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Good morning. Here’s what you need to know.
- Asian markets were little changed in overnight trading, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng up slightly less than 0.1 per cent. European shares are up modestly, while U.S. futures point a sharply higher open.
- U.S. unemployment unexpectedly fell 20 basis points to 8.3 per cent, a surprisingly strong reading. The country added a net 243,000 positions, far outpacing the 140,000 projection and topping December’s 200,000 increase.
- The Chinese service industry contracted in January, new data out of HSBC shows. The composite service purchasing index declined from 50.8 to 49.7. HSBC noted that service companies added employees at the slowest rate in three-years.
- Spain will allow banks to tap a government bailout facility to prompt industry consolidation and write downs on real-estate assets of €50 billion, or $66 billion. Economic Minister Luis de Guindos announced the plan, as the country’s new government attempts to revitalize Spanish capital markets. The government said the financial system was saddled with €175 billion in “problem” assets.
- Eurozone PMI was unchanged from an earlier flash reading, registering at 50.4. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. Markit Economics said growth was fuelled by Germany and France while Italy and Spain saw improvement, while remaining in decline.
- The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to ban insider trading by Congressional leaders. The decision, which was a remarkable turn for a bill that had been left for dead, came after repeated media reports last year of questionable trading by politicians. The House of Representatives is expected to put the act to a vote next week. Read up on how Congress took advantage during the financial crisis >
- Wegelin, the Swiss private wealth management firm, has been officially charged by U.S. prosecutors for allegedly aiding Americans avoid taxes on more than $1.2 billion in assets. The news follows criminal charges against three of its bankers earlier this year.
- Retail sales in the U.S. were surprisingly upbeat, with the 20 retailers polled by Thomson Reuters reporting an average gain of 4.2 per cent, against 2 per cent forecasts. Costco, Saks Fifth Avenue and Target all beat targets set by Wall Street analysts, with Saks seeing same-store sales surging 10.5 per cent in January.
- Earnings season continues today, although it is markedly quieter than the past few days. Estee Lauder results came in line with Wall Street expectations, at $1.01 per share, as second quarter earnings jumped 15 per cent. Clorox beat expectations by a dime, at $0.79. Here’s everything we’ve already learned this earnings season >
- Panasonic announced that it expects to report a loss of ¥780 billion, or $10 billion, for its full fiscal year. That loss is nearly double a previous projection made by the company of ¥420 billion. If that number proves right, it would be the second-biggest loss for a Japanese manufacturer.