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Daily from Wall Street, March 31

 

 

  • EU Draws a tough position on Brexit ahead transition deal
  • S&P Futures, Global Stocks Fall:  economic and political uncertainty

 

EU leaders are preparing a tough opening stance in Brexit talks, explicitly stating that Britain must accept the bloc’s existing laws, court, and budget fees if it seeks a gradual transition out of the single market.

EU President Donald Tusk : A free trade deal with the U.K. can be discussed before final terms of Brexit are agreed, but this can only happen if “sufficient progress” is made resolving topics such as borders and budgets.

If the guidelines are adopted, the talks are certain to be difficult, with both sides already in disagreement on issues from the sequence of the talks to the conditions Britain would have to accept to secure a post-Brexit transitional deal.

Launching the U.K.’s exit process on Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said she wanted to reach an agreement on an ambitious new trade deal within the two-year negotiating period.

If Britain does leave the EU without a trade deal or a transition to one, its exporters are likely to be exposed to World Trade Organization tariffs after years of duty free trade.

tariffs

 

Brxit steps (1)

 

British residents are not very confident about the nation’s economic future outside the EU:

Brxt confid (1)

 

 

 

Today’s Markets

In Asia, Japan -0.8%. Hong Kong -0.8%. China +0.4%. India -0.1%.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.5%. Paris -0.3%. Frankfurt -0.1%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow -0.2%. S&P -0.3%. Nasdaq -0.2%. Crude -0.7% to $50.01. Gold -0.3% to $1244.40.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 2.41%

 

 

Economy/Politics

Credit Suisse Group AG, some of its employees and hundreds of account holders are the subjects of a major tax evasion and money laundering probe that spans five countries.

Investigators in the Netherlands arrested two individuals on Thursday, seizing a gold bar, paintings, jewelry and bank account information. They allegedly concealed millions of euros from authorities by placing them in Swiss bank accounts, the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service said in a statement Friday. Criminal investigations are also underway in Australia, Germany, the U.K. and France

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has hit back at President Trump’s support for the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU, saying that he would champion American states that wanted to secede from the union. “If he goes on like that, I’m going to promote the independence of Ohio and the exit of Texas,” he told delegates from his pan-EU Christian Democrat group in Malta.

A year-long rise in the eurozone’s annual rate of inflation came to an end in March. Consumer prices were 1.5% higher than a year earlier, a sharp fall from the 2% rate seen in February. The decline could quiet calls from Germany to end the ECB’s stimulus measures and reinforce the central bank’s opinion of inflation “driven by transient factors.”

unnamed (1)

the Eurozone longer-term inflation expectations have rolled over.

hike euro (1)

These developments would suggest that the ECB policy remains “pedal to the metal” for some time to come – further diverging from the Fed. The probability of an ECB rate hike by year-end fell.

The finance minister of South Africa, Pravin Gordhan, has been sacked in a major cabinet reshuffle, following days of speculation that upset the country’s stock market and currency. “This decision is likely to cause severe damage to an economy that is in dire need of growth and jobs,” said the CEO Initiative, an organization that includes chiefs of Nedbank (OTCPK:NDBKY), Standard Bank (OTCPK:SGBLY), JSE (OTC:JSEJY) and Investec (OTCPK:ITCFY).

Former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn has told the Senate Intelligence Committee he’s willing to testify about the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia in return for immunity from prosecution. “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it,” his lawyer, Robert Kelner, said in a statement.

“The meeting next week with China will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses,” President Trump tweeted ahead of talks with Xi Jinping. “American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives.” Meanwhile, activity in China’s manufacturing sector expanded at its fastest pace in five years in March, with the official PMI rising to 51.8.

Stocks

Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey is leaving the company, bringing to an end a saga in which he was found to have funded a group creating pro-Donald Trump memes. That revelation led some developers to pull support from an Oculus VR headset and brought a number of lawsuits. “His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution,” Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) said in a statement.

