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Dunkin' Brands to go private in $8.76B deal by Arby's owner

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Inspire Brands Inc will buy Dunkin' Brands Group Inc for $8.76 billion, the two companies said late on Friday, bringing chains like Arby's and Dunkin' Donuts under the same umbrella in one of the largest restaurant deals.

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Inspire Brands, which owns Arby's, Buffalo Wild Wings and Sonic Drive-In, said its all-cash deal to take the owner of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins chains private would value it at $106.50 a share. That represents a nearly 20% premium over Dunkin's last closing share price on Oct. 23, before the New York Times first reported the deal talks.

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Including debt, the deal is valued at about $11.3 billion, the companies said.

Sales at Dunkin' and Baskin-Robbins have improved from their lockdown lows in recent weeks, boosted by strong demand for its curbside pickup, drive-thru and delivery options.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DNKN DUNKIN BRANDS GROUP 99.71 -1.39 -1.37%

Dunkin' and Baskin-Robbins on Thursday posted a surprise rise in U.S. comparable sales in the third quarter.

Dunkin' and Baskin-Robbins will operate as distinct brands within Inspire, the companies said.

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"We are excited to bring meaningful value to shareholders who … believe that Inspire Brands … will continue to drive growth for our franchisees while remaining true to all that is unique and special about the Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins brands," Dunkin' Brands Chief Executive Officer Dave Hoffmann said.

Dunkin' Brands operates 12,900 Dunkin' restaurants and more than 8,000 Baskin-Robbins stores around the world. Inspire Brands, which was formed in 2018 by private equity firm Roark Capital as a holding company, has a portfolio of more than 11,000 restaurants.

DUNKIN', POST TEAM UP FOR COFFEE-FLAVORED CEREAL

"They will strengthen Inspire through their scaled international platform and robust consumer packaged goods licensing infrastructure, as well as add more than 15 million loyalty members," Paul Brown, chief executive officer of Inspire Brands, said.

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The Wall Street Journal first reported the confirmation of deal.

Barclays was the financial adviser to Inspire, while BofA Securities advised Dunkin’ Brands.

(Reporting by Shubham Kalia and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler)

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West Virginia voters laud Trump for trying to save coal

Voters associate Trump agenda with ‘more jobs, higher wages’: Morgenstern

White House deputy communications director Brian Morgenstern discusses the presidential election and a stimulus deal.

As a laid-off coal mine electrician, Nolan Triplett doesn't think his industry will ever return to the heady days when it powered America and offered generations of Appalachians a chance at a middle-class life.

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But he still backs the president who said he'd reopen the mines and put thousands back to work, even if such promises proved empty.

“Even if I don’t go back to this industry, I’m still with him,” said Triplett, 41, outside a mine worker certification office in Danville, a town of about 700 people along the Little Coal River in Boone County south of Charleston.

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Four years after Donald Trump donned a miner’s helmet at a West Virginia campaign rally and vowed to save a dying industry, coal has not come roaring back. The fuel has been outmatched by cheaper, cleaner natural gas and renewable energy.

But many West Virginians applaud Trump's efforts and remain loyal as he seeks a second term. Triplett and other voters say they are attracted to his “America First” slogan and anti-abortion stance, and figure he's the only one standing in the way of the entire industry closing down.

“He’s done good for this country all around," said Triplett, who lost his last mine job when the pandemic hit.

Democrat Joe Biden, who calls global warming an existential crisis, has promised to steer investments to coal and power plant communities, creating new jobs in renewable energy.

But many in coal country seem more intent on blaming the climate-change messenger than considering his plans for growth.

Next to Triplett stood Ronnie Starr, who lives near the Kentucky border in Mingo County, the scene of a legendary shootout over labor rights in the mines a century ago. He's had to move as far as Alabama to find work as a mine electrician since he started in the early 2000s, and is also out of a job now. He said the last Democrat he voted for was Bill Clinton, and he enthusiastically supports Trump.

“You got the right president, things go good,” said Starr, 43.

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“And you got one group that hates us with a passion and would rather see us starve out and die,” Triplett cut in, “then you get another group that supports us, so it’s a rollercoaster.”

