January 24, 2019
1. Bing blocked in China: China just took Microsoft's search engine offline.
Microsoft confirmed on Thursday that Bing is "currently inaccessible" in China and said it was trying to figure out what was going on.
Bing is the last major foreign search engine operating in China after Google (GOOGL)pulled out in 2010, but it accounts for only 2% of the market.
US tech companies like Google, Facebook (FB)and Twitter (TWTR) have been largely blocked from the Chinese internet for years, but Microsoft (MSFT) has been able to operate a local version of Bing after agreeing to censor search results.
It was not immediately clear why Bing was taken down. Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, said it's not the first time the company has encountered this kind of issue.
"These do arise periodically," he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "But we're not aware of any ongoing negotiation or disagreement so we're working to understand it better."
Microsoft's setback comes as China and the United States are locked in a widening confrontation over technology and access to each other's markets that experts warn could be the start of an economic cold war.
2. Ghosn out: Carlos Ghosn has stepped down as head of Renault.
China blocks Bing; Ghosn quits Renault; Central bankers talk
The high-profile auto executive, who has been in a Tokyo jail for more than two months, resigned as chairman and CEO of the French carmaker Wednesday night, a spokesperson for France's finance ministry said. The French government owns a 15% stake in Renault (RNLSY).
Ghosn's arrest on November 19 and subsequent detention has strained the global alliance he built between Renault, Nissan (NSANF) and Mitsubishi Motors. Japanese prosecutors have accused him of financial misconduct during his time as head of Nissan, charges Ghosn denies.
Nissan and Mitsubishi both fired him as chairman soon after his arrest. Renault is due to hold a board meeting on Thursday at which it is expected to name a new chairman and CEO to replace Ghosn.
Among the likely candidates are Chief Operating Officer Thierry Bolloré, who was appointed acting CEO after Ghosn's arrest. Jean-Dominique Senard, who is set to step down as CEO of tire manufacturer Michelin (MGDDY) later this year, could be named Renault chairman.
3. Central Bankers talk: The European Central Bank will host its first policy meeting of the year on Thursday, with investors watching for signs that the continuing global slowdown could dent the region's growth, and delay the first ECB rate hike since 2011 expected this year.
"Risks are mounting that the current slowdown could be longer and deeper than the ECB had expected," Florian Hense, an economist at Berenberg, said in a note Thursday. Almost all economic data since the bank's last meeting in December has been "disappointingly weak with no sign that the current slowdown could peter out soon," he added.
Slowing economic growth, and the limited ability of central banks to fight it, has been a major talking point in Davos this week. The International Monetary Fund downgraded its global growth forecast on Monday shortly after China reported its slowest annual growth since 1990.
Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda and Bank of England governor Mark Carney will speak at Davos on Thursday.
4. Global market overview: US stock futures were slightly higher, following strong earnings by IBM (IBM), Comcast (CCZ) and Procter & Gamble (PG) which helped markets close in positive territory on Wednesday.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 0.7% on Wednesday. The S&P 500 was up 0.2%, and the Nasdaq was up 0.1%.
Major stock markets in Asia closed higher on Thursday, while markets in Europe also edged upward in early trading.
5. Earnings and economics: American Airlines (AAL), Bristol-Myers (BMY), JetBlue Airways (JBLU), McCormick (MKC), Southwest Air (LUV) and Union Pacific (UNP) plan to release earnings before the open Thursday. Meanwhile, Alaska Air (ALK), E*TRADE (ETFC), Intel (INTC) and Starbucks (SBUX) plan to release earnings after the close.
6. Coming this week:
Thursday — ECB rate decision; Southwest Airlines (LUV), American Airlines (AAL), Starbucks (SBUX) and Intel (INTC) earnings
Friday — Colgate-Palmolive (CL) and Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) earnings
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