Monday’s Market Prepper

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Monday's Market Prepper

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While this may well have been the week the Fed started to take a back seat to Congress and the President when it comes to setting the economic tone, that doesn't mean the central bank suddenly becomes unimportant. The effect of the second interest rate increase in the past three months will be watched closely, as well as numerous Fed speeches across the country that will help investors get a firmer hand on what happens next.

Economy

World financial leaders found common ground on foreign exchange at a G20 meeting on Saturday, reiterating their long-standing warnings against competitive devaluations, but dropped tougher language from last year that vowed to "resist all forms of protectionism." The communique also removed a pledge to finance the fight against climate change, in the face of resistance from countries including the U.S., China, India and Saudi Arabia.

Scotland's First Minister has softened her stance on the potential timing of a second independence referendum after Prime Minister Theresa May rejected her call to hold a vote before Britain leaves the EU. Nicola Sturgeon had previously called for a referendum to be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, but is now prepared to hold a vote later as long as it's not too long after Brexit.

Greece is set to miss another deadline for unlocking bailout funds today, edging closer to a repeat of the 2015 drama that pushed Europe's most indebted nation to the edge of economic collapse. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had promised the latest bailout's long delayed review would be completed by March 20, but many see that reaching an agreement even in April is now considered a long shot.

The U.S. and China will work together to get nuclear-armed North Korea to take "a different course," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Saturday, ending his first trip to Asia since taking office. Meanwhile, Pyongyang over the weekend announced that it perfected a new high-thrust rocket engine, claiming another advance toward being able to fire a long-range missile.

A man at Paris Orly airport on Saturday shouted he was there to "die for Allah" and tried to seize a soldier's assault rifle before getting shot by French security personnel. The latest event will likely thrust security back to the forefront of the county's presidential election campaign and take another toll on the tourism industry. Paris and the surrounding region lost €1.3B in tourist income last year, as the city welcomed 1.5M fewer tourists compared to 2015.

Martin Schulz has been officially elected leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party and will challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel in the general elections next September. His acceptance speech mixed traditional left-wing issues with attacks on populism. Last week in the Netherlands, and in December in Austria, centrist parties beat back the rising tides of populism, not quashing the far right but denying it further claim on national leadership.

"Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel," President Trump tweeted on Saturday. "Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!" According to the latest figures, only five allies, including the U.S., of the 28 met the required 2% of GDP defense expenditure benchmark in 2016.

One of the longest Supreme Court confirmation battles in history reaches the U.S. Senate today, 401 days after Justice Antonin Scalia's death left a vacancy that spanned two presidencies and spawned two nominees. Neil Gorsuch remains likely to win confirmation because of a procedural advantage: If he cannot win 60 votes needed to break a Democratic filibuster, Republicans can change Senate rules to eliminate the super-majority requirement.

Stocks

Disney's live-action Beauty had a fairy tale opening weekend - breaking numerous records and bringing in a beastly $170M in North American ticket sales. It's so far the biggest box-office opener of the year and the seventh-best debut of all time. Beauty and the Beast marks the latest effort by Disney (NYSE:DIS) to re-create one of its animated classics, following remakes of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book.

Ending months of speculation, Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) will merge its Indian business with Idea Cellular (OTC:ICLQY), India's third-largest network, to create the country's largest operator. The combined company will have almost 400M customers, accounting for 35% of the market share. Analysts said the merger was to fend off competition from a new operator - Reliance Jio.

Prominent mobile phone leaker Evan Blass (aka @evleaks) just revealed three colors for the next Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) Galaxy S8: Black Sky, Orchid Grey, and Arctic Silver. The basic phone will retail for €799 in Europe, while the S8+ will cost €899. He also disclosed prices for some accessories, including the DeX docking station, a new GearVR headset and Gear 360 camera.

Pressure is growing on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to step down, according to the Sunday Times, after a report from the University of Southern California and the University of Indiana alleged that up to 48M of its accounts - equal to 15% of its users - were robots not people (that's nearly twice the company’s own estimate). The news is a fresh blow to Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) in its attempt to lure more advertisers to the platform.

A top secret division within Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) called Building 8 is working on at least four consumer hardware products, including cameras and augmented reality, as well as drones and science fiction-like brain scanning technology. According to Business Insider, the group is expected to play a key role in next month's F8 developer conference, where CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year gave his 10-year vision for the company.

Big Blue has launched IBM Blockchain, allowing businesses to build apps on its cloud using blockchain code from the Linux Hyperledger Project. IBM has also found a new way to get its cloud into China through a deal with Wanda Internet Technology Group. Resulting cloud computing services from the new entity, called Wanda Cloud Company, will go live in 2018.