Since 2014, West Virginia has lost nearly a third of its remaining full-time coal jobs as production declines, starving local governments of revenue. When Trump took office in January 2017, Boone County received nearly $269,000 in quarterly coal company severance taxes. This October, it got just $42,300.

Nationally, cheap natural gas is beating coal on the market and coal-powered plants are closing. Coal consumption decreased nearly 15% in 2019 alone, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In 2016, the federal agency reported the industry’s worst jobs record since it began collecting this data in 1978, showing a yearly average of 51,795 employees at U.S. coal mines. Employment increased by a marginal 1.9% as of 2019.

“The coal jobs did not come back as the president promised,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a rare Democrat still thriving in West Virginia. “The markets have shifted.”

Anthony Starkey, a retired miner in Danville, said Trump earned his vote again by signing a bill last year to save the pensions of some retired coal workers, including his own.

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“He’s a typical New Yorker, he’s arrogant,” Starkey said, pausing while mowing the lawn outside the Independent Order of Odd Fellows lodge in Madison, the Boone County seat. “Whether you love him or hate him, he’s done what he’s said he’s going to do.”

Starkey, 62, said he was a Democrat all the years he worked as a miner, starting at about 17 in the early 1980s. He retired early at 38, drawing from a pension that nearly got wiped out as coal companies that paid into the fund went bankrupt. The relief Trump signed replaced corporate spending with $10 billion in public dollars to rescue pensions for 92,000 retirees, and health benefits for 13,000.

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“If he was a typical Republican, he would not have signed that bill,” said Starkey.

Business has fallen off in the Danville hardware store Fred Byrnside, 73, has run for 30 years. “There was a time when 24-year-olds were getting jobs here in the mines,” he said.

“One time he could buy me lunch, and now he can’t afford it," cracked Craig Bratcher, a Boone County commissioner who stopped into the store.

Bratcher, who describes himself as a moderate, wouldn't say who he’ll vote for, but offered a forgiving assessment of Trump.

“He’s come in and he’s tried,” he said. “I’ll give him this.”

SOME RETIREES COULD SEE 5% SOCIAL SECURITY RAISE WITH BIDEN AS PRESIDENT

But he and others admit there’s no saving the industry. Although many won't forgive President Barack Obama for pushing to curtail carbon-polluting coal, Bratcher said the decline started before his inauguration.

That skepticism about coal's future is widely shared, even among Republican officeholders.

“I don’t think anyone thinks it’s a growth industry,” said Republican U.S. Sen. Shelley Capito, who is seeking re-election as a Trump ally. “What we’ve gotten with the president is a stabilization of the coal industry.”

It doesn't seem to matter much to these voters that Trump promised more than stabilization: “We’re going to put the miners back to work!” he told a campaign rally in Charleston in May 2016. “We’re going to get those mines open.”

That hasn't happened, even as Trump has rolled back some Obama-era regulations, such as one aimed at reducing contamination from the wastewater that coal-burning power plants release into streams, lakes and underground aquifers.

Richard Lalonde, a registered Democrat, still works at 82 inside a thrift shop he and his wife own in Madison, where a coal mining museum promises it is “preserving the past for future generations.” He said he remains uncommitted as to his choice on Election Day, after supporting Trump in 2016. But he's blunt about coal's promise for his town's economy.

“It’s never going to be like the way it was before,” he said. “Around here it’s done.”

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People Are Buying More Butter Than Ever Before to Cook at Home

American dairy giant Land O’Lakes Inc. is selling record amounts of butter as consumers cook more at home, helping boost profits even as the pandemic upends global commodity markets.

The Minnesota-based cooperative expects butter sales to reach 275 million to 300 million pounds in 2020, an increase of more than 20% from a normal year, said Chief Executive Officer Beth Ford. That’s more than offset a decline in food services as lockdowns from New York to Los Angeles slashed demand from restaurants, which usually account for 15% to 20% of the company’s business.

Dairy farmers across the U.S. were forced to dump milk as stay-at-home orders curbed demand from food services, which use up about 50% of American cheese production. Schools were also shut, slashing consumption of fluid milk at a time when cows had just entered the peak milk production period. Still, Land O’Lakes says butter was flying off the shelves.

