Good morning! Here’s what you need to know.
ECB decision. The European Central Bank will announce the outcome of its latest policy meeting at 7:45 a.m. Expectations are for no change to rates. “Many believe persistent low inflation will force the ECB to ease further this year, but only three of the 57 economists polled by Bloomberg expect such an announcement to come out of Thursday’s meeting,” reported BI’s Matthew Boesler.
China stimulus. China has unveiled what’s being called a “mini-stimulus” to boost consumption. Its scope remains limited. It includes “additional spending on railways, upgraded housing for low-income households and tax relief for struggling small businesses,” WSJ says.
Euro zone’s strong quarter. Theeuro zone’s Markit PMI fell slightly to 53.1 from 53.3, but businesses nevertheless logged its busiest quarter in three years. However, they did so mostly by slashing prices, “underscoring fears that deflation may soon afflict the region.”
Three dead in Ft. Hood shooting. Five years after 13 people were killed at Ft. Hood in Texas in a mass shooting incident, an army specialist opened fire at the same military post, killing three before taking his own life. “The gunman, who served in Iraq for four months in 2011, had been undergoing an assessment before the attack to determine if he had post-traumatic stress disorder,” the AP reported.
“Cuban Twitter” was U.S. project. The U.S. covertly built a Twitter-like social network in Cuba to help foment unrest, the AP reports. “The project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. First, the network would build a Cuban audience, mostly young people; then, the plan was to push them toward dissent.”
Food prices soaring. Global food prices hit their highest level in almost a year in March, climbing 2.3% MUM. The surge was caused by severe weather and geopolitical tensions, the UN said.
Markets. Stocks in Asia were mostly higher, led by the Nikkei at 0.8%; while in Europe they were mostly lower. U.S. futures were up. The euro was going nowhere. Bitcoin fell to $US440.
Jobless claims. Weekly jobless claims hit at 8:30 a.m. Expectations are for a slight uptick from last week’s 311,000 figure.
Trade. Also at 8:30 a.m. we get U.S. trade data. Expectations are for the trade deficit to narrow to $US38.8 billion from $US39.1 billion prior.
Services and ISM data. At 9:45 a.m. we get PMI services data from Markit. It’s expected to be up slightly from the prior reading of 53.3. And at 10 a.m. we get the Institute for Supply Management’s survey of non-manufacturing sectors. Expectations are for a gain of nearly 2 points from last month’s 51.6 reading. “The ISM non-manufacturing headline index declined in February as the business activity and employment indexes fell,” said Nomura economists. “However, the more optimistic reading on business activity in the Northeast Region implied by the New York Fed’s business leaders’ survey suggests that we could see an increase in the ISM non-manufacturing index in March.”