Top Economic News
Major Japanese corporations have agreed to raise base salaries for their workers for the first time in six years, including Toyota (NYSE:TM), Honda (NYSE:HMC) and Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSBF). The pay increases signal how Japan's biggest companies are paying heed to the government's exhortations to lift wages as part of the battle against deflation.
Puerto Rico has sold $3.5B in tax-free bonds, above the $3B that the Commonwealth planned to auction, with the high yield of 8.727% helping to attract $16B in orders from 270 investors despite the risks - the government has been grappling with existing debt of $70B. The new notes will mature in 2035 and provide Puerto Rico with up to a year-and-a-half of liquidity.
President Obama reportedly plans to issue an executive order that could allow millions more salaried workers to receive overtime by raising the salary threshold at which employers would have to make such payments. Currently, businesses don't have to pay overtime to those earning over $455 a week. Companies might be unhappy about the prospective move, as it could increase costs.
Top Stock News
Global equities were mostly lower at the time of writing as concerns about China's economy apparently occupied market thinking following a plunge in exports despite the data being a few days old. Copper was continuing to sell off on such worries and was -0.65% at $2.932 a pound after sharp losses yesterday.
General Motors is reportedly facing a criminal investigation at the Department of Justice over whether the company is liable for its failure to properly disclose the problems with ignition switches that have been linked to the deaths of 13 people and which prompted the firm to recall 1.6M vehicles. The federal probe adds to investigations in the House, and by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and GM (NYSE:GM) itself.
Tesla will end its sales in New Jersey on April 1 after the state made it illegal for car makers to sell vehicles to consumers without a dealer. New Jersey joins Arizona and Texas in insisting that Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) follow the traditional formula of selling vehicles through licensed dealer franchises.
Judge Carl Barbier has again rejected a BP request to temporarily halt payments under its $9.2B oil-spill settlement, with the company this time wanting the establishment of improved accounting and fraud safeguards. BP (NYSE:BP), which has argued that unjustified payments have cost it hundreds of millions of dollars, wanted claims from some regions and industries, or those in excess of certain amounts, to be checked for "enhanced due diligence and closer scrutiny."
Activist investor Mason Morfit has joined Microsoft's board as part of a deal that was agreed upon in the summer. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) offered Morfit the board seat in August after his firm, ValueAct Capital, bought a $2B holding in the company in April and began to agitate for change.
Commercial landlord Vornado Realty Trust is reportedly considering a spin-off of its strip malls into a separate company that would then merge with Retail Opportunity Investments (NASDAQ:ROIC). Vornado (NYSE:VNO) shareholders would take a majority stake in the combined firm, avoiding the large tax bill that would come with an outright sale. Analysts value the business at $2-3B.
Fannie Mae continued to sell off post market following sharp falls during regular trading after a bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate that would continue government backing of mortgages but would wind down the firms. The proposal has the backing of the White House. Fannie Mae (OTCQB:FNMA) dropped 11.9% AH in the wake of a plunge of 31%, although Freddie Mac (OTCQB:FMCC) rose 5.1% after plummeting 27%.
Sheryl Sandberg is reportedly interested in becoming Disney's (NYSE:DIS) CEO following the planned departure of Bob Iger in 2016. Sandberg, who is Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) COO/ad chief, is already a Disney board member. Although CFO Jay Rasulo and parks chief Thomas Staggs have been viewed as the media giant's top CEO candidates, the board wants to "cast a wider net."
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In Asia, Japan -2.6% to 14830. Hong Kong -1.6% to 21902. China -0.2% to 1998. India +0.1% to 21856.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.9%. Paris -1.3%. Frankfurt -1.2%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow -0.2%. S&P -0.2%. Nasdaq -0.2%. Crude -1.3% to $98.74. Gold +0.7% to $1356.20.
Ten-year Treasury Yield - 2bps to 2.76%.
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