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Blinken’s diplomatic mission, corporate earnings, Rite Aid – what’s moving markets

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— U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken seeks to limit the extent of the conflict in the Middle East, while the focus on Wall Street turns to the new quarterly corporate earnings season. Rite Aid has filed for bankruptcy while crude prices consolidate after recent hefty gains.

1. Blinken attempts to limit Middle East conflict

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken returns to Israel on Monday as part of a concerted diplomatic attempt to ensure Israel’s conflict with Palestinian militant group Hamas does not spillover elsewhere in the region.

Israel has imposed a strict blockade on the Gaza region as it carries out a heavy bombardment in preparation for a ground invasion.

Blinken has already visited Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in an attempt to limit the scope of the conflict.

However, tensions are rising as Iran, which backs Hamas, the dominant power in Gaza, warned Israel of escalation if it kept attacking Palestinians.

“If the Zionist aggressions do not stop, the hands of all parties in the region are on the trigger,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, adding that Tehran could not simply stay an observer.

“We are on the verge of the abyss in the Middle East,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in a statement Sunday.

2. Futures edge higher; Powell set to speak later in week 

U.S. stock futures edged higher Monday, at the start of a busy week for quarterly corporate earnings.

At 05:00 ET (09:00 GMT), the contract added 100 points or 0.3%, climbed by 10 points or 0.2%, and inched up by 15 points or 0.1%.

The third quarter earnings season picks up steam this week [see below], with several major U.S. companies expected to show an improvement in profit growth after a tepid first half.

The economic data slate is largely empty Monday, and eyes will quickly turn to U.S. figures for September, due on Tuesday, will give investors insight into the strength of consumer spending.

There are a number of Fed officials due to speak this week, but most attention will be on comments by Fed Chair on Thursday when he addresses the Economic Club of New York, just before the start of the central bank’s blackout period.

3. Earnings season gets going in earnest

The quarterly earnings kicks into top gear this week with 11% of the slated to report, although Monday is a little short of star quality.  

Charles Schwab (NYSE:) is the biggest name due later in the session, and the lender follows on from JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:), Wells Fargo (NYSE:) and Citigroup (NYSE:) reporting quarterly profits on Friday that outstripped analysts’ estimates boosted by higher interest rates.

Continuing the banking theme, Bank of America (NYSE:) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:) are both due ahead of the open on Tuesday.

Other big names include healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:), reporting ahead of Tuesday’s market open, consumer products giant Procter & Gamble (NYSE:) ahead of Wednesday’s open, Netflix (NASDAQ:) and Tesla (NASDAQ:) after Wednesday’s close and Philip Morris (NYSE:) ahead of the open on Thursday.

4. Rite Aid files for bankruptcy

Rite Aid (NYSE:) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sunday as the drugstore chain struggles with slowing sales, mounting debt and a slew of lawsuits over its alleged role in the U.S. opioid crisis.

Rite Aid has been named as a defendant, along with other pharmacy chains, in lawsuits that alleged they helped fuel the opioid crisis in the U.S..

The filing will allow the company to resolve litigation claims in an “equitable manner”, a spokesperson said.

Rite Aid said it has received a commitment for $3.45 billion in new financing from some of its lenders, even as it struggled with total debts of $8.60 billion as of June 3.

Rite Aid also appointed Jeffrey Stein as its new CEO and chief restructuring officer, replacing interim CEO Elizabeth Burr, and announced it will close more of its underperforming stores.

5. Oil consolidates after conflict-inspired gains

Oil prices edged lower Monday, consolidating after last week’s hefty gains as traders awaited any more developments in the Israel-Hamas war given the potential for a hit to global supply.

By 05:00 ET, the futures traded 0.3% lower at $86.09 a barrel, while the contract dropped 0.4% to $90.50. 

Both benchmarks climbed nearly 6% on Friday, posting their highest daily percentage gains since April, and for the week, Brent advanced 7.5% while WTI climbed 5.9%.

Israel is not a big player in terms of crude production, but concerns are mounting about any potential escalation which could impact supplies from countries in the world’s top oil producing region, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

“Uncertainty and concern over the escalation of the Israel-Hamas war continue to support the oil market. In recent days, Iran has warned about the risk of a wider conflict, while there are reports that Saudi Arabia has frozen talks to normalize relations with Israel,” said analysts at ING, in a note.

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