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March may come in like a bull but red flags wave

IN THE NEWS TODAY

U.S. stock futures were lower this morning, following Chinese stocks south. On this Leap Day 2016 and the last trading day of February, the Dow and S&P 500 were on track to finish the month up about 1.5 percent each, while the Nasdaq was still off about 0.5 percent. (CNBC)

U.S. oil prices pared losses this morning, but West Texas Intermediate crude was tracking down 2.5 percent in February for the four consecutive negative month. The February weakness remained despite last week's 10.5 percent surge. (Reuters)

Gold, which has rallied about 15 percent in 2016, edged up this morning, and looked set to log its best monthly performance in four years, bolstered as turmoil in stock markets drove safe-haven demand. (Reuters)

Stocks in China and Japan tumbled today, with a recovery in Chinese real estate pulling money away from the market. China's Shanghai composite lost nearly 3 percent. Japan's Nikkei lost 1 percent, while the yen rebounded about the same against the dollar. (CNBC)

China's central bank, the People's Bank of China, cut further the reserve requirement ratio, the amount of cash the country's banks have to hold, in an attempt to calm investor jitters over the world's second largest economy. (CNBC)

Tucked into Berkshire Hathaway's 2015 annual report was a pointed dismissal by Warren Buffett of the growing refrain that the U.S. economy would fail to provide a better lifestyle for future generations than it has in the past. (Reuters)

Buffett answers viewers questions until 9 a.m. ET on CNBC's "Squawk Box," everything from stocks and the economy to big investments like IBM and Coca-Cola to politics.

Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won this weekend's contest in South Carolina by a landslide, tops Bernie Sanders nearly 2-to-1 in three big Super Tuesday contests of Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas, according to a trio of new polls. (NBC News)

Republican Donald Trump was leading in the Super Tuesday states of Georgia and Tennessee, while Ted Cruz was ahead in his home state of Texas, according to those polls. (NBC News)

Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), who had an official role with Chris Christie's now-suspended presidential campaign, called the New Jersey governor's endorsement of Trump, "political opportunism." (NBC News)

As Apple jousts with the federal government over its request to crack the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists, the tech giant is expected to release a small-screen iPhone and new iPad on March 21. That's according to a BuzzFeed report.

Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) could gain at least $3.5 billion in new tax benefits if Intel (INTC) wins its international tax dispute with the IRS. The case involves share-based compensation. (WSJ)

BY THE NUMBERS

Ahead of Friday's release of the government's February employment report, investors get a couple of data points to consider this morning, including the February Chicago purchasing managers index at 9:45 a.m. ET and January pending home sales at 10 a.m. ET.

An audit released this week by Internet security nonprofit the Online Trust Alliance found that 46 percent of tax software websites in an IRS Free File program failed cybersecurity protocols.


STOCKS TO WATCH

Valeant (VRX), under pressure for its drug price increases, said CEO Michael Pearson is returning from medical leave effective immediately, and the drugmaker is postponing the release of fourth-quarter results.

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JPMorgan Chase (JPM) fired the head of its government debt trading desk and another employee after they allegedly circumvented the bank's compliance procedures following a disagreement in valuing certain trades. That's according to the Financial Times.

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Coffee giant Starbucks (SBUX) is finally ready to take its Americanized version of Italian coffees back to Italy, with its first outlet set to open in early 2017. The first Starbucks outlet will open in Milan early next year, with stores to be rolled out in cities across the country later.


WATERCOOLER

Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar, best actor for "The Revenant." But the epic film lost out on best picture to underdog victor "Spotlight," the newspaper drama. Host Chris Rock dealt the diversity controversy head-on. (AP)

Marvel's antihero blockbuster "Deadpool" continued to dominate North American movie theaters over the weekend, earning an estimated $31.5 million in its third week and besting newcomer "Gods of Egypt." (Variety)