Here are the most important news items that investors need to start their trading day:
1. Taking stock on a summer Friday
What a week, huh? A Fed rate increase. Lackluster U.S. GDP and worries that we might be in a recession. Earnings reports from major companies, from Apple to McDonald's to Microsoft, which were largely "good enough." Warnings from Walmart and Best Buy. One huge airline merger fell apart while another one took shape. The presidents of the United States and China held a high-stakes phone call. The U.S. housing market slowed down even more. And doom came for the Choco Taco. Maybe. Yet, after all that, the three major indexes were up so far this week headed into Friday morning, and futures indicated a higher open, at that. There are still more earnings to digest, too: Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Procter & Gamble reported before the bell Friday.
2. Amazon: Actually, consumers are doing OK
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Well, Amazon's consumers, anyway. Shares of the e-commerce giant fell earlier this week, when Walmart cut its profit outlook as historic levels of inflation weigh on consumers. But Amazon executives said Thursday, when the company posted quarterly earnings, that inflation wasn't hitting its customers as hard as other retailers'. That's because Amazon and Walmart are appealing to different customers. "The core consumer at Amazon is more well off than the consumer at Walmart, and that seems to be enabling it to outperform Walmart," said Tom Forte, an analyst at D.A. Davidson. Amazon shares were up big in premarket trading. CNBC's Annie Palmer breaks it down here.
3. The iPhone comes through
Apple shares rose in premarket trading after the gargantuan gadget purveyor topped Wall Street's expectations for quarterly earnings and revenue. The Cupertino kids can thank their pride and joy, the good ol' reliable iPhone. The strong sales came even as the iPhone 13 is in the second half of its product cycle, meaning a new model is coming soon. "We had a record level of switchers and saw double-digit growth for customers new to iPhone," CEO Tim Cook said. Yet while Cook said the company expects revenue growth to be strong through the current quarter, he did cite "pockets of softness." The slowdown in Apple's services growth is one potential area of concern, writes CNBC's Kif Leswing.
4. JetBlue's next destination
It took months, a lot of sniping back and forth, multiple offers, and a few delayed shareholder votes, but JetBlue finally did it. The airline convinced low-cost carrier Spirit to ditch its merger with fellow inexpensive carrier Frontier and agree to be acquired by JetBlue in a $3.8 billion deal. Now comes the hard part for JetBlue and Spirit: getting the merger-skeptical Biden administration to sign off on the acquisition. For instance, the Justice Department sued last year to block JetBlue's northeastern alliance with American Airlines. That case is going to trial in September. Still, JetBlue is optimistic and is projecting that regulators will sign off on the Spirit deal either late next year or early in 2024, with the merger being finalized in the first half of 2024. CNBC's Leslie Josephs explains here.
5. Biden and Xi talk at a tense moment
U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for more than two hours Thursday, and they began arrangements for their first face-to-face meeting since Biden was inaugurated. The long talk between the two superpower leaders came after the House sent a bill to boost U.S. competitiveness with China to Biden, and as the world focuses on Taiwan, the self-ruled island which China claims as its own. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has indicated she may visit Taiwan during a swing through Asia that begins this week, which could enflame relations between the U.S. and China. Earlier this week, meanwhile, The New York Times reported that U.S. officials are growing more concerned that China may move against Taiwan in the next 18 months. Despite all of that, it appears Biden and Xi had a constructive call, according to experts. Read CNBC reporter Evelyn Cheng's take from Beijing here.
– CNBC's Jesse Pound, Annie Palmer, Kif Leswing, Leslie Josephs and Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.