Star Wars and Congress Votes on Funding — 5 Things to Know Today

December 18, 2015, 11:36 AM UTC
Cast attends the World Premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California.
attends the World Premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California.
Photograph by Alberto E. Rodriguez — Getty Images

Hello friends and Fortune readers.

Wall Street stock futures are lower this morning as world markets rethink their initial enthusiasm for the Fed’s first interest rate rise in 2006. Since the Fed moved, central banks in Taiwan, Mexico and Chile have all hiked interest rates too, while Japan tweaked its stimulus program earlier in an apparent effort to remind the world that there’s more than one game in town. The dollar is back near $1.08 to the euro but there’s no respite for oil prices, which have slumped to a new 6-year low below $34.50 a barrel.

Today’s must-read story is from Fortune‘s Roger Parloff and it recounts the writing of a 2014 Fortune magazine cover story on Elizabeth Holmes and her diagnostics startup, Theranos. Earlier this year, a scathing Wall Street Journal article questioning the accuracy of Theranos’ flagship testing device. Parloff writes a brutally honest account of how he was misled by the company while also owning up to having missed at least one major red flag in Theranos’ story.

Here’s what else you need to know today.

1. Star Wars opens across U.S.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens officially opens nationwide today and legions of sci-fi fans are expected to turn out in movie theaters to see the highly-anticipated film. With more than $100 million in advanced ticket sales, the Walt Disney (DIS) movie has a chance to break the record for largest opening weekend ever, which was set earlier this year by Jurassic World‘s $208 million debut. Various analyst projections put the film ultimately earning anywhere from $1.5 billion globally to more than $2 billion, which would make it one of the highest-grossing movies of all time.

2. Congress votes on $1.1 trillion spending bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $680 billion package of tax cuts on Thursday, but a bigger vote comes today as Congress decides on a $1.1 trillion dollar federal funding bill that would avert a government shutdown for another year. Lawmakers missed the original deadline last week to pass the bill, which ensures that federal agencies get the funding they need to remain in operation, but a stop-gap measure bought Congress time to put together a long-term deal.

3. Has China already passed its ‘peak coal’ moment?

China’s runaway demand for coal–one of the most contentious points in this month’s Climate Summit–may have peaked. A new report out today from the International Energy Agency says the country’s coal use is set to drop for the second year in a row in 2015–the first time that’s happened in over 30 years. The IEA put that down to the rebalancing of the economy away from heavy industry, and increased efforts to stop lethal pollution. It says that demand may fall by nearly 10% from its 2013 peak by 2020 if policymakers build on current trends.

4. Darden’s Q2 results

Darden Restaurants (DRI), the parent of Olive Garden and other restaurant chains, is expected to post second-quarter sales and profit that match up with Wall Street’s expectations today. The company has attributed recent improved restaurant sales to menu changes and better service at its Olive Garden restaurants, which are Darden’s main focus since it sold the Red Lobster chain last year to Golden State Capital.

5. Carnival sets sale on earnings

The world’s largest cruise ship operator will report its fourth-quarter numbers today after Carnival (CUK) previously forecasting profit that fell below analysts’ expectations due to the strong U.S. dollar and a disappointing global economy. While demand from American tourists likely remained high in the most recent quarter, geopolitical issues such as the European migrant crisis and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris could weigh on global tourism.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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