“Often times, even for the retail business, what you do is you make a lot of butter because it’s peak milk production time, and you store it for the key season,” during the holidays, Ford said in an interview. “But the buying was so strong that we didn’t do that, because we were selling right off the line.”

Meeting rising butter demand means that Land O’Lakes, like many other packaged-goods companies, had to adapt its production lines, by removing some products from shelves, said Ford, who took the top job in 2018.

Animal Feed

While Land O’Lakes is better known for its dairy products, its Purina unit, which makes animal feed, also saw an increase in sales of ration for companion animals like horses and rabbits (the Purina that makes dog and cat food is owned by Nestle SA). An 80% increase in backyard flocks helped boost results for that business, she said.

Land O’Lakes profit surged more than fivefold in the third quarter to $66 million and by 22% year-to-date, the company said in a statement. All business units performed better in the quarter than a year earlier.

Dairy markets have faced a wild swings this year as prices first tumbled due to the pandemic and then surged as the U.S. Department of Agriculture stepped in to buy for its Farmers to Families Food Box program. That demand should last through the fall and winter, Ford said.

Aid programs have helped maintain farm profitability, pushing U.S. milk production growth above the historical rate of 1.5% a year, Rabobank said in a report earlier this month.

On speculation prices will collapse when government support dries up, Ford said: “There will be disruption, we don’t all understand what the path to reopening will look like, but what I have is confidence in my team.”

Butter demand, typically strongest during the winter, may also face challenges as some consumers may forgo large holiday gatherings in efforts to main social distancing. Some 372 million pounds of butter were in cold storage at the end of August and inventory levels will depend on demand during the “less-than-typical holiday season,” Rabobank said.

Ford said Land O’Lakes is keeping an eye on how holiday sales fare.

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Germany’s Total Coronavirus Infections Surge Past 500,000

Germany’s coronavirus cases have surged past 500,000 after an increase of 19,409 in the 24 hours through Friday morning.

The daily gain — to 506,381 — was less than Thursday’s record of 23,553, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. But it confirms a trend of rapidly rising cases in the past few weeks that Chancellor Angela Merkel has characterized as a “dramatic situation.”

Merkel agreed with regional leaders this week to impose a partial, one-month lockdown on Europe’s biggest economy starting Monday to try to check the spread of the disease.

Authorities are no longer able to track infections back to their source and that leads to exponential growth, which must be stopped, Merkel said in a statement to parliament on Thursday. If the nation waits to act until intensive care units are full, it will be too late, she added, warning of “four long and difficult winter months” ahead.

Read more:
Merkel Says EU Should Have Acted Sooner as Virus Costs Mount
Merkel Defends New German Curbs to Tamp Down Virus ‘Drama’
ECB Pushes Governments to Get on With Spending in Virus Battle

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Trump’s China Scorecard Shows Many Defeats, and One Big Change

President Donald Trump ran for office pledging to rewrite the U.S. economic relationship with China, which he blamed for hollowing out America’s manufacturing base and impoverishing its workers. His four years in the White House have shown limited impact on the metrics he laid out.

American companies cite much the same concerns — and the same growth objectives — with regard to China today as they did when Trump took office. The unprecedented trade war he launched, breaking Republican free-trade orthodoxy along the way, ended up costing American factory jobs, not creating them, economists say. The state support for Chinese enterprises that Trump pledged to confront remains intact.

Trump’s term has, however, had a notable impact on American attitudes toward China. In time, that could prove the dynamic that affects economic ties in ways the current president has struggled to achieve. And it underscores that Washington’s China policy is forever changed, regardless of who wins the Nov. 3 election.

The following is a look at the metrics Trump laid out for overhauling the economic relationship with China, and how they’ve panned out during his administration.

End the Outsourcing

Trump pledged to reclaim millions of American jobs and revive American manufacturing, in a 2016 campaign document titled “Reforming the U.S.-China Trade Relationship to Make America Great Again.”

After years of escalating tensions spanning billions of dollars in tariffs and retaliatory duties, American companies are as committed as ever to their China operations, and few have plans to leave — while virtually none aim to come back to U.S. shores.

