The net worth of U.S. households climbed 1.9% in the first quarter of 2014, to $81.8T, with Americans' wealth boosted by rising house prices and the stock market. Data from the Federal Reserve shows the recovery of household wealth, up 11% on a year ago and 43% since the recession in 2008, as low interest rates push up asset prices.
The National Futures Association says it will reduce its fees on options and futures contracts. Fee revenue is tied to public trading volume, and increased volume and a larger revenue base in recent years has translated into lower agency fees. The NFA has further lowered the prices due to an increase in membership fees from swap dealers, who pay a fixed membership fee, as opposed to firms trading futures, which pay per trade.
Bundesbank has raised its growth forecast for Germany today, expecting a growth of 1.9% this year, replacing the December forecast of 1.7%. As the euro zone's largest economy, Germany has been looked to as a source of euro zone recovery, especially given the ECB's cut yesterday to the deposit rate below zero. The Bundesbank growth forecasts for 2015 and 2016 are unchanged at 2% and 1.8% respectively.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has warned today that the controversy between U.S. courts and BNP Paribas (OTCQX:BNPQF) over ignoring American sanctions - resulting in a possible $10B fine, can damage the trade treaty talks between the U.S. and the E.U. "This treaty can only exist on the basis of reciprocity," says Fabius. Yesterday, President Obama did not discuss the case with French President Hollande, declaring that he does not "meddle in prosecutions".
The trouble with BNP Paribas does not stop there, as the company looks into a potential management changeover. There is talk of COO Georges Chodron de Courcel leaving the bank, especially after the U.S. urged the COO to leave the bank as part of any settlement a few months ago. BNP Paribas' (OTCQX:BNPQF) chairman Baudouin Prot is also in the spotlight, although it is reported that he has no plan to step down.
Bank of America is in talks to pay at least $12B to settle mortgage-related probes from the Department of Justice and various states. The DOJ was previously reported to be seeking more than $13B from BofA (NYSE:BAC) over its mortgage lending - generally over loans tied to Countrywide and Merrill Lynch. The bank has already reached a $9.5B settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Vodafone says that phones on its network are tapped in some of the 29 countries where it operates. The company exposed that secret wires allow government agencies to listen to live conversations and record them on its global network. Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) also states that customers have a right to privacy, but it still has to obey the laws of each country in which it operates.
Acer is looking to increase its corporate cloud-computing business and sell more low priced smartphones as it seeks to offset falling laptop sales. Although the world's fourth-largest personal-computer maker, the company is looking to position its mobile devices in developing countries where its brand will stand out, and not to yet penetrate the U.S. and Chinese market. Acer (OTC:ASIYF) is also pursuing a new consumer cloud service, called "Build Your Own Cloud."
Chrysler has recalled 10,700 SUVs to fix a malfunction with an unintended acceleration during cruise-control, although more than half of the vehicles are still sitting on dealer lots, or are in transit to dealers. Chrysler (FIATY) has had over five recalls since January, taking back over 1.7M vehicles. The announcement comes at a weary time for the auto industry. GM (NYSE:GM) fired 15 employees yesterday, after 13 linked deaths led to a recall and employee terminations.
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In Asia, Japan flat at 15077. Hong Kong -0.7% to 22951. China -0.5% to 2029. India +1.5% to 25396.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.3%. Paris +0.1%. Frankfurt +0.1%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.2%. S&P +0.1%. Nasdaq +0.1%. Crude +0.2% to $102.70. Gold +0.05% to $1253.90.
Ten-year Treasury Yield -2 bps to 2.57%
Notable earnings before today's open: JOSB
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