Good morning. Here's what you need to know.
- Markets in Asia were mixed in overnight trading. The Japanese Nikkei surged 3 percent, but the Shanghai Composite fell 0.1 percent. European markets are in the red across the board, with Italy currently down 1.2 percent. In the United States, futures point to a positive open.
- Bitcoin, the digital currency that has gone parabolic this year, extended its wild surge overnight. It moved to $145 from yesterday's levels around $115 before dropping back down to $126. Wall Street analysts are now beginning to field questions from clients about Bitcoin. Click here for a presentation on what Bitcoin is >
- China's official services PMI index, which measures economic activity in the country's services sector, rose to 55.6 from 54.5 last month. The HSBC measure of China services PMI also posted strong gains, rising to 54.3 from 52.1. Any reading over 50 on the index indicates increasing activity, so these numbers suggest that the pace of expansion in China's services sector accelerated in March.
- Australia said its trade deficit shrank to $178 million in February from $1.22 billion in January, marking the smallest deficit in 14 months. The numbers were boosted by a rise in the value of exports, which were in turn boosted by rising commodity prices. Economists had only expected the deficit to narrow to $1.0 billion.
- North Korea blocked entry for South Korean workers to a shared industrial complex on the border between the two countries for the first time since 2009. Strategists are beginning to warn that the escalation in rhetoric between the two countries is having an effect on the market. " Demand for South Korean assets has taken a backseat ever since North Korea’s ‘state of declaration’ over the weekend and its decision to restart the Yongbyon nuclear site, which was shut down by the February 2007 disarmament accord," writes Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid this morning. "Korea’s 5-year sovereign CDS has come off its recent wides but still about 5bp wider on the week."
- Global auto makers reported total vehicle sales (at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate) in March of 15.22 million, below the 15.33 million-unit pace observed in February and the 15.3 million figure predicted by economists. Domestic vehicle sales ticked up slightly to 12 million from 11.99 million, but missed estimates for a slightly larger rise to 12.04 million. Click here to see the 19 best selling vehicles in America >
- Luxury electric-car maker Tesla yesterday unveiled a new financing scheme designed to allow people to lease a Tesla for just $500 a month. However, the hybrid leasing/ownership plan seems fraught with assumptions unworkable for most people, which means the $500-per-month figure is a bit of a stretch.
- The Obama administration is pressuring U.S. banks to relax lending standards that have become more restrictive in the wake of the financial crisis and recession of 2008. The idea is to allow more people to participate in the housing recovery, but the fear is that it could lead to the same risky lending behavior that contributed to the crisis in the first place.
- ADP's monthly employment report is due out at 8:15 AM ET. Economists expect the report to show that 200,000 private jobs were created last month, up slightly from the 198,000 reported last month. The ADP number gives us a preview of the official jobs data out on Friday.
- A March update to the ISM non-manufacturing index, which measures activity in the American services sector, is released at 10 AM ET. Economists expect the index to moderate slightly to 55.6 from 56.0 the month before. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. Follow the data LIVE on Business Insider >
- BONUS: Former Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl Brooklyn Decker says she was "awestruck" with Jennifer Aniston's body and was thus too "intimidated" to do yoga with her on the set of their movie together, Just Go With It, so she "chickened out."
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