10 Things You Need To Know This Morning

Scarlett JohanssonActress Scarlett Johansson attends the Dolce & Gabbana Spring/Summer 2012 fashion show as part Milan Fashion Week on September 25, 2011 in Milan, Italy.

Photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Good morning. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Overnight trading in Asia was mostly flat, with China’s Shanghai SE Composite trading 0.1 per cent higher. Shares in Europe are mixed, while U.S. futures point to a slightly higher open.
  • Greek officials may have reached an agreement on austerity measures, with an announcement expected relatively shortly, Kevin Hope of the Financial Times reports. The country’s next bond payment is due on March 20, and Greece is expected to default if it does not secure the €130 billion bailout from the troika. Here’s what happens if Greece goes bust.
  • The Bank of England boosted its asset buying program by £50 billion, to £325 billion, in line with economist expectations. However, the BOE also noted that it expected “significant” weakness to continue to plague the U.K. economy. Benchmark interest rates were held steady at 0.5 per cent.
  • U.S. authorities edged closer to an agreement with five of the nation’s largest banks over alleged mortgage abuses that could offer some $26 billion in relief to home owners. Two of the largest states holding out from the deal, California and New York, are expected to sign on. States that agree to the terms will be unable to sue lenders for practices during that height of the crisis.
  • Chinese consumer prices surged higher than expectations in January compared to year-ago levels. The key index increased 4.5 per cent, 50 basis points greater than forecasts, fuelled by a 10.5 per cent jump in food prices. In Japan, Machinery orders plunged 7.1 per cent in December from a month earlier, a deeper contraction than expected. A strong yen, coupled with fears of a global slowdown, impacted orders for capital goods.
  • Diamond Foods has ousted both its chief executive and chief financial officers as its board of directors completes an audit investigation into questionable supplier payment practices. The announcement has put Diamond’s takeover of Pringles into serious doubt. Proctor & Gamble said it will reconsider the $2.35 billion deal as it weighs other offers. Click here to read about the momentous rise and fall of Diamond Foods.
  • Initial claims surged lower last week, to 358,000, substantially below expectations for an increase to 370,000. At 10:00 a.m. wholesale inventories will be reported, with consensus estimates for 0.4 per cent growth. Follow both live on Money Game.
  • Washington state’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would legalise same-sex marriage, following passage in the Senate last week. Governor Christine Gregoire has promised to sign the bill that has seen backing by a number of major corporations, including Starbucks, Nike, and Microsoft. Opponents have promised to gather 120,000 signatures to push the issue to a statewide vote. 
  • PepsiCo beat earnings forecasts this morning and announced that it would lay off three per cent of its global workforce. The company reported EPS of $1.15, against forecasts for $1.12 a share. About 8,700 employees will be fired. 
  • A busy earnings week continues on Thursday, with announcements from KKR and Philip Morris International. Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect earnings per share of $0.75 and $1.09 at KKR and Philip Morris, respectively. Here’s everything we’ve already learned this earnings season.

Bonus: Scarlett Johansson joined Anna Wintour at a fundraising event for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

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