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JPMorgan seeks China JV; BofA hints at gun loan exit; Stifel buying Mo. bank

Following China's easing of foreign ownership restrictions on domestic securities brokerage and asset management joint ventures, JPMorgan Chase & Co. applied with the China Securities Regulatory Commission to launch a brokerage joint venture in the country, The Wall Street Journal reports. Gao Li, a spokeswoman for the Chinese regulator, told the Journal that the commission will review J.P. Morgan Broking (Hong Kong) Ltd.'s application to hold a 51% stake in the joint venture.

As the more open Chinese market quickens investor demand for analysis, JPMorgan is expanding its equity research team by more than 50%, Bloomberg News reports, citing James Sullivan, JPMorgan's head of Asia ex-Japan equities research. Sullivan had previously said that the company will increase the research team's headcount by 30% to 40%. The new hires will be mostly comprised of senior analysts and will help double the bank's coverage of China-listed companies to over 200, according to the report.

The U.S. Justice Department charged Akshay Aiyer — who was a trader at JPMorgan from 2006 until 2015 — for conspiring to fix prices on the South African rand, Russian rouble, and other currencies in central and eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa between 2010 and 2013, the Financial Times reports.

Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley were hired by Volvo Cars owner Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. Ltd. for an initial public offering this year, Bloomberg News reports, citing "people with knowledge of the matter." The potential listing, which could take place in the fall, could value the Swedish car manufacturer between $16 billion to $30 billion.

In other banking news, Bank of America Corp. Vice Chairman Anne Finucane said that the company remains committed to its policy to stop financing military style firearms, and noted that the $43.2 million financing to rifle maker Remington Outdoor was in the works before BofA announced its firearms policy, Reuters reports. Finucane added that the policy "will dictate our future actions" after Remington's bankruptcy proceedings conclude, the report adds.

In M&A news, brokerage and investment banking firm Stifel Financial Corp. is acquiring Clayton, Mo.-based Business Bancshares Inc.

Romulus, Mich.-based Public Service CU is purchasing seven branches of Co-Op Financial Services in the Detroit metropolitan area.

In asset management news, an affiliated fund of Palladium Equity Partners LLC is selling Pronto Holdco LLC to insurer Risk Placement Services Inc., a unit of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Texas-headquartered Pronto Holdco is the parent company of Pronto Insurance, a full-service managing general agency, broker and claims administrator.

Activist hedge fund Third Point LLC is considering forming a special purpose acquisition company, Reuters reports, citing "people familiar with the matter." It is still unclear what kind of companies the hedge fund plans to acquire.

Specialty lender ECN Capital Corp. agreed to make a $221.2 million strategic investment in The Kessler Group, which manages, advises and structures credit card and other consumer portfolios.

In other parts of the world

Asia Pacific: JPMorgan applies for China JV; ANZ may sell NZ life ops; Indian bank posts loss

Europe: Monte Paschi, Piraeus Bank report Q1; Bank of England holds rates

Middle East & Africa: US sanctions Iran currency network; South Sudan gets new central bank chief

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 1.02% to 31,122.06, and the Nikkei 225 climbed 1.16% to 22,758.48.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.09% to 7,693.397, and the Euronext 100 decreased 0.19% to 1,068.34.

On the macro front

The import and export prices report, the consumer sentiment report and the Baker-Hughes rig count report are due out today.

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