evaluates the redesign of the models. Apple’s shares are up 0.3% in Thursday’s pre-market.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) – In pre-market trading, Microsoft shares saw a slight increase of 0.2%, reaching $374.87. Wedbush Securities raised its price target for Microsoft from $425 to $450, maintaining an “Outperform” rating. Analysts believe artificial intelligence has the potential to significantly alter Microsoft’s growth curve in the cloud sector in the coming years. (NASDAQ:AMZN) – Starting January 29, Amazon’s Prime Video will introduce “limited ads” in movies and TV shows, as communicated to subscribers. Amazon justifies this will aid in continuous content investment, promising fewer ads than linear TV or streaming competitors. Amazon spent $16.6 billion on streaming content in 2022 and recorded significant profits and revenues in the third quarter. Prime Video subscribers wishing to continue watching ad-free will have to pay an additional $2.99 per month, a reverse approach to rivals like Netflix and Disney+, which offer cheaper plans with ads.

EchoStar (NASDAQ:SATS) – EchoStar was chosen to replace Dish Network in the S&P SmallCap 600 index from January 2, as informed by S&P Dow Jones Indices. In August, it was announced that EchoStar, a satellite communications company, would merge with Dish, a subscription television service provider.

Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG), (NASDAQ:AMZN) – Plug Power installed a system at Amazon in Aurora, Colorado, to produce low-carbon hydrogen for over 225 forklifts. CEO Andy Marsh highlighted Plug’s ability to provide complete hydrogen solutions. With over 17,000 fuel cells already deployed at Amazon centers, Plug sees the project as a model for future installations in the U.S. and Europe. Plug’s shares fell 61% in the year. RBC Capital Markets sees potential in Plug’s decentralized hydrogen production model, setting a price target of $5 for the shares. (NASDAQ:JD) – In 2024, plans to significantly increase employee salaries to face stiff competition and the uncertainty of the Chinese market. The company, competing with giants like Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) and ByteDance, will double the salaries of certain teams and raise an average of 20% for the retail team.

Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) – U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman denied Alibaba’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit over allegations of selling counterfeit Squishmallows on its platforms. Kelly Toys, owned by Jazwares of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A), accused Alibaba of allowing copyright and trademark violations. Alibaba, which faced six previous lawsuits, is criticized for not enforcing its “three strikes” policy and for rewarding infringing merchants. Kelly Toys sued about 90 sellers in November 2022 and added Alibaba as a defendant in March. Alibaba argued that Kelly Toys was improperly transferring the burden of policing its intellectual property.

New York Times (NYSE:NYT), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) – The New York Times filed a lawsuit against Microsoft and OpenAI, accusing them of using the newspaper’s content without authorization to develop AI products. The newspaper claims that the companies’ AI tools, including Microsoft’s Copilot and OpenAI’s ChatGPT, were built using copyrighted articles. The Times, which unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate with the companies, seeks damages and an end to the allegedly unauthorized use of its content.

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) – Housing construction in China is expected to fall in 2024, impacting economic growth. Ten banks, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, predict three years of decline, with an 8% drop by November 2023. The real estate sector, vital to the economy, faces recession despite government measures. Economists predict different rates of contraction, while some indicate signs of stabilization.

Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), General Electric (NYSE:GE) – Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and GE Vernova of General Electric participated in financing $11 billion for Pattern Energy’s SunZia Transmission and SunZia Wind projects in New Mexico. Considered the largest in U.S. clean energy infrastructure, Wells Fargo led $8.8 billion in financings with global banks, while Bank of America and GE Vernova, along with others, provided $2.25 billion in loans. The project includes a 550-mile transmission line and a 3,515-megawatt wind facility.

MicroStrategy (NASDAQ:MSTR) – MicroStrategy, led by Bitcoin enthusiast Michael Saylor, disclosed the purchase of 14,620 Bitcoins for $615.7 million. With this, MicroStrategy holds 189,150 Bitcoins, averaging $31,168 each.

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey requested Tesla’s Elon Musk to immediately recall faulty steering and suspension parts. They expressed concerns about Tesla’s safety and communication practices. The action follows a Reuters investigation, accusing Tesla of blaming drivers for known defects.

General Motors (NYSE:GM) – GM sued San Francisco, demanding over $100 million. GM alleges that excessive taxes were improperly based on its autonomous car subsidiary, Cruise. GM argues that Cruise operates separately, with minimal sales, and should not influence GM’s tax calculations in the city. In the lawsuit, GM seeks to recover $108 million in taxes and $13 million in fines and interest. The action arises as San Francisco faces a budget deficit but represents a small fraction of GM’s total sales.

Grand Canyon Education (NASDAQ:LOPE) – The FTC sued Grand Canyon Education, accusing it of misleading potential students about costs and falsely marketing Grand Canyon University as a non-profit entity. The FTC alleges that GCU and its CEO Brian Mueller inaccurately informed about doctoral program costs, requiring additional, costly “continuation courses”. The FTC also denounced GCU for aggressive telemarketing, aiming to boost enrollments. The agency seeks preventive measures and compensations.

Iovance Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ:IOVA) – Iovance Biotherapeutics received a halt from the FDA on its clinical trial IOV-LUN-202 for lung cancer treatment, due to a fatal event. Shares dropped 24.3% on Wednesday with a volume of 22.4 million shares, 351% above the average. The company seeks to safely resume the trial. Iovance emphasizes its commitment to patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, a type with poor prognosis and few treatment options. Iovance’s shares increased 5.3% in 2023, against a 44.3% gain of the Nasdaq.

Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (NYSE:SQM) – Chile’s SQM and Codelco, the National Copper Corporation of Chile, joined forces in a public-private sector collaboration to explore lithium in the Salar de Atacama, a vast reserve of this mineral, from 2025 to 2060.

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