Stock Futures Decline Amid Rising North Korea Tensions

Stock futures were lower on Tuesday, Sept. 5, as investors released built-up anxiety over new developments in the conflict with North Korea that took place over the long Labor Day weekend.

Dow futures were down 0.32%, S&P 500 futures fell 0.24% and Nasdaq futures slid 0.23%.

The threat of military action from North Korea spiked over the weekend break after the ready-to-strike authoritarian nation successfully conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sunday, Sept. 3. Worries over North Korea had receded in recent weeks as headlines became crowded by a terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, in mid-August and Hurricane Harvey’s path of destruction across Texas and Louisiana last week.

South Korea’s defense ministry said Monday, Sept. 4, that North Korea is preparing the launch of another intercontinental ballistic missile, one that could be fitted with a nuclear warhead. North Korea launched its first two ICBM tests in July.

The threat of conflict with North Korea dominated market action at the beginning of August after President Donald Trump warned of severe retribution should the authoritarian state proceed with any more missile tests or threats. Trump said that further threats would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

North Korea had then threatened to launch missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam, and the country previously threatened “all-out war, wiping out all the strongholds of enemies, including the U.S. mainland.”

Crude oil prices were sharply higher on Tuesday as Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts continued. Heavy and prolonged rainfall knocked out a large number of refining operations in the region, setting off erratic moves in commodities markets.

At least 4.4 million barrels per day of refining capacity was offline in the wake of the hurricane, based on company reports and Reuters estimates. Texas refines 5.5 million barrels of oil a day, the most of any state and roughly 30% of the U.S. refining capacity, while Louisiana accounts for around 18%.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil was up 1.7% to $48.08 a barrel on Tuesday morning.

Low inflation could put a dent in the Federal Reserve’s rate hike plans. Fed Governor Lael Brainard on Tuesday said that “it would be prudent to raise the federal funds rate more gradually” until higher inflation trends return. In comments to the Economic Club of New York, Brainard said that the central bank will have “substantially more data in hand in coming months” with which to evaluate inflation. The Fed had previously guided for one more rate increase before the end of the year and three over 2018. Brainard also offered her support for the Fed’s plan to unwind its trillion-dollar balance sheet.

United Technologies Corp. ( UTX) agreed to buy airplane parts maker Rockwell Collins Inc. ( COL) for $23 billion, or $140 a share, in the biggest deal in the history of aerospace. Rockwell shareholders will receive $93.33 a share in cash and the remaining $46.67 in shares of United Technologies. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2018.

“This acquisition adds tremendous capabilities to our aerospace businesses and strengthens our complementary offerings of technologically advanced aerospace systems,” said United Technologies Chairman and CEO Greg Hayes.

The deal comes after a report recently suggested that a large activist hedge fund manager, possibly Third Point LLC’s Dan Loeb, has been accumulating a big United Technologies stake and has put the avionics and industrial company on the defensive in an effort to have it spin off non-core businesses.

United Technologies shares fell more than 3% in premarket trading on Tuesday, while Rockwell Collins traded around the flatline.

Chicago-based Tronc Inc. (TRNC) , which owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times among other newspapers, announced it was purchasing the New York Daily News. The Daily News, which has been owned by real estate developer Mort Zuckerman since 1993, was acquired by Tronc for just $1, plus the assumption of liabilities.

“The New York Daily News is a venerable New York City institution,” Eric Gertler, co-publisher of the News, said in a statement. “We believe that under Tronc’s leadership, the New York Daily News will maintain its tradition of excellence in journalism and continue to be a critical voice for millions of print and online readers.”

Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn said acquiring the paper and its popular website would “provide us with another strategic platform for growing our digital business, expanding our reach and broadening our services for advertisers and marketers.”

Insmed Inc. (INSM) roared higher on Tuesday after announcing that its phase 3 trial for a lung disease treatment had achieved its primary endpoint. The therapy is designed for treatment-refractory nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease caused by mycobacterium avium complex, a rare form of lung disease. Insmed will apply for accelerated approval in the U.S.

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