October 18, 2018

China's currency falls; Novartis deal; Oil prices slip

1. China's currency: The yuan hit its lowest level against the US dollar since January 2017 in early trading in Asia, after the Trump administration decided not to label China a currency manipulator.

The decision by the United States comes in spite of the yuan's recent depreciation and the escalating trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

President Donald Trump promised to designate China currency manipulator during the 2016 campaign.

In the past six months, the yuan has dropped more than 9% against the dollar. And there are signs that the currency may fall further to 7 yuan per dollar --- a level not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

2. Novartis cancer deal: Novartis (NVS) is buying American cancer drug maker Endocyte (ECYT) for $2.1 billion, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant announced Thursday.

Endocyte is developing targeted radio therapies, focusing on prostate cancer. Shares in Novartis rose by 1.5% after the announcement.

Novartis said last month it would cut approximately 2,000 jobs in the next four years to save around $1 billion.

3. Brexit stalemate: Europe is stepping up preparations for a messy Brexit after yet another meeting between the European Union and the United Kingdom ended in a stalemate.

European leaders on Wednesday dropped plans for a special November summit to complete a Brexit deal because of a lack of progress in the negotiations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May offered "nothing new" in a presentation to EU leaders at a critical meeting on Wednesday, according to the head of the European Parliament.

4. Global market overview: US stock futures were pointing lower early on Thursday.

European markets were up, while equities in Asia ended the session mostly lower.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed 0.4% lower on Wednesday, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq finished flat.

US oil futures dropped 0.3% to $69.55 per barrel early on Thursday, after plunging 3% on Wednesday after a report from the Energy Information Administration showed an increase in US inventories of crude.

5. Companies and economics: Blackstone (BX) and Philip Morris International (PM) plan to release earnings before the open Thursday. American Express (AXP), E*TRADE (ETFC) and PayPal (PYPL) will follow after the close.

Shares in Air France KLM (AFLYY) shot up more than 6% on Thursday, after French media reported that management and unions are nearing a deal on pay. The airline has struggled with strikes in the past year and shares in the company have dropped by 37% since January.

6. Coming this week: Thursday --- American Express (AXP), Blackstone (BX), Bank of New York (BK), E*TRADE (ETFC) and PayPal (PYPL) earnings Friday --- Procter & Gamble (PG), VF Corp (VFC) and State Street (STT) earnings

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