Eagle Eye Opener: China’s Economy Slows in February; Fugitive Banker Caught in Italy; Italians Face New Economic Uncertainty

Eagle Eye Opener

China February Forces Market to Take Time Out (AP)

China’s economic figures for February — released during the weekend — were enough to take the wind out of Far East investors’ sales this morning. Reports that the world’s second-largest economy missed expectations for industrial production and retail, combined with higher-than-expected inflation, caused some investors to take profits off of the table. Today, a couple of key Asian markets reflected those missed numbers. Both Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and the Shanghai Composite fell slightly for the day. Japan’s Nikkei 225, however, finished the day up .53 percent, possibly reflecting encouraging comments about hitting the country’s inflation target from the Bank of Japan. We’ll see how the rest of the world reacts to these figures as the week rolls on.

Fugitive Fund Manager Finally Fingered in Florence… (Bloomberg)

Five years ago, Florin Homm fled Mallorca, Spain, with $500,000 stuffed into his underwear and luggage. On March 8, the German fund manager finally was arrested at the Uffizi Art Gallery in Florence, Italy. While many investors may not think that half a million dollars is a huge amount in the great scheme of things, Homm and his “homm-boy” co-conspirators pocketed more than $53 million during the bilking blitz. And they ended up defrauding their own investors of some $200 million. Homm faces fraud and conspiracy charges that could keep him in jail up to 75 years. The lesson here — always do you your home work when it comes to fund managers before handing over your fortune.

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Italy to “… Blow it up this Week” (CNBC)

With Italy’s presidency still undecided, and the country’s credit-rating downgrade by Fitch last week to BBB, European investors are fleeing as if investing there were the scene of a crime. Ultimately, it might be, if the country’s bond yield and spread continue to spiral down toward the level Spain currently occupies in the euro zone’s basement.  And that might just be the start, as Joe Rundle (head of trading at ETX Capitol) had this to tell CNBC Europe’s Squawk, “Italy is really going to blow it up this week…”  Looking ahead, Rundle added this, “We could see the gains… come off very aggressively.” Let’s just hope Italy apprehends enough fugitive fund managers in the weeks ahead to keep its economy — and the economy of the European Union — strong.

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Stocks rose again today, this time on the back of data showing forecast-beating jobs growth and an unexpected drop in the unemployment rate.

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