10 things you need to know before the opening bell

Limo boatReuters/Thomas PeterPrince William and Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe tour Tokyo Bay.

Good morning. Ahead of Thursday’s trading action, here is what you need to know.

The cease-fire in Eastern Ukraine is taking hold. While some fighting continues, none of it has broken the terms of the cease-fire agreement. Russia’s ruble is stronger by 1.6% at 60.45 per dollar while Ukraine’s hryvnia is lower by 18.1% at 33.12.

German consumer confidence is at its highest level in at least 13 years. Today’s reading of 9.7 slightly outpaced the 9.6 that was expected. German unemployment change also topped estimates, printing -20,000 versus the consensus estimate of -10,000. The German 10-year is down 3 basis points at a record low 0.29%.

Greek banks are seeing inflows.About 700 million euros returned on Tuesday and more than 150 million on Wednesday,” a senior Greek banker told Reuters. The Greek 3-year bond is higher by 0.33% points at 13.20%.

US economic data is heavy. CPI, unemployment claims, and durable orders are all due out at 8:30 am ET, while the Home Price Index is scheduled for 9am ET, and natural gas storage is scheduled for 10:30 am ET. Treasury will hold a $US29 billion 7-year note auction at 1 pm ET.

UK Second Estimate GDP measured 0.5% quarter-over-quarter. The number was unrevised from the previous look, meaning 2014 GDP held at 2.6% year-over-year. The data confirms 2014 GDP was the since the onset of the financial crisis. Britain’s pound is little changed near 1.5520.

Morgan Stanley has agreed to pay $US2.6 billion to settle a mortgage probe. The Wall Street Journal reports, “The accord ends a U.S. Justice Department probe into allegations Morgan Stanley deceived investors by misrepresenting the quality of the home loans the firm packaged into bonds and follows multibillion-dollar pacts the government struck with other big banks.”

The FCC will vote on net neutrality. Today’s vote will decide whether or not the Internet should be regulated as a public utility.

Sears Holdings lost money for an 11th straight quarter. The company lost $US1.50 per share, beating the expected loss of $US1.89 per share. Sales dropped 24% to $US8.1 billion, short of the $US8.3 billion estimate.

The Royal Bank of Scotland lost £3.5 billion in 2014. The staggering loss follows a £4 billion writedown by Citizens, its retail and commercial banking services unit.

Global stock markets are mostly higher. China’s Shanghai Composite (+2.2%) led Asian stock markets higher, and Italy’s MIB (+0.7%) leads the way in Europe.

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