A U.S.-China Business Council member survey taken in May and June showed 87% of respondents had no plans to shift production out of China. Only 4% said they’re planning to move operations to the U.S., largely due to lagging consumer demand in China, while 11% said they’re shifting production to alternatives like Thailand and Mexico.

As for factory jobs, gains there flatlined after Trump started imposing tariffs on China in 2018. While there was a small bump in employment for some companies thanks to the administration’s protectionist moves, that was “more than offset by larger drags from the effects of rising input costs and retaliatory tariffs,” a study by Federal Reserve staff showed.

No More IP Theft

On the 2016 campaign trail, Trump proclaimed that under his presidency, “we will adopt a zero tolerance policy on intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer.”

The reality on the ground shows little has changed. About the same share of American companies operating in China reported in 2020 that their businesses were hindered by IP infringements as before Trump took office, according to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai taken in June and July.

The U.S.-China Business Council survey separately showed 13% of its members reported that they were asked to transfer technology in 2020, versus 5% in 2019. While China made commitments on this front in the Trump administration’s phase one trade deal in January, as well as in the adoption of a new foreign investment law, “it is unclear how this will reasonably be enforced,” the business group said.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office defended the phase one agreement’s provisions and enforceability. USTR also said the agency regularly resolves complaints from U.S. companies with its Chinese counterparts.

Stop the Subsidizing

A key element of Trump’s anti-China program was forcing Beijing to abandon its system of what he termed unfair help for its companies. From export subsidies to below-market lending rates, the playing field was uneven for businesses trying to compete with Chinese rivals, in Trump’s analysis.

This wasn’t addressed in the phase one agreement. Officials have said it will be part of phase two, but it’s not clear if or when that will proceed. Meantime, Beijing has doubled down on supporting indigenous innovation, announcing a fund to back its semiconductor industry.

The U.S.-China Business Council survey earlier this year showed the vast majority of members continue to report that both state-owned and private enterprises in China are getting subsidies or other benefits from the government.

Read More:
  • Trump Vows to Sharply Scale Back U.S.-China Economic Ties
  • Biden Set to Carve Own Brand of Tough-on-China Policy If Elected
  • Trump Fails to Stem U.S. Factory-Job Exodus He Vowed to Reverse
  • China Bolsters Trade Dominance by Enduring Virus and Trump
  • U.S. Businesses in China Not Heeding Trump’s Call to Return Home

USTR says getting China to change is a work in progress, and that negotiations will continue.

“To say that China hasn’t stopped all of its non-market behavior is obvious, but it is also obvious that this President and this Administration have done more to successfully challenge that behavior than any Administration ever has,” the office said in response to a request for comment. “The President is more than willing to act if China does not keep up its end of the deal.”

Shrink the Deficit

Trump the candidate called for “eliminating America’s chronic trade deficit,” in a 2016 campaign document that listed China, Canada, Germany, Japan and South Korea as the main culprits. Reducing the gap was described as Trump’s “primary goal.”

Monthly deficits with China have averaged slightly bigger since Trump took office than during Barack Obama’s second term in the White House — $30.3 billion compared with $28.7 billion. The gap widened considerably in the run-up to the application of tariffs, then narrowed in 2019 before climbing again during the Covid-19 crisis this year.

Meantime, countries including Vietnam have seen their surpluses with the U.S. expand as some supply chains diverted away from China to avert the tariff hikes.

Currency Manipulation

Trump said he’d label China a currency manipulator on day one of his administration, and frequently accused the country of artificially setting its exchange rate to give its exporters an unfair advantage. His campaign cited estimates that the yuan was 15% to 40% undervalued.

With Election Day 2020 looming, the yuan is practically the same level against the dollar it was when Trump won in 2016.

In the end, it took the Trump administration until August 2019, at the height of the trade war, to declare China a manipulator. Currency analysts noted that Chinese authorities had actually restrained gains in the yuan earlier on in Trump’s term, and most viewed Beijing as stopping short of an active depreciation strategy during the trade war.

Tech War

While not an initial focus for Trump, his administration over time made the containment of China’s swelling advanced-technology sector a key objective. It imposed export restrictions on American companies supplying mobile tech giants Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp., among others. It also moved to restrict Chinese-owned social-media platforms TikTok and WeChat in the U.S., though those measures have been put on hold thanks to court injunctions.

