10 things you need to know before the opening bell

Calbuco VolcanoREUTERS/Rafael ArenasSmoke and ash rise from the Calbuco volcano as seen from the city of Puerto Montt, April 22, 2015.

Before markets open on Thursday, here is what you need to know.

China’s manufacturing slumped to its lowest level in a year. China’s HSBC Flash Manufacturing PMI fell deeper into contraction, hitting 49.2 in April (49.6 previous). Thursday’s print marked the lowest reading in 12 months, and is the latest sign the Chinese economy is slowing. Virtually every component was disappointing, aside from new export orders. China’s yuan lost 0.1% to 6.1979.

European Flash Manufacturing and Services PMI data disappointed across the board. Every reading slid from the previous month, and missed expectations. France was particularly notable as the manufacturing number (48.4) slipped deeper below the 50.0 expansion/contraction line and the services number fell to 50.8 (52.4 previous). As for Germany, Manufacturing PMI sank to 51.9 (52.8 previous) and Services PMI dropped to 54.4 (55.4 previous). The euro is up 0.2% at 1.0748.

German confidence is the strongest its been since 2001. German GfK Consumer Climate ticked up to 10.1 (10.0 previous), its best since 2001. The weak euro and recent decline in oil prices has boosted confidence in Europe’s strongest economy. Germany’s 10-year yield is down 2.6 basis points at 0.138%.

EBay beat on the top and bottom lines. The on-line auction host reported earnings of $US0.77, excluding non-recurring items, easily outpacing the $US0.70 that was expected. Revenues edged up 4.4% to $US4.45 billion, topping the $US4.42 billion Wall Street estimate. Guidance was relatively in-line with analyst expectations.

Facebook posted a mixed quarter. The social networking giant announced earnings of $US0.42 per share, topping the $US0.40 that Wall Street analysts were looking for. Revenue jumped 41.6% year-over-year to $US3.54 billion, which was shy of the $US3.56 billion that was expected. According to the company, video is seeing tremendous growth with users watching over 4 billion per day.

The Comcast-Time Warner merger is in jeopardy. The FCC has called for a hearing on the Comcast-Time Warner merger. According to the Wall Street Journal, the hearing is a sign the FCC feels the $US45 billion deal is not in the best interest of the public. The Department of Justice has also recently spoken out against the deal.

Qualcomm guidance disappoints. The company announced earnings of $US1.40 per share, easily topping the $US1.33 that was expected. Revenues grew 8.2% to $US6.89 billion, slightly outpacing the $US6.82 billion that analysts were looking for. However, the real story was the company’s third quarter and full year 2015 guidance, which fell short of estimates.

House Democrats unveiled an anti-fracking bill. According to the authors, Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the bill is the “strongest anti-fracking bill” yet, and covers national parks, Bureau of Land Management property, national forests, wilderness areas and other federal land.

Global stock markets are mixed. China’s Shanghai Composite (+0.4%) led Asian markets higher while Germany’s DAX (-1.1%) trails in Europe. In the US, S&P 500 futures are lower by 6 points.

US economic data is moderate. Unemployment claims cross the wires at 8:30 a.m. ET, and are followed by Flash Manufacturing PMI at 9:45 a.m. ET and new home sales at 10 a.m. ET. Natural gas storage is set for release at 10:30 a.m. ET. The US 10-year yield is down 3 basis points at 1.95%.

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