U.S. futures are hugging the flatline as traders brushed off jitters related to the Brussels attacks and appetite for equities waned ahead of the long Easter weekend. "Generally, the impact of terror attacks has become less and less dramatic after 9/11," said Bernard Aw, market strategist at IG in Singapore. With few major economic and corporate releases on this week's agenda, investors expect stocks to remain near their highest levels of 2016, following a five-week rally that helped erase steep losses at the start of the year.
Najim Laachraoui, the third bombing suspect who fled the Brussels airport on Tuesday, has been caught by Belgian police, but brothers Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui, are thought to have blown themselves up in the blast. The three are believed to be part of the same ISIS terror cell that carried out the French attacks in November. Cities around the world have now stepped up their airport security, as foreign leaders criticize the failure in Belgian screening and intelligence, and question the future of Europe's open borders policy.
Security was also tightened across Tuesday's primaries and caucuses in the U.S. following the Brussels bombings. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump scored decisive victories in Arizona, Bernie Sanders won Idaho and Utah, and Ted Cruz took GOP delegates in the latter state. In terms of results, Clinton now looks tremendously close to securing her nomination before the Democratic convention, but on the Republican side, Trump could fall short of a first ballot victory (Jeb Bush also endorsed Cruz this morning).
Following an historic visit to Cuba, President Obama has touched down in Argentina to reset diplomatic relations and strengthen trade ties with the country. The two-day stopover marks a rapprochement after years of sour relations and is a sign of support for President Mauricio Macri's investor-friendly reforms aimed at opening up Latin America's third largest economy. The last U.S. presidential visit to Argentina was in 2005, when George W. Bush attended the Summit of the Americas.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff assured supporters late Tuesday that she'll never resign and told them the impeachment process against her in Congress amounts to a coup attempt. Pressure to impeach Rousseff has grown in recent weeks as prosecutors in charge of the anticorruption probe centered on oil giant Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) brought the president's predecessor and mentor, Lula da Silva, in for questioning on suspicion he benefited from the scheme. Last week, Rousseff appointed da Silva as her chief of staff.
More than two months after international nuclear sanctions on Iran were supposed to have ended, frustration is deepening that few trade deals are going through as foreign banks shy away from processing transactions with the country. Chief among these are rules prohibiting transactions in dollars - the world's main business currency - from being processed through the U.S. financial system. Since January, Iran has struck agreements worth an estimated $50B with the global community, but getting the funding needed to turn the agreements into firm deals seems to be a challenging task.
Hungary has become the first emerging market to sport negative rates after the central bank lowered its overnight deposit rate by 15 basis points to -0.05%. Despite market expectations for no change at its March policy meeting, the bank also cut its key base rate by 15 basis points to 1.2%. The move comes amid lowered estimates for both growth and inflation.
Wall Street's "fear gauge" has been falling sharply as traders anticipate the current rebound could help propel the S&P 500 to close out Q1 on a winning note. The Vix index, a widely followed barometer of implied volatility, hovered below a reading of 15 on Tuesday, near its lowest level since mid-August when China sparked a period of financial turmoil by devaluing its currency. The long-term average for Vix is 20, and readings below that level suggest greater optimism among investors.
Credit Suisse plans to eliminate an additional 2,000 jobs this year and deepen cuts at the investment bank, five months after CEO Tidjane Thiam announced an overhaul of the Swiss lender. "Today, we are announcing an increase to our 2018 cost reduction target from 3.5B Swiss francs ($3.59B) gross savings to at least 4.3B francs, driving our absolute operating cost base below 18B francs by 2018. For 2016, we aim to achieve 1.7B francs in cost savings." Credit Suisse (NYSE:CS) shares are down 41% since the bank's restructuring in October.
The U.S. Commerce Department is giving Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone maker ZTE Corp. (OTCPK:ZTCOY) a three-month reprieve on the tough export restrictions it imposed earlier this month after allegedly breaking sanctions against Iran. The easing, which will suspend the penalties as of Thursday, could be extended provided that ZTE is timely in performing undertakings and cooperates with the U.S. government in "resolving the matter."
Is the Wii U going out of production? Japanese newspaper Nikkei publisheda rumor this morning saying the gaming console is going the way of the world, but Nintendo (OTCPK:NTDOY) has denied that report. "This isn't an announcement from our company," a spokesperson told IT Media. "From the next quarter and thereafter as well, production is scheduled to continue." The Wii U launched in November 2012 and has currently sold over 12M consoles across the globe.
