1. Stocks Slump; Treasuries Gain on Weak Inflation

U.S. stocks pulled back from record highs while Treasury yields dipped after a tame inflation reading raised worries that short-term economic growth remains lacklustre. The S&P 500 slumped for a second day, while the 10-year Treasury yield fell back below 1.15% after the core consumer price index was unchanged last month. Stocks started the day higher on speculation the weak reading on prices meant growth could accelerate without bringing destabilizing inflation.

The S&P 500 Index fell 0.3% as of 10:32 a.m. in New York.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index was little changed.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.9%.

The MSCI Emerging Market Index gained 1.2%.

2. U.S. Consumer Prices Are Unchanged, Showing Scant Inflation

A key measure of prices paid by U.S. consumers was unchanged in January for a second straight month, underscoring the pandemic’s lingering restraint on inflation. The core consumer price index, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, increased 1.4% from the prior year. The broader CPI once again got a boost from higher gasoline prices, advancing 0.3% from the prior month and 1.4% from a year earlier. The CPI data are part of an intensifying debate in financial markets over the course of inflation. The report showed declining prices for used and new vehicles and transportation services. At the same time, Americans are paying higher prices for fuel, apparel and medical care services.

3. Microsoft CEO: Big Tech Needs Clearer Laws on Online Speech

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said social-media services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube need clearer laws and rules to govern whether controversial accounts, like former U.S. President Donald Trump’s, have a place on their services, rather than being asked to make free-speech decisions themselves. “Unilateral action by individual companies in democracies like ours is just not long-term stable—we do need to be able to have a framework of laws and norms,” Nadella said in a wide-ranging interview. “Depending on any one individual CEO in any one of these companies to make calls that are going to really help us maintain something as sacred and as important as our democracy, in the long run, is just no way that at least I, as a citizen, would advocate for.”

4. Jack Ma Spotted Playing Golf After Weeks Out of Public View

The co-founder of Ant Group and Alibaba Group teed off in recent weeks at the Sun Valley Golf Resort, a secluded 27-hole course on the Chinese island of Hainan. Located near the island’s southern tip, the course offers expansive greens and stunning views. It’s the first known Ma sighting since the former English teacher joined a live-streamed video chat with rural educators on Jan. 20. While that appearance helped quiet talk of Ma’s detention, speculation about his standing with China’s Communist Party has continued to swirl as authorities clamp down on his sprawling business empire.

5. Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine Recommended for All Adults: WHO

A World Health Organization panel recommended AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for all adults over 18, paving the way to speed up inoculations in developing countries. The recommendation may encourage more countries to use the vaccine broadly, after some European Union countries advised against giving it to the elderly, citing insufficient trial data involving older people. The shot’s effect in older people is expected to be the same as for younger recipients, said Alejandro Cravioto, chairman of the WHO panel, in a briefing. The move is good news for developing countries, many of which are waiting to administer their first shots as wealthier countries have already inoculated millions of residents.

6. Hong Kong to Reopen Venues, Relax Social Distancing Rules

Hong Kong will allow restaurant dining-in services until 10 p.m. and relax other social-distancing rules after the Chinese New Year, as the city tries to move past a winter wave that’s throttled the economy. The city will permit four people per dining table, doubling from the current limit of two, starting from Feb. 18, if the virus remains contained over the Lunar New Year. Venues ranging from indoor and outdoor sports centres, beauty parlours, theme parks and cinemas will also be allowed to reopen. “We are cautiously positive on the epidemic,” Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan said. “If Hong Kong residents continue to observe social-distancing rules, following this trend, we hope we can resume normal life after Lunar New Year.”

7. Goldman Trading Whale Exits After Era of Shrewd Deals

Goldman Sachs Group is losing Ram Sundaram, the senior trading executive who for years has engineered some of the firm’s most hotly debated deals, often generating hefty gains. His two-decade run at the firm was punctuated by billions in profits during the 2008 financial crisis and culminated with power over vast tracts of the trading division, including structured credit, commodities, currencies and emerging-market businesses. The 53-year-old is departing at a time of changing priorities within the investment bank. Goldman is increasingly embracing the role of counsellor to corporations while trying to shed its reputation for coming out on top in trades too complex — or fraught — for rivals. Under Chief Executive Officer David Solomon, the bank has been nudging the trading division, once known for raining riches on risk-takers, to become something more akin to a utility or market adviser.

8. OPEC Won’t Change Policy at Next Meeting: Iraq Oil Minister

Iraq said the OPEC+ oil cartel is unlikely to change its production policy at next month’s meeting and repeated promises to deliver overdue output cuts, even as the Arab nation’s economy reels. The group of crude exporters meets on March 4 and members will probably agree to keep output steady in April, Iraq’s Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar said. The biggest change will come from Saudi Arabia, which will likely end unilateral daily cuts of 1 million barrels after March, he said. “I think in March the agreement will be that output will remain on the same level,” the minister told reporters in Baghdad Wednesday. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and partners such as Russia — an alliance known as OPEC+ — began unprecedented production curbs in May after the coronavirus pandemic battered economies and caused oil demand to collapse.

9. Amazon-Backed EV-Maker Rivian Aims for IPO This Year

Rivian Automotive, the electric-vehicle startup backed by Amazon.com and Ford, is looking to go public as soon as September at a valuation of about $50 billion and perhaps more. The company’s timeline for an initial public offering and its potential value might change, and a listing could happen later in the year or even slip to 2022. Rivian has been speaking to bankers about its plans. Rivian, one of the highest-profile potential competitors to Tesla, has raised more than $8 billion to date from investors who expect its battery-electric pickup and SUV to perform well in the U.S. market. At a $50 billion valuation, it would likely be one of the biggest IPOs of the year and one of the most noteworthy EV listings since Tesla’s 2010 offering.

10. Single Dose of Pfizer Shot Gives Two-Thirds Protection

One dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine offers two-thirds protection against coronavirus. Early findings from the U.K.’s vaccination program, due to be released within days, show that the first dose reduced the symptomatic infection risk among patients by 65% in younger adults and 64% in over-80s. The data, first reported by The Sun newspaper, showed that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine saw protection rise to between 79% and 84%, depending on age. The AstraZeneca vaccine offers similar protection. While efficacy results are lower than those found in Pfizer’s clinical trials, Boris Johnson’s government is likely to hail the U.K.’s first real-world data as a significant boost to its efforts to immunize the population. A successful mass vaccine rollout is key to the government’s hopes of reopening the economy after months of lockdown.

Curated from Bloomberg.com