REUTERS/Jim UrquhartA helicopter tanker drops fire retardant near a home at the Beaver Creek wildfire outside Ketchum, Idaho August 18, 2013. Firefighters readied for a massive ground and air attack on Sunday against a wildfire in central Idaho that has forced the evacuation of some 2,250 homes and threatens the posh Sun Valley ski resort.
Good morning. Here’s what you need to know.
- Markets in Asia were mixed in overnight trading. The Japanese Nikkei 225 and the Shanghai Composite advanced 0.8% each, while the Hong Kong Hang Seng fell 0.2%. European markets are in the red across the board, with Italy down 1.8%. In the United States, futures are slightly negative.
- Emerging markets in Asia are getting smoked to begin the week. Indonesia’s stock market fell 5.6% Monday, while India’s market is 1.6% lower, and Thailand is down 3.3%. India is struggling with a balance of payments crisis, seeing the rupee plunge against the dollar and dragging stocks down with it. In Thailand, GDP came in below expectations today, as worries over EM persist.
- Japan’s trade deficit surged to ¥1.02 trillion in July from ¥182.3 billion in June, blowing by forecasts for a smaller rise to a deficit of ¥773.5 billion. The widening of the deficit was driven by a 19.6% year-over-year rise in imports (economists expected a 16.0% rise) versus a 12.2% year-over-year rise in exports (economists expected a 12.8% advance). The surge in imports was once again driven by higher energy costs.
- There are no economic data releases in the U.S. today, but two key releases later in the week will take center stage. The first is the release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s July FOMC meeting on Wednesday afternoon, and the second is the release of weekly jobless claims figures on Thursday morning. Both will likely give markets a sense of how likely the Fed is to begin reducing the pace of its bond buying program at the September FOMC meeting.
- Analysts are turning bullish on gold prices, at least in the short term, following a 17% rally from multi-year lows in late June. They cite a variety of catalysts, including short-covering and recent turmoil in the Middle East.
- The ratio of bad loans held by Spanish banks surged to an all-time high of 11.6% in June from 11.2% in May. Forecasters expect bad loans to continue rising into 2014. The data highlight that although the Spanish economy seems to be close to turning a corner, serious issues remain to be taken care of.
- Average home prices across 70 major Chinese cities rose 0.7% in July, slowing from June’s 0.8% increase. Year over year, however, prices rose 7.5%, the biggest annual gain since Reuters began calculating the index in 2011. “The July home prices in 70 major cities are still rising due to strong demand from first-time home buyers and recent rising land prices,” said Liu Jianwei, a senior statistician at NBS.
- A computer design flaw was revealed to be the cause of the 6% surge on the Shanghai Composite in just two minutes on Friday, Chinese regulators said over the weekend. Instead of human error, computers at Everbright Securities, the brokerage behind the accident, were said to contain flaws in systems that limit orders and prices.
- The Department of Justice is appealing a ruling that would require Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to testify in a lawsuit brought by former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg against the U.S. over details of the bailout of the insurer during the financial crisis. “The demands of civil litigation, if not appropriately limited by the courts, will impair the ability of senior government officials to lead the departments and agencies for which they are responsible,” said the DoJ petition.
- JPMorgan is being investigated over whether it hired children of Chinese politicians in order to help it win business in China, according to a report from the New York Times. The Times says it’s a civil investigation being led by the SEC’s anti-bribery unit.