Daily Agenda: EU GDP Better Than Bad

Euro zone ekes out growth in volatile market; ceasefire in Syria stirs skepticism; AIG names Paulson and an Icahn nominee to the board; Dems debate again.


Preliminary gross-domestic-product data released by Eurostat this morning indicated that the common currency zone maintained positive growth during the final months of 2015 despite sluggish global demand. While the 0.3 percent expansion versus the prior quarter exceeded consensus economist forecasts, the fact that Germany was the primary driver of expansion for the region raised concerns among some investors over a growing divergence between European Union economies. One unwelcome development in the flurry of data was the return of recession in Greece, which suffered a 0.6 percent contraction for the three-month period ending in December.

Ceasefire draws mixed reaction. A joint statement by the U.S., Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran regarding a ceasefire for hostilities in Syria was received with some skepticism by observers Thursday evening. A recent step up in the Russian bombing campaign has resulted in gains against both the Islamic State and forces that opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Geopolitical analysts have concluded that Russia’s successes have compelled the U.S. to broker an accord.

AIG names Icahn and Paulson as directors. On Thursday, American International Group announced that activist investors Carl Icahn, via proxy, and hedge fund manager John Paulson directly would join the board of directors at the global insurer. The company reported a loss of $1.10 per share for the final quarter of 2015, in line with analyst estimates, and announced a $5 billion share-repurchase program.

Democratic contenders spar over Obama legacy. The leading Democratic presidential nominees traded jabs in a debate in Milwaukee Thursday evening. As the primaries moved into more racially diverse states, both candidates have focused on seeking support of minority groups. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost to Sen. Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, addressed those communities directly in advance of the South Carolina primary. Clinton particularly attacked Sanders’ criticisms of President Barack Obama.