AMERICAN MARKETS OUTLOOK: U.S. stocks are expected to start just a touch higher Wednesday, said Jawaid Afsar at Secure Equity. He called the Dow Jones Industrial Average four points higher at 12680 and the S&P 500 up one point at 1316. Good results from Apple are expected to offer some cheer, but the situation in Europe and the Greek debt talks cast a cloud. In addition, trading could be light ahead of the FOMC's rate announcement and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's press conference. Before these events, U.S. pending home sales data will be released. The Dow front-month futures contract was down 0.2% at 12603.0 and the S&P 500 futures were 0.2% lower at 1309.10.
EUROPEAN MARKETS: Euro Stoxx 50 traded down 0.7% at 2415.35, despite the release of a better-than-expected German Ifo index. The Ifo index for January came in at 108.3 points, against expectations of 107.6. "The outcome is good news for the German economy and it follows a 'healthy' improvement also in German PMIs earlier this week," said Newedge. Nevertheless, stocks edged down, weighed by weakness in the tech sector, after Ericsson reported a big fall in fourth-quarter net profit. Ericsson shares fell 14%, while the Stoxx Europe 600 techs index was down 2.6%. Banks were also under pressure, with the Stoxx Europe 600 index for the sector down 1.5%.
London's FTSE was down 0.4% at 5729.96, slipping into the red after the release of fourth-quarter U.K. GDP figures, which were weaker than expected. GDP fell by a worse than expected 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in the fourth quarter, after rising by 0.6% in the third quarter. ING Bank said U.K. economic activity was likely to get worse before it got better with a technical recession expected to be confirmed by first quarter 2012 GDP numbers. As such, further quantitative easing remained highly probable and "our view [is] that the BOE will vote for GBP50 billion more QE next month and a further GBP50 billion in May," said Investec Corporate Treasury. In stocks, Royal Bank of Scotland was down 2.1%, making it the top faller in the index after UBS cut its rating on the bank.
At 1125 GMT, March bunds were up 0.52 at 137.81, and March gilts were up 0.18 at 115.26.
At 1127 GMT, the dollar was up at Y78.22, the euro was down at $1.2974, and the pound was also down at $1.5598.
GREEK PRIVATE CREDITORS TO DISCUSS OPTIONS: Greece's private sector creditors met in Paris in a bid to "determine the next course ahead" in talks to help ease the ailing country's fiscal burden, a source told Dow Jones Newswires.
IFO INDICATES POSITIVE OUTLOOK FOR GERMANY: Indications for the German economy in 2012 were positive and an improvement in January's Ifo reading showed a further decline was unlikely, an economist from the Ifo Institute told Dow Jones Newswires.
UK ON BRINK OF RECESSION: The U.K. economy shrank in the fourth quarter of 2011, leaving Britain on the brink of recession and complicating the government's goal of tackling the budget deficit.
LAGARDE REINFORCES WARNING ON ECONOMY: Despite recent encouraging signs, the world economy is still in a fragile situation and everyone must cooperate to make sure it returns to growth, warned Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF.
EU MINISTERS RESUME GREECE CRISIS TALKS: European Union finance ministers further pressured Greece and its private-sector creditors to ensure a proposed deal to restructure Greece's private-sector debt will be enough to put the country back on a firm fiscal footing.
INSIGHT & ANALYSIS FROM DOW JONES NEWSWIRES:
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs fight for primacy in leading the IPO of Facebook, which is expected to raise $10 billion.
ANALYSIS: Roche's hostile $5.7 billion bid for Illumina of the U.S. was the latest sign of European drug companies looking for bolt-on acquisitions to bolster their businesses as key drugs' patents expire.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The euro hit a four-week high against sterling Tuesday, but analysts doubt it will retain sufficient strength to crack its long downward trend, even as the pound faces mounting headwinds of its own.
HEARD ON THE STREET: With its quarterly revenue up 73% to $46 billion, Apple beat analyst expectations by $7 billion. The amount by which it beat expectations also tops the entire quarterly revenue of RIM, Rolfe Winkler said.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: No matter how far World Economic Forum attendees have traveled, most of them will be touched by how the euro zone's sovereign-debt crisis is resolved.
STILL TO COME
1000 1500 US Dec Mass Layoffs
1000 1500 US Dec Pending Home Sales Index
1000 1500 US Nov U.S. Monthly House Price Index
1030 1530 US Jan 20 EIA Weekly Petroleum Status Report
1200 1700 FR Dec Claimant count and job advertisements collected by Pole
1230 1730 US Federal Reserve Board - U.S. interest rate decision,
followed by Ben Bernanke press briefing
1850 2350 JPN Dec Corporate Service Price Index
N/A N/A US U.S. Department of the Treasury - U.S. Treasury Secretary
Geithner speaks on job creation during North Carolina visit
N/A N/A EU Council of Europe - Cameron speech in Strasbourg amid
dispute on European Court of Human Rights
SOME BOE POLICY MAKERS CALL FOR MORE STIMULUS: Bank of England policy makers voted unanimously in January to keep U.K. monetary policy on hold but at least some of its rate-setters appeared ready to sanction another dose of stimulus.
ERICSSON PROFIT PLUNGES AS NETWORK SALES SLOW: Ericsson reported a steep fall in fourth-quarter net profit, on weak sales of mobile networks due to increased operator cautiousness, a trend analysts expected to continue as a result of the ongoing debt crisis.
SAP EXPECTS CONTINUED GROWTH: SAP said it expected continued growth this year because of strong "momentum" in its business despite current macroeconomic uncertainty, as it reported a surge in fourth-quarter profit.
SAUDI ARAMCO SEES OIL DEMAND 'SOMEWHAT SLUGGISH' IN 2012: Oil demand this year will be "somewhat sluggish" and global economic conditions will likely remain as turbulent as they were in 2011, the CEO state giant Saudi Aramco said.
AIR FRANCE-KLM EXPECTS DEEP LOSS: Air France-KLM's financial situation is "extremely tight" and it incurs a substantial operating loss in 2011, the chief executive of Air France, one of the Franco-Dutch group's two airline divisions, said.
AT YAHOO, THE AD DECLINE CONTINUES: Yahoo's new chief executive, Scott Thompson, unveiled financial results for the fourth quarter that show continued deterioration at its core advertising business.
-By Rui Videira, Dow Jones Newswires; +44-20-7842-9221; email@example.com