1. Tech Leads U.S. Stock Gains; Turkish Lira Sinks

Tech led U.S. equity gains and European shares steadied as a dip in Treasury yields provided a tailwind for stocks. Turkey’s markets tumbled after the central bank governor was ousted. The S&P 500 Index climbed, and the Nasdaq 100 added about 1%, while the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield fell from the highest levels in about 14 months, slipping to 1.70%. In European markets, gains in tech were offset by declines in travel firms on the Stoxx 600 Index. The dollar was little changed and oil fluctuated in the wake of its worst week since October.

The S&P 500 Index increased 0.4% as of 9:57 a.m. New York time.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.1%.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.3%.

The MSCI Emerging Market Index fell 0.1%.

2. Astra to Seek U.S. Go-Ahead After Shot’s Reassuring Trial Data

AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine fared better than expected in a U.S. clinical trial, providing reassurance about its safety and efficacy as the drugmaker prepares to seek clearance from the Food and Drug Administration. The shot developed with the University of Oxford was 79% effective in preventing Covid-19. All those immunized were protected from severe disease and death in a study of more than 30,000 volunteers. The findings should bolster confidence in the vaccine after confusion over its efficacy. The product is at the centre of a supply showdown with the European Union just days after concerns about blood clots prompted a dozen member states to suspend immunizations.

3. Volkswagen EV Business Worth $230 Billion: Deutsche Bank

Volkswagen AG should keep getting more credit for its battery-powered car strategy that could lead the company to surpass Tesla in electric-vehicle sales as soon as next year. If the market were to apply multiples similar to Tesla and Nio to VW’s battery-electric vehicle business, it would be worth about 195 billion euros ($230 billion), more than all of the company is worth now. They lifted their price target for VW shares by 46% to 270 euros. VW’s common stock surged as much as 14% and its preference shares rose as much as 8.4% in Frankfurt, while its American depositary receipts climbed in New York. Last week, the German-traded securities climbed 22% and 16%, respectively.

4. India Cancels a Bond Auction to Calm Yields Amid Global Rout

India cancelled a scheduled weekly auction of 200 billion rupees ($2.7 billion) of bonds, a move that’s likely to temporarily boost sovereign debt. The government decided to cancel the auction on review of its cash balances, the central bank said in a statement after the closing of markets Monday. Some traders had been expecting the decision as revenues improve following an economic rebound from the pandemic. India had planned record gross market borrowings of about 13.9 trillion rupees for the current fiscal year to March, and about 12 trillion rupees for the next fiscal year. Higher government borrowings and a spike in U.S. Treasury yields spooked the markets, resulting in yields climbing by about 30 basis points since early February.

5. Biden Determined to Tax Rich After Windfalls From Covid Crisis

President Joe Biden’s economic team at the White House is determined to make good on his campaign pledge to raise taxes on the rich, emboldened by mounting data showing how well America’s wealthy did financially during the pandemic. With Republican and business-lobby opposition to the administration’s tax plans stiffening, Democrats need to decide how ambitious to be in trying to revamp the tax code in what’s almost certain to be a go-it-alone bill. Interviews with senior officials show there’s rising confidence at the White House that evidence of widening inequality will translate into broad popular support for a tax-the-wealthy strategy.

6. Sales of Previously Owned U.S. Homes Decline to Six-Month Low

Sales of previously owned U.S. homes declined in February to a six-month low, reflecting a record annual decline in the number of available properties that are driving up prices and impeding buyers. Contract closings decreased 6.6% from the prior month to an annualized 6.22 million from a downwardly revised 6.66 million in January, according to the National Association of Realtors data released Monday. Higher asking prices, tied in part to a limited number of homes on the market, and rising mortgage rates are reducing affordability in the lead up to the busy spring selling season.

7. Vaccine Battle Heats Up With EU Ready to Halt U.K. Shipments

The European Union is ready to start withholding Covid-19 shots from the U.K., risking a sharp deterioration in relations with London in a bid to turn around its lacklustre vaccination campaign.  The EU will likely reject authorizations to export AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines and their ingredients to the U.K. until the drugmaker fulfils its delivery obligations to the 27-nation bloc. The conflict between the EU and the U.K. has been growing since Astra informed Brussels it wouldn’t deliver the number of shots it had promised for the first quarter. Both sides have blamed each other for export curbs and nationalism, posing a risk to the fragile post-Brexit trade relationship agreed on in December. Astra has been at the centre of the EU’s vaccination problems since production issues emerged in January. Most recently, its shot was temporarily suspended in much of Europe over blood-clot fears.

8. EU Hits China With Sanctions on Rights Abuse, China Retaliates

The European Union imposed sanctions against China over alleged human rights abuses, drawing an immediate reaction from Beijing, which set out its own punitive measures aimed at the bloc. The EU sanctions will target four Chinese nationals and one entity. “The violations targeted today include the large-scale arbitrary detentions of, in particular, Uyghurs in Xinjiang in China,” according to an EU statement. “The sanctions signal the EU’s strong determination to stand up for human rights and to take tangible action against those responsible for violations and abuses.” The EU move to sanction the officials is likely to be mostly symbolic. While the U.S. has imposed sanctions on a number of Communist Party officials — including two Politburo members — the measures haven’t impacted China’s economy or changed its behaviour.

9. Secret India-Pakistan Peace Roadmap Brokered by Top UAE Royals

About 24 hours after military chiefs from India and Pakistan surprised the world last month with a rare joint commitment to respect a 2003 cease-fire agreement, the top diplomat of the United Arab Emirates popped over to New Delhi for a quick one-day visit. Behind closed doors, the India-Pakistan cease-fire marked a milestone in secret talks brokered by the UAE that began months earlier. The cease-fire, one said, is only the beginning of a larger roadmap to forge a lasting peace between the neighbours, both of which have nuclear weapons and spar regularly over a decades-old territory dispute. 

10. Aramco Oil Payments to Saudi State Fall 30% to $110 Billion

Aramco’s payments to the Saudi Arabian government fell by 30% last year, even as the company maintained its $75 billion dividend, with the coronavirus pandemic sending crude prices tumbling. The world’s biggest oil producer transferred 413 billion riyals ($110 billion) to the state in 2020 in the form of dividends, royalties and income taxes, Aramco said in a financial statement on Monday. The money is a crucial source of revenue for the government, whose budget deficit widened last year as the economy went into recession. Aramco, 98% state-owned, kept its pledge to pay the $75 billion dividend, the largest of any listed company. But royalties and taxes more than halved to around $41 billion.

Curated from Bloomberg.com