Good morning. Here’s what you need to know.
- Overnight trading in Asia was mixed, with the Hang Seng up 0.8%. European shares traded lower, with the German DAX falling 0.8%. U.S. futures point to a lower open.
- Mitt Romney won the first primary of the season in New Hampshire with 39.4% of votes and 95% of precincts reporting. Ron Paul placed second in the state, with 22.8% of ballots cast, while Jon Huntsman rounded out the top three with 16.8%. The candidates will head to South Carolina for the next primary to choose the GOP nominee.
- Germany’s economy contracted in the fourth quarter of 2011. The nation saw GDP fall 0.25 during the period, the government’s statistics office said. Overall for the year, German growth slowed to 3%, 70 basis points below 2010’s rate of expansion.
- Deposits at the European Central Bank continue to reach new heights, with more than €485.8 billion stored at the ECB. Eurozone financial institutions also took advantage of €1.9 billion from the ECB’s overnight lending facility. Click here to see what will happen in Europe in 2012 >
- Ratings agency Fitch set off a sharp decline in the euro when head of sovereign ratings David Riley called on the European Central Bank to do more to prevent a “cataclysmic” collapse. Riley noted that while a collapse of the euro was unlikely, it could happen if Italy cannot contain its debt issues. Here are the countries with the greatest exposure to Italian debt.
- A five-year debt auction in Germany sold below 1% for the first time in the country’s history. Germany sold €3.15 billion worth of debt at 0.9% to strong demand, with a bid-to-cover ratio of 2.8.
- Retail inflation in the United Kingdom fell to its lowest rate in 16 months as discounts over the holiday period kept costs down. Prices increased 1.7% year-on-year, but below November’s 2% reading, the British Retail Consortium and Nielsen report.
- Microsoft’s head of investor relations warned yesterday that fourth quarter computer sales would be lower than originally forecast after floods in Thailand keep factories off line. The technology giant earlier predicted unit growth of 5%. Some analysts now see that figure declining to -1%.
- The CEO of mortgage lender Fannie Mae has said he will step down as soon as the company’s board of directors appoints a replacement. Mike Williams took over the troubled lender in 2009, and his departure follows similar news that Freddie Mac’s head would depart in 2012.
- MetLife will close its residential mortgage forward origination business and lay off up to 4,300 employees in the unit, the company announced in an Securities and Exchange filing. The company will take a $90 to $110 million charge over the coming year to exit the business, but does not expect the announcement to impact operating income. Click here for a look at the biggest layoffs that impacted the financial services industry in 2011 >