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5 things to know before the stock market opens Feb. 19, 2021

Here are the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:

1. Dow futures bounce after biggest one-day February loss

The Wall Street sign is seen outside The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, February 16, 2021.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

U.S. stock futures rose Friday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq suffered their biggest one-day losses in the red-hot month of February. The Dow, which broke a three-day winning streak and fell from a record closing high, remained on track for a positive week, which would be its third straight. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq, both riding three-day losing streaks, were on pace for their first losing weeks in the past three. The latest record closes for those two stock benchmarks came last Friday.

Bitcoin — which topped $50,000 and $51,000 and $52,000 this week — hit all-time highs early Friday near $53,000 per unit. After Tesla and other companies recently showed support for the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, major financial firms also appeared to be warming to it. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CNBC on Thursday she believes bitcoin is a “highly speculative asset.”

2. Treasury Secretary Yellen makes push for major Covid stimulus

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during a virtual roundtable event with participants from local Black Chambers of Commerce on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

As the House aims to pass its version of President Joe Biden‘s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief blueprint by the end of next week, Yellen also said on CNBC that a large stimulus package is still necessary to get the economy back to full strength. She added, “The price of doing too little is much higher than the price of doing something big. We think that the benefits will far outweigh the costs in the longer run.” Democrats hope to get their bill through Congress before March 14, when a federal unemployment supplement and key jobless benefit programs expire.

3. Biden to pledge billions in global Covid vaccination aid

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with labor leaders on coronavirus relief in the Oval Office on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.

Pete Marovich | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Biden is expected to announce Friday that the U.S. will spend $4 billion on international Covid vaccination efforts. He will make the pledge during his first virtual meeting as president with G-7 leaders. Biden will also urge other nations to put more money toward the global fight against the pandemic.

Later in the day, Biden travels to Michigan to visit Pfizer‘s vaccine manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, a trip that was supposed to happen Thursday but was postponed due winter weather. Biden made his first domestic trip as president Tuesday, traveling to Wisconsin for a CNN town hall on the coronavirus.

4. Uber dealt a major blow as UK’s top court rules drivers are workers

A driver uses the Uber app to drop off a passenger in London.

Chris J. Ratcliffe | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Shares of Uber dropped another 3% in the premarket after the Supreme Court in the U.K. ruled Friday that the company’s drivers there should be classified as workers rather than independent contractors. The ruling out of Britain ends an almost five-year legal battle between Uber and a group of former drivers there. Uber insists its drivers are self-employed and that it acts as more of an “agency” that connects them with passengers through an app. The company weathered a challenge in its home market of California in November, when voters backed a ballot proposal that cemented app-based food delivery and ride-hailing drivers’ status as independent contractors, not employees.

5. Citadel’s Ken Griffin defends controversial Wall Street practice

Ken Griffin, Founder and CEO, Citadel

Mike Blake | Reuters

During Thursday’s GameStop hearing, Citadel’s Ken Griffin defended a controversial method brokerages use to make money, and said his firm would adapt if new regulations prohibited the practice. Members of Congress spent much of their time prodding about “payment for order flow,” a practice in which a brokerage receives payment from a market maker like Citadel, known as a dealer, for directing the order to them. This model is how Robinhood and other brokers are able to offer commission-free trading. “I do believe that payment for order flow has been an important source of innovation in the industry,” Griffin added.

— Reuters contributed to this report. Follow all the developments on Wall Street in real time with CNBC Pro’s live markets blog. Get the latest on the pandemic with our coronavirus blog.


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