Hello friends and Fortune readers.
Wall Street stock futures are lower again Friday morning as more weak data from China (this time on money and credit growth) reinforce fears for the global economy. Oil futures have fallen through $30 a barrel again to their lowest level in 13 years, causing more pain for commodity-reliant countries, and their currencies and stock markets.
Today’s must-read story is from Fortune‘s Robert Hackett, who spoke to David Chaum—a pioneer in the field of online privacy and cryptography—about his recent controversial proposal to create a social network that protects user data from government surveillance, except in extreme cases (terrorism, drug rings, etc.) where that anonymity could be detrimental to public safety.
Here’s what else you need to know for the day ahead.
1. GE is selling its appliance business to China’s Haier
Haier, the Chinese brand that built a U.S. reputation from selling college dorm refrigerators, said it will buy General Electric Co.’s (GE) appliance unit today for $5.4 billion. It’s second-time lucky for GE, after its initial agreement to sell the business to Sweden’s Electrolux fell foul of antitrust regulators
2. U.S. retail sales
The Commerce Department is expected to report that December retail sales were flat, due to a drop in automobile sales. November retail sales increased 0.2%, marking the second straight month of improvement. Core retail sales, which corresponds more to consumer spending and is seen as an indicator of overall economic health, are expected to have increased by 0.4%, driven by holiday retail spending.
3. Citigroup earnings on the rise
The third-largest U.S. bank is likely to report increased fourth-quarter earnings despite sluggish growth in key emerging markets. The bank had to deal with a $300 million repositioning charge in its final quarter of the fiscal year and some analysts have expressed concern that Citi’s (C) legal costs related to Libor and foreign exchange manipulation investigations could be higher than expected. As the major banks begin reporting their latest quarterly earnings, investors are keen to hear their forecasts for how the industry will handle the new rate climate in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s decision to finally raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade at the end of 2015.
4. Wells Fargo Q4 earnings
Wells Fargo (WFC) is likely to report fourth-quarter profit that outpaces Wall Street’s estimates after seeing improved loan growth. Investors will want to know about the performance of the bank’s energy loans amid the ongoing decline of crude oil prices and its affect on the energy industry. Wells Fargo could also shed some more light on how it will integrate its October acquisition of roughly $32 billion in assets from General Electric—a deal that represented the final major divestiture of GE’s financial arm, GE Capital.
5. Blackrock profits drop again?
The world’s largest asset manager will likely post declining profits for the second straight quarter when the company reports fourth-quarter figures this morning. Investors will want to see how Blackrock (BLK), and the $4.5 trillion in assets under its management, fared during a rough quarter for investors.
—Reuters contributed to this post.