Stocks have regained much of yesterday's losses following media reports that China is still willing to accept a limited trade deal and plans to offer to increase agricultural purchases despite the recent U.S. moves to blacklist Chinese technology firms and impose visa restrictions on Chinese nationals. The renewed optimism about a "skinny" trade deal could be short-lived, as trade deal sentiment has been known to turn sharply in the past based on new headlines. As investors await news on the trade talks that start tomorrow, they'll have the minutes of the last FOMC meeting to parse later this afternoon.
ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., the JOLTS report showed job openings dropped to 7.05M in August to hit their lowest level since March 2018. The wholesale trade report slightly undershot estimates with a flat sales figure for August and a slight downward revision of July's increase to 0.2%. A 0.2% rise in August inventories also undershot the 0.4% advance reading.
TOP NEWS: A Philadelphia jury ruled that Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) must pay $8B in punitive damages to a man who was previously awarded $680,000 over his claims that antipsychotic drug Risperdal caused him to grow breasts. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury verdict was the first case in which a Pennsylvania jury had been able to weigh awarding punitive damage in one of thousands of Risperdal cases pending in the state, Reuters reported. In response, J&J called the jury award "grossly disproportionate with the initial compensatory award in this case" and said the company is "confident it will be overturned."
Pacific Gas and Electric (PCG) confirmed last night that it will implement a power shutoff in portions of 34 northern, central and coastal counties, affecting electric service for nearly 800,000 customers, as a precautionary measure to reduce wildfire risk during the forecasted severe wind event.
In M&A news, The Wall Street Journal reported that Lions Gate (LGF.A) is weighing splitting off its Starz channel into a separate company, as the studio seeks to reduce its large debt load and let shareholders invest directly in either of the businesses. People familiar with the matter say that the company has been in talks to separate the two entities through a variety of means, including a sale, a spinoff, or a special-purpose acquisition vehicle, according to the report.
MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was American Outdoor Brands (AOBC), which rose 8% after Craig-Hallum analyst Steven Dyer upgraded the stock to Buy from Hold, with an unchanged price target of $10.
Also higher was FireEye (FEYE), which gained 5% following its better than expected Q3 revenue pre-announcement.
Among the notable losers was James River Group (JRVR), which slid 22% after announcing that it delivered a notice of early cancellation, effective December 31, of all insurance policies issued to its largest customer, Uber (UBER) commercial auto business Raiser LLC. Also lower was U.S. Steel (X), which fell 9% after announcing the resignation of CFO Kevin Bradley.
INDEXES: Near midday,
the Dow was up 170.19, or 0.65%, to 26,334.23, the Nasdaq was up 77.59, or 0.99%, to 7,901.36, and the S&P 500 was up 23.67, or 0.82%, to 2,916.73.