Wednesday's Early Headlines
- Producer Price Index Cooler-Than-Expected in February -- The Labor Department said the producer price index, which measures inflation at the wholesale level, fell 0.6% last month, compared to estimates for a 0.2% dip. The core PPI number, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.1% as expected. The closely watched year-over-year core PPI figure was unchanged at 1%, an indication that inflation did not pick up in February. On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve left its target fed funds rate unchanged, noting that inflation expectations were stable.
- Mortgage Applications, Rates Decline -- The Mortgage Bankers Association said its Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, fell by a seasonally adjusted 1.9% last week. Refinancing applications fell 1.7% compared with the prior week, the survey showed, while purchase activity was down 2.3%. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate slid to 4.91% last week from 5.01% the previous week, the MBA said.
- BOJ Holds Rates, Expands Lending -- The Bank of Japan on Wednesday kept its key interest rate unchanged at 0.1%, and said it plans to increase a lending program it introduced in December. Japan's central bank plans to double its short-term lending program to 20 trillion yen ($221.3 billion) from 10 trillion yen.
- OPEC to Keep Output Unchanged: Report -- The Saudi oil minister said the oil market is enjoying "good demand, reliable supply, beautiful prices," The Associated Press reports. A formal decision from OPEC is expected later Wednesday.
- Simon Could Raise Bid for General Growth -- Simon Property is readying a new takeover bid for bankrupt rival General Growth Properties that would top offers from several General Growth investors, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing a letter sent by Simon to General Growth's lawyers. Simon didn't outline the details of its offer, but said it expects to deliver its improved proposal late this week or early next, people familiar with the matter told the newspaper. Last month, Simon offered to buy General Growth for more than $10 billion.
- Blockbuster Says It May File for Bankruptcy -- Blockbuster (BBI) said it could be forced to file for bankruptcy if cash flows don't improve and it's unable to restructure its debt. Blockbuster's debt load has been reported to be as high as $1 billion. "These factors raise substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern," Blockbuster said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.