10 Things You Need To Know Before The Opening Bell

Honduras independence red gasREUTERS/Jorge CabreraMembers of the military police march during a parade commemorating Independence Day in Tegucigalpa September 15, 2014.

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

Alibaba Is Hot. In a new SEC filing, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba raised its IPO pricing range to $US66-$68 per share from $US60-$66. At the midpoint of the new range, the company would raise about $US21.4 billion, with the value of the company set at a bit more than $US165 billion. Alibaba prices on Thursday evening and goes public on Friday.

Germany Is Cold. Germany’s ZEW index of investor confidence fell to 6.9 in September, down from 8.6 a month ago. While this was slightly better than the 5.0 expected by economists, it was nevertheless the lowest reading since December 2012. “Eurozone sentiment indicators continue to point to downside risks ahead, with political risks from ongoing tensions in Ukraine, and the uncertainty over the Scottish independence vote later this week the main factors weighing on investor sentiment this month,” said Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Claus Vistesen. “Additional easing by the ECB will help, but has not been enough, so far, to turn investor optimism around.”

China’s Investment Inflows Are Plunging. “China’s foreign direct investment inflows in August fell to a low not seen in at least 2-1/2 years, underscoring the challenges to growth facing the world’s second-biggest economy,” Reuters Siaoyi Shao and Koh Gui Qing reported. “China attracted $US7.2 billion in foreign direct investment in August, the Commerce Ministry said on Tuesday, down 14 per cent from a year earlier and at a level not seen since February 2012.” This follows a slew of data confirming a major slowdown.

Markets Are In The Red. Everything’s red. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE is down 0.6%, France’s CAC 40 is down 0.5%, and Germany’s DAX is down 0.4%. In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed down 0.9%. Dow futures are down 27 points and S&P futures are down 2.9 points.

French Prime Minister Says The Economy Could Be … In Trouble. France’s Manuel Valls has some colourful language to describe the state of things. “Valls is now privately admitting ‘in three to six months, if the situation isn’t reversed, we’ll be foutu’, according to Le Monde,” Business Insider’s Mike Bird reports. “The word foutu has a number of equivalents in English, including the f-word, ruined, or damned. The Times translated the word as “knackered,”which has a similar but more PG-rated meaning.”

Investors Are Bullish. “Investors remain bullish on equities, despite the risks posed by Fed policy normalisation and geopolitics, according to a Barclays survey of 972 global investors,” Barclays’ Guillermo Felices said. “More than half of the respondents said they believed equities would offer the best returns over the next quarter. Meanwhile, geopolitical developments, with 31% of responses, comprise investors’ main concern over the next 12 months.”

Hedge Funds Get A Devastating Blow. “The California Public Employees’ Retirement System plans to divest the entire $US4 billion that it has with hedge funds, saying they’re too expensive and complex,” Bloomberg’s Michael Marois reported. “The decision to eliminate 24 hedge funds and six hedge fund-of-funds, isn’t related to the performance of the program, said Ted Eliopoulos, the interim chief investment officer. The board of the $US298 billion pension, known as Calpers, hasn’t decided where to invest the money after the pullout, which will take about a year, he said.” Calpers reported paid $135 million in fees to hedge fund in the latest fiscal year.

It’s Buybackpalooza. “Companies are buying their own shares at the briskest clip since the financial crisis, helping fuel a stock rally amid a broad trading slowdown,” the WSJ’s Dan Strumpf reported. “Corporations bought back $US338.3 billion of stock in the first half of the year, the most for any six-month period since 2007, according to research firm Birinyi Associates. Through August, 740 firms have authorised repurchase programs, the most since 2008.”

…What Does That Mean? “You got a 7%+ gain in the S&P this year on basically nothing and for no reason other than float-shrink initiatives that have zero to do with fundamentals,” said Joshua Brown. “For every Disney, a company that is truly killing it right now, there are a dozen stagnant names masking slowing growth with a smaller overall pie to spread profits across. If IBM and McDonalds were trading on the actual condition of their respective businesses, the Dow would be 500 to 1000 points lower.”

US Inflation Check. The August producer price index report will be published at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists estimate PPI went nowhere month-over-month in August. Excluding food and energy, core-PPI is expected to have climbed by just 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, both PPI and core-PPI is expected to have increased by 1.8%. “Farm and energy prices declined in August and should put downward pressure on headline PPI,” Nomura economists said.

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