The personal information of tens of thousands of customers of Saks Fifth Avenue has been made publicly available in plain text online. "We take this matter seriously," a Hudson's Bay (OTC:HBAYF) spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. The records included email addresses and product codes for the items customers expressed interest in buying; some also contained phone numbers.

Insider trading? Albertsons has held preliminary takeover talks with Sprouts Farmers Market (NASDAQ:SFM), Bloomberg reports, after the latter surged over 23% last week, recording the best weekly gain since its IPO in 2013. The talks involve a plan to take organic grocer Sprouts private and add it to Albertsons' portfolio. SFM +9.5% premarket.

Unilever is preparing a £6B sale of some of its food brands, according to U.K. media reports. Private equity firms Bain Capital, CVC and Clayton Dubilier and Rice have started working on offers for its Flora margarine and Stork butter brands. Last month, Unilever (UL, UN) rebuffed a surprise $143B takeover offer from Kraft Heinz (NASDAQ:KHC).

Announcing details of its capital hike, Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) has revealed 687.5M shares will be sold for €11.65, raising over €8B. The share price, 35% below their trading level on Friday, is expected to attract strong demand and gives current shareholders the right to acquire one share for every two they own. It's the fourth capital infusion for the German lender since 2010. DB -1% premarket.

MoneyGram has offered to share confidential information with peer Euronet Worldwide (NASDAQ:EEFT) after the latter made a $1B offer topping a bid from Ant Financial, sources told Reuters. Euronet is expected to take about a week going through MoneyGram's (NYSE:MGI) books, and should it declare the bid superior, Ant Financial will have four business days to decide whether it wants to improve its offer.

Setting the stage for a public takeover fight, Canadian mining company Dominion Diamond (NYSE:DDC) has received a $1.1B bid from a privately held conglomerate in Montana, but the two sides are at a negotiating impasse, WSJ reports. Washington Cos. approached Dominion last month with an offer of $13.50 a share - representing a 36% premium to its closing price of $9.92 on Friday, when it surged more than 12% after disclosing strong earnings guidance.

The first private Moon landing could be made by a group of European scientists next year. The engineers - called PTScientists - built a landing module and two rovers, which are expected to launch in 2018 aboard a SpaceX (Private:SPACE) Falcon 9 rocket. The team has been working for a decade on the machines, teaming up with Audi (OTCPK:AUDVF) to build the solar-powered machines.

Munich prosecutors have searched the offices of Volkswagen (OTCPK:VLKAY) CEO Matthias Mueller as part of an investigation into diesel emission test cheating at Audi (OTCPK:AUDVF), Bild am Sonntag reports. Mueller was targeted because he is also supervisory board chairman at the premium brand. Investigators searched personal calendars, notebooks and even memory cards in smartphones.

Meanwhile, France's consumer fraud watchdog has closed its investigation into diesel emissions by Opel cars and will take no further action against the General Motors (NYSE:GM) brand. The DGCCRF investigation, part of a wider probe carried out in the wake of Dieselgate, "did not bring to light any evidence of fraud," the government agency said in a statement.

The number of executive departures from UBER is growing. President Jeff Jones is quitting the company, citing "incompatibility with leadership," while Brian McClendon, a VP responsible for the company's mapping program, is leaving to return to his home town in Kansas. Uber has been recently plagued by sexual harassment allegations, toxic work culture and the combative behavior of CEO Travis Kalanick.

Today's Markets
In Asia, Japan closed. Hong Kong +0.8%. China +0.4%. India -0.4%.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.2%. Paris -0.4%. Frankfurt -0.4%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow -0.1%. S&P -0.2%. Nasdaq -0.1%. Crude -1.3% to $48.69. Gold +0.2% to $1232.50.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 2.5%Today's Economic Calendar
8:30 Chicago Fed National Activity Index
8:30 Fed's Evans: Monetary Policy
1:10 PM Fed's Evans speech

Profile photo of uranium-pinto-beansKnown to most as Uranium Pinto Beans, Jason has more than 15 years under his belt of trading stocks, options and currencies. His expertise primarily lies in chart analysis, and he has a strong eye for undervalued stock. Because he’s got the ability to identify great risk/reward trades he usually enjoys taking the path less traveled and reaping the benefits from the adventure.

He is a co-founder of Option Millionaires, and he is best known for his weekly webinars with Scott, as well as his high level training webinars and charts found in the forums.

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