China adds more stimulus, and IBM reports — 5 things to know today

April 20, 2015, 12:31 PM UTC
Photograph by Odd Andersen — AFP/Getty Images

Hello friends and Fortune readers.

U.S. stock futures are gaining this morning after markets took a hit on Friday. European shares are higher, while Asian markets closed the day mostly down.

Wall Street is in the thick of earnings season this week. Morgan Stanley (MS), Hasbro (HAS) and Halliburton (HAL) all reported first-quarter earnings this morning.

Morgan Stanley is reportedly in talks to pay $500 million to settle an investigation by New York’s attorney general over the sale of mortgage bonds that lost value during the financial crisis.

Here’s what else you need to know about today.

1. China injects more stimulus into its economy.

The world’s largest economy cut banks’ reserve requirements by 1%, the biggest reduction since the 2008 financial crisis. China is hoping that banks will lend out the extra cash, nearly $210 billion, for new loans in order to stimulate the economy amid the nation’s slowest expansion in six years. The reserve cut is the second industry-wide move in two months as officials try to offset the effects from a property downturn, factory overcapacity and local debt. Even with expected stimulus actions, China’s growth is estimated to hit a quarter-century low of about 7% this year, down from 7.4% in 2014.

2. Meanwhile, Chinese officials are courting Pakistan.

China’s President Xi Jinping travels to Pakistan today, where he is expected to announce $46 billion worth of investments in the country. The money will go towards developing a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — or CPEC — a network of roads, rail lines and pipelines that transverse the two nations from China’s Xinjiang region to Gwadar in Pakistan. The investment will give China direct access to the Indian Ocean and its ports while increasing its economic influence in Central and South Asia. The corridor runs directly through Pakistan’s violent Balochistan province, one of the world’s most dangerous regions.

3. EU, U.S. leaders continue to hash out a free trade agreement.

The ninth round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, shortened to TTIP, will kick off in New York City today and go through the end of the week. The deal between the world’s two biggest economic blocs has set off wide protests across Germany where many fear that the pact will erode food, labor and environmental standards. A YouGov poll revealed that 43% of Germans think the TTIP deal will be negative for the nation, while only 26% feel it will be positive. The pushback has taken German leaders by surprise as they hurry to save a deal which could add about $100 billion in annual economic output to both the U.S. and Europe.
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4. IBM is set to reveal another quarterly disappointment.

IBM (IBM) is in the midst of a painful move away from declining hardware services and into cloud computing–and it hasn’t been easy on investors. Big Blue has missed sales expectations in seven of the last eight quarters. Analysts estimate that IBM will report earnings of $2.82 a share on $19.7 billion in sales, which would be a 12% year-over-year decline. The company reports after the market close.

5. Justice Department lawyers aren’t keen on a cable combo.

Lawyers at the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division are getting close to making a final call on whether or not it will give its blessing to Comcast’s (CMCSA) bid to buy Time Warner Cable (TWC), and it’s not looking likely, reports Bloomberg Business. Attorneys evaluating the $45.2 billion deal are leaning against the cable merger due to concern that consumers would be harmed. They could submit their final review as soon as next week, then senior officials will decide if they want to file a federal lawsuit to block the combination.
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