In Brief – N.30 – February 28, 2016

Apple announced plans to sell up to $12 billion in bonds to pay for share buybacks and dividends, as blue-chip companies test investors’ appetite for debt after 2 weeks of turbulent markets.

According to 13F filings, activist investor Carl Icahn reduced his position in Apple by 7 million shares to 45.8 million shares, down 13% from the previous quarter, while David Einhorn’s hedge fund Greenlight Capital sold off 44% of its Apple holdings to end 2015 with 6.3 million shares.

China has deployed missiles to a disputed island in the South China Sea, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, even as President Obama called for reduced tensions in the region at the conclusion of a summit with Southeast Asian leaders.

A contract for the delivery of Russian Su-34SM Flanker multirole fighters to Iran will be signed in 2016. “Iran has actually expressed its interest in the purchase of an order of Su-34SM fighters, but so far the parties are only discussing the issue in negotiations. The contract will be signed this year,” an official told RIA Novosti.

Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to freeze oil output at near-record levels, the first coordinated move by the world’s two largest producers to counter a slump that has pummeled economies, markets and companies.

Turkey is in favor of a ground operation into neighboring Syria but only with its allies, a senior Turkish official said. Turkey denounced Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria as “barbaric” and bilateral relations have reached a new risky low.

Japan’s exports fell for a 4th consecutive month and dropped the most since 2009, underscoring continued weakness in an economy that contracted in the final months of 2015.

German investor confidence is down for the 2nd straight month over broad concerns about the world economy. The ZEW institute said its confidence index fell to 1.0 points for February 2016, down from 10.2 points the month before.

London mayor Boris Johnson confirmed Brexit support. Saying the “political project” of Europe is out of control, Johnson said that after a “huge amount of heartache” he had made the “agonisingly difficult” decision to go against Prime Minister David Cameron.

China has almost doubled its weapons exports in the past 5 years, the SIPRI said, as the world’s 3rd-largest weapons exporter pours capital into developing an advanced arms manufacturing industry.

Christine Lagarde has been selected to serve a 2nd term as IMF’s Managing Director. In taking this decision, the IMF’s Executive Board welcomed Lagarde’s emphasis on ensuring that the Fund remains agile and focused on meeting the needs of its entire membership.

Global oil supply growth is plunging as an extended period of low prices takes its toll, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its annual report. While US light, tight oil (LTO) output is falling steeply for now, the market will begin rebalancing in 2017.

Up to 5,000 Europeans have returned to the continent after being trained at terrorist camps, the head of Europol Rob Wainwright said, claiming Europe is facing its biggest terror threat in more than 10 years and has warned of large-scale attacks by ISIS and other groups.

French Special Forces and clandestine operatives have backed anti-ISIS efforts in Libya for some time. The main objective is to prevent any terror attack in France after planning and preparation in Libya.

Brazil’s economic situation kept worsening, according to Moody’s which downgraded Brazil two notches from Baa3 to Ba2, making the largest South America’s country a “junk investment” with “negative perspective.”