Global equities are mainly higher on relief that the slowdown in China's economy in Q1 wasn't as bad as expected, with GDP of +7.4% topping consensus of +7.3%. The data helped offset nervousness about the continuing escalation in eastern Ukraine.
The Nikkei experienced yet another sharp move, this time jumping 3% following recent heavy selling. "Japanese shares are rebounding from recent declines because of the yen and U.S. share gains, while Alibaba is supporting technology companies," says market strategist Ayako Sera. Yesterday, Yahoo reported that Alibaba's Q4 net profit surged 110% to $1.35B. That helped boost shares in major Alibaba shareholder Softbank by 8.5%.
Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong +0.1%, China +0.2%, India -0.5%.
Euro Stoxx 50 +1.1%, London +0.3%, Paris +1.1%, Frankfurt +1%, Milan +2%, Madrid +1.3%.
U.S. stock futures: Dow +0.5%. S&P +0.5%. Nasdaq +0.6%
U.K. unemployment for the three months to February fell to 6.9% from 7.1% previously and came in under forecasts that were also 7.1%.
Average earnings including bonuses accelerated to +1.7% from +1.4% but missed expectations of +1.8%. Still, the figure brings wage growth in line with inflation of 1.7% after a long period in which salary rises remained well below CPI growth.
The pound spikes and is +0.2% at $1.6802, while the FTSE is +0.4%. (PR)
Ukraine retook an airfield in the eastern Donetsk region yesterday after fighting with pro-Russian militias.
Ukrainian forces have also apparently surrounded the town of Slaviansk, which had been seized by the militias. In total, the separatists have taken over government and police buildings in up to 10 towns and cities in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine's action has prompted Vladimir Putin to describe the country as being on the "brink of civil war;" it has also come ahead of talks tomorrow between senior diplomats from Russia, the EU, the U.S. and Ukraine.
Russia's Micex is -0.1%, while the USD-RUB is -0.4% at 36.095.
China's GDP growth slowed to its lowest level in 18 months in Q1, moderating to 7.4% on year from 7.7% in Q4 but topping forecasts for 7.3%. The figure is below the government's target of 7.5%, although the country's leaders have indicated that the goal is flexible as they try to implement reform.
Falling momentum in investment and consumption, struggling real estate, and weak external demand were among the main factors that caused the slower expansion.
On quarter, GDP +1.4%, as expected, vs +1.8%.
The value of home sales fell 7.7% in Q1 to 1.1T yuan ($177B); new property construction -25% to 291M square meters (3.1B square feet).
Industrial production +8.8% in February +8.6% in January and consensus of +9%.
Retail sales +12.2% vs +11.8% and +12.1%.
Urban fixed-asset investment +17.6% vs +17.9% and +18.1%.
MNI Business Sentiment Indicator 51.1 in March vs 50.2 in February.
"All the forward-looking indicators are weak - growth is going to continue to slow," says Standard Chartered's Stephen Green. "We expect a mix of moderate monetary easing over the next few months and more aggressive reform measures."
However, Credit Agricole economist Dariusz Kowalczyk expresses a bit of optimism. "The silver lining is that retail sales and industrial output both rebounded in March, suggesting that growth is bottoming out."
Think the Fed is bad? With the Bank of Japan vacuuming up the supply thanks to its own QE program, the government's new issue of 10-year JGBs looks like its going to go 24 hours without even a single trade. Typically, recent issues are the busiest traders, but the BOJ is buying about ¥7T of JGBs per month, roughly 70% of all new issuance. With rates so low and supply scarce, traders say sitting on the sidelines is less costly than trading.
Don't expect the market to stay asleep for long, says traders, with one expecting a big jump in yields rather than a slow creep upwards. 10-year JGBs currently yield 0.61%.
Ukraine could be about to carry out a "large-scale anti-terrorist operation" on pro-Russian separatists in several cities in eastern Ukraine after the rebels ignored a deadline to stand down.
Militias have taken control of the city of Slaviansk by seizing government buildings and setting up barricades on the outskirts of town. There have already been casualties after the government launched an operation yesterday.
Gunmen have also taken over administrative buildings in Donetsk, which has become one of the centers of pro-Russian protests. The governor of the Donetsk region has said that a government operation has started, although journalists on the ground hadn't seen any sign of it.
Russia has warned Ukraine not to use force against the militias, but Ukraine and the U.S. blame Russia for the escalation.
The increasing tension has hit Russian markets, with the Micex -1.65% and USD-RUB +0.9% at 35.963 rubles.
Bill Gross' and Mohamed El-Erian's different styles made "very good complements" in serving Pimco's clients and "leading the firm forward through both smooth and rough markets," the latter has told the WSJ. "That worked very well for a long time, until last year."
The WSJ describes El-Erian as having a "deliberate manner," which contrasted with Gross' "freewheeling style." El-Erian's comments come after he resigned in January and following media articles highlighting the break-down in the relationship between the men.
Still, El-Erian maintained that he "always had" and still has "an enormous amount of respect for Bill."
El-Erian also highlighted the desire to see his family more as another reason why he resigned from Pimco.
A Ukrainian officer has been killed and a number of other security personnel wounded in an "anti-terrorist" operation in the eastern city of Slaviansk, where pro-Russian militias have seized government buildings, including the police HQ, and and set up barricades on the outskirts of town.
Gunmen have taken over administrative buildings in other cities as well, including Donetsk, which has become one of the centers of pro-Russian protests.
Ukraine and the U.S. have blamed Russia for the unrest, with John Kerry warning Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that his country would face more consequences if it didn't de-escalate tensions and more troops away from the border with Ukraine.
Ukraine state-run energy company Naftogaz has suspended gas payments to Russia until the countries conclude price negotiations. The move comes after Russia's Gazprom (GZPFY) hiked prices to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has called on other countries to contribute more to Ukraine's bailout. The U.S. is extending a $1B loan guarantee to the country, while the international community has formulated a $27B aid package.
The continued strengthening of the euro "would require further monetary policy accommodation," ECB President Mario Draghi has said. "That's an important dimension for our price stability."
Draghi's comments came at a meeting of the IMF and after the euro has increased 6% over the past year to $1.3885.
Draghi said that the euro's strength has been an important factor in causing eurozone inflation to drop to 0.5% on year.
CPI is even negative in some parts of the bloc, sparking increasing concerns about deflation and prompting the ECB to discuss unconventional policy such as quantitative easing.
Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann have tried to talk markets out of being overly excited that the eurozone crisis is over. "It's good that markets have become more confident again," said Schaeuble. "But I've said that in parts they're already exaggerating again."