* US: Dow Futures: 13014.00 (-0.30%), S&P 500 Futures: 1395.60 (-0.33%), NASDAQ Futures: 2759.50 (-0.31%)
* Europe: CAC: 3398.91 (-0.98%), DAX: 6913.75 (-1.12%), FTSE: 5763.08 (-0.80%).
* Asia-Pacific: Australia: 4337.90 (-0.13%), China: 2284.88 (-2.73%), Hong Kong: 20885.52 (-0.77%), India: 5194.75 (-0.92%), Japan: 10182.57 (-0.71%).
* Metals: Gold: 1660.10 (0.13%), Silver: 32.96 (0.39%), Copper: 3.79 (-0.08%)
* Energy: Crude Oil: 104.91 (-0.47%), Natural Gas: 2.25 (-1.53%)
* 10 year US Treasury: 2.162% (-0.037)
Market and Economy News Update
U.S. stock-index futures trading lower: U.S. stock-index futures pointed to a lower open on Thursday. The Dow, S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) and NASDAQ futures were all trading mildly in the red..
European markets down: Markets declined for a third day on Thursday with the benchmark Stoxx 600 index down 0.8 percent. The FTSE was down 0.9 percent, while the CAC 40 and the German DAX fell more than a percent.
German unemployment rate falls to a new record low: German unemployment fell to a record low in March, increasing hopes that private consumption will bolster Europe’s largest economy this year. Seasonally-adjusted data from the Federal Labor Agency showed that unemployment in March dropped by a stronger-than-expected 18,000 to a total of 2.841 million, the fifth consecutive monthly drop.
Asian markets end lower: Asian markets ended lower on Thursday as worries about growth in the United States and China led investors to cut their risk exposure. Japan’s Nikkei average fell for the second consecutive session and closed down 0.7 percent. The Shanghai Composite fell 1.4 percent and ended the day at the lowest level since Jan 16,
while the Hang Seng Index was dragged lower by the Chinese banking and energy sectors, ending the day 1.3 percent lower. The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 0.1 percent, but was the outperformer in the region for the second straight session.
Japanese retail sales rise more than expected: The Japanese ministry of economy, trade and industry said Japan’s retail sales increased in February at the fastest pace in a year and a half, as consumers feel more comfortable with the current economic situation. Retail sales increased 3.5 percent to 10.8 billion yen ($130.1 million) in February, the biggest advance since Aug. 2010.
Company News Update
* American Express Company (NYSE:AXP), the largest credit-card issuer by purchases, dropped close to a percent after being downgraded at Wells Fargo.
* Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE:RHT) jumped 7 percent after the open-source software company reported fiscal fourth-quarter profit and sales that topped estimates.
* Electronics chain, Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY), fell 3. 7 percent after posting weaker-than-expected quarterly results and added it will close 50 stores and cut 400 positions.
* Illumina Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN) gained 2.5 percent after Roche Holding AG raised its hostile takeover offer for the company.
* Chelsea Therapeutics International Ltd. (NASDAQ:CHTP) slumped 20% after failing to win U.S. regulatory approval for its hypotension capsule Northera.
* Banks were among the biggest losers in Europe today, with Deutsche Bank AG (USA) (NYSE:DB) down 1.2 percent,UniCredit SpA (BIT:UCG) down 3.3 percent and Banco Popolare (BIT:BP) down 3.2 percent.
* The fall in crude prices saw BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) lose 2.3 percent and Royal Dutch Shell Plc (LON:RDSA) retreat 1.2 percent in London trading.
* Private equity major, 3i Group Plc (LON:III) gained 4.2 percent amid reports that Chief Executive Officer Michael Queen will step down after 25 years at Britain’s oldest listed private equity firm.
* Imperial Tobacco Group PLC (LON:IMT), Europe second-biggest tobacco group, saw strong sales in the first three months of 2012, and improved market conditions in Spain, Ukraine and the United States helped the company record a three percent rise in first half-year sales. The stock was trading 1.6 percent higher.
* Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB, Europe’s second-largest, posted a much lower-than-expected first-quarter profit due to higher purchasing costs.
* Roche Holding AG (ROG), the biggest maker of cancer drugs, fell 1.3 percent after hiking its hostile takeover bid for San Diego-based Illumina Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN) by 15 percent to about $6.7 billion.
* Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (HKG:1398) reported a better-than-expected 17 percent increase in fourth-quarter earnings, but an increase in non-performing loans will renew investor concerns about credit risks in the country’s banking sector.
* Private railway operator, Tokyu Corporation (TYO:9005), fell 2 percent in Tokyo after Nomura downgraded the stock to “neutral” from “buy”.
* Despite posting a 29 percent rise in 2011 net profit, China’s biggest offshore energy producer, CNOOC Ltd. (HKG:0883), fell 3.6 percent in Hong Kong trading amid concerns over rising costs relating to production expansion.
* China’s fifth-biggest lender, Bank of Communications (HKG:3328), reported a stronger-than-expected 30 percent rise in quarterly earnings, but said the economic slowdown in China will have a negative impact on asset quality. The stock was trading 0.5 percent higher.
* Australian construction giant Leighton Holdings (ASX:LEI) fell 6.7 percent in Sydney after it slashed its annual profit forecast by nearly a third because of further setbacks at its Brisbane Airport Link and Victorian desalination plant works.
* BlackRock has reduced its position in BHP Billiton Limited (ADR) (NYSE:BHP) to 6.5 percent from as high as 10 percent, on concerns over medium-term returns. Catherine Raw of the BlackRock World Mining Fund said BHP’s multi-billion-dollar long-term expansion program made it extremely difficult for investors to make money in the next couple of years.
Economic Calendar for Thursday, March 29, 2012:
08:30 A.M. ET: Gross Domestic Product Annualized (Q4)
08:30 A.M. ET: Jobless Claims
08:30 A.M. ET: Corporate Profits
09:45 A.M. ET: Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index
10:30 A.M. ET: EIA Natural Gas Report
11:00 A.M. ET: Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index (March)
12:15 P.M. ET: Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart Speaks
12:45 P.M. ET: Ben Bernanke Speaks
01:00 P.M. ET: Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank Pres. Charles Plosser Speaks
03:00 P.M. ET: Farm Prices (March)
04:30 P.M. ET: Fed Balance Sheet
04:30 P.M. ET: Money Supply