Eurozone inflation has fallen to its lowest level since late 2009, slipping to 0.5% on year in March from 0.7% in February and undershooting forecasts of 0.6%. The slowdown is likely to strengthen concerns that the eurozone is sliding towards deflation and could add pressure on the ECB to further ease policy at a meeting on Thursday. The euro was +0.1% at $1.3769 at the time of writing.
Two million people visited the government's HealthCare.gov Web site over the weekend, ahead of tonight's deadline to sign up for Obamacare coverage for 2015. Those who don't could face penalties of up to 1% of their annual income. Around 6M had enrolled as of March 27, meaning that the White House could reach its original goal of signing up 7M to Obamacare by the end of today.
Japanese industrial output slumped 2.3% on month in February after rising 3.8% in January and badly missed consensus for growth of 0.3%. The surprise drop was partly due to heavy snowfall, but also to manufacturers preparing for an expected decline in demand when a rise in sales tax goes into effect tomorrow.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has been visiting Crimea, becoming the most senior politician from his country to arrive in the province since its annexation. Medvedev's visit comes after four hours of talks between John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday appeared to have ended in deadlock. However, there have been reports today that Russian forces are gradually withdrawing from Ukraine's border.
China's crackdown on corruption appears to have gone into overdrive, with Reuters reporting that authorities have seized assets worth at least 90B yuan ($14.5B) from family members and associates of Zhou Yongkang, the former domestic-security chief who is the focus of the largest corruption scandal in the history of communist China. Authorities have also arrested or questioned over 300 people in the past few months.
Greece's parliament has passed a controversial economic-reform bill and paved the way for the government to receive an €8.3B tranche in international aid, which will allow it to pay €9.3B in debt that is due next month. However, the vote has left the right-of-center government with just a majority of two after it expelled a rebellious legislator.
Jury selection is due to start today in the second major U.S. court fight in the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) vs Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) global IP battle. Apple is suing the South Korean company for $2B for the alleged violation of five patents, while Samsung has argued that Apple has breached two of its patents. Apple's other target is Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), with some of Samsung's alleged IP breaches involving Android features.
Edwards Lifesciences' new Sapien XT heart valve, which can be inserted without open-heart surgery, outperformed a rival device from Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) in a head-to-head comparison. Edwards' (NYSE:EW) product led to improved symptoms in patients, was easier to insert and had a similar death rate to Medtronic's CoreValve. Analysts believe that the market for the devices could eventually be worth $3B a year.
Amgen's Evolocumab cut "bad" LDL cholesterol by 37-76% in a number of Phase III trials. Evolocumab is part of a new class of drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors, which block a protein that hampers the ability of the liver to remove LDL from the blood. Analysts have forecast that annual sales of each such drug could hit $3B or more.
Switzerland's competition commission, WEKO, is investigating several Swiss, U.K. and U.S. banks over the possible manipulation of forex markets. Companies being probed include UBS (NYSE:UBS), Credit Suisse (NYSE:CS), Julius Baer (OTCPK:JBARF), JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Barclays (NYSE:BCS) and Royal Bank of Scotland (NYSE:RBS). WEKO started a preliminary inquiry in October, joining other authorities from around the world in investigating possible currency rigging.
General Motors authorized faulty ignition switches for its vehicles in 2002 despite the parts not appearing to meet the car-maker's requirements, Delphi Automotive (NYSE:DLPH) has told U.S. congressional investigators. The House Energy & Commerce Committee released the information yesterday, two days before GM CEO Mary Barra is due to testify to the panel about the switches, which have been linked to at least 13 deaths.
Weight Watchers (NYSE:WTW) - new article by Intangible Valuation »
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RPC (NYSE:RES) +11.8% since Jan. 28 Nassarius Capital article »
Veeva Systems (NYSE:VEEV) -35.4% since Dec. 3 Suhail Capital article »
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In Asia, Japan +0.9% to 14828. Hong Kong +0.4% to 22151. China -0.4% to 2033. India +0.2% to 22386.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.7%. Paris -0.2%. Frankfurt +0.1%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.4%. S&P +0.4%. Nasdaq +0.4%. Crude -0.1% to $101.61. Gold +0.05% to $1294.90.
Ten-year Treasury Yield +0.03 bps to 2.75%.
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