More than once, Trump has reversed himself, offering a reprieve to ZTE after what he said was a personal appeal from Chinese President Xi Jinping. Huawei meantime has been able to shield itself from some of Trump’s blows by stockpiling crucial chips.

Changing Sentiment

Though it was never a declared objective, the Trump administration, populated with China hawks including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Peter Navarro, has had unparalleled success with tarnishing China’s image in the U.S. Trump has also for months been blaming China for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

It might have taken a toll, with criticism of China even becoming a rare issue uniting Democrats and Republicans in Washington. The proportion of Americans viewing China unfavorably has soared almost 20 percentage points since Trump took office, according to the Pew Research Center. Some 73% of Americans had a negative evaluation of the country in a survey Pew published this month.

“We’re all China hawks now,” Navarro regularly proclaims. And that may be the most durable change Trump achieved on China policy.

— With assistance by Alexandre Tanzi

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Treasuries Move Notably Lower Following Upbeat Economic Data

After ending the previous session nearly unchanged, treasuries showed a notable move to the downside during trading on Thursday.

Bond prices moved steadily lower for much of the session before closing firmly in negative territory. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, climbed 5.4 basis points to 0.835 percent.

The weakness among treasuries came following the release of a report from the Commerce Department showing a stronger than expected rebound by the U.S. economy in the third quarter.

The Commerce Department said real gross domestic product skyrocketed by 33.1 percent in the third quarter after plunging by 31.4 percent in the second quarter. Economists had expected GDP to soar by 31.0 percent.

The substantial rebound in GDP came as consumer spending bounced back sharply, spiking by 40.7 percent in the third quarter after plummeting by 33.2 percent in the second quarter.

“Overall, the initial recovery in GDP after the first wave of lockdowns were lifted was stronger than we originally anticipated,” said Paul Ashworth, Chief U.S. Economist at Capital Economics.

He added, “But, with coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower.”

Further reducing the appeal of safe havens like treasuries, the Labor Department released a report showing initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level since before the coronavirus-induced lockdowns in the week ended October 24th.

The report said initial jobless claims dropped to 751,000, a decrease of 40,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 791,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to dip to 775,000 from the 787,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the bigger than expected decrease, jobless claims fell to their lowest level since hitting 282,000 in the week ended March 14th.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors released a report showing pending home sales unexpectedly pulled back off a record high in the month of September.

NAR said its pending home sales index slumped by 2.2 percent to 130.0 in September after spiking by 8.8 percent to 132.9 in August. The drop came as a surprise to economists, who had expected pending home sales to jump by another 3.4 percent.

A pending home sale is one in which a contract was signed but not yet closed. Normally, it takes four to six weeks to close a contracted sale.

Treasuries saw further downside in afternoon trading after the Treasury Department revealed this month’s auction of $53 billion worth of seven-year notes attracted below average demand.

The seven-year note auction drew a high yield of 0.600 percent and a bid-to-cover ratio of 2.24, while the ten previous seven-year note auctions had an average bid-to-cover ratio of 2.50.

The bid-to-cover ratio is a measure of demand that indicates the amount of bids for each dollar worth of securities being sold.

Economic data may continue to impact trading on Friday, with traders likely to keep an eye on reports on personal income and spending, Chicago-area business activity and consumer sentiment.

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Exxon announces additional job cuts amid ongoing Covid-19 hit to oil demand

  • Exxon said Thursday that it intends to reduce its U.S. staff by around 1,900 employees.
  • The reductions will consist of both voluntary and involuntary programs.
  • "The impact of COVID-19 on the demand for ExxonMobil’s products has increased the urgency of the ongoing efficiency work," the company said in a statement.

Exxon said Thursday that it intends to reduce its U.S. staff by around 1,900 employees as the energy giant continues to see its operations pressured by the coronavirus pandemic. The layoffs will occur through a mix of voluntary and involuntary programs.

Exxon said the reduction is part of ongoing reorganization efforts aimed at improving efficiency and reducing costs.

