Good morning! Here's what you need to know.
Bitcoin exchange MtGox has gone offline after a string of issues. Bitcoin prices had cratered on the exchange, down as much as 14% to $465. Gox halted withdrawals for more than two weeks, citing software issues. "We are shocked to learn about Mt. Gox’s alleged insolvency," The Bitcoin Foundation told Business Insider's Rob Wile. "While we are unable to comment on whether or not Mt. Gox's business operations employed operational best practices and reasonable accounting procedures, we can assure the public that the Bitcoin protocol is functioning properly." Now there are also concerns that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of theft has hit the site through the years.
Tension at PIMCO. The Wall Street Journal has a big story about the shakeup at the world's largest bond firm. Gregory Zuckerman and Kirsten Grind report that tensions between PIMCO's Bill Gross and Mohamed El-Erian mounted as the bond market struggled over the summer and clients yanked their money. "I have a 41-year track record of investing excellence," Gross reportedly told El-Erian "What do you have?" "I'm tired of cleaning up your s—," El-Erian responded, the Journal reports. Last month, El-Erian unexpectedly announced he will be leaving PIMCO in mid March.
More job cuts at JP Morgan. The bank will slash "several thousand" more positions in its mortgage business on top of the 15,000 positions already due to be cut as demand for home loans further decreases, reports the FT's Tom Braithwaite. "Rising interest rates have stifled demand, causing the biggest banks to cut tens of thousands of positions over the past two years," the FT reports. "The additional cuts at JPMorgan are expected to number more than 2,000, evidence of the steep decline in demand even in the past 12 months."
Italy's new PM calls for radical change. Italy's 39-year-old Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called for "radical and immediate change" in the country in an "energetic and impassioned" speech to Parliament, the AFP reports. "If we lose this challenge the fault will be mine alone. No-one has an alibi anymore," he said. The ex-mayor of Florence and leader of the Democratic Party took over from former PM Enrico Letta in a party vote last week.
An update on U.S. home prices. It's a busy morning of economic data. At 9:00 a.m. ET, the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index was released. The index was up 0.75% month-over-month in December and 13.42% year-over-year, right in line with expectations. FHFA home prices were also up 0.8% in December, beating consensus expectations for a 0.3% rise.
A pulse check on the consumer. At 10:00 a.m., the Conference Board will release its Consumer Confidence Index. Economists are looking for the sentiment measure to drop from 80.0 from 80.7 in January. "In February, Washington should not have posed a major concern to consumer confidence," noted Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists. "The US House agreed to suspend the debt ceiling, and the FOMC emphasized the pursuit of status quo policy. The consumer, however, may pick up on the trend of weak data such as vehicle sales, payrolls, initial jobless claims, retail sales, and the NAHB index."
How weather hit the east coast. Also at 10:00 a.m., we'll get the Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index. Economists predict the regional activity index fell to 3 from 12 in January. The big story lately is whether this winter's bad weather is to blame for lousy economic data, particularly manufacturing data.
Asian markets were mixed. The Shanghai Composite was the big loser, shedding 2.04% as the Renminbi fell. Japan's Nikkei closed 1.44% higher and Korea's KOSPI edged up 0.81%. U.S. futures were pointing south. European markets were also lower.
Home Depot whiffs. Home Depot missed analyst expectations in earnings this morning. Comparable store sales climbed by just 4.4% during the quarter when analysts expected 4.6%. Earnings came in at $0.67 per share, falling shy of estimates for $0.71.
Goldman Sachs Elevator revealed. The identity of the popular @GSElevator parody Twitter account has been exposed in a new report from Dealbook's Andrew Ross Sorkin. John Lefevre — a 34-year-old former bond executive behind the account — never worked at Goldman Sachs. His pithy tweeting has amassed a 600,000+ following and bugged the bank in the past. Lefevre recently got a book deal and told Sorkin that he knew he'd be outed eventually.
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