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Tepid Economies the Talk of Trading Desks

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Tepid economy: February durable goods orders were a bit below expectations, including ex-transportation. There had been some hope that there would be a rebound after a drop in January that was blamed on expiration of the 100 percent depreciation tax credit (it’s now back to 50 percent), but that does not appear to be materializing.

The consensus is coalescing around a roughly 2 percent gross domestic product for the quarter, though most expect somewhat stronger growth in the second half of the year.

And tepid growth in Europe: France eked out a meager 0.2 percent gain in fourth-quarter GDP and avoided a recession, but gave little cause for more optimism. Meanwhile, the U.K.'s GDP contracted 0.3 percent in the same quarter.

China stocks drop: The Shanghai Index sank 2.7 percent, its biggest drop since Nov. 30. The decline is being blamed on a report by Societe General that speculates that Chinese corporate profits won't grow at all this year. China's largest copper company, Jiangxi Copper, reported an 18 percent decline in profits, a bigger drop than expected.

Not surprisingly, commodity plays are weaker: Copper is down 1.7 percent; the Russian stock market is off 2.1 percent; the Australian dollar — a proxy for commodities that is having a tough month — is down another 0.6 percent.

Elsewhere:

Surprise initial public offering successes of the week: While everyone (including me) was focused on the IPO of mobile advertising platform Millennial Media (pricing tonight), organic and natural food maker Annie's (symbol "BNNY") foods has turned into the surprise darling IPO of the week.

Why? You can thank Whole Foods Market. It's not just that Whole Foods sells Annie's products, the grocery chain has proved that selling organic foods can be profitable — highly profitable. The original price talk for Annie's at five million shares was $14 to $16 a share, then upped to $16 to $18 a share Monday, and finally priced last night at $19 a share.

Huh? That is cloud-computing-type IPO numbers. If this thing opens above $20, I'm gonna eat my mobile advertising platform!

Another successful IPO: Vocera Communications (symbol "VCRA"), which provides mobile communications for hospitals, priced 5.8 million shares at $16, well above the price talk of $12 to $14 a share.

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