"These actions will improve the company's long-term cost competitiveness and ensure the company manages through the current unprecedented market conditions," a statement from the company said. "The impact of COVID-19 on the demand for ExxonMobil's products has increased the urgency of the ongoing efficiency work."

Earlier in October Exxon said it was cutting its European operations by 1,600 positions through the end of 2021. According to Edward Jones' Jennifer Rowland, the combined cuts represent about 5% of Exxon's global workforce.

The announcement comes as the oil and gas industry continues to feel the pain of the coronavirus pandemic. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. oil benchmark, has recovered since plunging into negative territory for the time time on record in April, but the contract still trades at a deep discount to prior prices.

On Thursday WTI traded around $36. As recently as January it traded north of $62 per barrel.

Amid the decline in prices, energy companies have taken drastic measures to improve their balance sheets, including reducing staff and in some cases suspending dividends.

Exxon has repeatedly said that its dividend remains a priority. On Wednesday the company maintained its fourth quarter dividend at 87 cents per share, although this was the first time since 1982 that it didn't raise its payout.

Exxon will report third quarter results on Friday before the market opens. Shares were up 2.6% during midday trading. For the year, the stock is down 53%.

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What to watch today: Stock futures mixed after Wednesday's steep sell-off on Covid worries

Stock futures indicated a mixed open on Wall Street, with the projected gains making up only a fraction of Wednesday's steep losses. Dow futures implied a slightly lower opening. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were higher. (CNBC)

* Treasury yields tick lower ahead of third-quarter growth figures (CNBC)

The Dow is coming off its worst one-day slide since June, its four-day losing streak is the longest since February, and its Wednesday close was the lowest since July 31. It's a slightly better story for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, which are only at a one-month low. However, all three averages are on pace for their largest weekly losses in seven months. All this comes amid surging coronavirus cases, a flood of corporate earnings and uncertainty surrounding Tuesday's presidential election.

The Labor Department will be out with its weekly look at initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET, expected to fall by 9,000 to 778,000 for the week ending Oct. 24. At the same time, the government will issue its first look at third-quarter GDP figures, expected to surge 32% at an annual rate following a 31.4% plunge in the second quarter.

* Sharp third-quarter growth will show the economy regaining ground, but it's still in a hole (CNBC)

At 10 a.m. ET, the National Association of Realtors will be out with its September look at pending home sales, with economists looking for a 3% rise following an 8.8% jump in August.

The European Central Bank issues its latest interest-rate decision and policy statement at 8:45 a.m. ET, which comes as coronavirus cases increase across the continent.

* European markets choppy after Wednesday's sell-off, ECB in focus; Nokia down 17% (CNBC)

It's another busy morning for earnings, with NBCUniversal parent Comcast (CMSA), Dunkin' Brands (DNKN), Spotify (SPOT), Kontoor Brands (KTB), Molson Coors (TAP), Shopify (SHOP), Kraft Heinz (KHC) and Ralph Lauren (RL) among the companies reporting.

* Comcast reports record high-speed internet net adds, has nearly 22 million Peacock sign-ups (CNBC)

Apple (AAPL), Alphabet (GOOGL), Amazon.com (AMZN) and Facebook (FB) lead a busy after-the-bell list of earnings releases, with Activision Blizzard (ATVI), Starbucks (SBUX), Shake Shack (SHAK) and Twitter (TWTR) also reporting.

IN THE NEWS TODAY

Three people have been killed and several others wounded after a man armed with a knife attacked a church in the southern French city of Nice, authorities confirmed to NBC News. The suspect was wounded by police and hospitalized. Law enforcement is considering it a terrorist attack, and France's Anti-Terrorist Parquet is leading the investigation. (CNBC)

Leaders in Germany and France imposed partial lockdowns Wednesday in response to rising Covid-19 cases in the countries. The restrictions in France, which go into effect Friday and last until Dec. 1, require people to stay home with a few exceptions but schools will remain open. In Germany, where coronavirus cases are up 61% from a week ago, schools also will stay open. Shops can continue operating with capacity limits, but bars and restaurants must shutter for four weeks. "We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. (CNBC)

* Italy's daily coronavirus cases hit new record, infections in Lombardy soar (Reuters)

