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Tracking Irma — What you need to know in markets on Friday

Myles Udland
Markets Reporter

To cap a holiday-shortened week, investors will likely remain most focused on the progress of Hurricane Irma down in the Caribbean.

Set to make landfall over the weekend, the storm was still a category 5 storm as of the National Hurricane Center’s update at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday. On the economic calendar, things will be subdued with only the monthly report on consumer credit is set for release in the afternoon.

The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecasted track for Hurricane Irma. (Source: NHC)

On Thursday, headline moves in the major averages were muted, though media stocks got slammed after Disney (DIS) issued a profit warning and Comcast (CMCSA) said subscriber adds would disappoint in the current quarter. Disney shares fell 4% on Thursday, dragging down the Dow.

Markets were also keeping an eye on Washington, D.C., where the Senate voted to pass the three-month debt ceiling extension deal President Donald Trump struck with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, on Wednesday.

Though as Yahoo Finance’s Rick Newman noted on Thursday, Trump’s plan to have tax reform done by the end of the year just got a bit harder as another fight on the debt ceiling is now set for later this year.

The Amazon Olympics

As we near the end of the third quarter of this year there is no question that Amazon (AMZN) has been the biggest corporate newsmaker of the year.

Shares of the online retail giant are up 29% year-to-date (though notably, the stock is down 3% in the last three months). The company is now in the grocery business after buying Whole Foods for over $13 billion. And Wall Street bankers are getting calls from companies asking if they think Amazon would be interested in buying them. You know, instead of just competing away their margins.

And then on Thursday, the story entered another phase after Amazon said it would look to build a second headquarters in North America that can handle the same amount of staff the company currently has at its Seattle, Washington HQ.

In a release, Amazon said it needs space for up to 50,000 jobs, that it would invest $5 billion in the project, and would like public transportation options, access to an international airport, and a metro area with at least one million people.

Amazon’s campus in downtown Seattle.

Conor Sen, writing at Bloomberg View on Thursday, singled out six metro areas that seem to most readily meet these needs — Toronto, Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas, and Denver.

Sen added that this is, “the Olympics of corporate relocations.”

Which also captures what discussing Amazon has sort of become for the business press: a sport.

Amazon buying Whole Foods is the kind of deal you draw up when doing a fantasy football-style mashup of the current corporate landscape, not entirely different from the calls we periodically hear that Apple (AAPL), with their hundreds of billions in cash, should buy Netflix (NFLX) or Tesla (TSLA).

Amazon’s deal for Whole Foods was part the company acquiring small distribution centers in dense, well-off neighborhoods, part the company moving into the food space, and part two big names smashing together leading everyone to have an opinion.

So when it comes to where Amazon should move its second headquarters, we get the same kind of urges.

Could Amazon redefine one of the South’s booming metros like Charlotte or Raleigh, North Carolina? Could Amazon make a play to reinvigorate a New Jersey office park that seems like it’s from another era (because it is)? Will Amazon double-down on the tech-heavy Bay Area and plant a second flag on the West Coast in San Francisco or down the road in Silicon Valley? Or will Amazon look north of the border — note that they said “North American city” not “U.S.” — and buy into booming Toronto while also subtly thumbing its nose at the Trump administration?

Everything, it seems, would be on the table.

And why not? If we’re talking about Amazon as a company that gives each of us observing the business world from afar a chance to think about what we’d do with the kind of long-term shareholder base and cash flow Amazon has, then we may as well allow ourselves to dream and think big.

And because no matter what does happen, eventually the Amazon story won’t just be fun all the time, either.

Myles Udland is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @MylesUdland

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