ETF Preview: ETFs, Futures Slips Lower Amid Concerns Over New COVID-19 Variant

Broad market exchange-traded funds, such as SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) were lower in Friday's premarket trade. Actively traded Invesco QQQ Trust Series I (QQQ) was down 0.8%.

US stock futures were also in the red ahead of the opening bell, with traders digesting reports of a new infectious and mutated COVID-19 variant, from South Africa, that may hurdle immunizations. Fearing yet another new wave of infections, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Friday the organization will propose an "emergency brake" on air travel from southern African states.

The economic calendar is vacant.

In pre-market action, bitcoin was trading some 8% lower and cryptocurrency fund ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) was down more than 6%.

Power Play: Consumer

Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) was down 0.9% and Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (VDC) was down more than 1%. iShares Dow Jones US Consumer Goods (IYK) was inactive.

Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (XLY) was down 2%; among retail funds, Market Vectors Retail ETF (RTH) slipped 1% in premarket trade while SPDR S&P Retail (XRT) was down some 3%.

Tesla (TSLA) has withdrawn its German state funding application for its proposed battery factory just outside of the capital Berlin, Reuters reported. The US electric automaker was expected to receive 1.14 billion euros ($1.29 billion) in funding to support construction at the factory site, a government spokesperson told the news agency. "Tesla continues to stick to its plans for the battery factory in the Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg, but will do without state IPCEI funding," the government spokesman said, referring to subsidies earmarked for "Important Projects of Common European Interest." TSLA shares fell nearly 3%.

Winners and Losers

Financial

Select Financial Sector SPDR (XLF) was down 3.5%. Direxion Daily Financial Bull 3X Shares (FAS) was down nearly 9% and its bearish counterpart Direxion Daily Financial Bear 3X Shares (FAZ) was up 8%.

KKR (KKR) said Thursday it has made an investment in Taylor's Education Group in exchange for a minority stake in the Southeast Asian private education holdings company. Taylor's Schools owns and operates six international schools in Malaysia and Singapore. The company will use the investment to accelerate growth and expand across the region, according to a statement. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. KKR shares was down 0.9%.

Technology

Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK) was down 1%; among other tech funds, iShares Dow Jones US Technology ETF (IYW) was down 1% while iShares S&P North American Technology ETF (IGM) was quiet in premarket trade.

Among semiconductor ETFs, SPDR S&P Semiconductor (XSD) was down 0.2% while Semiconductor Sector Index Fund (SOXX) was down 1%.

United Microelectronics (UMC) and Micron Technology (MU) said Thursday they have agreed to settle complaints related to the former's alleged stealing of the latter's trade secrets. Micron previously sued the Taiwanese chipmaker for allegedly conspiring with China's state-owned Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit to steal, convey, and possess Micron's trade secrets for the benefit of Fujian Jinhua. The US Department of Justice said last year that United pleaded guilty to criminal trade secret theft. The companies have now agreed to withdraw their complaints and United will make a one-time payment of an undisclosed amount to Micron, they said in a statement. United Microelectronics shares were nearly 3% lower in recent premarket activity, while Micron Technology lost 2%.

Energy

Dow Jones US Energy Fund (IYE) was down 3% and Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) rose 5%.

Gran Tierra Energy Inc. (GTE) unit Gran Tierra Resources Ltd. is selling to private purchasers about 137.1 million common shares of PetroTal at $0.2198 per share, for a total purchase price of $30.1 million, according to a press release. The price per share represents a discount of around 10.8% to the closing price of PetroTal common shares on Nov. 25 on the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange. Gran Tierra Resources Ltd. will no longer own any shares of PetroTal after the transaction. Gran Tierra plans to use the proceeds of the sale of PetroTal shares to pay down debt and for other general corporate purposes. GTE shares slumped nearly 10%.

Commodities

Crude oil was down more than 6%; United States Oil Fund (USO) fell more than 5%. Natural gas was up some 3% and the United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) rose nearly 3%.

Gold was up 1.5% and SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) was up more than 1%. Silver was up 0.6%, while iShares Silver Trust (SLV) was up 0.4%.

Health Care

Health Care SPDR (XLV) slipped 0.5% lower; iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare (IYH) and Vanguard Health Care ETF (VHT) were inactive while iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (IBB) was up marginally.

Pfizer (PFE) has filed a complaint against its employee Chun Xiao Li for allegedly transferring over 12,000 files, including confidential documents and trade-secret information, from her company-issued laptop to a personal Google Drive account and onto other personal devices. In a complaint filed with the US District Court for the Southern District of California, the company claimed that Li, who is leaving the company to join a competitor it believes to be Xencor, had acquired "scores of confidential Pfizer documents" and had repeatedly attempted to cover her actions, including providing the company's security team with a laptop that was confirmed to be a decoy. Xencor was not a named defendant in the complaint. It declined to comment on the matter, according to media reports. The company also said that it has yet to understand the full scope of the information Li has acquired and that the complaint will focus on information on its COVID-19 vaccine and monoclonal antibody programs. PFE shares rose nearly 6%.