The U.S. Supreme Court today will consider appeals by Christian groups demanding full exemption on religious grounds from a requirement under the Affordable Care Act to provide health insurance covering contraceptives. Arguments on seven related cases will focus on whether nonprofit entities can object to a compromise measure offered by the Obama administration, which allowed groups to comply with the law without actually paying for the required coverage, under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Related tickers: PFE, MRK, JNJ, TEVA, CHD, OTCPK:BAYRY
Origin Technologies has increased its all-cash offer to buy Affymetrix (NASDAQ:AFFX) to $17 a share, as it seeks to top an agreed deal between the medical technology company and Thermo Fisher (NYSE:TMO). The new bid is 21% more than the $1.3B Thermo Fisher proposed in January. Origin also upped the reverse termination fee - the amount it would pay if it pulled out of a deal - to $100M from $75M. Affymetrix reaffirmed its commitment to the Thermo-Fisher deal on Sunday, but that could change with a tastier offer.
A big win for Merck...A federal jury has upheld the validity of two of the firm's patents in a high-profile dispute with rival Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD). The decision could force the latter to hand over a portion of the billions of dollars in revenue from its blockbuster cures for hepatitis C. Sovaldi and Harvoni brought in $19.2B in worldwide sales last year, and Merck (NYSE:MRK) has demanded more than $2B in damages and a royalty of 10% of Gilead's sales going forward. MRK +2.2%; GILD -3.4% premarket.
Kentucky is suing Volkswagen over its diesel emissions cheating scandal, saying the automaker violated the state's Consumer Protection Act. The decision makes Kentucky at least the fifth U.S. state to take VW (OTCPK:VLKAY) to court, along with New Jersey, Texas, New Mexico and West Virginia. On Jan. 4, the U.S. Justice Department filed its own lawsuit accusing Volkswagen of violating clean air laws and seeking up to $46B.
Lumber Liquidators closed up almost 16% on Tuesday upon announcing it would pay a $2.5M fine to settle charges from the State of CA Air Resources Board over its laminate flooring. LL shares then fell 1.7% in extended trading after the CDC revised its "Possible Health Implications" report, concluding that irritation and breathing problems can occur in everyone exposed to formaldehyde in the company's tested laminate flooring, not just in sensitive groups.
The two activist investors that have launched a boardroom fight with United Continental (NYSE:UAL) are calling on the airline to immediately appoint one of its two new board members as chairman. The funds, PAR Capital Management and Altimeter Capital Management, asked that either James Whitehurst, former COO of Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), or Robert Milton, former CEO of Air Canada (OTCQX:ACDVF), be named chairman before shareholders vote on a slate of six other directors.
In addition to announcing a massive data center expansion, Google (GOOG, GOOGL) has been scoring some major corporate clients. Sources say the tech giant will announce several new customers, including Home Depot (NYSE:HD) and Disney (NYSE:DIS), at its cloud conference in San Francisco today. Overall, Google is the No.4 player in cloud infrastructure services (with 4% market share last year), but the business is one of the company's fastest-growing areas. According to Synergy Research, Amazon's AWS (NASDAQ:AMZN) seized 31% of the market in 2015, Microsoft's Azure (NASDAQ:MSFT) grabbed 9%, and IBM took 7%.
John McAfee has revealed that he's not the third party helping unlock the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone - but he knows who is - and he's not fond of their approach. "I promise you that Tim Cook and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) are not going to be happy with the solution that the FBI has come up with," the controversial technology executive told CNBC. "Because it is almost as bad as a universal master key."
Yahoo is following the lead of DraftKings (Private:DRAFT) and FanDuel (Private:DUEL) by stopping its paid daily fantasy sports operations in New York. Despite the move, the company "believes that its contests are lawful, and we will continue to assess the legal environment for daily fantasy," a spokesman confirmed. Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) also rolled out new safety measures for its games in other states, including contest limits, identification of veteran players and tools that help combat automated entries.
In Asia, Japan -0.3% to 17001. Hong Kong -0.3% to 20615. China +0.4% to 3010. India flat at 25337.
In Europe, at midday, London flat. Paris +0.3%. Frankfurt +1%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow flat. S&P flat. Nasdaq flat. Crude -0.8% to $41.14. Gold -1.2% to $1233.40.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 1.94%
Companies reporting earnings today