Monday Minute 3/28

News headlines from around the web.

Dollar firms, Asia stocks slip as U.S. data, Fed comments awaited


The dollar firmed on Monday and most Asian markets surrendered early gains as investors cautiously awaited U.S. economic data and speeches by Federal Reserve officials this week that could signal more interest rate increases than expected.

European markets are closed for the Easter Monday holiday.

U.S. stock futures ticked up 0.3 percent, although they remain flat for the quarter.

In the past week, the dollar has been helped by stronger-than-expected gross domestic product data and comments from some Fed officials indicating that policymakers think they could raise interest rates as early as next month.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies rose as high as 96.339, its highest in almost two weeks. It was last trading up 0.1 percent at 96.273.

“Fed officials generally looked to share views that they need to maintain a rate hike path given a U.S. recovery,” said Jeong My-young, Samsung Futures’ research head in Seoul. The dollar rose 0.4 percent to 113.51 yen, keeping intact its steady recovery from a 6-1/2-month low of 110.67 hit on March 17 after a Federal Reserve meeting that left markets convinced U.S. interest rates would not rise soon.

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Red Meat, It’s What’s for Dinner Again as Beef Prices Tumble


Beef is making a comeback.

After decades of diners shunning steaks and burgers for healthier protein options such as chicken and turkey, Americans will eat an estimated 54.3 pounds of the red meat this year — the first increase since 2006 and almost half a pound more per person than in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cheaper prices are spurring discounts and new menu items at restaurant chains, including Chili’s and Wendy’s Co. Protein-centric diets such as the Paleolithic, or Paleo, and Autoimmune Protocol that eliminate grains and sugar also are fueling the shift.

“Certainly there’s been a big push towards eating more meat and more meat proteins,” said Altin Kalo, an analyst at Steiner Consulting Group, an economic and commodity-trading adviser. Increased beef production also is contributing to the rise, he noted.

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Chinese firms are becoming ‘allergic’ to hiring


Chinese companies are shying away from adding jobs as the world’s second largest economy slows down.

Already laden with debt, businesses have tried to rein in borrowing and cut back on spending. Now, they’re taking on staff at a slower rate, according to a private study by China Beige Book, which surveys more than 2,200 firms across the country.

China’s businesses “are becoming allergic to hiring,” the study said, warning that the “troubled job market hit a new low” in the first quarter of this year.

Of the companies surveyed, 15% said they trimmed jobs in the first quarter. And while 23% reported expanding their workforces, that number is down 9 percentage points compared with the same period a year earlier.

The study’s authors say they think the trend could force the Chinese government to act.

“The principal reason China has been able to defy market expectations for more aggressive stimulus was stability in the labor market, despite overall economic deceleration,” they said. “Time may have run out.”

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NTT Data to Buy Dell’s IT-Services Arm

By ALEXANDER MARTIN, The Wall Street Journal

Japan’s NTT Data Corp. said Monday that it has agreed to buy Dell Inc.’s information-technology-services division for $3.05 billion, its latest effort to seek growth overseas.

The deal would mark one of the largest foreign buyouts in recent years for NTT Data, whose operations span fixed-line and mobile telecommunications as well as IT services. Faced with sluggish growth at home, many Japanese companies are turning to overseas acquisitions.

The move would enable Dell, which is in the process of acquiring storage vendor EMC Corp. for tens of billions of dollars, to raise cash to help finance that deal.

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