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Daily Agenda: Uncertainty Hangs Over Oil Markets

Tsipras to meet with European Commission for last-ditch effort; ECB leaves rates unchanged; ad agency Publicis announces merger.

In advance of the semiannual meeting this Friday of the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC), crude oil futures prices fell in trading overnight. Despite the organization’s newly reconfigured twin mandate of supporting global demand and retaining market share, consensus among analysts is that meeting will result in no change to leave its current 30 million barrels per day target, despite protests from some member states whose economies have been strained from depressed costs of the commodity. In a note to clients this morning, Michael Cohen, head of energy commodities research at Barclays in New York, warned that “in the event that OPEC announces no action, participants may shed crowded long positions and prices could suffer as a result.”

Draghi sees easing policy gaining traction. The European Central Bank left rates unchanged during its monthly policy announcement today. ECB president Mario Draghi said that while inflation will remain low for the near term, signals indicate that prices have bottomed. 

Tsipras attends last-ditch meeting. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker are meeting today to discuss the proposal put forward to creditors earlier this week. Some observers are seeing these talks as perhaps the final opportunity for an agreement before Greece’s next payment, due to the International Monetary Fund this Friday. Analysts note that terms of the loan may allow payments to be bundled, which would allow Greece to stave off a technical default until at least later this month.

Australian GDP beats forecasts. Australia first-quarter 2015 growth was stronger than anticipated, with headline GDP expanding by 0.9 percent to bring the annualized rate to 2.3 percent. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ report, the improvement was driven in part by strong inventory buildup and increased exports.

Chinese service sector rebounds. HSBC nonmanufacturing purchasing managers index levels for May indicated that service sector activity rose at the most rapid pace in three years, with the headline index registering at 53.5 versus a prior 52.9. The new business subindex rose to 54.4; the employment component also showed improvement.

Cross-border ad agency merger. French advertising giant Publicis Groupe today announced the acquisition of Match Media, an Australian independent media agency. The move allows the French firm to bolster its international digital media franchise by rolling Match into its Blue 449 network. Last year, a $35 million merger between Publicis and sector rival Omnicom collapsed.

U.S. government personal data collection put to halt. President Barack Obama yesterday signed into law a bill that ends fierce Congressional debate over limiting the U.S. government power to access personal data from citizens. The decision marks the first time that the powers of the government’s intelligence agencies have been reduced since the sweeping security legislation passed in the wake of terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Warren blasts SEC head. In a letter circulated yesterday, Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren addressed Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White, expressing frustration at the pace of new regulations to reign in financial sector excesses. Warren criticized White personally and suggested that she might have personal conflicts of interest stemming from her husband John W. White’s work as a private-practice corporate defense attorney. (Incidentally, White herself worked many years as a white-collar defense attorney and her husband has worked as a lawyer at the SEC).

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