Global Growth: Today, the Glass Is Half Empty

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Global growth: Today, the glass is half empty.

The big issue: What side of the global growth story are you on for the U.S., China, and Europe? In recent weeks, news has been on the optimistic side. Today, there are more cautionary signs.

Chinese factory activity for March showed a drop for March to 48.1 from February's final reading of 49.6; showing contraction for the fifth straight month. (A reading above 50 shows growth, below 50 indicates contraction.) The Shanghai Composite was down fractionally.

Euro zone composite PMI came in at 48.7 for March, below expectations. German PMI, at 48.1, was also below expectations.

Germany's DAX Index is below 7,000 for the first time in seven days.

Spanish 10-year yields — which have become a proxy for euro concerns (Spanish banks have heavy exposure to Portugal) — have risen for the ninth straight day.

Material and precious metal stocks are weaker, as are European banks and autos.


1) Austerity fatigue: Spain's largest union, led by its new Communist leader, has called a general strike that appears to have seriously disrupted the country's rail system, as well as garbage collection. The country is controlled by a center-right government.

This is a worrisome sign: Unlike Athens, we have heard little in the way of strikes in Lisbon. Last May, they received a bailout from the euro zone. Portugal, like Italy, is instituting new labor laws that make it easier to hire and fire workers.

Unemployment is officially at 14 percent.

2) Another cloud-computing monster IPO: Interactive marketing firm ExactTarget priced 8.5 million shares at $19 a share, well above the price talk of $15 to $17 a share. Revenues rose 55 percent last year, but the company's loss widened to $35.4 million on higher expenses. We'll have the CEO on "Squawk Box" at 9:40 a.m. ET.

3) Payment processor Vantiv priced 29.4 million shares at $17 a share, the midpoint of the $16 to $18 a share price range.

4) FedEx shares drop 1.5 percent pre-market after the parcel delivery company posted stronger-than-expected third-quarter profit and provided guidance that brackets analysts’ expectations. Record holiday sales and improving yields helped profit with FedEx notching third-quarter earnings per share of $1.55 excluding-items, versus the Street’s $1.35 estimate. The company added that exceptional performance at FedEx Ground contributed to a higher bottom line. What mattered: Higher pricing, controlled costs, milder weather, lower tax rate, fuel headwind. FedEx expects the fourth quarter to come in at $1.75 to $2 a share, expectations are $1.99, so the market will likely focus on the less than inspiring guidance.

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