Musk Twitter poll, EU gas cap, L3Harris/Rocketdyne - what's moving markets

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Musk Twitter poll, EU gas cap, L3Harris/Rocketdyne - what's moving markets
Credit: © Reuters.

By Geoffrey Smith -- It must be getting close to Christmas. The top story around the business world is the latest installment in the soap opera dubbed (by one account still miraculously not banned) as "Fragile Narcissist Buys Criticism Factory". Tesla stock gets a bump as a result. Other long-running farces also appear to be nearing a conclusion, with the European Union finally set to agree on a mechanism for capping wholesale gas prices. That'll come in handy next year when empty storage facilities need to be refilled. L3Harris has agreed to buy Rocketdyne for $4.7 billion, Sam Bankman-Fried is reportedly set to drop his resistance to extradition - and Argentina is the world soccer champion, which is more than can be said for its currency. Here's what you need to know in financial markets on Monday, 19th December. 

1. Tesla surges as Twitter poll urges Musk to step down 

Elon Musk consulted Twitter users on whether he should step down as chief executive of the beleaguered microblogging site. As of 06:00 ET (11:00 GMT), with over 17 million responses, 57.5% of users had replied ‘yes’, compared to only 42.5% voting ‘no’.

Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA ) stock reacted positively, rising 4.5% in premarket on hopes for an end to what has been a major distraction for the EV maker’s CEO.

In a thread attached to the poll, Musk acknowledged that the company “has been in the fast lane to bankruptcy since May” and cast doubt on the suggestion that anyone could save it from that fate.

Twitter’s destiny matters more to global markets than its size suggests it should: Wall Street banks’ decision to lend over $12 billion to Musk to finance the deal has backfired badly, leaving them sitting on huge losses and gumming up the market for acquisition finance, an important support for stock prices. 

2. SBF set to drop resistance to extradition to U.S.

Sam Bankman-Fried is expected to drop his fight against extradition to the U.S., where he will face criminal charges for breaking money-laundering and campaign finance laws, along with both criminal and civil fraud charges related to the collapse of his cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

‘SBF’ is due to appear in court in the Bahamas later Monday, after a week remanded in custody after being refused bail. Reuters, which first reported the news, said that it wasn’t clear what had happened to change his mind.

3. Stocks set to open higher; NAHB eyed; L3Harris wins Rocketdyne auction

U.S. stock markets are expected to open modestly higher on Monday but face a challenge to push meaningfully higher as volume starts to thin out ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays, especially after blowing a great chance to break the downward trend of 2022 as the Federal Reserve slowed the pace of its interest rate increases.

By 06:25 ET, Dow Jones futures were up 93 points, or 0.3%, while S&P 500 futures were up 0.4% and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 0.5%. The main cash indices have posted back-to-back weekly losses after hopes of a swift end to monetary tightening receded.

Stocks likely to be in focus later include Aerojet Rocketdyne (NYSE: AJRD ), which rose 1.1% in premarket after L3Harris Technologies (NYSE: LHX ) said it has agreed to pay $4.7 billion for the maker of the surface-to-air Javelin missiles that have proved so effective in Ukraine this year.  Also in focus will be homebuilders and online realtors as the National Association of Homebuilders releases its monthly survey at 10:00 ET.

4. EU closes in on gas cap; German business confidence improves.

After months of haggling, European Union ministers are finally set to agree on a mechanism for capping wholesale natural gas prices at a meeting in Brussels.

Bloomberg reported that ministers will debate a new proposal setting the price cap at 180 euros a megawatt-hour, more than a third below the EU Commission’s original proposals. The cap would also take place after only three days of gas futures trading above that price. It would come into effect on February 1st.

The measure will provide a bit of relief to European industry in the short term by removing some uncertainty over prices. Confidence among German businesses , which have been hurt more than most by the surge in gas prices this year, rose surprisingly strongly in December, with the clearer outlook for gas prices among the chief reasons.

However, Europe is far from the end of its energy woes: French generator EDF (EPA: EDF ) said two of its nuclear reactors would need at least another four months of repairs before they can come back online.

5. Messi's Argentina world champions - in soccer, at least

And finally – Lionel Messi, in many people’s eyes the greatest soccer player of all time, finally became a World Champion.

Messi scored twice in Argentina’s 3-3 tie with defending champions France before scoring another in the decisive penalty shoot-out. The result ended 36 years of hurt for the soccer-mad nation but - in case anyone should tell you otherwise - this is probably not the start of a bull run for Argentinian assets.

The peso continued to slip against the dollar on Monday, as it has done all through the tournament. It’s down 5.8% in the last month and down 68% on the year, the worst performing currency in the G20. At least the pain of inflation won’t seem quite so bad as long as the party lasts.  

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