10 things you need to know before the opening bell

Here is what you need to know.

  1. Powell says rates are ‘just below’ a neutral level. Speaking at the New York Economic Club on Wednesday, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said there was “a great deal to like” about the US economy and that interest rates were getting close to a neutral level.
  2. The Trump administration is looking into ways to raise tariffs on Chinese autos. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Wednesday that he was examining ways to raise tariffs on Chinese autos to 40% – the same that China is charging on US-made vehicles, Reuters reports.
  3. Oil drops below $US50 for the first time in more than a year.West Texas Intermediate crude oil trades down 1.17% at $US49.72 a barrel, its weakest since October 2017, after a report showed US inventories continued to grow last week and as Russian President Vladimir Putin said current prices are “absolutely fine.”
  4. Deutsche Bank’s headquarters were raided. The bank’s offices in Frankfurt, Germany, were searched Thursday as part of an alleged money laundering probe linked to the 2016 Panama Papers data leak.
  5. Volvo’s $US30 billion IPO is officially off. The Chinese-owned, Swedish automaker, on Thursday shelved its initial public offering after previously delaying it because of the trade war.
  6. Saudi Arabia is buying Lockheed Martin’s missile-defence system. The kingdom has agreed to pay $US15 billion for 44 Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) launchers, missiles, and related equipment, Reuters reports, citing a Department of State spokesperson.
  7. Facebook is expanding its local news feature.Facebook’s “Today In,” which shows users news, posts, and events from their local area, will be expanded to more than 400 cities across the US, the company announced Wednesday.
  8. Stock markets around the world are mixed. China’s Shanghai Composite (-1.32%) led the losses in Asia and Britain’s FTSE (+0.6%) is out front in Europe. The S&P 500 is set to open down 0.41% near 2,732.
  9. Earnings keep coming. Abercrombie & Fitch and Dollar Tree report ahead of the opening bell while GameStop, HP, and VMware release their quarterly results after markets close.
  10. US economic data is heavy. Personal income and spending, PCE core prices, and initial claims will all cross the wires at 8:30 a.m. ET before pending home sales are released at 10 a.m. ET. The minutes from the Fed’s November meeting are due out at 2 p.m. ET. The US 10-year yield is down 5 basis points at 3.01%.