The 6am London Cut | FT Alphaville

The 6am London Cut

Markets: Equity markets across Asia headed lower after Chinese trade figures confirmed that the region’s largest economy slowed in December. (FT’s Global Markets Overview)

Too early to declare crisis over, says Draghi: The European Central Bank on Thursday strengthened its commitment to ultra-low interest rates as its president Mario Draghi said it was too early to declare the eurozone debt crisis over. Although rate-setters on the governing council opted to keep rates on hold at 0.25 per cent, the ECB president said policy makers “remain determined to maintain the high degree of monetary accommodation and take further decisive action if required”. (Financial Times)

The prospects of big US trade deals in Asia and with the EU got a boost on Thursday as Congress launched a bipartisan push to renew President Barack Obama’s fast-track negotiating authority. Max Baucus, the top Democrat on trade in the Senate, along with his Republican counterpart Orrin Hatch and Dave Camp, the senior Republican on trade issues in the House, introduced a bill to renew the so-called trade promotion authority. (Financial Times)

China became the world’s biggest trader in goods for the first time last year, overtaking the US for all of 2013 and finishing the year with record trade figures in December. The total value of China’s imports and exports in 2013 was $4.16tn, a 7.6 per cent increase from a year earlier on a renminbi-adjusted basis, according to figures released by the Chinese government on Friday. (Financial Times) Notable though that total trade missed the growth target of 8 per cent. (FastFT)

Alcoa World Alumina has admitted links to what US authorities called a “corrupt international underworld” and agreed to a $384m settlement over charges concerning bribery in Bahrain. The company, a joint venture controlled by US aluminium group Alcoa , is pleading guilty to the charge that it paid millions of dollars in bribes through a middle man in London to Bahraini officials, including members of the secretive Gulf state’s royal family — The agreement was revealed on the same day that Alcoa released disappointing earnings for the fourth quarter of 2013, with a non-cash goodwill write-off of $1.72bn for acquisitions it made in 1998 and 2000. (Financial Times)

NY probes banks over early warning tips to select fund managers of changes to stock recommendations, by filling out surveys for clients that hinted of their intentions. NY AG Eric Schneiderman said on Thursday that banks had become a target of his wide-ranging investigation into what he called “insider trading 2.0”, after earlier agreeing a settlement with BlackRock under which it agreed to cease all analyst surveys. (Financial Times)

Spain’s Bankia returns to capital markets launching its first senior unsecured bond since it was bailed out by Madrid in 2012. It’s tapping investors for a five-year senior unsecured bond, a mainstay of most banks’ funding. The bank is raising €1bn with a coupon of 3.5 per cent, after the issue was 3.5-times subscribed. (Financial Times)

Barclays is joining forces with alternative lender BlueBay Asset Management to bolster lending to riskier companies, in a move that signals the increasing clout of shadow banks in Europe as the region struggles to channel credit into its improving economy. The partnership is the first collaboration between a bank and one of the many alternative operators that have sprouted and raised direct lending funds in Europe. (Financial Times)

Goldman Sachs – owned miner Colombian National Resources has halted coal exports from Colombia after the country introduced a new environmental law that CNR is not yet able to comply with, a company source told Reuters on Thursday. Colombia’s coal exports are expected to tumble by a third or more in the first few months of this year after a new law that took effect on January 1 banned the old crane and barge method of loading ships that has been outlawed because of the pollution it causes.” (Reuters)

“Apollo Global Management, the megafirm led by Leon Black, closed its latest flagship fund at $17.5 billion, raising the large private equity pool since the economic downturn.” (WSJ)

“EU antitrust regulators said on Thursday they had cleared the $35 billion merger of U.S. advertising agency Omnicom and French peer Publicis without conditions. The deal creates the world’s biggest advertising agency to compete better with the likes of Google and Facebook in online ad sales.” (Reuters)

COMMENTS & CURIOS

Not a metaphor: “an avatar of Usama bin Ladin on the real-world steps of the Lincoln Memorial” (Financial Times, Sam Jones)

Standard Chartered: sub standard (Lex)

Goldman versus Morgan Stanley (Financial Times)

India bets on Modinomics, whatever it is (Bloomberg)

Beijing tests tools to tackle bad debt (WSJ)

The economic soothsayers possess no crystal ball (Financial Times)

Richie Boucher on the view from Bank of Ireland (Irish Times)

China mulls national pollution permit trading system (Reuters)

OVERNIGHT MARKETS

Asian markets
Nikkei 225 down -19.89 (-0.13%) at 15,860
Topix down -0.25 (-0.02%) at 1,297
Hang Seng up +114.92 (+0.50%) at 22,902

US markets
S&P 500 up +0.64 (+0.03%) at 1,838
DJIA down -17.98 (-0.11%) at 16,445
Nasdaq unchanged 0.00 (0.00%) at 4,156

European markets
Eurofirst 300 down -5.80 (-0.44%) at 1,315
FTSE100 down -30.44 (-0.45%) at 6,691
CAC 40 down -35.82 (-0.84%) at 4,225
Dax down -76.23 (-0.80%) at 9,422

Currencies
€/$ 1.36 (1.36)
$/¥ 104.91 (104.82)
£/$ 1.65 (1.65)
€/£ 0.8259 (0.8255)

Commodities ($)
Brent Crude (ICE) up +0.37 at 106.76
Light Crude (Nymex) up +0.81 at 92.47
100 Oz Gold (Comex) at 1,229
Copper (Comex) at 3.35

10-year government bond yields (%)
US 2.97%
UK 2.98%
Germany 1.91%

CDS (closing levels)
Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe -1.07bps at 52.53bp
Markit iTraxx Europe +0.48bps at 71.14bp
Markit iTraxx Xover +0.3bps at 284.18bp
Markit CDX IG -0.01bps at 65bp

Sources: FT, Bloomberg, Markit