Asian stocks moved lower following a strong opening after the People's Bank of China disclosed it withdrew 172B yuan ($28B) through repurchase agreements. China's money supply grew at its weakest pace in over a decade during March. Shares of banks and brokerage firms in China stumbled on concerns of capital outflow. The Shanghai Composite Index closed down 1.4%, while the Hang Seng fell 1.6%. The Nikkei showed a 0.6% gain as a strong report on retail sales in the U.S. earlier in the day spilled over. European stocks are slipping with the escalation in Ukraine creating geopolitical worries again. U.S. stock futures are little changed on the early mixed bag of economic news. A trio of Federal Reserve officials giving speeches today and an earnings report from Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) could set the day's tone.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first call to President Barack Obama in over two weeks as more parts of Eastern Ukraine saw tensions ratchet up. Obama reportedly pushed Putin once again for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in the region. Through separate channels, the White House said the evidence is overwhelming that Russia in behind the latest shenanigans in Ukraine despite the repeated denials coming from Moscow. Oil futures are pointing lower amid the ongoing political drama.
Retail sales in the U.K. fell 0.3% in March to mark their biggest monthly decline on a year-over-year comparison in 11 months. Though the timing of Easter this year was a factor in the retail slump for the month, a broad pricing war in the food sector was also a drag on the sales tally. Consumer prices rose 1.6% in March in the U.K. to mark the slowest pace in over four years and stay further below the Bank of England's 2% target.
Diageo made a $1.9B bid to purchase an additional 26% stake in United Spirits. The transaction will increase Diageo's (NYSE:DEO) stake in the Indian company to 54.78%. Shares of United Spirits are up over 10% in Bombay trading off the development.
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt might give up his CEO position earlier than anticipated, according to The Wall Street Journal. Immelt is slated to complete his 20-year run at General Electric (NYSE:GE) in 2021. Directors at GE are reportedly rethinking the concept of a 20-year stint for a CEO. The talk is likely to lead to increased speculation on who the company will tap to replace Immelt. Lorenzo Simonelli, head of GE's oil and gas unit, and Steve Bolze, who directs the power and water business, are two of the leading contenders.
Barclays appoints a new top executive of its remuneration committee in a move designed to take some heat off the bank about compensation levels. Crawford Gillies comes over from Bain to start the position at the beginning of May. A 10% rise in bonuses at Barclays last year amid slumping profits drew the attention of activist shareholders recently.
New car sales in China decelerated in March to a 6.6% growth rate, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Japanese automakers Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY), Toyota (NYSE:TM), and Suzuki (OTCPK:FUJHY) all made some impressive gains during the month, while Honda suffered a setback as its new Accord introduction fell flat with consumers on perceptions it was overpriced. Volkswagen (OTCQX:VLKAY) and Ford (NYSE:F) churned out steady double-digit sales gains at the expense of Chinese automakers. Purchasing restrictions tied to pollution control in several Chinese municipalities was only a minor drag on sales during the month.
Caesars Entertainment unloaded $675M of secured bonds through its Caesars Growth Partners (NASDAQ:CACQ) joint venture. The transaction is part of a controversial $1.85B financing deal by Caesars (NASDAQ:CZR) to back the purchase of four casinos from its operating unit and repay a credit facility. The sale is being challenged by some large debt holders.
Amazon has big plans to develop a payments solution as it continues to eye mounting a serious challenge to PayPal's dominance in the space. A stockpile of close to 215M credit cards stored away in its database gives Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) an impressive edge that it's eager to leverage. Though CEO Jeff Bezos is pressing the company to move quickly with various projects, working in Bitcoin (BITCN, OTCQB:BTCS) isn't part of the plan at the moment, according to a top payments exec. New mobile wallet options and physical point-of-sale payment solutions are both on the drawing table.
Maker Studios will stick with Disney's (NYSE:DIS) original offer for the company, despite receiving a higher bid from Relativity Studios. Shareholders will vote on the $950M proposal today, although the company says it already has a majority of the votes locked up. The Superior Court for the State of California denied an effort by ex-Maker CEO Danny Zappin to block today's vote. An interesting twist to how Disney plans to integrate Maker is that it will fall under CFO Jay Rasulo's broad watch - instead of moving into the Disney Interactive segment.
Tesla Motors closed below $200 for the first time in two months as the stock failed to participate in yesterday's broad market rally. Despite the rebuff from investors, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has started to draw some praise from unfamiliar quarters with right-leaning politicians praising the free market principles behind Tesla's fight against the dealership network. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly have all recently made positive statements about the maverick spirit of the EV automaker.
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In Asia, Japan +0.6% to 13997. Hong Kong -1.6% to 22671. China -1.4% to 2102. India -0.6% to 22483.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.5%. Paris -0.5%. Frankfurt -1.0%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow -0.1%. S&P -0.1%. Nasdaq -0.1%. Crude -0.5% to $103.21. Gold -1.2% to $1311.63.
Ten-year Treasury Yield + 1bps to 2.63%.
Today's economic calendar:
7:45 ICSC Retail Store Sales
8:30 Consumer Price Index
8:30 Empire State Mfg Survey
8:55 Redbook Chain Store Sales
9:00 Treasury International Capital
10:00 Business Inventories
10:00 NAHB Housing Market Index
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