The coronavirus antibody cocktail from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN) significantly reduced medical visits in a study involving almost 800 Covid patients, the company announced Wednesday. The experimental treatment, which President Donald Trump received earlier this month after his diagnosis, also significantly reduced viral loads in study participants. Those who received the antibody drug made 57% fewer virus-related medical trips over a 29-day period than those who received the placebo. Regeneron said it shared the latest data with the Food and Drug Administration, which is reviewing an emergency use application. (Reuters)

* Dr. Fauci warns of a 'whole lot of pain' due to coronavirus pandemic in the coming months (CNBC)

United Airlines (UAL) plans to start offering coronavirus testing for passengers before they board flights to London, in its latest effort to reduce safety concerns and help demand for air travel recover from its pandemic-induced decline. The company said Thursday its trial program will go from Nov. 16 to Dec. 11 for some flights from Newark, New Jersey, to London's Heathrow Airport. United will pay for the rapid tests, but flyers will need to make appointments. (CNBC)

Absentee ballots in North Carolina can be received and counted up to nine days after Tuesday's election, after the Supreme Court declined to overturn lower court rulings that permitted the extended deadline. The high court's decision, the latest in a spate of election-related matters, is seen as a win for Democrats in the battleground state. The Nov. 12 deadline was initially implemented by the state's election board, citing possible mail delays. Ballots still have to be marked and mailed by Election Day. (Associated Press)

* Supreme Court rejects GOP request to decide Pennsylvania ballot case before election (CNBC)

With five days remaining before Election Day, Joe Biden and Trump will be campaigning today in the hotly contested battleground state of Florida. A poll released Wednesday from Reuters/Ipsos showed a virtual tie between the two candidates, with 49% indicating they would vote for Biden while 47% favored Trump. The president will be holding an outdoor rally in Tampa. Biden will hold two drive-in rallies in the state, in Tampa and South Florida's Broward County. Approximately 76.5 million Americans have already voted in the election, or 55.5% of total 2016 turnout, according to data from U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida. (Reuters)

* Houston voters are turning out in record numbers. Could they flip Texas for Biden? (NBC News)

Shares of Ford Motor (F) were higher by more than 5% in premarket trading after earnings blew away Wall Street expectations in the third quarter. The company earned an adjusted 65 cents per share, when analysts were looking for 19 cents per share. Revenues of $34.71 billion topped forecasts of $33.51 billion, with results helped by an uptick in demand for SUVs and pickup trucks during the pandemic. Ford also projected a full-year profit. (CNBC)

* Ford has nearly 190,000 reservations for upcoming Bronco SUV (CNBC)

Two people have died after Hurricane Zeta touched down in southeastern Louisiana and passed over New Orleans. The Category 2 storm left about half a million Louisiana customers without electricity as of Wednesday night; more than 100,000 homes and businesses in southern Mississippi also were without power. Zeta has now been downgraded to a tropical storm has it moved inland on a northeastern path, according to the National Hurricane Center. (NBC News)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Tiffany (TIF) and French luxury goods maker LVMH have agreed on a revised acquisition deal, with LVMH paying $131.50 per share. That's down from the original $135 per share deal the two sides had agreed to last November, prior to the pandemic. LVMH subsequently sued to back out of buying Tiffany, accusing the company of mismanaging the business during the pandemic.

Pinterest (PINS) earned an adjusted 13 cents per share for its latest quarter, 10 cents above estimates, with revenue also above forecasts. The image-sharing platform also reported a larger-than-expected number of active users and gave an upbeat current-quarter revenue forecast.

Visa (V) came in 3 cents above estimates with adjusted quarterly profit of $1.12 per share. Revenue also beat Wall Street projections. However, profits were down 29 percent from a year earlier due to fewer transactions on its payment network.

Amgen (AMGN) reported adjusted quarterly earnings of $4.37 per share, beating the $3.81 consensus estimate, with the biotech company's revenue slightly above forecasts. Amgen was helped by stronger drug sales, although drug prices were lower during the quarter.

Gilead Sciences (GILD) beat estimates by 21 cents with adjusted quarterly earnings of $2.11 per share, with the drugmaker's revenue also coming in above analyst forecasts. However, Gilead also cut its 2020 revenue forecast due to lower-than-expected demand and uncertainty surrounding the sales of Covid treatment remdesivir.

