A gun battle near the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk has reportedly left five people dead, including three pro-Russian separatist militias. The two other dead were from a group that attacked in the militias, who were at a checkpoint.
The incident has come as the separatists refuse to vacate government buildings and other positions they've taken up despite the signing of an international agreement last week to "de-escalate" the crisis.
Under the deal, the buildings were to be vacated and armed militias disbanded. The Ukraine government has pledged not carry out military operations until after the Easter holiday ends on Monday.
A mediator from Europe's OSCE security body, which has been tasked with trying to help implement the international accord, traveled to eastern Ukraine yesterday in order to try to persuade the militias to stand down. The OSCE also plans to increase the number of monitors in Ukraine to 500 from 100. However, protesters want Ukraine's interim government to step down first.
Pro-Russian protesters, many of whom are armed, have refused to vacate administrative buildings they have occupied in eastern Ukraine despite an agreement between the government, Russia, the U.S. and EU to "de-escalate" the crisis.
Under the deal, the buildings were to be vacated and armed militias disbanded.
Despite the continued standoff, Russia's Micex index is +2.2% in response to the agreement. The USD-RUB is +0.1% at $35.568.
China's new-housing inflation weakened to an eight-month low in March, with the average price of new homes in 70 major cities moderating to +7.7% on year from +8.7% in February.
On month, housing inflation slipped to 0.2% from 0.3%.
Home prices rose on a year-on-year basis in 69 of 70 cities, as in February.
The softening in prices reflects the government's attempts to cool the housing sector, although it also adds to concerns about the slowdown in the wider economy.
"There are definitely risks in the property market of China's smaller cities," says Standard Chartered's Lan Shen. "The property market will be a big factor that presses the country's economic growth this year."
Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and the EU have agreed to "de-escalate" the crisis in eastern Ukraine following talks in Geneva.
Under the deal, non-government militias have to be dissolved and occupied government buildings vacated, while Ukraine will give amnesty to the protesters and it will start a public consultation to devolve constitutional powers to the provinces.
The agreement also promised "additional support" for Ukraine's battered economy.
However, the deal left various issues unaddressed such as who would disarm the militias. It also doesn't require Russia to scale back its massive buildup of troops on its border with Ukraine.
"There is vivid interest already from both hedge funds and institutional investors," says Petros Christodoulou, deputy CEO of National Bank of Greece (NBG +4.4%). The €750M senior unsecured bond will be the first such issue by the bank in nearly 5 years, and it's expected to have a 5-year maturity and be priced to yield around 4.5% (the government just sold 5-year paper last week at 4.95%).
The bond sale comes alongside an expected €2.5B equity offering aimed at filling the large capital hole in the bank.
The moves comes as Piraeus Bank - the largest Greek lender - last month raised €500M in debt, followed by a €1.75B equity sale. Third-ranked lender Alpha Bank has also raised €1.2B in capital and #4 Eurobank has an investor group ready to anchor a €2.9B stock sale later in April.
Leaving its benchmark lending rate at 1% for the 29th consecutive meeting, the Bank of Canada gives its blessing to a weaker currency, noting the lower Canadian dollar "should provide additional support" to the country's exporters.
The loonie (FXC) is off 0.2% and buying $0.9091 after the policy statement.
General Motors (GM) will give a first look at the 2015 Chevrolet Trax at the New York International Auto Show. The smaller-sized SUV model is similar to the Buick Encore which has sold better than expected in the U.S.
Land Rover (TTM) plans to debut a new line of SUVs under the Discovery brand name. The automaker sees the brand as its high-volume family division.
Ford (F) will bring out its limited edition Mustang GT on the 50th anniversary of the model's introduction. The automaker has been using the Mustang as a brand builder in global markets.
Audi (VLKAY) is hoping to make a splash with an A3 Sportback which utilizes turbo diesel technology. Automobile analysts think TDI will be a major buzzword at this year's show.
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.