Top Economic News
China has released more data indicating that its economy is slowing, with industrial production growth easing to 8.6% on year in January and February from 9.7% previously and missing consensus of 9.5%. Retail sales softened to +11.8% from +13.6%, while urban fixed-asset investment also weakened. The disappointing readings follow data which showed that exports plunged in February.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has become the latest member of the government to indicate that the leadership is prepared to tolerate what appears to be the country's slowing growth. "The GDP growth target (for 2014) is around 7.5%," Li said. "'Around' means there is some flexibility." Li also reiterated the government's increased acceptance of bankruptcy but said it needs to guard against "systemic and regional risks."
The NY Fed reportedly looked at the WM/Reuters fix foreign-exchange benchmark in late 2012, just a few months before other global regulators began investigating possible manipulation in the $5.3T-a-day currency markets. It's not clear whether the NY Fed discovered anything untoward, although officials took no public action. Until now, the role of the Bank of England has been under particular scrutiny.
Retail sales in Spain have provided more evidence that the country's recovery is taking hold, with the figure rising 0.5% on year in January after dropping 1% in December and easily topping forecasts for a fall of 0.8%. The IBEX 35 index (NYSEARCA:EWP) was +0.2% at the time of writing.
Indian consumer inflation fell for the third consecutive month in February, dropping to 8.1% on year from 8.79% in January and coming in below consensus of 8.3%. The decline comes as the Reserve Bank of India considers setting a CPI target after having raised interest rates three times since September. Meanwhile, industrial output surprisingly rose 0.1% in January vs expectations for a contraction of 0.9%.
Top Stock News
Alibaba is reportedly "95% certain" to carry out its much anticipated IPO in New York rather than in Hong Kong. Listing in the U.S. would allow the Chinese e-commerce behemoth to create a dual-class structure of stocks that would enable its founders and senior managers to retain their tight grip on the company. Hong Kong doesn't provide such an option.
Herbalife's shares somewhat stabilized post-market after tumbling 7.4% in regular trading following news that the Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into the nutrition-supplements company. The probe represents a battle victory for Bill Ackman in the war that he has been waging against Herbalife (NYSE:HLF) after he accused the company of running a pyramid scheme and put a $1B short on its stock. Shares were -0.7% postmarket.
Shell plans to separate some of its Americas downstream businesses and slash spending on its upstream operations in the region by 20%. Shell (RDS.A, RDS.B) also intends to sell more non-strategic assets. The plans come after the company suffered a steep drop in profit in Q4 and after it took a large writedown on its U.S. shale assets last year. Shell's shares were +0.5% premarket.
Liberty Global intends to enter the mobile-phone market in a number of European countries, including the U.K., Holland and Austria, by offering cellular services via the networks of other carriers. Liberty's (NASDAQ:LBTYA) plans add to its expansion in Europe's cable market through acquisitions and mirrors Vodafone's (NASDAQ:VOD) strategy of acquiring wire-line assets to complement its mobile-phone business.
Four tech giants hold a combined $124B in U.S. Treasurys and a further $39B in other government debt, the U.K.'s Bureau of Investigative Journalism calculates. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) appear to hold much U.S. debt offshore, which enables them to earn tax-free interest. Repatriating the assets would saddle them with a huge tax bill.
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In Asia, Japan -0.1% to 14816. Hong Kong -0.7% to 21756. China +1.1% to 2019, India -0.4% to 21775.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.1%. Paris +0.1%. Frankfurt +0.2%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.2%. S&P +0.2%. Nasdaq +0.3%. Crude flat at $98.03. Gold +1.9% to $1372.70.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 2.73%.
Today's economic calendar:
8:30 Retail Sales
8:30 Initial Jobless Claims
8:30 Import/Export Prices
9:45 Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index
10:00 Business Inventories
10:00 Hearing: Nomination of Stanley Fischer as Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of Federal Reserve
10:30 EIA Natural Gas Inventory
1:00 PM Results of $13B, 30-Year Note Auction
2:00 PM Treasury Budget
4:30 PM Money Supply
4:30 PM Fed Balance Sheet
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