EBay (EBAY) earned an adjusted 85 cents per share for its latest quarter, 8 cents above estimates, with revenue also beating consensus. However, the number of active buyers on the retail platform came in lower than analysts had been forecasting.

Etsy (ETSY) beat estimates by 10 cents, reporting quarterly profit of 70 cents per share, while revenue also topped Wall Street forecasts. Etsy's results were boosted by strong sales of face masks and home decor amid the pandemic.

Exxon Mobil (XOM) kept its fourth-quarter dividend at 87 cents per share, marking the first time since 1982 that the energy giant did not raise its dividend.

Marvell Technology (MRVL) is near a deal to buy rival chip maker Inphi (IPHI) for as much as $10 billion, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Wall Street Journal. The paper said a deal could be announced as soon as today.

WATERCOOLER

The Los Angeles Dodgers' six-game championship win received an average television rating 32% below the previous World Series low. The series, which aired on Fox, had an average rating of 5.2 and 9,785,000 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. The prior low came in 2012, when the San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers. This year's World Series figures comes as sports ratings this fall have generally been lower during the pandemic. (Associated Press)

Programming note: Today is our Technology Executive Council Summit, featuring Frank Slootman, CEO of Snowflake; Alex Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook; Alexis Wichowski, deputy CTO of innovation for New York City; and Tom Leighton, CEO & co-founder of Akamai Technologies. The event will bring together CIOs, CTOs and CISOs and we encourage you to join us. Apply for a seat on the Council today!

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Pinterest pops as stay-at-home projects fuel user, revenue growth

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Pinterest shares are surging nearly 30% in after-hours trading Wednesday as the company reported strong revenue and user growth fueled by stay-at-home projects.

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PINTEREST IS PROHIBITING CULTURALLY INAPPROPRIATE HALLOWEEN COSTUMES

Despite posting a third-quarter loss of $94.2 million, or 16 cents a share, the image-sharing company reported a 58% year-over-year revenue increase to $442.6 million compared to $280 million in 2019.

Pinterest reported a 46% year-over-year increase in its international monthly active users to 343 million compared to 235 million in 2019. Meanwhile, domestic monthly active users increased by 13% year-over-year to 98 million from 87 million a year ago.

The company cited broad-based strength driven by a recovery in advertiser demand from larger brands who paused or reduced spending in the second quarter to boycott social media as part of the #StopHateforProfit campaign. In addition, the company said the release of iOS 14 boosted user growth with approximately 4 million people using Pinterest “for inspiration for customized background filters.”

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While Pinterest is forecasting fourth-quarter revenue growth of about 60% year-over-year, the company warned that it continues to "navigate uncertainty" due to the coronavirus pandemic. It also expects fourth-quarter engagement to dip as people celebrate the holidays and during both the U.S. presidential election and its aftermath.

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The company noted that it will continue to operate in a remote work environment while maintaining its long-term strategic investments and will continue to evaluate its spending as the pandemic evolves.

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Elite Model World in Talks to Go Public Through SPAC Merger

Elite Model World, which describes itself as the largest model management network in the world, is in talks to go public through a merger with blank-check firm Galileo Acquisition Corp., according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Galileo has held talks with potential investors about raising new equity to support a transaction, said some of the people, who requested anonymity because the discussions are private. A deal hasn’t been finalized and it’s possible talks could collapse.

Representatives for Elite and Galileo didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Elite Model World’s agencies include Elite Model Management, Women Model Management, the Society Management, Supreme Model Management, Stage and 360 Model Management, which together represent more than 3,700 models across 52 countries, according to its website.

It has increasingly diversified its revenue by representing social media influencers, some of whom can earn more from Instagram posts that traditional modeling.

The company is led by Chief Executive Officer Julia Haart, who is married to Chairman Silvio Scaglia.

New York-based Galileo raised $138 million in an initial public offering last year. At the time, it said its target companies included Italian family-owned businesses with a clearly defined strategic to grow in North America. Chief Executive Officer Luca Giacometti has previously led Italian blank-check companies.

— With assistance by Kim Bhasin, and Daniele Lepido

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