REUTERS/ Stefano RellandiniPope Francis, announced as TIME’s Person of the Year, hugs a child as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter’s Square this summer.
Good morning. Here’s what you need to know.
- Markets were down across the board. Asia was lower in overnight trading. Japan’s Nikkei closed down 1.12%; Korea’s KOSPI, 0.51%; and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng, 0.51%. Europe was down as well, and U.S. futures were pointing south.
- Eurozone industrial production dropped unexpectedly in October, with output at 0.2% year over year. Economists were expecting a 1.1% increase. Month over month, industrial production fell 1.1% (economists were looking for a 0.3% increase). Though the continent is showing some signs of life, the report serves as a reminder that Europe still has a long way to go on the road to recovery.
- Weekly initial unemployment claims jumped upward to 368,000, way above economist expectations for 320,000. Continuing claims also edged higher, to 2,791,000, versus a revised 2,751,000 last week and consensus 2,757,000.
- Retail sales data for November (which includes half of Thanksgiving weekend but not Cyber Monday) accelerated 0.7%, beating Wall Street expectations for 0.6%. Excluding auto sales, retail sales were up 0.4% — better than the 0.2% consensus estimate. At 10:00 a.m., October data on U.S. business inventories will be released. Economists are expecting the unsold goods held by manufacturers and retailers to have grown 0.3%, down from 0.6% the month prior.
- Stanley Fischer is President Obama’s top pick to become Federal Reserve vice chairman, multiple outlets reported yesterday. Fischer, who headed Israel’s central bank from 2005 to last June, is seen as a steady hand who guided that economy through the financial crisis. “We think it is great news that the Administration may nominate Stanley Fischer to be vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve Board,” wrote Morgan Stanley’s Vincent Reinhart. “Fischer has been around the inner circle of international economic policymaking for three decades. If he was not at a major meeting in person, one of his students from his long tenure at MIT probably was.”
- Australia’s unemployment rate edged up to 5.8% in November from 5.7% in October. “Unemployment is a weak spot in the economy as a long mining boom fades,” reports MarketWatch’s David Rogers. “Some economists are forecasting unemployment will rise above levels experienced during the global financial crisis. Australian mining companies have shed thousands of jobs and closed mines following a slowdown in China, the country’s biggest trade partner, which has dented the price of commodities such as coal and iron ore.”
- Korea’s central bank kept interest rates steady amid 14-year-low inflation, Bloomberg’s Eunkyung Seo and Cynthia Kim report. As economists expected, the Bank of Korea kept the seven-day repurchase rate at 2.5%. ” Policy makers are grappling with a won that rose to its highest against the yen since 2008 this week, threatening to hurt South Korean exporters’ competitiveness against Japanese companies,” Bloomberg reported. “Outbound shipments gained less than economists forecast in November and Finance Minister Hyun Oh Seok said last week that authorities are watching the won’s moves against the Japanese currency.”
- Bitcoin continues to get mainstreamed, and now Fidelity clients can add the digital currency to their IRAs. The available trust, the “Bitcoin Investment Trust,” has $US62.6 million in assets under management and only invests in Bitcoin.
- It seems that JP Morgan’s legal woes are never fully over. According to Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg at the New York Times, the bank is nearing an agreement with federal authorities over its ties to Bernie Madoff. Five years after Madoff’s arrest, the deal “would involve roughly $US2 billion in penalties and a rare criminal action,” according to the report. “The agreement to deferred prosecution would also list the bank’s criminal violations in a court filing but stop short of an indictment as long as JPMorgan pays the penalties and acknowledges the facts of the government’s case,” according to the Times.
- Facebook has been added to the Dow Jones S&P 500 Index, a widely-followed barometer for the status of the market. After its disastrous IPO in 2012, Facebook is up over 85% in 2013. And the stock popped in after hours trading on the news.