Good morning! Here’s what you need to know in markets on Wednesday.
It’s budget day. Government plans to turn a budget deficit into a surplus by the end of the decade look off course, and on Sunday Chancellor George Osborne said he would need to announce fresh spending cuts in his annual budget statement to parliament, which starts at 12.30 p.m. GMT (8.00 a.m. ET).
Employment figures are coming. The headline rate is forecast to remain unchanged at 5.1%, with February’s claimant count falling by 9,100. Economists are expecting average earnings excluding bonuses to have risen by 2% in the three months to January. Figures are due at 9.30 a.m. GMT (5.30 a.m. ET).
The US Federal Reserve is expected to hold interest rates steady on Wednesday as it balances continued concerns about the health of the global economy with fresh signs that domestic inflation is starting to rear its head. The central bank, which hiked rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade, sounded a cautious note at its last policy meeting in January, amid a selloff on financial markets, weaker oil prices and falling inflation expectations.
Asian shares are mixed ahead of the US Fed meeting later today. Japan’s Nikkei closed down 0.83%, while at the time of writing (6.35 a.m. GMT/2.35 a.m. ET) China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite is up 0.24% and the Hong Kong Hang Seng is down 0.20%.
China’s Premier Li Keqiang defended the country’s economic policies on Wednesday, repeating well-worn lines that there was more opportunity than risk and vowing there would be no hard landing for the world’s second-largest economy. China will cut red tape for businesses, work to reduce corporate debt, improve financial regulation and ensure no mass layoffs will result as it restructures heavy industries such as coal and steel, Li said at a news conference on Wednesday at the end of the annual meeting of parliament.
Mohamed El-Erian, the former CEO of the Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO) and current chief economic adviser to Allianz, believes that within the next three years, the global economy will hit a “T-junction.” Policymakers will either watch helplessly as the world sinks into a mire of financial volatility and political collapse, or they’ll find a way to unlock the piles of corporate cash sitting on the sidelines, reinvigorating growth. At the moment, it’s a coin flip.
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is cutting 448 investment banking jobs in the UK to cut costs. The bank is cutting back office and middle office positions, including support and technology, as it tries to shrink the division. Staff were informed of the cuts on Tuesday.
Amazon is under investigation in Italy for alleged tax evasion, Francois Nuyts, Amazon’s chief for Italy and Spain, said in an interview on Tuesday. Bloomberg reports that Nuyts said the Seattle-based online retailer is cooperating with the probe. “Amazon pays all applicable taxes in every jurisdiction where we operate, including Italy, and we are cooperating fully with the Italian authorities,” Nuyts said when asked about legal and tax issues
Big Wall Street banks, after spending massive amounts of money and time to get their old, creaking systems in better shape, are now trying to sell technology they’ve developed in-house to other companies. US banks including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co are spinning out or selling a range of tools that pertain to data security, mobile applications and “systems integration” — the process of flattening layers of aging technology.
ICAP, which matches buyers and sellers of bonds, swaps and currencies, said it has become the first to distribute data on trades to customers using the same blockchain technology that underpins the virtual currency bitcoin. Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, creates a shared database in which participants can trace every transaction ever conducted. Its proponents say it has the potential to shake up how financial markets operate.