Here is what you need to know.
The front-runners won big on Super Tuesday. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump extended his delegate lead, winning seven states, compared to three for Sen. Ted Cruz and one for Sen. Marco Rubio. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton secured seven states versus four for Sen. Bernie Sanders. “Once we get all of this finished, I’m going to go after one person. That’s Hillary Clinton,” Trump said. “And I think that’s frankly going to be an easy race. You see the polls. I beat Hillary in many polls.”
Moody’s is thinking about cutting China’s credit rating. Moody’s placed China’s sovereign debt on review for a possible downgrade, implying there’s a one-in-three chance it will lose its Aa3 credit rating. According to the ratings agency, weakening fiscal metrics, accelerated capital outflows and uncertainty over the ability implement reforms are reasons cited for the possible downgrade.
China’s steel usage fell for the first time since 1996. In 2015, steel product consumption at China’s mills fell 5.4% to 664 million tonnes, according to Li Xinchuang, the vice secretary general of the China Iron & Steel Association (CISA). The draw down in consumption was the first in China since 1996, and is more evidence the world’s second largest economy is slowing. China’s steel mills also saw their debt ratio rise by 1.6 percentage points to 70.1% with big mills seeing their total debt loads rise to 3.27 trillion yuan ($499 billion).
Australia hasn’t had a recession in over 24 years. The Australian economy posted fourth quarter growth of 0.6% quarter-over-quarter, and is on track to grow 3.0% year-over-year. This marked the 98th consecutive quarter Australia has gone without a technical recession. The Netherlands owns the record for going 103 straight quarters without a recession before the global financial crisis took its toll. The Australian dollar is up 0.6% at .7215.
UK Construction PMI missed. The Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 54.2 in February, its lowest in 10 months. Wednesday’s reading was shy of the 55.5 that was expected by the Bloomberg consensus, and showed a modest drop from the 55.0 that was recorded in January. Both homebuilding growth and the rate at which construction firms purchased goods and materials grew at their slowest pace since 2013. The British pound is stronger by 0.4% at 1.4000.
Former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon has been indicted. Reuters reports, McClendon has been indicted for “conspiring to rig bids to buy oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma.” The Department of Justice alleges McClendon orchestrated a scheme where two large companies would bid on leases, and that the winner would then offer an interest in the lease to the other company. The scheme allegedly took place between December 2007 and March 2012. McClendon is a part-owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA.
Sports Authority filed for Chapter 11. On Wednesday, sporting goods retailer Sports Authority filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Reuters reports, as part of the restructuring, the company plans to close two distribution centres and 140 stores.”We have received strong interest from third parties interested in investing in or buying some or all of Sports Authority,” Chief Executive Michael Foss said. Sports Authority will have access to up to $595 million in debtor-in-possession financing as it undergoes its restructuring.
Global stock markets are mostly higher. China’s Shanghai Composite (+4.3%) led the overnight gains in Asia and Spain’s IBEX (+1.1%) is the top performer in Europe. S&P 500 futures are down 9.50 points at 1973.50.
Earnings reporting is moderate. Abercrombie & Fitch highlights the list of names reporting ahead of the opening while American Eagle, Costco and Weibo are among the notables releasing their quarterly results after markets close.
US economic data continues to flow. ADP Employment Change is due out at 8:15 a.m. ET and the Fed’s Beige Book will cross the wires at 2 p.m. ET. US crude oil inventories will be announced at 10:30 a.m. ET. The US 10-year yield is up 1 basis point at 1.84%.