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Morning Brief: Alabama votes to fill Senate seat

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What to watch today

With investors preparing for the Federal Reserve announcement on Wednesday and continuing to digest the debut of bitcoin futures trading, Tuesday will bring markets the week’s biggest political news. Alabama will vote to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with the race pitting Democrat Doug Jones against Republican Roy Moore. Three polls released Monday show a very mixed picture for the race, with both Jones and Moore being shown to hold big leads in competing results and a third pointing to a race that is tied. Regardless of the outcome, Republicans will maintain a majority in the Senate, though it would be down a single vote if Jones were to prevail.

Elsewhere on the calendar, the economic schedule will bring us the November reading on small business confidence, which has been solid since President Donald Trump’s surprise election win last year. This report will be watched for any commentary from the NFIB — the small-business group that publishes the report — on the proposed tax plans in Washington, D.C.

The earnings schedule has lightened up considerably as we approach the end of the year and a lull between third- and fourth-quarter earnings reporting periods, but on Tuesday we will get results from payments company Verifone (PAY) and recent IPO MongoDB (MDB).

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Top news

Comcast drops bid for Fox assets, leaving Disney in pole position:  Comcast Corp. (CCV) said on Monday it had abandoned its bid for most of the assets of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. (FOX), leaving Walt Disney Co. (DIS) as the sole suitor in pursuit of the $40 billion-plus deal. Sources told Reuters last week that Disney was in the lead to acquire the assets, which include Fox’s FX and National Geographic cable channels, its movie studio, the Star network in India and stake in European pay-TV provider Sky PLC. [Reuters]

Icahn wages new fight with Xerox:  Activist investor Carl Icahn says he will nominate four people to join the board of Xerox (XRX) at the annual shareholder meeting next year. The move comes after former Icahn Capital managing director Jonathan Christodoro resigned from Xerox’s board on Friday, fearing it would make decisions and take the company in a direction in which he “strongly disagrees,” Xerox said on Monday. [CNBC]

SoftBank to invest about $500 million more in satellite-internet venture:  Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. has agreed to invest roughly $500 million more in satellite broadband provider OneWeb Ltd., according to a person familiar with the details, boosting the U.S. startup’s plan to offer significantly faster internet connections world-wide than most traditional systems, either space-based or terrestrial. The latest commitment would boost SoftBank’s total investment in the project to about $1.5 billion. [The Wall Street Journal]

Buffett’s about to get $3 billion back from Burger King owner:  Restaurant Brands International Inc. (QSR) is scheduled to redeem $3 billion in preferred shares Tuesday from Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The money helped the fast-food chain finance its 2014 purchase of Tim Hortons. The redemption will take away a lucrative investment for Berkshire and add to Buffett’s arsenal for investments and takeovers. [Bloomberg]

Bitcoin frenzy poses no threat to bullion, Goldman Sachs says:  While bitcoin has shown much greater volatility and lower liquidity compared to gold, the $275 billion market value of bitcoin is dwarfed by gold’s $8.3 trillion, analysts including Jeffrey Currie and Michael Hinds wrote in a note dated Dec. 11. [Bloomberg]

Environmental activists display banners during a protest in support of the Paris climate accord as part of the One Planet Summit in Paris, France, December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

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