Pro-Moscow separatists have declared victory in a referendum on "self-rule" for the "People's Republic of Donetsk" in eastern Ukraine, saying that 89% of voters have approved the measure. Russia said it "respects" the results of the ballot, which should be implemented "in a civilized manner." However, the Ukraine government, the U.S. and the EU have condemned the ballot as illegal. The fear is that if Donetsk does try to implement the poll outcome, Ukraine will slide into civil war.
Indian stocks and the rupee have continued to rise as polling booths close in the world's largest election following weeks of voting. Results are due on Friday, with the business-friendly Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Narendra Modi, expected to win handsomely. Shares could climb further if he gets anywhere near or above the 272 seats required for a majority in parliament.
Japan's current account surplus slumped to ¥116.4B ($1.14B) in March from ¥612.7B in February and badly missed consensus of ¥347.7B, hurt by weak exports and rising imports ahead of a hike in sales tax in April. For the fiscal year, the surplus was ¥789.9B, the lowest on record. There have been fears that Japan's current account could slide into permanent deficit, which could weaken confidence in the country's massive debt.
Saudi Arabia could increase oil production if the tension between Russia and Ukraine causes market shortages, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said today. Absent of any crude shortages, al-Naimi doesn't expect OPEC to increase its output cap of 30M barrels a day when it meets next month. He also described $100 a barrel as a fair price "for everybody - consumer, producer and oil companies."
Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is today set to release "Stress Test," his memoir of the financial crisis. In the book, Geithner describes "the terror of those days," and "the overwhelming burden of responsibility combined with the paralyzing risk of catastrophic failure," as well as "the loneliness and the numbness." Geithner tells how he felt powerless to prevent the "catastrophic default" of Lehman.
British Sky Broadcasting is in preliminary talks to acquire 21st Century Fox's (NASDAQ:FOX) 57% stake in Sky Deutschland (OTC:SKDTF) and its 100% holding in Sky Italia in a deal that would create a pan-European satellite-TV giant. A combined deal would be worth over €8B at market valuations, although Bloomberg has reported that BSkyB (OTCQX:BSYBF), which is 39% owned by Fox, could pay €10B for the two stakes.
Global equities were largely higher at the time of writing despite pro-Russian separatists declaring a resounding victory in a "self-rule" referendum for Donetsk. China's Shanghai Composite index jumped 2.1% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng 1.8% after Beijing outlined a broad range of capital-market reforms on Friday. These include a more investor-driven system for IPOs and easier access for foreign capital.
Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun Hee has had a heart attack but was in a stable condition in hospital after receiving surgery for an acute myocardial infarction. The heart attack has prompted the issue of succession to be raised. A frontrunner to take over from the 72-year-old Lee is his son Jae Yong, who was appointed Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics (OTC:SSNLF) in 2012.
AIG has reportedly identified two leading candidates to succeed Robert Benmosche as CEO when the 69 year old retires early next year. One is Peter Hancock, who heads AIG's property-casualty unit, and the other is Jay Wintrob, who runs the life-insurance and retirement business. AIG's (NYSE:AIG) board hopes to make a decision by September. The report comes ahead of the firm's annual shareholders meeting later today.
Nasdaq has reportedly made Carlyle CFO Adena Friedman the leading candidate to replace Robert Greifeld as CEO of the exchange operator when he eventually departs. Nasdaq (NASDAQ:NDAQ), which has been working on a succession plan since last year, has appointed Friedman as President of Global Corporate & Information Technology solutions. She returns to Nasdaq after leaving for Carlyle (NASDAQ:CG) in 2011 following an initial 17-year stint at Nasdaq.
Major pharmaceutical companies have reportedly rebuffed Allergan's (NYSE:AGN) inquiries about whether they would consider buying the botox maker. Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) isn't interested, while Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) is concerned about the problems of combining the two biggest makers of breast implants in the U.S. Allergan has also approached GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) and Novartis (NYSE:NVS). Allergan contacted the possible suitors as it's not happy with the acquisition offer of $45.7B from Valeant (NYSE:VRX).
Deutsche Telekom wants Sprint to agree to a breakup fee of over $1B in the event that regulators block the latter's possible acquisition of T-Mobile US (NASDAQ:TMUS). Deutsche Telekom's (OTCQX:DTEGF) demands come after regulators implied they would view skeptically any tie-up between Sprint (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile. Three years ago, Deutsche received $3B when authorities blocked the sale of T-Mobile to AT&T (NYSE:T).
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In Asia, Japan -0.3% to 14150. Hong Kong +1.8% to 22262. China +2.1% to 2053. India +2.4% to 23551.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.2%. Paris -0.1%. Frankfurt +0.5%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.2%. S&P +0.2%. Nasdaq +0.3%. Crude +0.5% to $100.52. Gold +0.55% to $1294.70.
Ten-year Treasury Yield +2 bps to 2.64%.
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