By Yigal Grayeff and the Market Currents team
Greeks riot as parliament passes austerity bill. Greece's parliament last night approved the country's latest austerity bill aimed at securing its second bailout. However, the vote came amid rioting in Athens in protest at the further misery the bill will surely bring, with buildings set on fire and dozens of people injured. Eurozone finance ministers are now due to meet in Brussels on Wednesday in order to authorize the rescue.
Empire State files for $1B IPO. Empire State Realty Trust has filed for a $1B IPO, with Bank of America and Goldman Sachs listed as the lead underwriters. The REIT - owner of the Empire State building - said it will be listed on the NYSE under the symbol ESB.
Obama to detail election-year budget. President Obama is due to outline his FY 2013 budget later, when he will propose how to cut the deficit by $4T over 10 years. Obama wants to raise $1.5T through higher taxes, including with the "Buffett rule," whereby millionaires will pay a minimum rate of 30%. Obama is also seeking billions of dollars for infrastructure projects.
Japan GDP falls 2.3%. Japan's economy contracted more than expected in Q4, with GDP falling a quarterly 0.6% and an annualized 2.3%. This puts the Bank of Japan, which kicked off a two-day rate review today, in a bind. Further easing can't be ruled out, but positive developments in Greece and a recent yen pullback could make it hard to justify loosening policy right now. Instead, the BOJ may debate following the Fed's lead and set an explicit inflation target.
Avon bribery probe heats up. Authorities are trying to determine whether current or former Avon (AVP) executives ignored or even tried to conceal a 2005 internal audit that found that employees in China may have been bribing officials as the company sought entry into the country, The Wall Street Journal reports. Avon had said it first knew about the allegations in 2008. Prosecutors have already presented evidence in the investigation to a grand jury.
Prudential Financial eyes ING's Asian insurance ops. Prudential Financial (PRU) is reportedly interested in buying ING's (ING) Asian insurance operations in what could be the region's second-biggest sale ever in the sector. AIA Group (OTCPK:AAIGF) and Korea Life Insurance are also eyeing the businesses, with AIA considering a bid of over $6B.
Vodafone mulls $1.1B offer for C&W Worldwide. Vodafone (VOD) has confirmed it's considering a cash bid for Cable & Wireless Worldwide, with sources adding that the offer could come in at around £700M ($1.1B). Buying the struggling company would allow Vodafone to offload ever-increasing Internet traffic to a fixed network with more capacity.
GE to hire 5,000 army veterans. GE (GE) intends to recruit 5,000 U.S. military veterans in the next five years and to spend $580M this year to open new aviation plants in Mississippi, Alabama and Ohio. The new hires are in addition to 9,000 GE has already recruited since 2009 and another 4,500 it has said it plans to bring in.
SEC probes P-E sector. The SEC has reportedly begun an informal investigation of P-E firms, including whether they inflate the valuations of their assets when raising new funds. The agency has sent letters requesting information about investments and how they're valued, as well as about PE firms' investors and their communications.
Iraq to punish Exxon Mobil for dalliances with Kurdistan. Iraq is to bar Exxon Mobil (XOM) from taking part in the country's fourth oil and gas licensing auction, which is scheduled for May, due to the company's deal to explore in Kurdistan. That agreement has already jeopardized Exxon's contract to help develop production at southern West Qurna-1, Iraq's second-biggest field.
Romney wins in Maine, tops conservative straw poll. Mitt Romney had a better Saturday than he did Tuesday, winning narrowly in the Maine caucuses and topping a straw poll of conservative activists. Romney described himself as someone "who can uproot Washington's culture of taxing and spending and borrowing and endless bureaucracy."
How much does the government spend? Depends who you ask. While President Obama will today detail a $3T+ budget, uncertainty exists about how much is actually spent in any one year. For FY 2010, the White House budget office pegs the figure at $3.18T, the Census Bureau at $3.19T, and USASpending.gov at $2.23T. Reasons for the discrepancies include how funding transfers between agencies are calculated.
In Asia, Japan +0.6% to 8999. Hong Kong +0.5% to 20887. China flat at 2352. India +0.1% to 17773.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.9%. Paris +0.6%. Frankfurt +0.7%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow +0.55%. S&P +0.6%. Nasdaq +0.6%. Crude +0.9% to $99.59. Gold +0.3% to $1731.00.
Monday's economic calendar:
9:45 PM Fed's Williams: 'Federal Reserve's Mandate and Best Practice Monetary Policy'
Notable earnings before Monday's open: DBD