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U.S. Trade Deficit Increases To 5-Month High, Exports Drop

The U.S. trade deficit increased to a five-month high of $48.3 billion. The trade gap was 15.6% higher compared to a revised $41.8 billion deficit in July. U.S. exports dropped 2%; exports have fallen 6% compared to one year ago, hurt by a rising value of the dollar that's made American goods and services more expensive overseas. Most other economies are not performing as well as the U.S. and that's also limiting demand.

A slowdown in emerging markets driven by weak commodity prices forced the International Monetary Fund to cut its outlook for global growth this year to 3.1 percent from a July forecast of 3.3 percent. Next year the world economy is expected to expand 3.6 percent, less than the 3.8 percent projected in July. Brazil and Russia's economies are contracting, Japan and the euroarea are struggling, and long-time growth engine China is decelerating.

The IMF advised emerging markets to be ready for the U.S. to tighten monetary policy, urged advanced economies to address "crisis legacies" and suggested nations consider the "compelling" case for public infrastructure investment at a time of very low long-term interest rates. The G-20 meets this week in Lima, Peru.

Officially joining the 0% bond club, the U.S. Treasury sold a new government security on Monday containing a three-month maturity and a yield of zero for the first time on record. In essence, buyers gave a free short-term loan to the government in exchange for a highly liquid debt instrument for their portfolio. The result adds to the diminishing expectations, stoked by Friday's disappointing jobs report, that the Fed will keep interest rates at basement levels throughout 2015.

The U.S. Treasury can't sell bills below 0%, but once sold at auction, the bills can trade however they trade. In early morning trade, the 3 month bill traded at negative 0.003%, but finished the session with a positive yield. The three-month yield also briefly went negative on September 25 and on October 1 and July 13, but has otherwise been in positive territory all year.

Despite the financial turmoil in China and unexpected devaluation, the yuan has now become the world's fourth-most-used payments currency, edging out Japan's yen for the spot. According to international payments provider Swift, the renminbi accounted for 2.79% of global payments in value terms in August; although it still trailed the U.S. dollar (44.8%), euro (27.2%) and British pound (8.5%). As recently as August 2012, the yuan only ranked number 12 with a 0.84% share, but Chinese authorities have since aggressively promoted international use of the currency.

Europe's highest court struck down an international agreement that had made it easy for companies to move people's digital data between the European Union and the United States. The ruling, by the European Court of Justice, could make it more difficult for global technology giants to collect and mine online information from their millions of users in the European Union. The court declared the data-transfer agreement, which is known as Safe Harbor, immediately invalid.

In its ruling, the court said that the Safe Harbor agreement was flawed because it allowed American government authorities to gain routine access to Europeans' online information. Such access infringes on Europeans' rights to privacy. The ruling follows revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about the Prism program that allowed U.S. authorities to harvest private information directly from big tech companies such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL).

Yesterday we reported that 11 countries had reached agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact that would cut trade barriers on a bloc that includes 40% of world economic output, and that it was pretty much a done deal. Well, not exactly. The negotiations were wrapped up over the weekend; the actual deal, whatever it is, must still be ratified by the leaders of each country and ratified by their legislatures, where support for the deal is not universal.

In the US, expect a tough fight to push it through Congress next year. And even though negotiators came to some sort of agreement, they have not presented the text of the agreement to the public, and negotiators say it will take at least a month to prepare the text. So, it really isn't a done deal, in large part because almost nobody knows what the deal is.

Corelogic reports home prices rose 1.2% in August to extend the 12-month gain to 6.9%. CoreLogic forecasts home price growth to slow to 4.3% in the 12 months through Aug. 2016, due to higher mortgage rates and more housing starts. Arizona is still suffering from the housing downturn; home prices are down 25.3% from the peak to current levels.

SABMiller (LONDON:SAB) has rejected an informal takeover bid from Anheuser-Busch Inbev (NYSE:BUD), stating the offer was too low. An initial proposal made last week was worth slightly over 40 pounds a share, but the British firm's executives and some shareholders regard a deal closer to 45 pounds as fair value. At the higher price, a deal would value SABMiller $110 billion, and would result in the largest merger this year.

