10 things you need to know before the opening bell

Man v crocReuters/China Stringer NetworkA trainer plucks a Chinese banknote from the mouth of a crocodile at a zoo in Zhejiang province.

Here’s what you need to know.

China’s annual parliamentary meeting is underway. Chinese growth of around 7% is likely in 2015 with Premier Li Keqiang noting, “The downward pressure on China’s economy is intensifying.” Beijing announced government spending will jump 10.6% year-over-year in an effort to combat the slowing economy. China’s yuan slipped 0.1% to 6.2662 per dollar.

The European Central Bank will outline its quantitative easing program. The ECB opines today and is expected to keep policy on hold. The highlight of today’s meeting will be a more in-depth outline of how the central bank plans on executing its 60 billion euro per month asset purchase plan. The euro hit a 12-year low of 1.1026 in overnight trade, and now holds down 0.3% at 1.1050 ahead of the decision.

The Bank of England kept policy on hold. The BOE held its key rate at 0.50% and its asset purchase program at 375 billion pounds. Post-decision action has the pound down 0.1% at 1.5245.

Brazil’s central bank hiked its key rate. The Copom upped its benchmark interest rate 50 basis points to a six-year high of 12.75%. Inflation in the country is running at a 12-year high of 7.4%. well above the 6.5% target. Brazil’s real slumped to 2.991, its weakest against the dollar since September 2004.

French unemployment is at a record high. The unemployment rate ticked up to 10.4% for the three months ending 2014; making for the highest print since at least 1998, as far back as comparable records go. BNP Paribas’ Dominique Barbet notes, “The number of underemployed people is still rising, accounting for 6.5% of the people having a job.” France’s 10-year yield is up 1 basis point at 68 basis points.

German factory orders plunged. Europe’s growth engine sputtered in January as German factory orders tumbled 3.9% from December. Overseas orders were the biggest disappointment, sliding 4.8%. Germany’s 10-year yield is higher by 1 basis point at 0.39%.

Global stock markets are mixed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (-1.1%) led Asian stock markets lower while France’s CAC (+0.6%) paces the advance in Europe.

Craft maketplace Etsy announced it is going public. Reports indicate the company is seeking to raise as much as $US300 million. The company will be listed under the ticker ‘ETSY.’

Costco posted mixed results. The retailer announced earnings of $US1.35 per share, topping the consensus estimate of $US1.18 per share. However, the better than expected number was boosted by tax benefits related to last month’s special divided. Revenues rose 4.4% year-over-year to $US27.45 billion, but fell short of the $US27.52 billion that was expected.

US economic data remains heavy. Challenger job cuts are scheduled for 7:30 a.m. ET while initial and continuing claims, productivity-revised, and unit labour costs-revised are due out at 8:30 a.m. ET. Data continues to flow at 10 a.m. ET as factory orders are released, and concludes at 10:30 a.m. ET with natural gas inventories. The US Dollar Index is higher by 0.2% at 96.18 and at its best levels since September 2003.

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