Good morning! Here are 10 of the most important stories you need to know in markets today.
Fewer than half of US businesses in China are now “optimistic”. The annual report by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai – the self-dubbed voice of American business in China – said 43% of respondents in a survey of its members were “optimistic” about prospects. The reading was the lowest since the series began and compared with 53% a year earlier.
Eurozone retail sales are coming. At 10 a.m. GMT (5 a.m. ET) eurozone retail sales for January will be announced. Analysts were expecting a 1.9% rise on the year, but Germany’s 5.3% jump in the same period, far outstripping expectations, may drive that figure higher.
China’s services sector got stronger in February. Activity in China’s services sector grew modestly in February as new orders rose at their quickest pace in three months, a private survey showed just a few days after the central bank cut interest rates to stimulate the world’s second-largest economy. The HSBC/Markit Services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) picked up to 52.0 last month from January’s 51.8 and remained above the 50-point level that separates contraction from growth.
Actavis just recorded the second-biggest corporate bond sale in history. The pharmaceutical firm issued $US21 billion (£13.7 billion) of bonds, the second-largest amount for any company in history. It’s raising cash to buy another firm, Allergan, and the bond issue was four times oversubscribed, according to the Financial Times.
PIMCO has now recorded nearly two years of outflows. Investors yanked another $US8.6 billion (£5.6 billion) from the Pimco Total Return Fund last month, in the latest indication the firm’s flagship fund is still reeling from the departure of co-founder Bill Gross. February’s outflow, the 22nd straight month of withdrawals. The fund had assets under management of $US124.7 billion at the end of February, down from a peak of $US292.9 billion in April 2013.
Greece’s new government just submitted a bill for poverty relief measures. Greece’s government submitted a bill to offer free food and electricity to thousands of poverty-stricken Greeks as its first legislative act in parliament, in a symbolic move to address what it calls a “humanitarian crisis”.
China’s defence budget will rise about 10% this year. China’s defence budget this year will rise about 10% compared with 2014, the spokeswoman for the country’s parliament said on Wednesday. Spokeswoman Fu Ying told a news conference that the actual figure would be released on Thursday, when the annual session of China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament opens.
The British government has sold its stake in Eurostar. The British government has reached an agreement to sell its entire stake in the Eurostar train service between London, Brussels and Paris, the treasury said in a statement on Wednesday. The stake is to be sold for a total of £757.1 million ($US1.2 billion, 1 billion euros).
Asian markets are mostly down. Japan’s Nikkei is down 0.59%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is 0.57% lower just ahead of the close. Only the Shanghai Composite Index is up, 0.11% higher.
US regulators dealt a warning to pharmaceutical firms. The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s top enforcement chief warned on Tuesday that too many pharmaceutical companies are failing to accurately portray their dealings with federal drug regulators – a problem that could get them in trouble.