Business

Fed minutes; Glencore caps coal; Setback for Walmart

Posted February 20, 2019 4:52 a.m. EST

— 1. Fed minutes: US stock futures were little changed as investors prepare for the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's January meeting at 2 p.m. ET.

The central bank slammed brakes on its plan to raise interest rates twice in 2019 in January, suggesting it could be done with hikes for the time being.

The rapid turn in its strategy led to immediate speculation that the central bank is surrendering to pressure from Wall Street, after fears of an overly aggressive Fed helped send markets plummeting in November and December. The minutes could give investors a bit more insight into the central bank's thinking.

2. Glencore caps coal: Glencore has announced plans to cap its coal production at current levels to align its business strategy with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

The mining and commodities giant said it would also set new targets for cutting emissions from both its activities and products, bowing to pressure from shareholders.

"As one of the world's largest diversified mining companies, we have a key role in enabling transition to a low carbon economy," Glencore said in a statement.

Glencore on Wednesday reported weaker than expected profits for 2018, and it announced a $2 billion share buyback program. Its stock was trading 2.5% higher.

3. Setback for Walmart: Shares in UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's tanked 15% after British regulators voiced skepticism over its merger with Asda, which is owned by Walmart.

The Competition and Markets Authority said the deal could lead to higher prices and less choice for shoppers. The watchdog also said it was worried about potential price hikes at gas stations owned by the two chains. The findings are provisional, and the two companies will now have a chance to respond.

Sainsbury's said it was "surprised" by the findings and vowed to continue to fight for the merger. The deal would result in the country's largest supermarket chain.

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4. Global market overview: European markets opened higher, following a positive session in Asia.

US stocks closed slightly higher on Tuesday, with investors cautiously optimistic as trade talks between the United States and China continued. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq added 0.2% while the Dow ended flat.

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the United States is asking China to keep the value of its currency stable as part of the negotiations. The pledge could be part of a final deal between the countries.

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5. Earnings and companies: CVS Health and Gannett will release earnings before the open. Cheesecake Factory, GoDaddy and Jack In The Box are up after the close.

Shares in Lloyds Bank were 2.9% higher after the British bank announced better than expected results.

Swiss bank UBS could be hit with a major fine Wednesday in Paris following a court case over its allegations that it helped French clients avoid paying tax.

6. Coming this week:Wednesday — CVS, Jack in the Box and Cheesecake Factory report earningsThursday — Deutsche Telekom, Barclays, Baidu, Domino's, and Wendy's report earningsFriday — Berkshire Hathaway earnings