Skyworks Solutions (NASDAQ:SWKS) has agreed to buy PMC-Sierra (NASDAQ:PMCS) for $2 billion in cash. PMC shareholders will get $10.50 per share, representing a 37% premium to the stock's closing price on Monday. Semiconductor deal making has already reached more than $80 billion in 2015, surpassing every full year on record except 2000, when M&A in the sector hit $115 billion.

Microsoft's held a big event in New York City to showcase their devices that run across the tech giant's new, flagship operating system, Windows 10. What's on tap? Two new versions of Lumia smartphones, a fitness band, an updated Surface Pro tablet to do battle with the Macbook Pro, and more details regarding HoloLens - an augmented reality headset. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) also announced its first retail store in New York, scheduled to open in about 3 weeks.

Microsoft has less than 3% of the smartphone market, but their Windows 10 operating system is on over 100 million devices. So, the challenge is to get their operating system on mobile devices before mobile operating systems take over the desktop and laptop world. The trick is to make systems and apps that flow seamlessly from mobile to desktop, and whoever wins that battle will control operating systems for the near future.

The value of BP's (NYSE:BP) settlement with the U.S. government and five Gulf states over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been confirmed at $20.8 billion, a $2 billion increase from an agreement reached this past July. The agreement is "the largest settlement with a single entity in American history," U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch declared. The deal takes BP's total budget for the spill to more than $54 billion but resolves all federal and state claims against the company for the accident.

Freeport-McMoran (NYSE:FCX) is considering spinning off its oil and gas business and other strategic alternative to focus on its copper mining business. The Phoenix-based company produces oil and natural gas around the country. Energy companies have been hurt by falling oil prices and weaker demand. Many have cut spending as a result. Earlier this year, Freeport-McMoRan slashed its quarterly dividend 84 percent because of falling oil prices. And in August, Freeport-McMoRan announced a cost-cutting plan due to falling copper prices and soft economic conditions.

Alcoa (NYSE:AA) will unofficially kick off the earnings reporting season on Thursday.

We are already seeing some earnings numbers. PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as its commodity costs fell and demand for its snacks and non-carbonated beverages rose in North America.

Yum Brands (NYSE:YUM) missed Wall Street's earnings and revenue estimates. Same store sales in China, where it generates more than half of its operating profit, rose just 2 percent. The parent company for KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell dropped 18% in after hours trade. The biggest embarrassment for Yum Brands may be this nugget: "Year-to-date through October 5, 2015, we repurchased 4.5 million shares totaling $370 million at an average price of $82." When you consider the response today, that means they paid a 20% premium because they were too stupid to spend the money on building their business.

McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) is now serving breakfast all day. It only took 43 years. In 1972, a franchisee in California introduced Ray Kroc to a breakfast sandwich with Canadian bacon, egg, and cheese on an English muffin. The wife of a McDonald's executive came up with the name, Egg McMuffin. The all-day breakfast menu is still a bit limited; you can't get all breakfast items all day; and there are some quirks; you can't get Egg McMuffins in the South - they sell biscuits down there. The whole idea is still a bit of a gamble because the breakfast menu has lower profit margins than the regular burger-centric menu.

The World Bank reports the number of people living in extreme poverty is likely to fall for the first time below 10% of the world's population in 2015. World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said, "This is the best story in the world today. These projections show us that we are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty."

Extreme poverty has long been defined as living on or below $1.25 a day, but the World Bank's adjustment now sets the poverty line at $1.90 a day. The Bank said the change reflects new data on differences in the cost of living across countries, while preserving the real purchasing power of the previous yardstick. Using the new benchmark, the World Bank projects 702 million people or 9.6% of the world's population will be living in extreme poverty in 2015, down from 902 million people or 12.8% of the global population in 2012.

The World Bank first introduced a global poverty line in 1990, setting it at $1 a day. It was adjusted last in 2008, when the group raised it to $1.25 a day. Basically that $1.90 today buys about the same as $1.00 in 1990. Across the planet, the number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped by more than half since 1990, when 1.9 billion people lived in extreme poverty.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.