Good morning. Here’s what you need to know.
— Global financial markets continue to get rocked even after Thursday’s massive sell-off, with the deepest moves coming from emerging markets. Asian markets got whacked in overnight trading, with Japan’s Nikkei down 1.94% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 1.25% lower. European markets were down across the board, with France off the most. And U.S. futures are deep in the red with Dow futures down a whopping 96 points.
— A car bomb killed at least four people and wounded 50 at the main Egyptian police headquarters in Cairo. “The blast shook and damaged nearby buildings, including a museum and courthouse, and sent black smoke rising above the Egyptian capital as a large number of ambulances rushed to the scene,” the AP reported. The attack, which the AP called “hugely symbolic,” comes on the eve of the third anniversary of the riots that led to Hosni Mubarak’s 2011 ouster.
— The Australian dollar continues its vicious bloodletting. The currency has closed lower on 12 of the last 14 weeks. “The RBA is actively trying to talk the Aussie dollar down because it is concerned that up until around 3 months ago the Aussie traders weren’t reacting to the deterioration in the terms of trade in the manner they should have been — by selling,” writes Business Insider Australia’s Greg McKenna. “It’s Friday night before a public holiday in Australia which could make trading thinner than normal given the extra day traders need to hold any positions instituted tonight.”
— JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon just got a raise. The New York Times reports that Dimon, who saw his pay reduced to a measly $US11.5 million last year following the London Whale debacle, fared better this year. The Times didn’t have an exact figure, but the boardroom debate “pitted a vocal minority of directors who wanted to keep his compensation largely flat, citing the approximately $US20 billion in penalties JPMorgan has paid in the last year to federal authorities, against directors who argued that Mr. Dimon should be rewarded for his stewardship of the bank during such a difficult period,” according to the report.
— Reuters reports that activist investor Carl Icahn’s has a larger stake in in eBay than previously disclosed. Icahn’s stake is closer to 2%, according to the report. Icahn has said he hopes the company will spin off its highly-profitable PayPal unit. He also announced Thursday that he bought another $US500 million worth of Apple stock, bringing his total to $US3.6 billion.
— Microsoft beat earnings expectations yesterday right after the bell. Revenue came in at $US24.52 billion versus the $US23.68 billion consensus estimate, while EPS was $US0.78 against the $US0.68 consensus. The stock traded up 3% after hours.
— Nobel Prize-winner Robert Shiller knows a thing or two about bubbles. And at a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Shiller said that Bitcoin certainly is one. “It is a bubble, there is no question about it…. It’s just an amazing example of a bubble,” he said, adding that he’s “amazed by how people are so excited about it.” He tells his students, “No, it’s not such a great idea.”
— British Prime Minister David Cameron thinks he will be able to keep the U.K. in the European Union, Reuters reports. Cameron will give citizens an “in/out” referendum on a plan to reshape EU ties if reelected next year. “I’m confident that we’ll have a successful renegotiation and a successful referendum,” he said during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “I’m confident this is do-able, deliverable and, as I say, winnable for Britain to stay in a reformed European Union.”
— The Japanese government predicts that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won’t be able to meet his budget-balancing promise under his current spending plan, Reuters reports. “Forecasts by the Finance Ministry, reviewed by Reuters on Friday, show that even in the rosiest of four scenarios, the government will run a primary budget deficit – which excludes debt service and income from debt sales – for the fiscal year to March 2021,” according to the report. “Under existing policy, Abe’s government has promised to halve the primary deficit by fiscal 2014/15 and bring it into balance five years later.”
— Droughts have been crushing beef prices. Live cattle contracts hit $US1.43/lb. yesterday, the highest since the contract started in 1964. “There are a lot of cattle in America — just over 89 million head in total — but those numbers are down from 94 million in 2010,” wrote ConvergEx’s Nick Colas. “Pasture land doesn’t recovery from drought in just one or two years, so ranchers have to maintain lower herd sizes even when the weather improves. It did so this year, but numerous articles in local farming community newspapers seem to indicate that ranchers remain cautious despite this year’s better environment. Bottom line: U.S. herds are at a 60 year low and seem likely to remain depressed.” And in other environment-related news, there is a massive propane shortage in the United States right now.