Stock futures muted as a powerful winter storm slams the U.S.; airline stocks in focus as once-in-a-generation snowstorm snarls travel; Twitter announces more layoffs; Elon Musk pledges to pause on Tesla share sales; Meta settles privacy lawsuit.
Here are five things you must know for Friday, December 23:
1. — Stock Futures Muted as Investors Eye Winter Storm Impact
U.S. equity futures were muted on Friday in light pre-Christmas trading as investors eyed what is being called a once-in-a-generation winter storm that is bringing record-cold temperatures and heavy snow across a large portion of the U.S., wreaking havoc on Christmas holiday travel plans.
On Wall Street, futures contracts tied to the S&P 500 were indicating a 53-point opening bell gain, while futures linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average are priced for a 1.5-point increase. Futures tied to the tech-focused Nasdaq are indicating a 12-point move to the downside.
Stocks ended sharply lower Thursday, dashing hopes of a last-minute Santa Claus rally, after strong consumer confidence data and better-than-feared earnings failed to offset negative news from semiconductor giant Micron Technology (MU) – Get Free Report, which announced plans to lay off 10% of its workforce.
Concerns about a rapid increase in Covid cases in China following the government’s recent about-face on its zero-Covid policy and whether the global economy will stall out even more come January also weighed on stocks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the trading day Thursday down 348 points, or 1.09%, at 33,027, while the S&P 500 dropped 1.45% and the tech-focused Nasdaq lost 2.18%.
That cautious stance continued into Friday as investors opted to sit on the sidelines ahead of the Christmas holiday and after what is shaping up to be the worst year for stocks since 2008.
Markets will be closed on Monday, Dec. 26 in observance of the holiday, which this year falls on Saturday. Markets will also be closed on Monday Jan. 2 in observance of the New Year holiday.
2. — Massive Winter Storm Snarls Pre-Christmas Travel
The massive winter storm battering the U.S. with plunging temperatures coast to coast has left thousands without power and prompted more than a dozen governors to create emergency response plans ahead of Christmas weekend.
The storm — well on its way to becoming even stronger Friday — has delivered heavy snow and ice, making for grim road conditions with poor visibility, leaving some drivers stranded in unbearably frigid temperatures.
As of Friday morning, more than 5,000 U.S. flights had been cancelled, according to tracking site FlightAware, with an additional 16,000 U.S. flights and counting marked as delayed.
Chicago’s two main airports — O’Hare and Midway — and Denver International Airport had the biggest share of canceled flights on Thursday. New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Detroit and Chicago Midway were set to have the most disruptions on Friday.
3. — More Layoffs at Twitter
More Twitter (TWTR) – Get Free Report employees were handed pink slips Thursday as part of ongoing, rolling layoffs under new owner Elon Musk, including from the public policy and media and entertainment teams.
According to tweets from affected employees who had remained following last month’s mass layoffs, members of Twitter’s public policy team were again cut down by about half to around 15 employees, a former Twitter employee with knowledge of the layoffs told CNN.
Thursday’s exits come after Musk laid off about half of Twitter’s workforce last month shortly after his takeover, and later pushed out additional employees, including through an ultimatum requiring them to work “hardcore” or exit the company.
Musk’s team — seeking to cut costs at the struggling company that the billionaire purchased for $44 billion — has continued to lay off hundreds of additional Twitter staff since then, including top engineering and legal talent.
More than 100 former Twitter employees have filed demands for arbitration or are participating in proposed class action lawsuits related to the layoffs.
4. — Elon Musk Pledges to Pause on Tesla Share Sales
In other Elon Musk news, the eclectic billionaire on Thursday pledged to pause selling shares in Tesla (TSLA) – Get Free Report and suggested he was contemplating a buyback of the company’s stock in a bid to ease concerns his purchase of Twitter was to the detriment of the electric-vehicle maker.
On a Twitter Spaces call Thursday, Musk signaled he would not sell any Tesla stock for a minimum of 18-24 months. The chief executive has liquidated more than $39 billion in the company’s shares since the stock peaked in November 2021.
“You certainly have my commitment I won’t sell stock until, I don’t know, probably two years from now. Definitely not next year under any circumstances and probably not the year thereafter,” he said. Mr. Musk has pledged not to sell Tesla shares before only to resume doing so.
In October, Musk said Tesla could pursue a share buyback of $5 billion to $10 billion and said a meaningful buyback was likely. The company has discussed such a share repurchase at the board level, he said, but hasn’t signed off on it.
5. — Meta Agrees to Pay $725 million to Settle Privacy Lawsuit
Facebook parent Meta (META) – Get Free Report has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class action lawsuit that claimed the social media giant gave third parties access to user data without their consent.
It is the “largest recovery ever achieved in a data privacy class action and the most Facebook has ever paid to resolve a private class action,” Keller Rohrback L.L.P, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, said in a court filing late Thursday announcing the settlement.
The class action lawsuit was prompted in 2018 after Facebook disclosed that the information of 87 million users was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy firm linked to former President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
The case was broadened to focus on Facebook’s overall data-sharing practices. Plaintiffs alleged that Facebook “granted numerous third parties access to their Facebook content and information without their consent, and that Facebook failed to adequately monitor the third parties’ access to, and use of, that information,” according to the settlement.