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North American Morning Briefing: Stock Futures -2-

The nation's three largest drug distributors-McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp., and Cardinal Health Inc.-and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson have been negotiating the deal for more than two years, but Wednesday's announcement signifies an important milestone that could clear the way for money to be received by states as soon as early next year.

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Chipotle Stock Hits a Record as Customers Return to Dining

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.'s shares hit a record high Wednesday as the burrito chain expressed confidence about growth, saying customers are returning to its dining rooms to eat out despite higher menu prices.

Sales for the company's quarter ended in June outpaced the same period before the pandemic, with more people eating out again, particularly at lunch, the company said.

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Fed Ramps Up Debate Over Taper Timing, Pace

Federal Reserve officials are set to accelerate deliberations at their meeting next week over how to scale back their easy-money policies amid a stronger U.S. economic recovery than they anticipated six months ago.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said their discussions are focusing on two important questions: When to start paring their monthly purchases of $80 billion in Treasury securities and $40 billion in mortgage securities, and how quickly to reduce, or taper, them.

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Derby's Take: Fed Officials Want Increasingly Risky Stablecoins Regulated

Federal Reserve officials are growing more concerned about the threat the cryptocurrency market poses to the broader financial system.

In recent weeks, a number of central bank officials, including Chairman Jerome Powell, have zeroed in on so-called stablecoins. These digital assets are designed to be easily swapped for dollars at fixed values, thus avoiding the extreme volatility of the broader private digital money space.

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Delta Variant of Covid-19 Isn't Expected to Dent Robust U.S. Recovery

The highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 doesn't pose an immediate risk to the strength of the U.S. economic recovery, with analysts expecting a robust expansion to continue in the second half of the year.

Many economists are maintaining forecasts for solid economic growth due to expectations of steady hiring and continued spending, driven by accumulated savings and Americans' desire to travel and socialize more than a year into the pandemic.

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Senate Republicans Block Infrastructure Bill but Talks to Continue

WASHINGTON-Senate Republicans blocked an effort to begin debate on a bipartisan infrastructure deal still under negotiation Wednesday, but lawmakers said they expected to close in on a final agreement by early next week.

The vote failed, with 49 in favor and 51 against, short of the 60 needed to open debate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) switched his vote to no, which he said gave him the option to bring the bill up again.

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Unemployment Applications Expected to Touch New Pandemic Low

New filings for unemployment benefits are estimated to have declined to another pandemic low, showing the U.S. labor market is steadily recovering.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect that initial jobless claims fell by 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 350,000. The Labor Department will release the latest figures at 8:30 a.m. ET. The number of new applications has fallen by almost 25% in the week ended July 10, from early May. Meanwhile, the number of continuing unemployment payments has steadily declined since the spring.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk Says He Personally Owns Bitcoin-and So Does SpaceX

Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk said Wednesday that he and his rocket company, SpaceX, hold bitcoin, a cryptocurrency he generally supports despite having concerns about its environmental impacts.

Tesla disclosed a $1.5 billion investment in bitcoin in February and soon after began accepting the cryptocurrency as payment for its vehicles. The company quickly reversed course, however, suspending that initiative in May as Mr. Musk expressed worry about the source of the electricity being used to power bitcoin mining.

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House Committee to Weigh Corporate Bankruptcy 'Abuses'

The House Judiciary Committee said Wednesday it will hold hearings beginning next week to address what it described as "abuses" of the corporate bankruptcy system, including a legal strategy the owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP are pursuing to shield themselves from opioid litigation.

The committee hearings will come as Stamford, Conn.-based Purdue prepares for a trial in bankruptcy court set to begin in early August over the merits of its $4.5 billion settlement with members of the Sackler family who own the company.

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Texas Arrests Migrants at U.S. Border, but Some Counties Aren't on Board

DEL RIO, Texas-Texas has begun arresting and jailing migrants for trespassing, as Gov. Greg Abbott pursues a new plan aimed at illegal border crossers that is dividing counties in the state.

The first three migrants were sent to a state prison Tuesday on the state charges, according to Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens, whose role is an elected executive akin to a mayor. Hundreds of law-enforcement officers from across the state and country have been sent to the Texas-Mexico border in recent weeks to begin arrests. Civil-rights groups have questioned the move, saying that states cannot legally enforce federal immigration law.

