Hello friends and Fortune readers.
Wall Street stock futures are higher Thursday morning after weak earnings reports and retail sales data convince more market participants that the Federal Reserve may not raise interest rates this year after all. Two Fed governors, Lael Brainard and Daniel Turullo, have said this week the Fed should wait for clearer signs of inflation before raising rates, dissenting from the guidance given by Chairman Janet Yellen, who has appeared to favor a hike in December.
Here’s what else you need to know to start the day.
1. U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan
President Barack Obama has dropped his plan to pull most U.S. forces out of Afghanistan by the end of next year. According to the AP, Obama will say in a speech Thursday that he plans to leave some 5,500 troops in the country in 2017, signalling an abrupt reversal of policy that means his successor will inherit a 15 year-old foreign entanglement. Recent advances made by Taliban forces have cast doubt over the ability of the Afghan government’s ability to survive without their help.
2. Bank earnings: Citi, Goldman
A number of the world’s biggest banks report their latest quarterly results this week and today brings updates from Citigroup (C) and Goldman Sachs (GS). Much like others in the finance industry, Citi is expected to have been hurt in the third quarter by market volatility, which the bank already said would contribute to lower trading revenue. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs is expected to report a dip in third-quarter profit, while investors will be interested to hear how both banks expect volatility will affect their prospects in the current quarter.
3. United Health on earnings and industry consolidation
The nation’s largest health insurer is expected to report a year-over-year bump in third-quarter earnings thanks, in part, to the success of the company’s Optum health-services arm. United Health (UNH) is also unique in its sector as the only large U.S. insurer to not be involved in the industry’s current wave of consolidation. Investors will be keen to hear about how the recent merger spree affects the company’s outlook for the industry as well as United’s comments on medical cost trends.
4. Consumer prices and weekly jobless claims
The Labor Department is expected to report today that consumer prices dropped off in September, as low gas prices and the strong U.S. dollar weighed down inflation. A drop in consumer prices would also make less likely that U.S. inflation will rise to the level necessary for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this year. Also today, the Labor Department is expected to report that the number of people who filed applications for unemployment benefits last week increased by 7,000 over the previous week to 270,000 claims.
5. Schlumberger hurt by low oil prices
The world’s top oilfield services company is expected to report a drop in third-quarter profit after the oil industry’s oversupply continued to depress global oil prices and slow down drilling activity. Investors will be looking for Schlumberger’s (SLB) outlook on production and pricing in the current quarter and next year, while the company may also shed some light on how cost-cutting measures have helped minimize the impact of slowing drilling activity.
— Reuters contributed to this report.