10 Things You Need To Know Before The Opening Bell

John kerry air force oneREUTERS/Saul LoebU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry kicks a soccer ball around during an aeroplane refuelling stop at Sal Island, Cape Verde, enroute to Washington, DC, May 5, 2014.

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

Global growth forecast cut. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) slashed its forecast for global GDP growth in 2014 to 3.4% from its previous forecast of 3.6%. “[W]ith the world still facing persistently high unemployment, countries must do more to enhance resilience, boost inclusiveness and strengthen job creation,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria. “The time for reforms is now: we need policies that spur growth but at the same time create opportunities for all, ensuring that the benefits of economic activity are broadly shared.”

UK looking strong. The OECD raised its 2014 forecast for UK GDP growth to 3.2% from an earlier estimate of 2.4%. Meanwhile, UK’s services PMI index jumped to 58.7 in April from 57.6 in March. “The UK economic recovery shows no signs of running out of steam, and growth could even accelerate further in the second quarter,” said Markit’s Chris Williamsom.

Another Pharma Mega-Deal. In the latest in a series of pharmaceutical industry mega-deals, Merck said it would be selling its consumer care business to Germany’s Bayer for a whopping $US14.2 billion. “Merck Consumer Care is a strong business with a portfolio of well-established product brands, such as Claritin, Afrin and Coppertone, that are leaders in their respective categories,” said Bayer Chairman Dr. Marijn Dekkers. “The combination of Merck Consumer Care’s complementary portfolio of products and geographic reach with Bayer’s will create a global consumer care business better positioned to serve consumers around the world.”

Swiss Bank Tax Evasion Deal In The Works. The WSJ’s Devlin Barrett and John Revill report that Credit Suisse is close to resolving a U.S. probe into allegations that the bank helped Americans dodge taxes. The deal would include a guilty plea and a settlement of more than $US1 billion.

French Energy Mega-Takeover Could Be Bigger. “The bid is not good enough,” said French President Francois Hollande of General Electric’s $US16.9 billion bid for the energy arm of France’s Alstom. France’s owns about 1% of the company, reports Reuters. “For now I would prefer to get better offers.”

British bank earnings fall. British banking giant Barclays said its Q1 pretax profit fell 5% to 1.69 billion pounds, missing analysts estimate of 1.82 billion pounds. “A continued strong momentum across our retail, cards and corporate banking franchises, all of which generated higher returns year on year, offset by a significant decline in FICC income within the Investment Bank,” said CEO Antony Jenkins.

Ford Paralysed In Venezuela. Reuters’ Eyanir Chinea reports that For has “halted operations in Venezuela on Monday due to a lack of foreign currency to import parts for assembly.” Multi-national corporations operating in the country have been slammed by currency volatility, including the stunning devaluation of the Venezuelan bolivar in February.

Market Update. Markets in Europe are basically flat with Britain’s FTSE down 0.1%, Germany’s DAX flat, and Spain’s IBEX up 0.3%. Dow futures are up 10 points.

Trade Balance. At 8:30 a.m. ET, we’ll get our latest report on U.S. trade. Economists estimate the trade deficit tightened to $US40.0 billion in March from $US42.3 billion in February. “The trade deficit likely narrowed sharply in March, settling back to the yearend range,” said Citi’s Peter D’Antonio. “The February deficit widened out for two temporary reasons: a drop in exports that may have been related to weather and a spike in imports of services due to payments for the Olympics.”

Famed Investor’s Contrarian Bet. “Gazprom is by acclimation the world’s worst company managed by the worst kleptocrats ever assembled on one continent,” said Jim Grant to Bloomberg TV’s Stephanie Ruhle. Grant thinks the Russian energy behemoth is an attractive buy for investors with no time horizon constraints. “[T]he beginning, middle and end of the bull case on Gazprom is that good things happen to cheap stocks.”

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