Good morning. Here's what you need to know.
- Asian markets were higher in overnight trading, with the Nikkei up 0.7 percent and the Hang Seng up 0.5 percent. European markets are trading higher, with Italian stocks up 1.2 percent. In the United States, futures point to a positive open.
- Australia retail sales unexpectedly fell 0.1 percent in November, below expectations of a 0.3 percent rise. The decline – Australia's first in four months – was driven by a drop in spending on household goods and clothing.
- The U.K. trade deficit narrowed to £9.164 billion in November, largely owing to a 2.9 percent boost in exports – the largest since July. Economists had expected the deficit to narrow even further to £9.0 billion.
- German industrial production rose 0.2 percent in November, below estimates of a 1.0 percent expansion. The figure was dragged lower by energy output, which fell 3.3 percent, and production of consumer goods, which fell 2.2 percent.
- The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that U.S. oil imports will fall to their lowest level in 25 years next year, owing to the rise of new technologies like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that unlock oil from difficult-to-reach places. The EIA also predicts this will bring Brent crude oil prices down to $99 per barrel in 2014 from last year's average price of $112.
- Alcoa unofficially kicked off Q4 2012 earnings season yesterday after the closing bell, matching analysts' earnings estimates but topping expectations on sales figures. The company forecasts aluminum demand to rise 7 percent in 2013, topping 2012 demand growth of 6 percent. The next major release is Friday, when Wells Fargo reports earnings.
- Boeing shares are tumbling after an electrical fire on a grounded 787 jet caused federal safety inspectors to step up scrutiny of the plane manufacturer. Boeing has a history of electrical problems with the 787, so the issue is all too familiar for investors.
- Two media reports claim Apple is working on a less expensive model of its popular iPhone that could save by using a different body, possibly made of plastic. Business Insider's Jay Yarow writes, " If Apple is going to grow its iPhone unit sales, it needs to figure out how to sell a phone in emerging markets like China and India at an affordable price."
- Dish Network launched an unsolicited bid to take over Clearwire for $3.30 per share. The offer comes after Sprint Nextel agreed to purchase the rest of Clearwire shares that it does not already own for $2.97 each. The new bid sets up an interesting showdown over one of the biggest mergers in the cell phone industry.
- The Venezuelan government is trying to push back the date of Hugo Chávez's inauguration for his third term as president due to his bedridden status in a Cuban hospital following emergency cancer surgery. The move has sparked an outrage among the opposition, which insists that, according to the law, a special election must now be held and Chávez must pass the reins to an ally.
- BONUS: Charlie Sheen is reportedly dating 24-year-old adult star Georgia Jones.
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