Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:
Spain: Spain’s borrowing costs edged lower Wednesday on hopes that the European Union may be moving closer toward adopting measures that could alleviate the country’s financial crisis.
The interest rate – or yield – that Spain would have to pay on its 10-year bonds was at 6.22 percent in midday trading, nine basis points below it closing figure Tuesday, according to financial data provider FactSet. The spread, or difference, with the equivalent safe-haven German yield fell below 5 percentage points for the first time in more than a week.
The drop in yields comes a day after the most explicit suggestion from the Spanish government that it is seeking help from Europe for its struggling banks as a finance minister said that the country risks losing access to the financial markets.
Euro Central Bank: European Central Bank head Mario Draghi says the bank is staying with its forecast for a gradual economic recovery this year in the 17 countries that use the euro.
He says, however, that Europe’s debt crisis means increased “downside risk” to growth.
Draghi made the remarks after the bank left its key refinancing interest rate unchanged at 1 percent. He said economic activity “remains weak, with heightened uncertainty weighing on confidence.”
Some economic indicators have suggested that the eurozone’s mild contraction will worsen this year. But the ECB left its growth projection unchanged at between 0.5 and 0.3 percent growth this year.
U.S. Workers: U.S. worker productivity fell by the largest amount in a year from January through March. The steeper drop than first estimated suggests companies would need to hire more if demand were to pick up.
The Labor Department said Wednesday that productivity fell at an annual rate of 0.9 percent in the first quarter. That’s faster than the 0.5 percent annual decline first estimated last month.
Labor costs rose 1.3 percent, down from an initial estimate of 2 percent. Compensation costs were smaller.
Productivity is the amount of output per hour of work. It fell at a faster rate than first estimated because revisions showed less output and slightly more hours worked.
The report was the government’s second and final look at first-quarter productivity.
U.S. Futures: U.S. stock futures rose Wednesday but the early gains were trimmed after the European Central Bank left its benchmark interest rate unchanged.
Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 44 points to 12,170. Standard & Poor’s 500 futures rose 5.6 points to 1,290.7 and Nasdaq futures gained 15.25 points to 2,504.
Europe’s central bank has been urged to cut rates to stimulate a vulnerable economy, but bank President Mario Draghi has said the bank cannot make up for inaction by governments.
Many analysts expected the bank would leave rates steady, saying that the bank’s inaction would spur political leaders to hash out some new framework.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.