Good morning. Here’s what you need to know.
- Asian markets moved mostly higher in overnight trading, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gaining 0.5 percent. European shares are modestly up while U.S. futures point to a positive open.
- The second European Central Bank three-year Long Term Refinancing Operation lent €529.5 billion, or $712.8 billion, to banks in an effort to alleviate capital concerns within the continent’s financial system. Some 800 banks asked to borrow funds, up from the 500 that borrowed in the first operation. Last year the ECB lent out some €489 billion in its three-year LTRO. Here’s what the LTRO really means to Europe.
- Republican front-runner Mitt Romney claimed two primary victories last night, taking contests in Michigan and Arizona. The former governor of Massachusetts won 41.1 percent and 47.3 percent of the vote in Michigan and Arizona, respectively. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul took second and third in Michigan, while Newt Gingrich rounded out the top three in Arizona, edging out Paul.
- U.S. authorities are investigating a top manager at Goldman Sachs over alleged insider trading, the Wall Street Journal’s Susan Pulliam and Michael Rothfeld report. The probe targets David Loeb, a Goldman managing director who worked with technology hedge-fund employees. This follows news of the F.B.I.’s “Perfect Hedge” operation, a deep dive into insider trading. Click here to read the rise and fall of Raj Rajaratnam, who was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison for insider trading.
- India’s economy grew at the slowest pace in three years, posting an annualized 6.1 percent expansion in the final three months of 2011. Economists polled by Bloomberg had expected a 6.3 percent annualized rate. Click here to see which American company has decided to expand aggressively in India.
- Unemployment in Germany remained steady at 6.8 percent in February. The Federal Labor Agency said 26,000 more people were jobless, pushing the total number of unemployed up to 3.11 million.
- French consumer spending declined by 0.4 percent sequentially in January, data from the country’s statistics office shows. Economists polled by Bloomberg had expected spending to advance by 0.2 percent. The government agency said most of the fall was attributable to lower auto sales.
- U.S. economic announcements kick off at 8:30 a.m., when a second reading of fourth quarter GDP is scheduled for release. Economists forecast the economy expanded by an annualized rate of 2.8 percent during the final three months of 2011, the same rate as an earlier reading.
- Chicago Purchasing Manager Index comes out at 9:45 a.m., followed by NAPM-Milwaukee at 10:00 a.m. Economists see the Chicago index advancing 80 basis points to 61.0 in February, while the NAPM-Milwaukee index moves slightly higher to 58.8, from 58.4. A reading above 50 indicates economic expansion. Closing out the day at 2:00 p.m. is the release of the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book. Follow the announcements live on Money Game.
- Earnings season continues with a number of retailers reporting. Starting the day was Costco Wholesale, which beat analyst expectations by $0.03, coming in at $0.90. Staples followed with results in line with consensus estimates, at $0.41. Read more about the already disappointing earnings season that has nonetheless sent stocks higher >