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China Flood Death Toll Climbs as Rains Continue

HONG KONG-The death toll from severe floods in central China rose to at least 33 people, local authorities said, as they grappled with the fallout from record rainstorms that have ravaged local agriculture and inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

At least eight people remained missing as of early Thursday after rain storms started pelting the city of Zhengzhou and surrounding parts of Henan province late last week, Chinese state media said, citing the provincial emergency-management department.

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Write to sarka.halas@wsj.com

TODAY IN CANADA

Earnings:

Aecon Grp Inc. (ARE.T) 2Q

MEG Energy Corp. (MEG.T) 2Q

Newmont Corp. (NGT.T) 2Q

Precision Drilling Corp (PD.T) 2Q

Winpak Ltd. (WPK.T) 2Q

Economic Indicators (ET):

0830 May Employment Insurance

Stocks to Watch:

No items published

Other News:

Biden to Nominate Comcast Executive David Cohen as U.S. Ambassador to Canada

President Biden plans to nominate David L. Cohen, an executive with Comcast Corp., to serve as U.S. ambassador to Canada, and Victoria Reggie Kennedy, an attorney and the widow of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, to serve as the top U.S. diplomat to Austria.

A third nominee announced Wednesday, Jamie Harpootlian, a Columbia, S.C., attorney, is slated to serve as U.S. ambassador to Slovenia. Mrs. Harpootlian is the wife of state Sen. Richard Harpootlian, a top South Carolina political ally and fundraiser for Mr. Biden.

The other two nominees also have deep ties to the president.

Mr. Cohen, a senior adviser to Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts, hosted Mr. Biden's first 2020 campaign fundraiser at his Philadelphia home in April 2019. A longtime Philadelphia business executive and attorney, Mr. Cohen previously served as chief of staff to then-Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell. Mr. Rendell later served as Pennsylvania governor.

Mr. Biden served alongside Mr. Kennedy in the Senate for more than three decades and eulogized the late senator following his death in 2009.

Market Talk:

Canadian Dollar Expected to Rebound in Coming Months

The Canadian dollar is likely to reverse its recent declines in coming months as coronavirus risks will fall in Canada and globally on vaccination progress, Standard Chartered says. The currency should also receive a boost from expectations that the Bank of Canada will tighten its monetary policy while other central banks remain cautious due to bets current inflationary pressures will be temporary, StanChart's global head of G-10 forex research, Steve Englander, says. "USD/CAD is well above what our medium-term equation sees as justified," he says. StanChart expects USD/CAD to fall to 1.15 by year-end from 1.2686 at present.

   
 
 

Expected Major Events for Thursday

06:45/FRA: Jul Monthly business survey (goods-producing industries)

10:00/UK: Jul CBI Industrial Trends Survey

12:30/US: Jun CFNAI Chicago Fed National Activity Index

12:30/CAN: May Employment Insurance

12:30/US: 07/17 Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report - Initial Claims

12:30/US: U.S. Weekly Export Sales

13:00/RUS: Weekly International Reserves

13:45/US: Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index

14:00/US: Jun Existing Home Sales

14:00/US: Jun Leading Indicators

14:30/US: 07/16 EIA Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report

15:00/US: Jul Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Survey of Tenth District Manufacturing

20:30/US: Federal Discount Window Borrowings

20:30/US: Foreign Central Bank Holdings

23:01/UK: Jul UK Consumer Confidence Survey

All times in GMT. Powered by Kantar Media and Dow Jones.

   
 
 

Expected Earnings for Thursday

AT&T Inc (T) is expected to report $0.64 for 2Q.

Abbott Laboratories (ABT) is expected to report $0.72 for 2Q.

Acme United (ACU) is expected to report $0.93 for 2Q.

Alaska Air Group Inc (ALK) is expected to report $-0.38 for 2Q.

American Airlines Group Inc (AAL) is expected to report $-1.26 for 2Q.

American River Bankshares (AMRB) is expected to report $0.35 for 2Q.

Atlantic Union Bankshares Corp (AUB) is expected to report for 2Q.

Banc Of California Inc (BANC) is expected to report $0.27 for 2Q.

Biogen Inc (BIIB) is expected to report $3.68 for 2Q.

Blackstone Group Inc (BX) is expected to report for 2Q.

Cadence Bancorp (CADE) is expected to report $0.49 for 2Q.

Chart Industries Inc (GTLS) is expected to report $0.77 for 2Q.

Danaher Corp (DHR) is expected to report $1.68 for 2Q.

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires

July 22, 2021 06:02 ET (10:02 GMT)

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