Photo: Getty Images / Christopher Polk
Good morning. Here’s what you need to know.
- Markets in Asia were higher in overnight trading, with the Nikkei rising 2.1 per cent and the Shanghai Composite advancing 0.9 per cent. European markets are mostly higher, led by German stocks, which are currently up 1.0 per cent. In the United States, futures point to a positive open after yesterday’s record high close on the Dow.
- Australia GDP growth slowed to 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter from 0.7 per cent in Q3, just as economists had expected. Year over year, GDP was up 3.1 per cent, slightly better than the estimated 3.0 per cent gain. Household consumption and business investment were weak, but the numbers were saved by strong growth in commodity exports.
- Euro zone GDP contracted 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter, at the same rate as in the previous quarter and in line with economists’ expectations. Germany was the only major economy to expand, while France, Italy, and Spain all contracted.
- According to the Venezuelan government, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez passed away yesterday following a 2-year struggle with cancer. Investors in Venezuela have been snapping up Venezuelan government bonds over the past year or so, betting on Chavez’s deteriorating health and better investment prospects once he was gone.
- The 20 per cent property tax announced in China on Monday and meant to cool off the property market has had the opposite effect this week. People are scrambling to get deals done before the tax goes into effect, and there’s also been a spike in divorces, which provide a loophole for getting around it. Prices have jumped.
- The European Union levied a $732 million fine against Microsoft after the company failed to offer Windows 8 customers a choice of internet browser other than the company’s own Internet Explorer. The fine is the latest in a string of penalties brought against Microsoft by the EU in recent years, some over similar issues.
- Instead of dealing with party leadership, President Obama has turned to rank-and-file Republicans in a series of phone calls aimed at building a consensus around bi-partisan deficit reduction. “What I see from the president is probably the most encouraging engagement on a big issue that I’ve seen since the early years of his presidency,” said Republican senator Lindsey Graham, one of the recipients of the calls.
- In a decision out at 10 AM, the Bank of Canada is expected to leave interest rates unchanged at 1.0 per cent. The rate has been steady at 1.0 per cent since September 2010, and Governor Mark Carney surprised markets in January by declaring a rate hike “less imminent.” Observers are looking for a further dovish signal today.
- ADP’s February employment report showed that 192,000 private sector payrolls were added last month, up from 192,000 in January and well above expectations of a dip to 162,000 new payrolls. The number preview’s tomorrow’s big jobs report, which is expected to count 167,000 new private payrolls in February.
- January factory orders data are released at 10 AM ET. Economists predict orders contracted 2.2 per cent in January after expanding 1.8 per cent in December. Follow the releases LIVE on Business Insider >
- BONUS: Taylor Swift lashed out at Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in a Vanity Fair interview after the two made a joke about Swift at the Golden Globes.
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