German consumer confidence hit the highest level in at least 13 years in February. GfK’s confidence figure is now up to 9.7, the highest in at least 13 years. In January, the survey came in at 9.3, and economists had expected a score of 9.5 this month.
European confidence is coming. At 10 a.m, we’ll get a bundle of figures on consumer confidence, as well as business sentiment broken down by sector (manufacturing and services) from the European Commission. Economists are expecting improvements across the board for February.
The SEC is investigating the way that several companies treat whistleblowers. The US Securities and Exchange Commission has sent letters to several companies asking for years of nondisclosure agreements, employment contracts and other documents to investigate whether companies are muzzling corporate whistleblowers, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The west coast port strike could cut the US trade deficit. Shipping companies and a powerful dock workers’ union in West Coast ports reached a tentative deal last Friday after a nine-month slowdown. In a note Tuesday, Goldman’s Kris Dawsey wrote that although an agreement has been reached, shipments slowed in January, and likely February. The US international trade balance for January may send the trade deficit to its lowest level in a year.
Spain’s Podemos rallied against the prime minister’s state of the nation speech. Spanish anti-austerity party Podemos rallied on Wednesday in response to the prime minister’s state-of-the-nation address, delivered a day earlier to a parliament in which the new leftist movement still has no seats. Among the measures leader Pablo Iglesias said he would implement if he became prime minister in the general election due by the end of the year are a restructuring of the country’s debt and a new tax on wealth.
Samsung is freezing salaries for the first time since 2009. Samsung Electronics will freeze employee salaries this year for the first time since 2009, a spokeswoman for the South Korean company said on Thursday, without elaborating. The move comes after the company’s profit declined in 2014 for the first time in three years.
China is reportedly preparing steps to boost the housing market. China’s plunging house prices are spooking local and national governments, so they’re preparing a relief plan, according to Bloomberg. Beijing is planning to reduce the percentage of down payment required for second home purchases and perhaps allow homeowners to sell their property without having to pay a sales tax after two years, down from the existing five-year threshold.
Huge QE isn’t convincing Japanese consumers. Japanese households likely cut spending further and retail sales fell for the first time in seven months in January, a sign the central bank’s radical stimulus has yet to convince consumers that inflation will take hold. Household spending likely fell an annual 4.1% in January, down for a tenth straight month, and retail sales are forecast to have dropped 1.3%, according to a Reuters poll.
Petrobras shares plunged after a downgrade. Shares in Brazilian oil giant Petrobras fell nearly 6% Wednesday after ratings agency Moody’s downgraded the scandal-plagued company for the fourth time in as many months.
Google is reportedly merging its two European arms. Google is combining its two European arms to meet the challenges of a more combative regulatory landscape on the continent, the Financial Times said. Matt Brittin, who previously led Google’s northern and western European division, will take over the day-to-day running of the new business, FT said.