Hello friends and Fortune readers.
U.S. stock futures are little changed this morning after the S&P 500 closed at a record yesterday, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq index finished up nearly 5% on the year as it climbs to levels not seen since the Internet bubble burst 15 years ago. European markets are slightly lower in trading today, while Asian shares ended mostly up.
Here’s what else you need to know about today.
1. Yellen, day two.
Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen goes before the House Financial Services Committee today following her testimony in the Senate yesterday. She said that the Fed would signal any upcoming changes in interest rates, which are being considered on a “meeting-by-meeting basis.” A rate hike could come as soon as June, although investors expect it to come later in the year given Yellen’s sentiment. Yellen also came prepared to oppose the current “Audit the Fed” legislation proposed by Republican Senator Rand Paul — a move that’s about power not transparency, explains Fortune’s Chris Matthews.
2. Abercrombie & Fitch case heads to the Supreme Court.
The U.S. top court will hear arguments today concerning workplace discrimination by Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) when it refused to hire a Muslim applicant who was wearing a head scarf during the interview. The teen clothing retailer said the hijab didn’t comply with the company’s dress code. The Supreme Court will decide if Abercrombie’s action was legal, as well as answer questions about who is responsible for addressing conflicts between an employee’s religious practices and a company’s policies.
3. Apple found guilty in patent case.
A Texas court said Apple must shell out $532.9 million after a federal jury found the tech giant guilty of patent infringement. The jury agreed that Apple (AAPL) had illegally used three patents owned by Smartflash in its iTunes software. Smartflush, a company based in Texas, doesn’t make any products itself but considers itself a patent licensing company. Apple balked at the decision and promised “to take this fight up through the court system,” according to a company press release.
4. HSBC goes to Parliament.
HSBC (HSBC) has faced a rough few weeks. First, it was revealed that the bank is sheltering tax-free accounts of arms dealers and politicians in its Swiss branch. Then, the CEO’s own tax affairs came under scrutiny when it came out that his bonus was moved between Switzerland and Panama to avoid detection. Now, two top HSBC executives will face a grilling by UK lawmakers over allegations that the bank helped clients evade taxes. Lawmakers want to know how extensive the problem may be and what the bank is doing to curb the issue.
5. China manufacturing improves.
China’s manufacturing sector unexpectedly improved in February after a dismal four-month streak. The HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 50.1 from January’s 49.7, any result above the 50-mark indicates expansion and anything below that number means manufacturing is contracting. This is the first time in four months that China’s manufacturing expanded. That’s better, but there’s still worrying underlying data. Factory employment fell for the 16th straight month and both input and output prices declined. Domestic growth is likely to remain muted as the central bank seeks to spur growth with further stimulus.