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Pre-Market: US Issues Sanctions Against Russia; Jobless Claims Fall to Three-Month Low


The European Central Bank sets its benchmark rate today.

After a mixed finish to yesterday's session, futures on the major US indices were up slightly this morning. The Dow Jones (INDEXDJC:.DJI) rose 0.21% to 16,380. S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) was up 0.23% to 1,876.80. The Nasdaq Composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) trailed behind, rising 16% to 3,734.25.

Global Markets

The US State Department has issued sanctions on Russia in response to the crisis in Crimea, banning visas for officials and individuals who "have taken steps to undermine the territorial integrity of Ukraine," reports the New York Times. Meanwhile, the Crimean parliament has voted unanimously to rejoin Russia, setting a referendum for March 16 that will ask citizens if they would like to remain part of the Ukraine or be re-absorbed. Meanwhile, EU leaders have convened at an emergency summit in Brussels to vote on sanctions against Russia. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today for a second time.

EU markets opened higher on Thursday. The European Central Bank is expected to keep its benchmark rate at .5% today. ECB President Mario Draghi will speak this afternoon.

The Bank of England left interest rates unchanged at .5%, as had been expected.

Emerging market growth slowed in February. The HSBC composite emerging market index of manufacturers and services purchasing managers' surveys fell to 51.1 in February, marking three months of decline.

Asian markets ended in positive territory overnight.

US Market

US jobless claims fell to a three-month low last week, beating expectations. The Labor Department said that initial claims for state unemployment dropped by 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000. In line with this, The Challenge Job Cuts report clocked layoffs falling to 41,835 in February, a steep drop from 55,356 the same month last year. The Gallup Payroll to the Population is expected to be released shortly.

The Fed's Beige Book, released yesterday, said the recovery continues despite the toll of severe weather. Three-fourths of the Fed's district banks showed improved activity.

Nonfarm business productivity in Q4 2012 rose 3.2% at an annualized rate, slightly below Q3 2013's 3.6% lift. While nonfarm productivity continues to be strong, it has, to an extent, prevented employment during the recovery.

A slew of of indicators will be released today: Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index at 9:45 a.m; Factory orders at 10:00 a.m.; EIA Natural Gas Reports at 10:30 a.m.; and the Fed balance sheet and money supply at 4:30 p.m.

The US Treasury will announce the size of its upcoming 3-month, 6-month, 3-year, 10-year, and 30-year bonds at 11:00 a.m.


Costco (NASDAQ:COST) earnings came in under analysts estimates for fiscal year Q2, hurt by weaker sales during the 2013 holiday season. Lower foreign exchange rates hur their international business, and weaker gross margins hurt their fresh food business. Shares were down 2.98% in pre-market trading.

Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) missed estimates for fiscal Q4 and announced a $500 million cost-saving program that will see 225 stores shut by the end of 2015. In-store sales and foot traffic declined in the past quarter, while sales are projected to decline this quarter as well. Shares took a stumble in pre-market trading, and are down 12.68%.

BP (NYSE:BP) will skirt the United States' four-decade-old ban on numerous crude exports after taking an 80% stake in a Houston refinery that processes crude far enough to sidestep restrictions. Shares were down .18% in pre-market trading.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was dealt a setback in the battle over mobile device patents after a US judge shot down the company's request to seek a permanent injunction against Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF). Shares of Apple were up .18% in pre-market trading.

Warren Buffett will cut bond allocation to Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BKR.A) insurance unit fearing low yields will undercut results.

Over 1,000 IBM (NYSE:IBM) employees are striking in China with demands for higher wages when their factory is acquired later this year by Lenovo (OTCMKTS:LNVGY) .

Ford (NYSE:F) sales in China are up 67% year-over-year the automaker says, with demand for its Ford Focus and Ford Mondeo driving the gain. Shares were up .77% in pre-market trading.

Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) and Encana Corp (NYSE:ECA) were charged with colluding to artificially suppress gas lease prices in Michigan. Both stocks are down slightly in pre-market trading.

Twitter: @brokawbrokaw
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