10 things you need to know before the opening bell

Westminster dog showREUTERS/Carlo AllegriA dog competes during an agility event at the 139th Westminster Kennel Club’s Annual Dog Show in the Manhattan borough of New York February 14, 2015.

Here’s what you need to know.

A debt deal between Greece and its creditors remains elusive. Greek Fiance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is hopeful a deal will be reached within days. Jittery investors are selling Greek bonds, sending the yield on the 3-year debt up 75 basis points to 18.03%.

A fragile ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine is taking hold. Reports suggest the ceasefire has been largely followed aside from some fighting around the key railway hub in Debaltseve. The Russian ruble has strengthened on the news, currently up 1.5% at 62.26.

Chinese home prices are sliding. Prices fell in 64 of 70 cities in January. The new reading marks the ninth straight month of decline and has prices down 5.4% from a year ago.

Japan has emerged from recession. Data released on Presidents’ Day showed the Japanese economy grew at an annualized 2.2% rate during the October-December period. While the number was disappointing, it lifted to the country out of its shallow two-quarter recession.

UK inflation is at its lowest level since 1960. The decline in prices has been largely impacted by weakness in food and energy costs. Meanwhile, the British pound is up 0.2% at $US1.5395.

Sentiment in Europe is improving. Germany’s ZEW Economic Sentiment hit a 12-month high, climbing to 53.0 (48.4 previous). Eurozone-wide sentiment also improved, surging to 52.7 (45.2 previous). The impressive reading have the euro up 0.7% $US1.1435. “The leap in the ZEW expectations index is in line with the message from the Sentix investor survey, and suggests that investors have, so far, chosen to focus on the arrival of sovereign QE, rather than the risks of a political accident in the negotiations with Greece,” Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Claus Vistesen said. “We suspect that the momentum in sentiment will level off in coming months, consistent with Eurozone equity gains slowing following the 23% rally from the lows in October.”

India’s Wholesale Price Index slumped to -0.39% year over year, its weakest since June 2009. The decline is largely a result of the big drop in oil prices and has prompted talk the Reserve Bank of India will look to cut interest rates. At 62.16, India’s rupee is stronger by 0.1% against the dollar.

Asian central banks were busy overnight. The Bank of Korea held its key rate unchanged at a record low 2.00% while
Bank Indonesia unexpectedly cut its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 7.50%.

Global stock markets are mixed. China’s Shanghai Composite added 0.8% to lead the Asian stock markets higher. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE trades up 0.4% and Germany’s DAX is lower by 0.3%.

Port strikes on the west coast are becoming serious. Ships have been unable to deliver their cargo in six of the past 10 days as workers press for more pay and better conditions.

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