Good morning. Here’s what you need to know:
- Asian markets were modestly lower in overnight trading, with both the Nikkei and Hang Seng off 1.2%. European trading is mostly higher, while U.S. futures point to a positive open.
- Unemployment fell to 8.5% as non farm payrolls increased by more than 200K, the Bureau of labour Statistics announced this morning. Both figures beat estimates, with economists previously expecting unemployment to increase to 8.7% from November’s 8.6% reading. The manufacturing sector added more than 23K jobs in December, and the average work week increased to 34.4 hours from 34.3.
- European confidence in its economic future fell to the lowest level in more than two years, an index of executive and consumer sentiment showed. Confidence declined to 93.3 in December from 93.8 the previous month for the 17-country Euro area. Click here for a complete guide to Europe >
- German factory orders plunged the most in three years, as the European economy continued to weigh on output. Orders fell by 4.8% from October, well below expectations for a 1.8% decline. Two institutes that advise German Chancellor Angela Merkel revised 2012 forecasts lower for the country last month, with expectations for 0.5% GDP growth in the new year.
- The Hungarian government has announced it is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for an emergency loan. Yields on Hungary’s 10-year debt have spiraled higher, while its currency fell to an all-time low this week, after it failed to raise needed capital in several bond auctions over the past few weeks. Here is your 30-second guide to the crisis in Hungary.
- South Korea and China will meet to consider a new free-trade agreement next week. Presidents Lee Myung Bak and Hu Jintao also plan to discuss relations with North Korea at the three-day summit. Kim Jong Un, the new leader to the north, has threatened action against South Korea following his father’s death.
- Samsung announced record quarterly profits as its Galaxy lineup gained further momentum and it booked the sale of its hard disk unit. Revenue climbed 12% to 47 trillion won, or $40 billion, while operating profit improved to 5.2 trillion won. The company shipped 27.8 million mobile devices during the period. Click here to see everything we know about the next Galaxy device >
- Accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers was fined a record high £1.4 million by British authorities for not spotting irregularities at J.P. Morgan at the time Lehman Brothers failed. PwC should have noticed that J.P. Morgan had failed to segregate an average of $8.6 billion of client funds over seven years. The Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board fined the bank £33 million in 2010.
- Former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford plans on filing suit against the Japanese company for unfair dismissal. Woodford was fired from Olympus after he brought nearly $1.7 billion in accounting fraud to the board of directors’ attention.
- At least 25 are dead in Syria after a suicide bomber targeted a bus full of police in central Damascus. However, most of those killed in the attack were civilians. The Associated Press reports another 50 people were injured. Today’s bombing follows growing unrest in the country, which also saw attacks two weeks ago, killing 44.