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Interest rate chatter is all the rage again, as central bankers around the world hold the Dow Jones Industrial Average hostage. This morning, traders are awaiting another meeting among financial ministers of the European Central Bank, where markets expect (what else!) more financial stimulus. Meanwhile, even with negative interest rates and round-after-round of monetary stimulus efforts, economists expect the Bank of Japan will slash its growth forecasts for the next fiscal year.
With the markets in motion, let's tackle your top stock market news, stocks to watch, and economic calendar for March 7, 2016.
Dow Futures Today
Dow Jones futures projected a 48-point decline after U.S. markets experienced their first four-day rally of gains since October 2015. Markets moved higher last Friday after a stronger than expected February jobs report indicated strong employment growth and an "official" unemployment rate below 5%.
Here's a breakdown of news that could move the Dow Jones today:
- Over the weekend, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) customers were the subject of a cyberattack by hackers in the first attack on Macintosh computers using ransomware software, according to research from cyber firm Palo Alto Networks Inc. (NYSE: PANW). Ransomeware encrypts data on infected machines and then demands that users pay ransoms in digital currencies so they can obtain a key to unlock their data.
- Today, keep your eye on oil prices, which surged to a three-month high. According to energy consulting firm PIRA, OPEC is targeting a $50 floor for oil prices as the global production cartel aims to "freeze" current output levels. However, the uptick in prices would likely drive U.S. shale producers back to the market and renew concerns about an even larger global glut of oil supplies. This morning, WTI crude prices gained 1.1% to hit $36.33 per barrel. Meanwhile, Brent crude prices are hovering north of $39 per barrel after adding 1.3%.
- Today's economic calendar features two speeches from members of the U.S. Federal Reserve – Fed Board Governor Lael Brainard and Vice Chair Stanley Fischer. Both central bankers will speak at different events today. Expect markets to hang on to every word as they discuss the health of the U.S. economy ahead of next week's FOMC meeting.
Now here's your list of top stocks to watch in today's market, plus today's economic calendar:
Earnings and Stocks to Watch in Today's Market
- On the earnings side, it's a relatively quiet day. After the bell, look for a quarterly earnings report from U.S. retailer Urban Outfitters Inc. (Nasdaq: URBN).
- Shares of German chemical giant BASF SE (OTCMKTS ADR: BASFY) were sliding on exchanges around the world on news that the firm is considering a counter bid for U.S. chemical conglomerate E I Du Pont De Nemours and Co. (NYSE: DD). DuPont is currently in the process of merging with Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE: DOW). This is the latest example that large blue-chip companies are struggling to achieve growth organically and have to rely on large-scale mergers to boost growth and shareholder value.
- The merger chatter doesn't stop there. Shares of Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE: RAI) jumped more than 2% on news that the firm could be targeted by British American Tobacco Plc. (NYSEMKT ADR: BTI). British American currently has a stake in RAI, but the deal would give it complete control of the tobacco producer.
- The early stages of a proxy battle targeting leaders at Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) are in motion. According to multiple reports, activist hedge fund Starboard Value will push for control of the tech giant's board of directors during discussions this week. The hedge fund has pushed Yahoo to boost shareholder value through an array of both merger and divestiture ideas over the last year. However, Yahoo has largely continued to function while rivals grow stronger in the space.
- Speaking of activist investors, shares of Mentor Graphics Corp. (Nasdaq: MENT) fell this morning on news that Carl Icahn and his firm Icahn Enterprises LP (Nasdaq: IEP) slashed their stake in the supplier of electronic design automation (EDA) tools.
Today's U.S. Economic Calendar (all times EST)
- Gallup US Consumer Spending Measure at 8:30 a.m.
- Labor Market Conditions Index at 10 a.m.
- 4-Week Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 3-Month Bill Auction at 11:30 a.m.
- 6-Month Bill Auction at 11:30 a.m.
- TD Ameritrade IMX at 12:30 p.m.
- Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer speaks at 2:30 p.m.
- Consumer Credit at 3 p.m.
- Treasury STRIPS at 3 p.m.
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