Brexit fears; Levi’s IPO; Nike earnings

1. Brexit fears: The pound is under pressure as Britain plunges deeper into Brexit chaos.

The currency dropped 0.3% against the US dollar to trade below $1.32 as Prime Minister Theresa May asked the European Union for more time. It also slipped against the euro.

May is going to Brussels Thursday in an attempt to convince EU leaders to grant an extension to the Brexit process until June 30. If they decline, Britain risks crashing out of the bloc on March 29.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, says a short delay is possible but it’s conditional on the UK parliament passing May’s twice-defeated divorce deal.

In a televised address on Wednesday, May blamed lawmakers for failing to implement the result of the 2016 referendum.

2. Fed holds rates: US stocks briefly rallied Wednesday after the Federal Reserve voted to hold interest rates, but quickly reversed their course and finished the day lower.

The Dow closed down 0.6%, while the S&P 500 dropped 0.3%. The Nasdaq gained 0.1%. Bank stocks fell sharply because of concerns about central bank’s weaker economic outlook.

The majority of Fed officials — 11 total — now anticipate holding rates steady for the remainder of 2019. Only six participants forecast at least one additional rate hike this year.

It’s “a great time to be patient,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters at a press conference.

3. Nike earnings: Investors are hoping for good news from Nike when the company reports earnings after the bell. Sales are expected to rise nearly 7%.

Shares in Nike dipped last month after Duke basketball star Zion Williamson injured his knee when his Nike sneaker broke. Nike said it was an “isolated occurrence.”

Investors will be paying attention to anything the company says about demand in China and Europe, where economic growth has slowed.

4. Levi Strauss goes public: Levi Strauss will return to the stock market on Thursday after a 34-year absence.

The clothing retailer priced its initial public offering at $17 per share, valuing the company at about $6.6 billion. That’s higher than the price range of $14 to $16 that the company had previously set.

The company’s stock will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “LEVI.”

5. Global market overview: US stock futures were little changed.

European markets opened mostly lower, while stocks in Asia closed mixed.

US oil prices were trading back above $60 a barrel after having briefly reached that level on Wednesday for the first time since November.

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6. Earnings and economics: Lands’ End will release earnings before the open. Cintas and Scholastic Corp will follow after the close.

Tencent, the Chinese gaming and social media company, reported a 32% drop in net profit for the final quarter of 2018.

Bank of England will announced its latest policy decision at 5:30 a.m. ET. The central bank is expected to keep rates on hold.

7. Coming this week:
Thursday — Earnings from Darden Restaurants, Tencent and Nike; Levi Strauss IPO expected; Bank of England rate decision; EU leaders meet to discuss Brexit
Friday — Tiffany & Co earnings; February home sales data.