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5 things to know before the stock market opens Friday, December 23

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Traders hang Christmas decorations on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, November 29, 2022.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

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

1. Lumps of coal everywhere

2. Microsoft pushes back

An Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare video game is inserted into the Microsoft’s Xbox One video game console arranged in Denver, Colorado, on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.

Michael Ciaglo | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft officially responded to the Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to block the software giant’s $68.7 billion deal to buy video game maker Activision Blizzard. Microsoft, which produces Xbox gaming systems, contended that the acquisition wouldn’t hurt competition and emphasized that it had made concessions to help get the deal approved. Regarding Activision’s lucrative Call of Duty series, Microsoft said it had offered rival Sony, which makes PlayStation consoles, a 10-year deal to release the games for Sony systems on the same day they’re offered for Xbox. “Sony refuses to deal,” Microsoft said in its response to the FTC.

3. Google warns employees

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 09: Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at a panel at the CEO Summit of the Americas hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on June 09, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. The CEO Summit entered its second day of events with a formal signing for the “International Coalition to Connect Marine Protected Areas” and a speech from U.S. President Joe Biden. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Alphabet‘s Google told employees that more of them will be at risk of low performance ratings in 2023, according to internal communications obtained by CNBC’s Jennifer Elias. The company estimates that its new evaluation system would put 6% of full-time workers into a category that carries higher risk for corrective action. It was 2% previously. The system will also make it harder for employees to score high marks. The changes come as the company grapples with its headcount after recent expansions. Executives have said there will be small cuts, and they haven’t ruled out layoffs.

4. Moving back in with mom and dad

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves following his arraignment in New York City on December 22, 2022. 

Ed Jones | Afp | Getty Images

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old former crypto billionaire, is moving in with his parents in California. He has no choice. A federal judge granted the accused fraudster released on a $250 million recognizance bond under tight restrictions as he awaits trial on multiple criminal charges. Before he was arrested, and as his empire crumbled, Bankman-Fried said his personal fortune dwindled to about $100,000. So his bond was secured by equity in his family’s home, as well as the signatures of his parents and two other people with “considerable” assets.

5. A big week for James Cameron and Disney

Director James Cameron attends the “Avatar: The Way of Water” world premiere at the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on December 06, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/Getty Images)

Joe Maher | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

After a smaller-than-expected $134 million domestic opening weekend, director James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” faces a big test in its second week of release. Will it follow the pattern of the first “Avatar,” which experienced small weekly dropoffs in business on its way to becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time? Or will it suffer the kind of second-week declines that plague the blockbusters of this era? The Disney sci fi epic does have a few things working in its favor: audience word of mouth has been good, and there’s a general desire among moviegoers to see it in pricier premium formats like 3D and IMAX. Also, the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s is typically a big one for Hollywood, with kids home for the holidays and many people on vacation – and “Avatar” is the only big, family-friendly spectacle in town.

– CNBC’s Samantha Subin, Jordan Novet, Jennifer Elias, Rohan Goswami, MacKenzie Sigalos and Sarah Whitten contributed to this report.

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