The FCC will vote in April to reverse a 2016 rule adopted by the Obama administration that limits the number of television stations some companies can buy. Under laws adopted in 1985, broadcasters could partially count some stations with weaker over-the-air signals against ownership caps. Related tickers: SBGI, TRCO, FOX, TGNA, NXST, CBS, CMCSA, DIS, GCI, MEG

Verizon is planning to jump into the national live-streaming TV scrum this summer, sources told Bloomberg. That would be separate from its existing youth-focused streaming service Go90, as well as its FiOS home TV offer. Verizon (NYSE:VZ) has reportedly been piling up streaming rights from network owners and is setting up a package with “dozens” of channels.

It’s a victory for the Apple Wallet. Australia will bar its banks from collective bargaining with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) over access to the tech giant’s contactless payments. “It will have global implications,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims told Reuters after the ruling came down.

Private equity firm Silver Lake Partners and Broadcom (NASDAQ:AVGO) have apparently offered Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSYY) about ¥2T ($17.9B) for its chip unit. That’s on the high end of estimates for the memory business’s value, the Nikkei reports. According to Reuters, about 10 potential bidders are interested in buying a stake in the NAND flash memory maker.

In the first such move by an American restaurant chain, Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA) will begin to roll out new labeling of added sugars and calories in sodas and other self-serve fountain beverages. Other big fast food news? McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) will start serving fresh beef with all Quarter Pounders served at a majority of its U.S. restaurants by mid-2018.

Looking to mitigate antitrust concerns, Danone (OTCQX:DANOY) has agreed to sell its Stonyfield organic yogurt brand to win approval for its $10B acquisition of WhiteWave Foods (NYSE:WWAV). The divestment “is not the best case,” but will only cut earnings per share by 0.4% next year, said Pierre Tegner, an analyst at Natixis. A sale may value Stonyfield at €871M including net debt.

Wal-Mart wants to have the lowest price on 80% of its sales, according to Recode, and has told companies to take money spent on marketing initiatives and invest it in lower prices. Brands that agree to play ball could expect more strategic help from the giant retailer, but what about those who don’t? Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) said it would limit their distribution and create its own branded products to directly challenge suppliers.

More healthcare drama… Anthem (NYSE:ANTM) is leaning toward exiting a “high percentage” of its Obamacare individual insurance markets next year, Jefferies analysts told Reuters after talking with the company. Humana (NYSE:HUM), Aetna (NYSE:AET) and UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) have already pulled out after reporting hundreds of millions of dollars of losses.

Johnson & Johnson said its $30B acquisition of Actelion (OTCPK:ALIOY) should close in Q2, reporting it controlled 77.2% of the voting rights after the main offer period. J&J (NYSE:JNJ) intends to de-list Actelion, while the R&D unit of the Dutch company will be spun off as a separate Swiss-listed group called Idorsia.

Trouble is still bubbling at Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC). U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla has ruled the bank must face litigation seeking to hold it responsible for billions of dollars of claimed investor losses stemming from its alleged failures as a trustee overseeing risky MBSs. Among the plaintiffs: A few dozen funds from BlackRock (NYSE:BLK), Pacific Investment Management, Prudential Financial (NYSE:PRU) and TIAA-CREF.

Connecticut lawmakers are considering whether the state should become the first in the country to allow police to use drones outfitted with deadly weapons. North Dakota is the only state that currently allows police to use weaponized drones, but limits the use to “less lethal” weapons, including stun guns, rubber bullets and tear gas. Related stocks: AMBA, AVAV, DJI, OTCQX:DRNE, HON, INVN, IXYS, TRMB

At risk? UBER may be slapped with an order that could impede its self-driving car program after being told its director Anthony Levandowski won’t testify because he faces possible criminal action for allegedly stealing Waymo’s (GOOG, GOOGL) trade secrets. “If you think for a moment that I’m going to stay my hand, because your guy is taking the Fifth Amendment, and not issue a preliminary injunction to shut down what happened here, you’re wrong,” said U.S. District Judge William Alsup.

Making reuasble rocket history, SpaceX (Private:SPACE) last night successfully launched a previously used portion of a Falcon 9 rocket, and then once again reclaimed it. “This is a huge day,” Elon Musk told reporters. “My mind’s blown.” The next goal is to turn the booster around for relaunch in 24 hours, a milestone he said could be achieved by the end of the year.

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