Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning and is set to be replaced by Sylvia Burwell, the director of the Office of Management & Budget. Sebelius' departure comes after what even she described as the "debacle" of the Obamacare launch. One of Burwell's first challenges will be to work with health insurers as they set prices for Obamacare plans in 2015, which industry executives have warned could rise sharply.
Japan's Cabinet has approved a controversial plan to reinstate nuclear energy as an important source of electricity, although there are doubts about how big a role atomic power will be able to play. The country's nuclear plants were shut following the Fukushima disaster over three years ago, which has caused the country to significantly increase its energy imports. That has acted as a drag on GDP.
China's inflation accelerated to 2.4% on year in March from 2% in February but came in below consensus of 2.5%. Factory-gate prices (PPI) dropped for the 25th consecutive month and fell 2.3%. "The lingering deflation trend in the PPI seems more worrying," says JPMorgan economist Haibin Zhu, "as it reflects structural overcapacity in a number of sectors as well as the cyclical downturn in the industrial sector."
German inflation has slipped to its lowest level since August 2010, declining to 1% on year in March from 1.2% in February. Spanish CPI slipped 0.1% after dropping 0.2% a month earlier. The falling levels of CPI come amid fears about deflation in the eurozone, which has prompted the ECB to discuss unconventional policy measures such as quantitative easing.
The U.S.'s ability to save Europe from its dependence on Russian gas has been overstated, says Cheniere Energy (NYSEMKT:LNG) CEO Charif Souki, partly because only six to eight out of 24 proposed U.S. export projects have a chance of being completed. Yesterday, Vladimir Putin warned that Russia could cut gas supplies to Ukraine unless Kiev pays its bills, a move that could endanger deliveries to the rest of Europe.
Japanese stocks led Asian shares lower after sharp losses on Wall Street yesterday as the carnage in tech and biotech stocks resumed, with the Nasdaq dropping 3.1% for its worst day since November 2011. The Nikkei closed -2.4% on the day today and 7.3% on the week, its biggest weekly loss since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. European shares were sharply down at the time of writing, while U.S. stock futures were flat-to-lower.
Cisco and Juniper Networks have found the "Heartbleed" encryption flaw in some of their products, including routers, switches, servers, and firewalls. The ubiquitous nature of such products makes the bug harder to eliminate, and hackers may be able to steal sensitive data such as passwords and credit-card information as it travels across networks. Cisco's (NASDAQ:CSCO) shares fell 0.1% post-market, while those of Juniper (NYSE:JNPR) were untraded.
Samsung is starting sales of its latest flagship phone in 125 countries today, although the launch of the Galaxy S5 seems to lack the buzz of previous smartphone debuts. Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) is even apparently pricing the device below its predecessor. "It reflects the trend of smartphone commoditization," says researcher Tom Kang. Despite the Galaxy S5 being able to withstand being submerged in water, some critics appear to be underwhelmed.
Google plans to start taking online orders for a limited number of its Google Glass devices starting on Tuesday next week. Until now, the $1,500 product has only been available to a select group of users such as apps developers in the company's Glass Explorer program. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) characterized the sales launch as the biggest expansion of the Explorer scheme so far.
Coldwater Creek has filed for Chapter 11 as it looks to "facilitate an orderly wind-down of its operations." The women's clothing retailer listed assets of $10-50M and liabilities of $100-500M. It expects to start closing-down sales to liquidate its inventory next month. Coldwater Creek (NASDAQ:CWTR) is the latest retailer to fall into bankruptcy over the past several months, following clothing chains Dots and Loehmann's, and pizza restauranter Sbarro.
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In Asia, Japan -2.4% to 13960. Hong Kong -0.8% to 23004. China -0.8% to 2131. India -0.4% to 22629.
In Europe, at midday, London -1.2%. Paris -1.2%. Frankfurt -1.4%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow flat. S&P flat. Nasdaq -0.1%. Crude -0.2% to $103.18. Gold flat at $1318.10.
Ten-year Treasury Yield -1 bps at 2.64%.
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