Business

Japan jitters; Netflix milestone; Davos Day 2

Posted January 23, 2019 5:41 a.m. EST

— 1. Japan holds rates: The Bank of Japan added to worries about the health of the global economy by predicting that inflation would drop even further below its 2% target this year. It kept rates unchanged.

Japan, the world's third largest economy, has struggled with sputtering growth and stagnating prices for decades. Exports contracted in December, hit by weaker demand from China, trade tensions and the tech slowdown.

Having already introduced negative interest rates, and injected trillions of dollars into the economy, the Bank of Japan — like other central banks — has very limited options if there's another big economic slowdown.

Investors are fretting that if a recession hits, central banks around the world will not be in a position to fight it.

"What scares me the most longer term is that we have limitations to monetary policy, which is our most valuable tool," Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, said Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

2. Day 2 at Davos: Global economic concerns will continue to take center stage at the annual meeting, which enters its second day. Whether the United States and China can resolve their trade war is central to that debate.

Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan will take the stage a day after trade tensions appeared to flare up again.

The White House declined an invitation from Beijing to convene preliminary trade talks ahead of a new round of negotiations scheduled for later this month in Washington, a person familiar with the matter told CNN.

The news sent US stocks plummeting on Tuesday. They recovered slightly only after White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow denied any meeting was planned. "We are in constant communication with the Chinese officials. I don't know where people got this idea," he told CNBC.

Prominent business leaders that will address the gathering include Chinese tech tycoon Jack Ma of Alibaba (BABA), BlackRock (BLK) chairman Larry Fink and Salesforce (CRM) chairman Marc Benioff.

Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are also scheduled to speak.

3. Global market overview: US stock futures were slightly higher, recovering a little from Wall Street's downbeat session on Tuesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 1.2%. The S&P 500 was down 1.4%, and the Nasdaq was down 1.9%.

European markets edged lower at the open on Wednesday, while major Asian stock indexes ended the day mixed.

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4. Banner day for Netflix: The streaming platform scored its first ever Best Picture nomination at the Oscars on Tuesday, for Alfonso Cuarón's Spanish-language film "Roma." It's the first time a movie distributed by a streaming service has been up for the coveted award.

Netflix (NFLX) earned a total of 15 Academy Award nominations, of which 10 were for "Roma."

The Silicon Valley giant also became the first tech company to join the Motion Picture Association of America — an industry group that counts all the major Hollywood studios among its members.

Meanwhile, a new name was added to the list of rivals in Netflix's core streaming business. Viacom (VIAB), the owner of MTV and Paramount, announced it would buy streaming service Pluto TV for $340 million in cash.

The acquisition gives Viacom access to Pluto TV's 12 million-plus monthly active users, it said Tuesday, most of whom consume content on smart TVs and devices like Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast.

5. More trouble for Deutsche Bank: Deutsche Bank (DB) is being investigated by the US Federal Reserve over its role in a money laundering scandal, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. The Fed is looking into the German bank's handling of billions of dollars in suspicious transactions from Denmark's top lender Danske Bank (DNKEY).

Deutsche Bank shares were little changed in early trading Wednesday. Shares in Danske Bank fell more than 1%.

6. Earnings and economics: Comcast (CMCSA), Kimberly-Clark (KMB), Procter & Gamble (PG) and Progressive (PGR) are set to release earnings before the open Wednesday. Meanwhile, Ford Motor (F), Las Vegas Sands (LVS), Sallie Mae (SLM) and Texas Instruments (TXN) plan to release earnings after the close.

7. Coming this week:Wednesday — Bank of Japan rate decision; Comcast (CMCSA), Procter & Gamble (PG) and Ford earningsThursday — ECB rate decision; Southwest Airlines (LUV), American Airlines (AAL), Starbucks and Intel (INTC) earningsFriday — Colgate-Palmolive (CL) and Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) earnings