Stock Market Futures Edged Higher In Thin Holiday Trading

Stock market futures are tilting higher in early morning trading on Wednesday this week. This comes the day after 2021’s supposed Santa rally hit a snag with both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes ending the session lower. In the larger scheme of things, this is not all that surprising given the overall volatility in markets this month. On the positive end, we saw mostly solid earnings throughout the latest earnings season and continued strength in consumer markets. The latter is particularly apparent as Mastercard (NYSE: MA) saw holiday spending rise 8.5% year-over-year.

On the flip side, investors have been and are still considering the possible impacts of the Omicron variant on the economy. Sure, the strain may be less severe in terms of hospitalization rates but global governments continue to implement harsher lockdown measures, nonetheless. Not to mention, this could also weigh in on the Federal Reserves’ plans to pull back its easy-money policies. Pair all this with light trading volumes, economic data, and earnings, and I can see why investors may be taking a breather for the holidays. However, for those still watching markets for the latest stock market news, there remains some to consider today. As of 5:28 a.m. ET, the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq futures are trading higher by 0.13%, 0.19%, and 0.35% respectively.

Roblox Ushering In Paris Hilton’s Metaverse Business

Roblox (NYSE: RBLX) among other metaverse-focused businesses continues to make waves in the stock market today. In fact, today would be one such day for one of the hottest virtual reality (VR) gaming companies on the market now. As of yesterday, celebrity DJ Paris Hilton is launching a metaverse business venture on Roblox. Through an online virtual world known as Paris World, visitors can explore replicas of Hilton’s estate and its dog mansion. Additionally, they also have the option to experience her neon carnival-themed wedding celebration or explore the island in luxury sports cars.

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Naturally, Paris World will charge small fees for visitors looking to purchase virtual clothing in-game or book rides on luxury vehicles. More importantly, Hilton also commented on what her metaverse business brings to the table. She said, “For me, the metaverse is somewhere that you can do everything you can do in real life in the digital world … Not everybody gets to experience that, so that’s what we’ve been working together on over the past year — giving them all my inspirations of what I want in that world.”

In other words, consumers can turn to this version of the metaverse to experience the luxuries of the uber-rich. Given the recent worsening pandemic conditions, there could be a market for this. All things considered, I could see investors eyeing RBLX stock today.  

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Baidu Making Plays On The Metaverse And EV Fronts This Week

In other news, Chinese search engine titan Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU) seems to be hard at work expanding its portfolio now. For starters, the company is reportedly launching its iteration of the metaverse. According to reports by Chinese media, Baidu recently launched its new XiRang app, which translates to “Land of Hope”.

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Notably, the app currently boasts a user capacity of 100,000. All of which can host meetings and other events in real-time. Furthermore, Baidu also simulates local attractions in the virtual space known as “Creator City”. This includes China’s Shaolin Temple among others. That’s not all, the app can also be accessed via mobile phones and laptops via VR headsets. This would provide easier access to larger consumer markets.

At the same time, Baidu does not seem to be slowing down on the electric vehicle (EV) front. Earlier this week, CEO Robin Li revealed that Baidu’s Jidu Auto division will start mass-producing its first “robot” EVs in 2023. Li notes that Jidu is looking to develop autonomous Level-four vehicles that do not require human intervention. Across the board, it seems like Baidu continues to find new ways to grow its operations. Whether or not this translates to long-term gains for BIDU stock remains to be seen.

Software Firm Digital Turbine Gains On New Google Partnership

Shares of Digital Turbine (NASDAQ: APPS) are on the rise in the pre-market trading today. For the most part, this is thanks to its latest undertaking, a multi-year strategic partnership with Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL). Before going into the details, some background info on Digital Turbine. In essence, the company operates a leading independent mobile growth and monetization platform. Through its platform, Digital Turbine caters to advertisers, publishers, and carriers among others. Now, thanks to the current move, APPS stock gained by as much as 10% throughout intraday trading yesterday.

In detail, Digital Turbine is now working with Google Cloud’s premier partner SADA, a cloud tech services firm. According to Digital Turbine, the duo are now working to implement Google’s enterprise and cloud solutions. Ideally, this will serve to “rapidly enhance and expand” them globally while broadening growth and monetization solutions for Google partners. Google Cloud president Rob Enslin notes that Digital Turbine’s work will help to “expand support of its value-added mobile experiences” globally.

Overall, the company seems to be playing a crucial role in Google’s current enterprise cloud plans. With Digital Turbine deepening its relationship with ad tech giant Google, APPS stock could be worth noting.

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Google’s Waymo Taps Geely’s Electric Mobility Brand Zeekr For Electric Driverless Taxi Development

Elsewhere, things appear to be heating up in the autonomous vehicle (AV) space as well. Namely, Google’s EV division Waymo is reportedly teaming up with Geely, a leading Chinese EV player. In particular, Geely’s premium electric mobility brand Zeekr will be teaming up with Waymo. Together, they will be working on deploying fully autonomous ride-hailing vehicles across the U.S. This would be another booming section of the broader automotive industry to consider in the stock market today. According to Waymo, the duo are looking to have these vehicles on U.S. roads “in the years to come”.

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Diving into the details, Zeekr will be designing and developing the vehicles at its facility in Sweden. In turn, Waymo will then be integrating its self-driving tech into the final product. All in all, this is a solid win for both Waymo and Geely. On one hand, this provides Alphabet with more legroom in the driverless ride-hailing space as it advances its lead against the competition.

On the other hand, Chinese brands such as Geely would be gaining further exposure into the U.S. market. With all this activity in the EV/AV space now, companies like Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) and Ford (NYSE: F) may want to keep their guard up.

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