The market down 16 points. ASX Futures down 12.
European equity market focus
was on negotiations between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over the situation in Ukraine.
Going ex-div today --
OSH (2c) and QBE (12c). See the list at the bottom for the others.
Australian economic data today --
Trade data, retail sales.
US economic data tonight
-- Weekly jobs claims, Productivity (revised), Unit labor costs (revised), factory orders
Fed Speak tonight
-- New York's William Dudley takes part in a discussion with Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal, Philly's Charles Plosser speaks in London on "Perspectives on the Economy and Monetary Policy" and
Atlanta's Dennis Lockhart gives an economic outlook.
US companies reporting tonight
-- Costco, Joy Global, Kroger, Staples, Cooper Cos, Fresh Market, H&R Block, Finisar, Ciena
Bank of England and ECB
both have meetings tonight.
UK PMI down slightly at 58.2
but still significantly above the 50 level that suggests expansion. The Markit survey also said confidence in the economic outlook rose to the highest level since September 2009.
Euro zone GDP confirmed at 0.3
% for the December quarter 2013 and retail sales rose 1.6% in January, a strong rebound from the 1.3% drop in December.
Euro zone Markit composite PMI
rose to 53.3 in February from 52.9 above the flash reading of 52.7. Germany led the charge, posting a 33 month high in output growth. The Italian and Spanish PMIs were also strong -- above 50 and beating forecasts.
- WBC -- Have announced a $500 million subordinated note to wholesale investors. The offer will not be to retail investors. The margin will be determined by a bookbuild process. The notes will be issued in denominations of $100,000 with a minimum transfer amount of $500,000. Notes are cumulative, with floating rate interest payable quarterly in arrear and have an early redemption option in March 2019 and 10-year maturity.
- Billabong (BBG) -- Investors are preparing to launch a class action against the surfwear company claiming that BBG engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and failed to comply with its continuous disclosure obligations. The action will allege Billabong gave earnings guidance for fiscal 2012 that lacked reasonable grounds. BBG forecast strong earnings growth in August 2011, then a few months later withdrew the guidance and flagged a substantial fall in earnings. The share price fell 50% in the days following.
- The ACCC has given the green light for BlueScope Steel's (BSL) proposed acquisition of Arrium's OneSteel sheet and coil business, after placing conditions on the deal.
- Magellan Financial Group (MFG) -- FUM report -- In February, Net inflows of $995 million, which included net institutional inflows of $833 million and net retail inflows of $145 million into the Magellan Global Fund / Colonial First State Magellan Global Option.
- Wesfarmers (WES 4315c) -- Coles have announced plans to invest $1.1 billion over 3 years to expand their empire, opening another 70 new supermarkets to create more than 16,000 jobs. This represents a significant step up in Coles’ store expansion plans and reflects their confidence in the future of the food retail sector. Over the last five years Coles has opened 20 new stores but closed the same amount, so net new store growth was pretty much nil. With these newer stores, store growth is set to soar. The new stores are also 15% larger than the older ones. The new stores will be located across the country. Coles CEO Ian McLeod said "We are optimistic about the future and are firmly committed to customers, team members and communities across Australia." The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency forecasts 8.9% growth in retail sector employment by 2017, which is a rise of 109,100 jobs. UBS have released a report this morning on the announcement. They say with these expansion plans, WES will track towards the top end of guidance, which implies upside to their 2% growth forecast. But they caution that the store increase is double the sustainable rate and risks cannibalising mature store sales growth. Last month, WES posted solid profit numbers, first half profit up 11% to $1.43 billion which was above an expected $1.337 billion.