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Morning Brief: Focus is on tax reform as final trading week of 2017 begins

Monday, December 18, 2017

What to watch today

With stocks at record highs, investors will keep their focus on tax reform and the goings-on in Washington, D.C. for the final full trading week of the year. Late Friday, Republican leadership released a draft of its plan to cut corporate taxes that could come to a vote in both houses of Congress next week.

And while activity on Wall Street is certainly winding down into year end, the economic and earnings calendars in the week ahead are perhaps not a barren as one might expect. The economics agenda gives us a third estimate on third quarter GDP growth, as well as readings on consumer sentiment, and a bevy of housing market data.

And on the earnings side, results are expected from FedEx (FDX), Nike (NKE), Micron (MU), Darden (DRI), Bed, Bath & Beyond (BBBY), and Accenture (ACN) among others.

Bitcoin (BTC-USD) will also remain a big storyline in markets with the CME Group having launched bitcoin futures on Sunday evening, joining the Cboe as another major financial exchange offering derivatives on the digital currency.

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Top news

Corker pushes for details on pass-through provision in tax bill:  Senator Bob Corker wrote to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch asking for an “explanation” of how a provision on pass-through businesses that would benefit real estate investors came to be included in the final version of the Republican tax bill. [Bloomberg]

Humana in talks to buy Kindred Healthcare with equity firms:  U.S. health insurer Humana Inc (HUM) is in advanced talks to acquire acute care provider Kindred Healthcare Inc (KND) in partnership with private equity firms Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe and TPG, a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday. [Reuters]

GM faces $1 billion reckoning:  General Motors Co. (GM) faces a potential payout of $1 billion in stock to address claims related to the Detroit auto giant’s ignition-switch crisis, depending on the outcome of a looming trial. The trial, set to start Monday in a Manhattan federal bankruptcy court, centers on whether General Motors can stop a deal reached in August between ignition-switch plaintiffs and a trust representing creditors of so-called Old GM, the assets the auto maker left behind in 2009 as part of its $50 billion government rescue and restructuring. [The Wall Street Journal]

CSX CEO dies months into railroad’s turnaround effort: CSX Corp. (CSX) Chief Executive Hunter Harrison has died, the freight railway operator said on Saturday, just a few days after announcing that the veteran rail executive hired earlier this year to boost its profits had taken a medical leave of absence. The company, which on Friday brushed off questions about whether the board has been slow to disclose Harrison’s health problems, provided no further details about his cause of death. [Reuters]

Hershey nears $1.6 billion deal to buy Amplify Snacks: Hershey Co. (HSY), the maker of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Hershey’s Kisses, is nearing a deal to buy SkinnyPop parent Amplify Snack Brands (BETR) for $1.6 billion, CNBC reported on Monday. The deal, which could be announced as early as Monday, would value Amplify at $12 a share, a 71% premium to Friday’s closing price, CNBC added, citing sources familiar with the matter. [CNBC via Reuters]

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ opens with galactic $450M box office: The eighth movie in the “Star Wars” saga created by George Lucas in 1977 burst into theaters with a staggering $450 million in global ticket sales in its opening weekend, confirming that the celebrated space adventure franchise remained a powerful force at the box office. The debut marks another major success for Walt Disney Co. (DIS), which bought “Star Wars” producer Lucasfilm in 2012. [Reuters]

 

Passengers wait for the lights to come back on at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. A power outage at the airport disrupted ingoing and outgoing flights for hours. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

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The Morning Brief provides a quick rundown on what to watch in the markets, top news stories, and the best of Yahoo Finance Originals.