Fear on Wall Street; Chaos in Washington; Carlos Ghosn rearrested

Posted at 3:13 AM, Dec 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-21 08:27:23-05

1. Fear on Wall Street: US stock futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Friday, suggesting the dramatic sell-off sparked by economic and political worries may be over — for now.

Investors remain concerned about weaker global economic growth, and the pace of future interest rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve. The Dow has lost 1,240 points this week.

Events in Washington have added new fuel to those worries.

The United States appears to be headed for a government shutdown because of a political fight over money for a border wall.

Funding will expire for several key US government agencies at midnight on Friday. If the deadline is not extended, those agencies will shutter just days before Christmas.

The resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday has thrown the capital into further disarray.

2. How markets are reacting: The Dow dropped 464 points, or 2%, on Thursday. The index closed below 23,000 for the first time since October 2017.

The Nasdaq lost 1.6% and only narrowly avoided closing in its first bear market since the Great Recession. The S&P 500 declined 1.6%.

The VIX volatility index jumped to the highest level since February. The CNN Business Fear & Greed Index of market sentiment dipped deeper into “extreme fear” territory.

On Friday, the pain extended to select global markets. European markets opened lower, while stocks in Asia were mixed.

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3. Carlos Ghosn may spend Christmas in jail: Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn was rearrested Friday by Japanese authorities over additional allegations of breach of trust.

Ghosn, who has been jailed for more than a month, scored a small legal victory on Thursday when a Tokyo court rejected a request to extend his detention on allegations of under-reporting his income. That raised the possibility that the auto industry legend could be released on bail before Christmas.

The new arrest means he can be held for at least another two days. With court approval, they can extend the detention by a further 10 to 20 days.

Ghosn’s arrest in Tokyo last month on allegations of financial misconduct has shaken the international auto industry and strained the alliance he built between Nissan (NSANY), Renault (RNSDF) and Mitsubishi Motors (MMTOF).

4. Companies and economics: CarMax (KMX) will release earnings before the open.

Shares in Nike (NKE) rallied 7% in extended trading after the company said that sales surged 10% in the three months ended November 30 compared to last year.

That included a 26% increase in China, thanks to sales from Singles Day and demand for sneakers like Air Jordan.

The US Bureau of Economic Analysis will release two key pieces of data at 8:30 a.m. ET: a report on personal income in November, and a third estimate of third-quarter GDP.

Investors will be watching for any signs of weakness in the US economy. The second GDP estimate, released at the end of November, was a rate of 3.5% annualized growth. That was slower than the 4.2% rate in the second quarter, because of a deceleration in business investment.

Canada’s latest GDP figures will also be released at 8:30 a.m. ET.

5. Coming this week:
Friday — Carmax (KMX) earnings; GDP third estimate