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Good morning. Here’s what you need to know.
- Trading in Asia started the week lower, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng off 1.4 per cent. Europe is largely in the red and U.S. futures point to a negative open for the week.
- China lowered its growth forecast for 2012, the first time it has done so in seven consecutive years. Premier Wen Jiabao said he expected growth of 7.5 per cent, below the 8 per cent pace normally predicted. This is what a real hard landing would look like in China >
- Eurozone business activity contracted in February, new data from Markit Economics shows. A final reading of the key composite index fell to 49.3 from 50.4 in the prior month. Analysts had forecast a drop to 49.7, which would have been in line with a preliminary reading for the month. Here’s your complete guide to all the eurozone acronyms and abbreviations.
- Retail sales in the 17-nation eurozone expanded in January, surprising economists who forecast another month of declines. The region’s main statistics office said sales increased 0.3 per cent and were flat compared to year-ago levels. Economists had predicted a 0.3 per cent decline.
- BP agreed to a $7.8 billion settlement with thousands of businesses and individuals relating to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the announcement does not end charges being brought by the federal government, it has delayed a lengthy trial that would have established BP’s culpability in the accident. A U.S. court judge must still approve the agreement.
- AIG announced it would sell $6 billion worth of shares of its American International Assurance holdings. The sale of AIA, AIG’s crown jewel in Asia, will be used to fund a repayment to the U.S. federal government. Here’s the headline that we wish we saw on AIG before 2007.
- Mitt Romney took a majority of votes in the Washington caucuses over the weekend. With 100 per cent of precincts reporting, Mr. Romney won 38 per cent of the contest, followed by Ron Paul with 25 per cent and Rick Santorum with 24 per cent of votes. Washington awards 40 delegates, but results from this weekend are non-binding.
- Vladimir Putin won presidential elections in Russia, taking some 64.7 per cent of the vote. The win gives Putin another six-years in office. Opposition groups have charged that the election was unfair and an international monitor says the election was clearly skewed in his favour.
- A key index measuring the service industry in the U.S. sharply beat expectations, rising to 57.3 from 56.8 in February. Economists polled by Bloomberg had largely expected a decline. Also out this morning: Factory Orders. Orders fell 1.0 per cent in January, better than the 1.5 per cent decline forecast.
- Jaguar Land Rover and Chinese automaker Chery Automobile are at work to gain approval for a $2.8 billion joint venture in eastern China, Reuters’ Fang Yan and Ken Wills report. The plans call for a factory near Shanghai that will first make SUVs, before expanding to Jaguar’s iconic vehicles. If you have to buy a present for a Chinese millionaire, stick to this brand >