The European Commission expects eurozone GDP to grow 1.2% this year and 1.7% in 2015 following two consecutive years of contraction. The commission cut its inflation forecast to 0.8% for 2014 and 1.2% for next year, although it believes that the probability of deflation is low. "Overall, the outlook has improved, but it remains conditional on continued credible action on several fronts at national and EU levels," says the EC's Marco Buti.
Chinese HSBC PMI edged up to 48.1 in April from 48 in March but came in below the flash figure of 48.3. The reading indicates that factory activity contracted for a fourth consecutive month, although the figure contrasts with official data that shows slight growth. While Beijing has recently introduced additional reform aimed at boosting the economy by promoting more private-sector investment, HSBC believes that "bolder actions will be required to ensure the economy regains its momentum."
Portugal plans to follow Ireland and exit its international bailout program without taking a precautionary credit line from its lenders, the EU and the IMF. Instead, Portugal will rely on debt markets for financing. While the exit from the assistance program after three years of harsh austerity marks a turnaround in Portugal's fortunes, economic growth remains fragile, and unemployment and debt high.
Ukraine has sent special forces to Odessa after pro-Russian separatists stormed a police station in the south-western port city yesterday and freed almost 70 fellow activists. The loss of Odessa would constitute a major economic and political setback for Ukraine, which has accused Russia of instigating the troubles in the country. The increasing tension in Ukraine, where dozens of people have died over the past few days, has helped to drag down European stocks.
Antivirus "is dead," says Brian Dye, a senior VP at Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC), the company that pioneered such software in the late 1980s. Dye reckons that the products catch only 45% of cyberattacks. "We don't think of antivirus as a moneymaker in any way." Except that antivirus still contributes over 40% of Symantec's revenues. To reduce that reliance, the company is looking to develop products and services that minimize the impact of any malicious software that's breached a computer's defenses.
B/E Aerospace is considering selling itself, splitting itself up or divesting some of its operations. The company has postponed an investor meeting that was due to take place today. B/E Aerospace (NASDAQ:BEAV) is one of the world's biggest makers of aircraft interiors, and has benefited from record production at Boeing (NYSE:BA) and Airbus (OTCPK:EADSY). B/E Aerospace's market cap is $9.4B; shares were +2.6% premarket.
A six-month lock-up on 480M Twitter shares is due to expire today, releasing for trading over four times the amount of stock that is already available. The increased supply of shares could add to the 39% drop that the stock price has suffered this year, although major investors who own at least 205M shares combined plan to hold on to their interests. These include venture-capital firm Benchmark, and co-founders Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey. Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) was -1.1% premarket.
Warren Buffett didn't want to "go to war" with Coca-Cola's (NYSE:KO) management, which is why he abstained from voting on the controversial equity compensation plan for the beverage giant's executives. Buffett provided his explanation at Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK.A) annual investor meeting, known as the "Capitalist Woodstock." Buffett also said that he's not bothered by the Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) error that caused it to suspend its capital-return plan.
Should Pfizer acquire AstraZeneca and move its HQ to the U.K. to take advantage of the country's friendly tax regime, Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) could be joined by scores of others. Accounting giants KPMG, PWC and EY are working with over 250 companies combined about relocation to Britain, which is due to cut its corporate-tax rate to 20% next year.
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In Asia, Japan closed. Hong Kong -1.3% to 21976. China +0.05% to 2027. India +0.25% to 22445.
In Europe, at midday, London closed. Paris -1.1%. Frankfurt -1.3%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow -0.4%. S&P -0.4%. Nasdaq -0.4%. Crude +0.5% to $100.30. Gold +0.9% to $1314.20.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 2.58%.
Notable earnings after today's close: AEIS, AIG, APC, APL, ARE, AXLL, BDE, BNFT, CATM, CFN, CKEC, CKP, CRK, DATA, ECOL, ECOM, EGOV, ELNK, ENH, EOG, EOX, FLDM, FN, G, HCLP, HGR, HI, IDTI, ININ, KAR, LF, MCEP, MED, MR, NLS, OAS, OTTR, PIKE, PRI, PSMI, QLYS, RBC, RGR, ROSE, RWT, SALE, SKH, SMG, SNHY, STAG, SZYM, THC, TXRH, UAM, VECO, VNO, VVUS, WG, YY, ZIPR
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