November 21, 2017

AT&T takeover trouble; Janet Yellen speaks; CBS vs. Dish

1. AT&T takeover trouble: Shares in AT&T and its takeover target, Time Warner, could be on the move Tuesday after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to block the $85 billion acquisition.

The DOJ argues that the deal violates antitrust law because AT&T would likely "use its control of Time Warner's popular programming as a weapon to harm competition." Time Warner is the parent company of CNN.

The government alleges that the deal "would result in fewer innovative offerings and higher bills for American families."

AT&T had been preparing for a legal challenge. It immediately disputed the government's claims on Monday and said it will fight the case in court.

David McAtee II, AT&T's general counsel, said in a statement: "Today's DOJ lawsuit is a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent. Vertical mergers like this one are routinely approved because they benefit consumers without removing any competitor from the market. We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently."

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson also sharply criticized the DOJ's decision.

"I've done a lot of deals in my career, but I've never done one where we have disagreed with the Department of Justice so much on even the most basic of facts," Stephenson said Monday. "The rule of law is at issue here."

2. Fed focus: The outgoing head of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, is set to speak at New York University on Tuesday.

Yellen told President Trump in a letter on Monday that she will step down from the Fed's Board of Governors when her successor is sworn in as Fed chair.

Trump recently selected Jerome Powell for the top job instead of nominating Yellen for a second term.

3. Stocks in the spotlight -- CBS, Dish, easyJet, Tencent: Investors will be monitoring a public spat between CBS and Dish Network.

CBS warned Dish customers Monday of a blackout that could deprive viewers of NFL and college football games over Thanksgiving.

CBS said that "unless agreements are reached," Dish viewers should be prepared to lose the network starting Monday at 11:59 p.m., MT. The two sides have been sparring over fees CBS wants from Dish for retransmission.

Dish responded by telling customers, "we are actively working to reach a fair deal before the contract expires knowing that only CBS can force a blackout of its channels."

Shares in easyJet were 5% higher in London trading as investors cheered the latest financial results from the budget airline.

Chinese social media giant Tencent is garnering attention after the firm's shares shot up by about 2%. The company's market valuation has now eclipsed that of Facebook.

4. Earnings: Campbell Soup, Cracker Barrel, Dollar Tree, Lowe's and Signet Jewelers will report earnings ahead of the opening bell.

Salesforce, HP and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are among the companies reporting after the close.

5. Global market overview: U.S. stock futures were little changed. The main indexes posted gains on Monday, and are within spitting distance of record highs set earlier this month.

European markets were quiet in early trading.

Asian markets ended the day with gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index performed especially well with a 1.9% gain.

6. Coming this week: Tuesday -- Salesforce, HP and Hewlett Packard Enterprise earnings Wednesday -- University of Michigan consumer sentiment report for November, U.K. unveils annual budget plans, Fed releases latest meeting minutes Thursday -- Markets closed for Thanksgiving Friday -- Black Friday, Markets close at 1 p.m.

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