June 13, 2018

Media merger mania and other news to know before the Opening Bell

1. Consolidation nation: Investors are preparing for a round of big media takeovers following a historic court ruling allowing AT&T to acquire Time Warner for $85 billion.

A federal judge's decision on Tuesday to approve the deal between the telecom and media giants will almost certainly spur Comcast to submit its own bid for most of 21st Century Fox.

An announcement could be imminent and would set up Comcast for a showdown with Disney, which already locked in its own $52.4 billion bid for the same Fox assets months ago.

Both companies want to buy Fox for the same reason AT&T wants to buy Time Warner: survival. It's an attempt to grow and beat back digital competition from the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

Fox shares were poised to open 7% higher on Wednesday. Shares in Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, were up 5% in premarket trade.

Meanwhile, shares in CBS, Viacom, Lions Gate and Discovery all gained in extended trading. Those companies have either said publicly that they want to explore mergers or have been mentioned as potential targets for acquisition.

Shares in British broadcaster Sky -- which has received competing takeover bids from Fox and Comcast -- were on the move in London trading, down by about 1%.

2. Rate hike coming: The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates for the second time this year at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Fed chairman Jerome Powell will hold a press conference after the announcement.

Investors will be listening for insight into the Fed's plans to raise interest rates further this year. There are also signs that Powell could announce a change to his press conference schedule.

The Fed currently holds a press conference after every other rate decision. The Wall Street Journal reported this could be tweaked so that Powell holds a press conference each time.

"My colleagues and I are committed to communicating as clearly as possible about what we're doing and why we're doing it," Powell said in March.

3. Stock market movers -- ZTE, Toshiba, H&R Block: Shares in ZTE plunged 42% in Hong Kong as the Chinese tech firm's stock began trading for the first time after a crippling US ban.

The sharp drop wiped billions of dollars off the company's market value.

Shares in ZTE, which makes smartphones and other telecommunications equipment, had been suspended for the past eight weeks after the US Commerce Department blocked US firms from selling parts or providing services to the company. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced a deal last week to lift the ban.

Shares in Toshiba surged by 7% in Tokyo after the company announce a multi-billion dollar share buyback plan.

In the US, H&R Block stock plunged by about 20% premarket as investors react negatively to the firm's latest quarterly earnings.

4. Global market overview: US stock futures were little changed on Wednesday.

European and Asian markets were mixed in early trading.

The Nasdaq hit a new record on Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average was flat and S&P 500 gained 0.2%.

5. Coming this week: Wednesday — Federal Reserve interest rate decision Thursday — US retail sales for May Friday — Deadline for the White House to publish Chinese tariff list covering $50 billion worth of products

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