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Russian forces stand at the entrance of a Ukrainian military base after storming the compound in the village of Belbek, Crimea, March 22. (MAURICIO LIMA/NYT)
Russian forces stand at the entrance of a Ukrainian military base after storming the compound in the village of Belbek, Crimea, March 22. (MAURICIO LIMA/NYT)

Morning Business Briefing

Gold, cash, diamonds found in home of former Ukrainian energy minister Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Monday, March 24, 2014.

Follow Michael Babad and The Globe's Business Briefing on Twitter.

Ukraine in energy industry probe
Ukraine’s former energy minister allegedly left behind a fortune when fled.

Ukrainian authorities, in the midst of an investigation into the energy industry, searched Eduard Stavytsky’s home and found millions in gold, cash and what are believed to be diamonds.

According to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, authorities also found many high-end watches.

His weekend statement on Facebook came after comments a day after he announced that the investigation is also looking at Ukrainian-owned energy giant Naftogaz, whose chairman was detained.

Authorities, according to Mr. Avakov, are probing corruption in the industry to the tune of some $4-billion.

Mr. Avakov said the raid on the former energy minister’s home netted $4.8-million in cash, 42 kgs of gold, boxes of what appeared to be diamonds and documents showing property ownership and shares in real estate companies.

The interior minister said, according to news service translations, that “it blew my mind” when he was told of what was found.

Apple reportedly in TV talks
Shares of Apple Inc. are on the rise in premarket action this morning after reports that the tech giant is negotiating with Comcast Corp. on a TV streaming deal.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple is in discussions with Comcast for a streaming service that would get around the traffic volume on the Internet via its set-top devices.

Apple share were up 1 per cent to almost $540 (U.S.) within about 15 minutes of the Nasdaq open.

Markets mixed
Global markets are mixed so far this morning amid a fresh reading on China’s manufacturing sector.

Tokyo’s Nikkei gained 1.8 per cent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 1.9 per cent.

In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were down by between 0.1 per cent and 0.3 per cent by about 9 a.m. ET.

Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 futures were up.

“What we are still lacking is a catalyst to drive markets higher from here,” said market analyst Chris Beauchamp of IG in London.

“A simple lessening of tensions in Ukraine, or merely in-line economic data, isn’t enough,” he said in a research note.

“Russian forces massing on the Ukrainian border are enough to provoke fears of another annexation on the fringes of Europe. With the U.S. dollar still in favour following last week’s Federal Reserve meeting, the outlook remains cloudy for risk appetite.

At least we’re seeing U.S. futures up across the board. A week of economic data from all parts of the U.S. economy may help provide a more positive spin as we enter the final trading week of March and the first quarter.”

China's manufacturing sector slows
More evidence is emerging that manufacturing growth in the world’s second largest economy is slowing, The Globe and Mail's Eric Reguly reports..

The flash Markit/HSBC purchasing managers’ index released today, a gauge of Chinese manufacturing, fell to an eight-month low of 48.1 in March for 48.5 in February. Most economists had expected a stronger March figure. Any number below 50 indicates contraction. The PMI figure has been below that number since January.

The shrinking PMI suggests that the Chinese government will stimulate the economy to keep its 7.5-per-cent economic growth target intact.

“Weakness is broadly-based with domestic demand softening further,” Qu Hongbin, chief China economist at HSBC, said in a statement. “We expect Beijing to launch a series of policy measures to stabilize growth. Likely options include lowering entry barriers for private investment, targeted spending on subways, air-cleaning and public housing, and guiding lending rates lower.”

What to watch for this week
Besides a final reading on how the U.S. economy fared in the fourth quarter of last year, investors will get a look at the earnings of two Canadian companies in the spotlight.

First, as The Globe and Mail’s Bertrand Marotte reports, Lululemon Athletica Inc. unveils its fourth-quarter results Thursday, with a new chief executive officer at the helm, and following some public relations setbacks.

A day later, BlackBerry Ltd., also with a relatively new CEO, reports its results.

And as The Globe and Mail’s Omar El Akkad notes, analysts project the smartphone maker will post a loss of about 57 cents a share and revenue of $1.1-billion for the fourth quarter.

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