Here are the most important news items that investors need to start their trading day:
1. Stocks head for losing week
Thursday was the brightest spot for stocks so far this week. The Nasdaq gained the most, the Dow jumped more than 180 points, and the S&P 500 broke a five-day negative skid. Still, equities are on track to finish the week on an overall losing note as investors work their way through conflicting economic signals, mixed earnings outlooks for the holiday quarter and expectations for what the Federal Reserve will do next. The Fed's policy makers meet next week, when they are projected to hike their benchmark rate by half a percentage point. The consumer price index, a highly scrutinized measure of inflation, is also set to drop next week. Read live market updates here.
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2. Microsoft-Activision deal under fire
The Biden administration's antitrust crusade continues. The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday sued to block Microsoft's proposed deal to acquire "Call of Duty" video game maker Activision Blizzard for about $69 billion, saying it would hurt competition and "would likely result in significant harm to consumers." Microsoft, which produces the XBox One gaming console, said it attempted to make concessions in order to appease the FTC, but it didn't work. "While we believed in giving peace a chance, we have complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present our case in court," Microsoft President Brad Smith said.
3. EV battery plant workers vote to unionize
The United Auto Workers scored a big win for organized labor as the auto industry shifts toward electric vehicles and away from the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. The union said Friday morning that workers at a battery plant in Ohio voted overwhelmingly to be represented by the UAW. The plant is part of a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy solution. GM CEO Mary Barra said earlier this week that she would want to get a deal done quickly with the union if the vote were successful. The Ultium plant in northeastern Ohio is the first of at least four U.S. facilities expected for the joint venture.
4. Lawmakers rip NFL, Commanders
The National Football League would probably rather have everyone focus more on the race for playoff spots during the last few weeks of the regular season, but now it's dealing with the fallout from a congressional investigation. The House Oversight Committee on Thursday released its findings from a probe into how the league and the Washington Commanders handled a separate probe into the team's allegedly toxic workplace culture. Lawmakers said they found that the league and the Commanders, including owner Dan Snyder, misled the public about what a third party investigator found and also impeded Congress's own work on the matter. The Commanders dismissed the report as "one-sided," while the NFL said it would review the findings. Snyder, himself the subject of allegations, is pursuing a possible sale of the beleagured team.
5. Griner returns to the U.S.
Basketball star Brittney Griner returned to the United States, about 10 months after she was first arrested in Russia for having cannabis oil in her luggage. She had faced a nine-year sentence in a Russian penal colony before American and Russian officials negotiated a prisoner swap. In return for Griner, Russia received notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, aka "the Merchant of Death." Griner is now in Texas, where she will receive medical care and counseling. Read live war updates here.
– CNBC's Carmen Reinicke, Jordan Novet, Lauren Feiner, Michael Wayland, Rebecca Picciotto and Natasha Turak contributed to this report.
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