10 Things You Need To Know Before The Opening Bell

Chinese kidREUTERS/Jason LeeA mother feeds her son instant noodles as they wait for their train at Zhengzhou Railway Station in Zhengzhou, Henan province, February 19, 2014.

Good morning! Here’s what you need to know.

— The death toll from clashes in Ukraine has now reached two dozen, with more than 20o injured. There are reports a region has declared independence from the standing regime. The EU has convened an emergency meeting to discuss a response, with some calling for sanctions, though this is not unanimous.
— UK unemployment unexpectedly climbed to 7.2%, but most analysts are dismissing its significance for the Bank of England. Here’s ING’s James Knightley (via the FT): “There was a decline in the number of people who were working part-time, but wanted a full time job and there was also a drop in the number of temporary workers who had wanted a permanent job. This, coupled with the decent pick-up in wages suggests that the slack in the labour market continues to shrink. This remains consistent with our view of a Bank of England interest rate rise in February 2015.”

— Chinese consumer confidence hit a record, according to a Nielsen survey. From Marketwatch: “Thanks to a stabilised GDP growth rate, a resilient labour market and steady household income growth Chinese consumer confidence grew in the last quarter of 2013,” Nielsen Greater China President Yan Xuan said. Better job prospects and stronger spending intentions are the most important factors in the improvement, he said.

— Tesla will announce earnings after the bell today. Analysts expected $US0.22, against a year-ago loss, and revenue of $US679 million versus $US306 million a year ago. Marketwatch’s Jim Jelter explains why investors will also be looking at where gross margin comes in: “After the third quarter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said told investors he was ‘pretty confident’ they could hit 25% gross margin in the fourth quarter (excluding zero-emission vehicle credits). He’ll be pressed hard for an explanation if the company misses this one.”
— Herbalife shares jumped 4% after hours after the health supplement firm posted earnings in line with expectations while raising its growth forecast on strong demand out of China.
— Plus, the latest edition of Markit’s Household Finance Index shows that for the first time in the survey’s five-year history, Britons believe things are going to get better financially.
Greece has posted its first-ever current account surplus on record. “Record spending by foreigners as Greece’s tourism industry slashed prices helped the country’s current account post its first surplus last year since official data began in 1948, central bank figures showed on Wednesday,” Ekathemerini reported.
— At 8:30 we get housing starts and producer prices. And at 2 p.m. we get minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting.
— Markets in Asia closed mostly higher, led by the Shanghai index at 1.1%. European markets and U.S. futures were lower.

— Mortgage servicers are being accused of shoddy paperwork, erroneous fees and wrongful evictions, according to a new NYT Dealbook report. “At first, some federal housing regulators quietly cheered the shift to the specialised companies, thinking that they could more nimbly help troubled homeowners without the same missteps. But as the buying bonanza steps up, some federal and state regulators are worried that the rapid growth could create new setbacks like stalled modifications for millions of Americans just as many were getting back on track from the housing crisis.”

— Signet is buying jeweler Zale for $US1.4 billion.

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