5 things to know before the stock market opens Wednesday, December 20

Expect modestly higher equities in Q1: Treasury Partners' Richard Saperstein

Here are the most important news items that investors need to start their trading day:

1. Holly jolly markets

2. Missing the mark

Target blames theft and violence for nine store closures

Target made waves when it announced in September that it would close nine stores across Seattle, New York, Portland and the San Francisco Bay Area. Retailers close stores all the time, and nine isn’t a big number, but Target explicitly cited concerns about crime and violence at these locations. CNBC’s Gabrielle Fonrouge, however, learned that other stores nearby generally suffered more crime than the closed locations, casting doubt on Target’s highly publicized explanation for the closures. Read the full investigation.

3. It’s all clicking

E-commerce had an industry-defining moment during the early days of the Covid pandemic, when people were stuck at home. Now people are free to go to any store they want, and they don’t even need masks – but online shopping is even bigger, according to the CNBC All-America Economic Survey. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said shopping sites were one of their top one or two destinations for gifts this holiday season. That’s up from 51% last year and the previous high of 55% in 2020. The top destination for online shoppers, according to the survey? Amazon, of course, with 74% saying it’s number one. Walmart made some gains from last year, with 16% now saying it was their top online spot, compared with 12% last year.

4. Affirmation

Jakub Porzycki | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Speaking of Walmart, the retail giant expanded its partnership with buy now, pay later provider Affirm. The new deal allows Walmart shoppers to use the service at self-checkout kiosks in thousands of stores throughout the U.S. Affirm’s stock, which is up more than 400% this year, popped 15% on Tuesday. The fintech firm cited data showing that more than half of American shoppers would like a buy now, pay later option at physical stores’ checkout lanes in addition to online shopping carts. “Moreover,” said Affirm executive Pat Suh, “we’ve found that 76% of consumers would either delay or not make a purchase without Affirm.”

5. FedEx flags

Parcels are seen in a street nearby UPS and FedEx trucks in a street of the Manhattan borough in New York City on December 4, 2023. 

Charly Triballeau | AFP | Getty Images

Package delivery colossus FedEx lowered its fiscal year revenue outlook for a second consecutive quarter, sending shares down more than 10% in extended trading. The company said weaker demand is weighing on its top line. Indeed, revenue declined compared with the same period a year ago, coming in at $22.17 billion, below analysts’ expectations of $22.41 billion. Adjusted earnings per share also fell short of what the Street was looking for. Still, shares of FedEx are up big on the year – nearly 62% as of Tuesday’s close – widely outperforming the S&P 500’s gains.

– CNBC’s Samantha Subin, Gabrielle Fonrouge, Steve Liesman, Jake Piazza and Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.

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