Spain on the brink; Saudi King in Russia; U.K. car sales

premarket Thursday
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1. Spain on the brink: Spanish markets were volatile Thursday as the country grappled with its worst political crisis in decades.

Officials in Catalonia have warned they could declare independence from Spain within days after Madrid interfered in an independence referendum.

The leader of the Catalan separatist government, Carles Puigdemont, said late Wednesday that the Spanish government's policies have proved "catastrophic" for Catalonia.

He also accused the King of Spain of "deliberately ignoring the millions of Catalans who don't think like him."

Spain's benchmark index posted a small gain in early trading after dropping by nearly 3% on Wednesday.

2. Saudi King in Russia: King Salman is making the first ever trip to Russia by a Saudi monarch, arriving in Moscow for a visit with President Vladimir Putin.

The two leaders are expected to discuss economic cooperation and the possible extension of a deal to slash oil production.

U.S. crude futures inched higher to trade around $50 per barrel.

3. Car sales slump: New car sales in the U.K. fell 9% in September, the sixth consecutive monthly decline. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which publishes the data, said economic and political uncertainty, as well as confusion over diesel vehicle bans led to a fall in consumer confidence.

"September is always a barometer of the health of the U.K. new car market so this decline will cause considerable concern," SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said in a statement.

4. Global market overview: U.S. stock futures were flat on Thursday.

Markets in Europe and Asia were mixed.

U.S. markets closed at record highs for a third consecutive day on Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 both added 0.1%, while the Nasdaq posted a small gain.

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5. Stock market movers: Shares in Japanese beer maker Asahi jumped over 8% in Tokyo after Japanese media suggested the company will raise its prices.

SeaWorld (SEAS) shares jumped late Wednesday after Bloomberg reported that U.K. theme-park operator Merlin Entertainments (MERLY) is exploring the possibility of buying SeaWorld.

6. Earnings and economics: Costco (COST) and Yum China (YUMC) are set to announce earnings after the closing bell.

The U.S. Census Bureau will release its August trade balance report at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The European Central Bank will publish minutes from its September monetary policy meeting at 08:30 a.m. ET. Investors will be looking for clues on plans to start unwinding the bank's stimulus program.

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7. Coming this week:

Thursday -- Costco earnings; Third Equifax hearing
Friday -- August jobs report