Chicago, IL 3/20/12 (StreetBeat) -- Stocks were mixed in Asian trade. Shanghai fell 1.4%, the Hang Seng was down one percent and Australia lost a third of a percent, but the Nikkei added a slight fraction. European indexes are broadly lower this morning, with the Dax down one and a quarter percent and the Footsie off by one percent. US stock futures are down about a half percent as I write.
*According to the minutes from the March policy meeting the Reserve Bank of Australia sees downside risks “somewhat less likely” to materialize and that was one of the reasons for keeping rates unchanged at that meeting; they cut rates twice last year.
*BHP Billiton iron ore CEO Ian Ashby says China steel demand has flattened off.
*The February reading of Germany’s Producer Price Index was up 0.4% on a monthly basis, one tenth less than forecast.
*The Q4 reading of Switzerland’s Industrial Production was +7.9% on a quarter on quarter basis, about triple the estimated gain.
*The February reading of the UK Consumer Price Index is +0.6% on a monthly basis and +3.4% year on year; both results were a bit above the expectation.
*The weekly report on chain store sales from ICSC showed a 0.9% increase on a week on week basis for the week ended March 17; sales were up 3.3% for the week when compared to the same week from a year ago. The Johnson Redbook report on the same thing is due out at 7:55am CDT.
*The February reading of Housing Starts is due out at 7:30am CDT. Starts are expected to be a annualized rate of 700k, up just 0.1% from the month before. Building Permits are forecast to be up six tenths from the month before to 686k.
*The Fed is scheduled to buy Treasuries today that are due to mature between 2/15/36 and 2/15/42; the results of the operation will be announced just after 10:00am CDT.
*Fed boss Bernanke begins his lecture series at George Washington University School of Business at 11:45am CDT; it is the first of his four planned lectures on the Fed.
*Minneapolis Fed boss Kocherlakota will speak at 4:30pm CDT about the “limits to monetary policy” at a Hyman Minsky Lecture Series at Washington University in St. Louis.