December 6, 2018

News to know before the Opening Bell

1. Huawei CFO arrested: The chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei has been arrested in Canada. She now faces extradition to the United States.

Meng Wanzhou was apprehended in Vancouver on December 1, according to a spokesperson for the Canadian Justice Department. Huawei said she faces unspecified charges in the Eastern District of New York.

Meng was granted a publication ban barring both police and prosecutors from releasing information about the case. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that the US Justice Department was investigating whether Huawei violated US sanctions on Iran.

The arrest of Meng, who is deputy chairwoman of the company's board and the daughter of its founder, could have implications for US-China relations and the trade war truce struck less than a week ago.

"The company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng," a Huawei spokesperson said. "The company believes the Canadian and US legal systems will ultimately reach a just conclusion. Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations where it operates, including applicable export control and sanction laws and regulations of the UN, US and EU."

US officials have warned for years that mobile networking equipment manufactured by Huawei threatens national security. In February, top US intelligence officials said that Huawei smartphones also pose a security threat.

2. Market fallout: The arrest sent major shock waves through Asian stock markets. The main index in Hong Kong fell more than 2.5% and Tokyo stocks dropped nearly 2%. Shanghai's market slid about 1.7%.

Huawei isn't listed on a stock exchange. But shares in ZTE (ZTCOF), a Chinese tech firm that was temporarily crippled by a US export ban earlier this year, slumped sharply.

Huawei suppliers AAC Technologies (AACAY) and Sunny Optical (SNPTF) both plunged around 6% in Hong Kong.

Markets were also unsettled in Europe, where major indexes fell by up to 1.5%. US stock futures were pointing down more than 1%.

The arrest could overshadow talks between the United States and China aimed at defusing their damaging trade war. Investors were already worried that a truce negotiated at the G20 would not hold.

Those fears contributed to a major US stocks sell-off on Tuesday. The Dow closed down 3.1%, the S&P 500 dropped 3.2% and the Nasdaq shed 3.8%. (US markets were closed on Wednesday.)

Still, China is confident it can reach a trade agreement with the United States in early 2019.

Gao Feng, a spokesman for China's Commerce Ministry told reporters Thursday that "the two teams are currently communicating smoothly and cooperating well. We are full of confidence to reach an agreement within 90 days."

3. OPEC meeting: Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries are meeting in Vienna on Thursday. They'll discuss cutting production to stabilize the world market after US crude prices plunged 22% in November, marking the the worst month since the global financial crisis in October 2008.

US crude oil is now trading around $52 a barrel, down from a four-year high above $76 in early October. Brent crude has plunged to $61 from above $86.

Led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC will also seek Russian backing for supply restraint to put a floor underneath prices.

Saudi Arabia's approach to this week's meeting has been complicated by intense public pressure from President Donald Trump on the kingdom to allow prices to fall even further.

"Hopefully OPEC will be keeping oil flows as is, not restricted," Trump tweeted on Wednesday. "The world does not want to see, or need, higher oil prices!"

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4. Earnings and economics: Duluth Trading Co (DLTH), H&R Block (HRB), Kroger (KR), Lands' End (LE), Michaels Stores (MIK) and The Children's Place (PLCE) will release earnings before the bell.

Lululemon Athletica (LULU) and Ulta Beauty (ULTA) will follow after the close.

The US Census Bureau will release its October trade balance report at 8:30 a.m. ET.

5. Coming this week: Thursday --- OPEC meeting; Kroger (KR), Ulta (ULTA) and Broadcom (AVGO) earnings; Trial for government's appeal of AT&T-Time Warner deal begins Friday --- Jobs numbers

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