10 things you need to know before the opening bell

Here is what you need to know.

Stocks are at record highs. The Dow Jones Industrial average finally crossed the elusive 20,000 level on Wednesday. Stocks are set to open higher on Thursday, with the Dow on track to open up 0.2% near 20,105.

China has ordered banks to cut back on new loans. In an effort to slow down the country’s housing market, the People’s Bank of China has ordered banks to keep the issuance of new mortgages at no greater than their rate in the fourth quarter, people familiar with the matter central bank’s plans told Bloomberg.

Angela Merkel has some competition.Opposition leader Martin Schulz has drawn even with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the polls. Reuters reports the Infratest dimap poll for ARD television, released on Thursday, showed both candidates at 41% just eight months ahead of the election.

UK GDP beats. Britain’s economy grew at a 0.6% clip in the fourth quarter, outpacing the 0.5% growth that economists had forecast. The British pound is weaker by 0.2% at 1.2605 against the dollar.

The Dutch government accidentally published a list of hedge funds’ short bets. The list included George Soros’ bet against Dutch bank ING and the secretive Medallion Fund’s, run by Renaissance Technologies for its employees, bets against a number of small-cap Dutch companies.

RBS is setting aside more cash for its US mortgage-backed security probe. The bank announced on Thursday that it will set aside an additional $3.92 billion in preparation for the settlement of allegations it sold toxic mortgage-backed securities leading up to the financial crisis, Reuters says. The bank has now set aside $8.3 billion to deal with those claims.

Johnson & Johnson is buying Actelion for $30 billion. The all-cash deal will pay Actelion shareholders $280 per share, a 23% premium to Wednesday’s closing price, Reuters reports.

Ebay’s revenue jumps during the crucial holiday quarter.The online auction site reported revenue climbed 3.1% in the fourth quarter versus a year ago. “During the holiday season, eBay was one of the top consumer shopping destinations in the world and the second most visited eCommerce site in the U.S.,” said Devin Wenig, Ebay’s president and CEO.

Earnings reports come fast and furiously. Caterpillar, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor, and Northrop Grumman are among the names reporting ahead of the opening bell while Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Starbucks highlight the names releasing their quarterly results after markets close.

US economic data is moderate. Initial jobless claims will be released at 8:30 a.m. ET before Markit services PMI and new home sales cross the wires at 9:45 a.m. ET and 10 a.m. ET, respectively. The US 10-year yield is higher by 3 basis points at 2.54%.

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