Good morning! Here’s what you need to know.
— Wells Fargo is now the most profitable bank in the U.S., beating out the previous title-holder J.P. Morgan. Morgan’s annual profits dropped 16% from the year prior to $US17.9 billion, dragged down by massive legal fees. Wells, on the other hand, earned $US21.9 billion despite slipping in its mortgage unit.
— The Thai government is holding firm in its plan to hold a February election, but protestors looking for the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have brought Bangkok to a near standstill, Reuters reports. Demonstrators have threatened to blockade the stock exchange and an air traffic control facility if the PM does not step down by 8 p.m., according to the report.
— The Indian inflation rate dropped to 6.2% in December, down from 7.5% the month prior. Vegetable prices dropped almost 30% month over month, led by onions and potatoes that had spiked in the months before. While the move could prevent India’s central bank from hiking rates, the inflation rate is still way above the 4-5% target, the AP reports.
— This morning at 8:30 a.m. ET, we’ll see the U.S. producer price index. Economists expect PPI climbed 0.4% month-over-month in December, 0.1% excluding food and energy, and 1.3% year-over-year for core PPI. “[T]obacco prices are not seasonally adjusted in the PPI report even though there’s been a regular pattern of December cigarette price hikes in recent years,” wrote Morgan Stanley’s Ted Wieseman. “That will probably again provide a boost to the core PPI this December, but excluding tobacco we look for the core to remain near 0.1%.”
— Also at 8:30, we’ll get the Empire State Manufacturing survey. Economists are looking for the regional index to jump to 4.00 in January from 0.98 in December.
Not everyone is bullish though. “We look for a decline in the January Empire State manufacturing index to -2.0 after a December print of 1.0,” noted Barclays’ economists. “While the headline prints have been close to the breakeven level in the past three months with an average of 0.1, the underlying details have been soft and the index has averaged 49.2 on an ISM-adjusted basis over that same time period.”
— Then at 2:00 p.m., the Federal Reserve will release the monthly Beige Book, its collection of business anecdotes from the regional banks. “The Fed’s next Beige Book may describe ‘moderate’ growth in the US. If so, this would be an upgrade from the ‘modest-to-moderate’ language used in the crucial lead sentence of each of the previous five reports,” Credit Suisse’s economists wrote clients. “The information to be summarized in the report probably was collected by January 3. Retailers’ reactions to holiday sales and any anecdotes regarding the appetite for business investment would be of particular interest.”
— Asian markets rocketed in overnight trading, led by Japan’s Nikkei (2.5%). Korea’s KOSPI was also up 0.37% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged up 0.49%. Markets in Europe started in the green on the back of Germany, and U.S. futures were pointing north.
— Deutsche Bank has suspended currency traders in New York and possibly elsewhere in the Americas after an internal probe found emails “that led to suspicion that rates had possibly been manipulated,” according to German newspaper Die Welt. Regulators have been looking into currency market rigging for some time now, with many different banks already implicated. But it remains to be seen whether charges, criminal or otherwise, actually materialise.
— China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile company, will begin selling iPhones in China this Friday. The company said that as of January 13, it had received 1.2 million pre-orders, CNBC reports. That’s 60,000 per day since December 25. “It’s a huge announcement…we’re incredibly impressed with them, we have deep respect for them,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC. “We see this as bringing the world’s best smartphone to the largest and now fastest network in China.”
— The latest leak from whistleblower Edward Snowden, as reported by the New York Times, reveals that the U.S. National Security Agency has used a secret technology to access computers not even connected to the Internet. The NSA has put software in almost 100,000 computers globally to survey those machines and can also “create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks,” according to the Times. “The N.S.A. calls its efforts more an act of ‘active defence’ against foreign cyberattacks than a tool to go on the offensive,” reports the Times. “But when Chinese attackers place similar software on the computer systems of American companies or government agencies, American officials have protested, often at the presidential level.”