Good morning. Here's what you need to know.
- Asian markets were mixed in overnight trading. The Japanese Nikkei fell 1.3 percent while the Shanghai Composite rose 0.9 percent. France is leading the way in Europe, up 0.6 percent. In the United States, futures point to a positive open.
- Durable goods orders contracted 5.2 percent in January , deeper than the 4.8 percent decline predicted by economists. The drop was led by orders for defense aircraft though, and the widely-followed measure of nondefense capital goods orders excluding aircraft (a.k.a. "core capex") surged 6.3 percent, way above expectations of flat growth.
- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke concludes his semi-annual congressional testimony on monetary policy with a visit with the House Financial Services Committee, beginning this morning at 10 AM ET. Last week, the Committee gave Bernanke an ultimatum, asking him to release documents related to the Federal Reserve's plans for unwinding its $3 trillion bond portfolio by March 5.
- An auction of Italian 10-year government bonds went relatively smoothly this morning, assuaging fears of extreme market turmoil in the wake of the Italian election. Italy sold 4 billion euros of 10-year bonds at a yield of 4.83 percent, up from 4.17 percent at the previous auction. Markets rose on the news.
- A revised estimate of U.K. GDP indicated 0.3 percent growth in 2012, better than the initial estimate of no growth. However, the gains came earlier in the year, as Q4 GDP estimates remained unchanged at -0.3 percent.
- Euro zone economic confidence rose more than expected in February to 91.1 from last month's index reading of 89.5. Economists had predicted a smaller advance to 89.9. Survey data were collected prior to the Italian election, and Jonathan Loynes of Capital Economics said, " The Italy situation could renew these market pressures and reinforce the fact that the euro zone still faces huge pressures, both economic and political."
- Apple's annual shareholder meeting commences today at 12 PM ET. Investors will be listening closely for any comments from CEO Tim Cook about the company's giant cash horde, which has been the topic of intense debate in recent weeks. The meeting comes against a backdrop of efforts to deploy the cash led by activist hedge fund manager David Einhorn.
- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie legalized online gambling in his state yesterday. The move could generate $410 million per year, according to one estimate, of which the state of New Jersey will collect a 15 percent tax.
- A few retailers are set to report earnings before the opening bell this morning. Dollar Tree is expected to post earnings of $0.99 per share, while Target is expected to announce EPS of $1.52 and TJX, $0.80. Investors will be listening closely for a read on the American consumer, which is likely feeling the effects of higher gas prices and the expiration of payroll tax cuts.
- January pending home sales data are released at 10 AM ET. Economists expect sales to have risen 7.9 percent last month after posting 4.9 percent gains in December. Follow all of the releases LIVE on Business Insider >
- BONUS: Rihanna got a restraining order against an obsessed fan who recently broke into her neighbor's house, thinking it was hers.
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