Before the Open (Mar 18)

by admin on March 18, 2019
in Before the Open

Good morning. Happy Monday. Hope you had a good weekend.

The Asian/Pacific markets closed mostly up. Japan, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines did well; Thailand was weak. Europe, Africa and the Middle East are currently mostly up. The UK, Turkey, the UAE, Russia, Greece, South Africa, Kenya, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Austria and South Africa are leading. Futures in the States point towards a slight positive open for the cash market.

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VIDEO: Trading Gap Ups
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The dollar is down. Oil and copper are up. Gold and silver are up. Bonds are down.

Stories/News from Seeking Alpha…

It’s official! Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) and Commerzbank (OTCPK:CRZBY) have confirmed they’re in talks about a merger, prompting labor union concerns about possible job cuts and questions from analysts about cost shredding and how the deal would be structured and financed. Germany‚Äôs two largest banks issued short statements following meetings of their management boards, indicating a quickening of pace in the merger process, although both warned that a tie-up was far from certain. DB +3.5% premarket.

Economy

U.S. stock index futures are deciding on direction to start the week, with the Dow down 0.1%, the Nasdaq up 0.1% and S&P 500 flat. Significant catalysts in the days ahead? There’s a slew of central bank gatherings, including monetary policy decisions from the Bank of England and Federal Reserve. The Fed is expected to lower its interest rate forecasts – or “dot plots” – to show little or no further tightening in 2019.

Theresa May is scrambling to secure support for her Brexit deal once again, with just days left to win approval from U.K. lawmakers ahead of a summit with EU leaders on Thursday. She’s reportedly pinning her hopes on last-minute Democratic Unionist party backing, but the vote could be pulled if the government doesn’t believe it can win. If that’s the case, the U.K. would likely be forced into a long extension of EU membership and take part in European Parliament elections in the spring.

As a series of national French debates on government policy ended Saturday, “Yellow Vest” protesters celebrated their 18th weekend with violence on the streets of Paris. More than 80 businesses on the Champs-Elysees were vandalized or torched, with an estimated 10,000 people participating in the demonstrations. The protests have shaved 0.2 percentage points off economic growth since they started, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in late February.

A proposed summit between President Trump and China’s Xi Jinping to end the ongoing trade war may be pushed back to June, according to the South China Morning News. The proposed meeting to sign a trade agreement at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club had originally been targeted for March, then pushed back to April, but they reportedly won’t be able to finalize a deal before then.

Japan’s exports fell for a third straight month in February, suggesting the BOJ might be forced to offer more stimulus to temper the effects of slowing external demand and trade frictions. Exports fell 1.2% Y/Y, following a sharp 8.4% Y/Y decrease in January. The trade data comes on top of a recent batch of weak indicators, such as factory output and a key gauge of capital spending.

With the U.S. and rival producers pumping more crude, the need for compliance on the OPEC+ supply cut agreement has never been greater. But how is the group actually doing? Overall conformity in the first two months of this year are less than levels seen in 2017 and 2018 but the oil producers “will catch up very soon,” OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkind told reporters. “There is a remarkable improvement. We are super focused on this common objective.”

Stocks

Looking to bulk up in a rapidly changing industry, Fidelity National Information Services (NYSE:FIS) has agreed to buy payment processor Worldpay (NYSE:WP) for about $35B. Including debt, the deal values Worldpay at about $43B. Worldpay shareholders will receive 0.9287 FIS shares and $11 in cash for each share held, valuing the company at $112.12 per share – a premium of about 14% based on Friday’s closing. WP +10.4% premarket.

Boeing shares have resumed their slide, falling 3.5% premarket, after investigators in Ethiopia said their 737 MAX 8 probe found “clear similarities” between last week’s crash and the October crash of a Lion Air plane that killed 189 people. The U.S. Department of Transportation has also launched a probe into whether there were lapses in the FAA’s approval of the Boeing 737 Max (NYSE:BA). The investigation is said to focus on the aircraft’s MCAS flight control system.

Southwest Airlines and the aircraft mechanics union announced a tentative contract agreement this weekend after six years of negotiations. The five-year agreement must be approved by the 2,400 mechanics who would win a 20% pay raise and $160M in bonuses. The FAA previously warned that the deteriorating relationship between Southwest (NYSE:LUV) and its mechanics threatened to undermine the airline’s safety management system.

Get ready for Lyft’s road show. The fireworks start today with the ride-hailing firm seeking to convince investors to make large commitments to its IPO, rather than hold out for its larger rival Uber Technologies (UBER). Outsized control? A group of investors is also calling on Lyft’s (LYFT) board to scrap a proposed dual-class share structure ahead of its public listing.

The external committee tasked with improving governance at Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY) believes the firm can deepen ties with Renault (OTCPK:RNLSY) without overhauling their broader alliance, Reuters reports. That can include stronger roles for outside directors and establishing committees for board member nominations, auditing and determining executive pay. The two automakers are retooling their partnership to create more equal footing following the arrest of Carlos Ghosn on financial misconduct charges.

“General Motors must get their Lordstown, Ohio, plant open, maybe in a different form or with a new owner, FAST! Toyota is investing $13.5 Billion in U.S., others likewise. G.M. MUST ACT QUICKLY,” President Trump wrote on Twitter. The tweet comes ten days after the plant made its last Chevrolet Cruze. The facility is also the first of five GM plants in North America to end output this year and shutter U.S. production of the Cruze.

Amazon has scored the last approval it was seeking for an incentive plan that helped lure the retailer to Northern Virginia. The five-member Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously approved $23M in incentives for Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) to construct its HQ2 in Crystal City and agreed to spend an estimated $28M on infrastructure improvements and open space around the buildings. Amazon has also been offered a subsidy package of up to $750M over 15 years by the Virginia General Assembly.

PG&E is likely to name Bill Johnson – retiring head of the Tennessee Valley Authority – as its new CEO as early as this week, as well as initiate an overhaul of the PG&E (NYSE:PCG) board backed by some of its largest investors, WSJ reports. The troubled California utility filed for bankruptcy protection in January, facing a fight to survive billions of dollars in potential wildfire liability costs, including the 2018 Camp Fire blaze that killed 85 people.

U.S. casino operators Eldorado Resorts (NASDAQ:ERI) and Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) are in the early stages of exploring a merger, Reuters reports. The talks come after Caesars agreed this month to give Carl Icahn, who has been pushing the company to sell itself, three board seats and a say on the selection of its next CEO. Caesars and Eldorado have market caps of $5.4B and $3.6B, as well as debt piles of $9.1B and $3.3B, respectively.

Today’s Economic Calendar
10:00 NAHB Housing Market Index

Other

today’s upgrades/downgrades from briefing.com

this week’s Earnings from Morningstar

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