Nissan probe; China worries; US companies are hurting

Posted January 28, 2019 5:33 a.m. EST

— 1. US investigates Nissan: Questions over Nissan's reporting of executive pay have spread to the United States.

The Japanese carmaker has received an inquiry from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, it said Monday. It added it was "cooperating fully."

Nissan made the comment in relation to a Bloomberg report, which said the American regulator is looking into whether the company accurately disclosed its executive pay in the United States.

Nissan — whose stock trades in both Tokyo and New York — declined to provide further details. The SEC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular office hours.

Nissan shares in Tokyo, which had been in positive territory earlier on Monday, fell following the Bloomberg report and closed down 0.8%.

2. Weak China data: Chinese industrial profits declined in December for a second month running, adding to evidence that the world's second biggest economy is weakening.

Profits declined 1.9% from the previous year in December, an increase from a drop of 1.8% in November. The data showed that profit growth slowed to 10.3% in 2018 from 21% in 2017.

Nomura analysts said industrial profits are likely to drop further due to weakening demand, falling inflation and a decline in credit.

"We expect more aggressive policy easing measures in coming quarters, as economic growth likely slows further in [the first half of the year]," they wrote in a note to clients.

Chinese manufacturing data for January will be published later this week.

3. Brazil mine disaster: Shares in Brazilian mining company Vale were down roughly 10% in New York after a dam breach killed at least 58 in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais.

The company said in a statement that prosecutors had ordered 11 billion reais ($2.9 billion) in its bank accounts to be frozen. Vale's board also "deliberated" whether to suspend its dividend and executive pay packages.

Hundreds of people are still missing and the extent of damage from the disaster is still being calculated, especially in the mining town of Brumadinho, which was nearly buried in the deluge.

4. US companies are hurting: A rising number of US businesses saw falling sales and lower profit margins at the end of 2018, another sign that the American economy could be slowing.

Only 47% of firms surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics reported rising sales in the last quarter of the year, down from 61% the previous quarter. The number of businesses reporting falling sales nearly tripled, from 6% to 17%.

Most businesses aren't optimistic about a turnaround early this year, either, with just 14% expecting bigger earnings during the first quarter.

"Most respondents do not expect a recession within the next 12 months, but fewer respondents than previously expect robust economic growth in the year ahead," said NABE Business Conditions Survey chair Sam Kyei, the chief economist at SAK Economics.

5. Global market overview: US stock futures were pointing lower.

European markets opened down, following declines in Asia.

US crude oil futures dropped 1.8% to trade at $52.70 per barrel. Slower economic growth in China is adding to worries that demand for oil could drop this year. Meanwhile, rising US production could lead to excess supply.

The Dow closed up 0.8% on Friday, notching a five-week winning streak. The S&P 500 added 0.9% and the Nasdaq gained 1.3%.

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6. Earnings and economics: Caterpillar will release earnings before the open. Ethan Allen and Whirlpool will follow after the close.

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, is set to speak in the European Parliament in Brussels at 9 a.m. ET.

Investors will be watching for any hints on whether recent grim economic data could force the central bank to change its strategy. The ECB kept policy unchanged at a meeting last week.

7. Coming this week:Monday — Caterpillar earningsTuesday — Consumer confidence report; Case-Schiller home price index; Apple, Verizon and Harley-Davidson earningsWednesday — Fed rate decision; AT&T, McDonald's, Boeing, Microsoft, Facebook and Tesla report earningsThursday — Amazon, GE and UPS report earningsFriday — Jobs report, ISM manufacturing index, Consumer sentiment report; Exxon and Chevron report earnings