Good morning. Here's what you need to know.
- Markets in Asia were higher in overnight trading, with both the Japanese Nikkei and Shanghai Composite both up 0.2 percent. European markets are in the red, with Spain leading the way lower, currently down 1.5 percent. Italy is also quite weak due to political chaos and the difficulty the country has in forming a government. In the United States, futures point to a negative open.
- The final estimate for French fourth-quarter GDP came in at -0.3 percent, matching previous estimates as well as expectations. The French economy is dealing with a contracting manufacturing sector and rising unemployment at a time when the broader euro zone is feeling the pressures of a deepening recession.
- The final estimate for British fourth-quarter GDP also came in at -0.3 percent, matching previous estimates and expectations. However, year over year, GDP growth was only 0.2 percent, slightly below the 0.3 percent growth expected by economists.
- Cypriot officials are moving forward with the wind-down of the country's two largest banks following a bailout deal made with the EU on Sunday night. Cypriot central bank chief Panicos Demetriades told reporters at a press conference that although they could not give specific numbers yet, 40 percent of uninsured deposits at Bank of Cyprus could be lost, and 80 percent of uninsured deposits at Laiki could be wiped out.
- The Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee said Wednesday that U.K. banks needed to raise £25 billion of capital by the end of the year in order to bring capital ratios to at least 7 percent. Though the FPC is not allowed to name individual banks, analysts said RBS, in which the U.K. government has an 81 percent stake, is probably dealing with the biggest shortfall.
- The Reserve Bank of Australia said that the country's largest banks have increased their exposure to Asia more than four-fold in the past five years as European banks have retreated from the region and Australia has stepped up trade relations with countries like China. Slowing loan demand at home has also pushed Australian banks toward more lending in the economies of their Asian trading partners.
- Euro zone economic confidence fell to 90.0 in March from last month's 91.1 index reading, marking the first decline in sentiment since October. Economists had predicted a smaller tick down on the index to 90.5. The survey was largely completed before the crisis in Cyprus unfolded, which will likely weigh further on confidence going forward.
- The European Commission is working on bringing an antitrust case against 16 global banks for alleged collusion in the credit derivatives market. Credit derivatives are largely traded "over the counter" on an ad-hoc basis between two parties, and authorities are trying to determine whether the banks acted in a way that stifled competition from exchanges.
- February pending home sales data are due out in the U.S. at 10 AM ET. Economists predict that sales fell 0.3 percent from the month before after posting a 4.5 percent gain in January, but were still up 8.7 percent from February 2012. Follow the release LIVE on Business Insider >
- Four Federal Reserve presidents will give speeches today. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans is up first at 11 AM ET, followed by Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren at 11:30. At 12:15 PM, Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto speaks, and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota finishes things up with a speech at 1 PM.
- BONUS: Sofia Vergara went back to her natural blonde hair color.
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