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Frontrunning: March 20

  • Clinton Charity Tapped Foreign Friends (WSJ)
  • Dollar Set for Worst Week Since ’13; S&P Futures Rise (BBG)
  • Shale Producers Have Found Another Lifeline: Shareholders (BBG)
  • BOJ Kuroda says no sign of 'currency war' brewing in world (Reuters)
  • Fed Is Pushing and Pulling on Rates Riddle (WSJ
  • Brent oil falls towards $54 on OPEC output, Iran (Reuters)
  • Iran Talks Stall Over Ending of Sanctions (WSJ)
  • Credit Suisse Faces Italy Suit, Probe as Litigation Persists (BBG)
  • How Google Skewed Search Results (WSJ)
  • Wages Haven’t Been This Crucial to U.S. Economy in Half Century (BBG)
  • Inside the U.S. Antitrust Probe of Google (WSJ)
  • Emails sought of nearly a dozen U.S. State Department workers under Clinton (Reuters)
  • U.S. regulators give Amazon go-ahead for drone tests (Reuters)


Overnight Media Digest


* Officials at the Federal Trade Commission concluded in 2012 that Google Inc used anticompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed internet users and rivals, a far harsher analysis of Google's business than was previously known. (

* The Clinton Foundation swore off donations from foreign governments when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. That did not stop the foundation from raising millions of dollars from foreigners with connections to their home governments, a review of foundation disclosures shows. (

* Tesla Motors Inc is positioning itself as a software company, as well as an automaker, committing to a series of upgrades for its Model S electric cars that it will start delivering to owners via the Internet within the next 10 days. (

* Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reversed himself for the second time in a week on support for a Palestinian state and said he would back it under the right conditions, a turnaround that the U.S. and Palestinians dismissed as unconvincing. (

* A long-running corruption investigation into whether BSG Resources Ltd paid bribes to secure mining rights in Guinea could yield up to a half-dozen indictments in the United States, according to people familiar with the matter. In a briefing last month, U.S. prosecutors told Guinean government officials that senior executives at BSG were among some of the people who could be indicted. (



Tag Heuer, French luxury group LVMH's biggest watch maker, said it was teaming up with Google Inc and Intel Corp to develop a smartwatch, signalling its intention to compete with Apple's smartwatch.

Shareholders in Irish cement firm CRH approved a 6.5 billion euro ($6.93 billion) deal to buy assets from Lafarge and Holcim even as the executives of two cement makers continue to argue over who would lead the combined company.

Two big investors in Standard Chartered Plc want the bank to consider moving its domicile away from London because of the chancellor's decision to raise the UK bank levy by one-third.



* Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors Inc, announced on Thursday that the maker of high-end electric cars would introduce autonomous technology by this summer. The technology would allow drivers to have their cars take control on what he called "major roads" like highways. (

* The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday faced renewed questions about its handling of its antitrust investigation into Google Inc, after documents revealed that an internal report had recommended stronger action. (

* The Bank of New York Mellon will pay $714 million to settle accusations that it cheated government pension funds and other investors for more than a decade, federal and state authorities announced on Thursday. (

* A National Labor Relations Board judge ruled on Wednesday that the employment policies of the wireless carrier T-Mobile violated United States labor law by restricting workers' ability to organize and other rights, setting a potentially important precedent for unions. (

* Federal regulators have given Inc a green light to begin testing drones, but it will most likely take years before the online retailer can start delivering packages from the air to peoples' homes. (




** As Canadian television moves to an unbundled world over the next two years, experts say cable companies will face some revenue pressures but broadcasters will be hit harder. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission issued its long-awaited "pick-and-pay" ruling on Thursday, confirming that by the end of 2016, television distributors will have to offer a basic package capped at C$25 ($20) and give customers the ability to add individual channels or small bundles on top of that. (

** Extending Canada's military mission in Iraq is a matter of "moral clarity" that all political parties should support, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson said. (

** U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman said "challenges" are inevitable in the complex Canada-United States relationship, but is playing down suggestions of a chill showing up in his troubled first year as envoy in Canada. (


** Alberta Premier Jim Prentice's musings about the need for a new approach to energy, the environment and climate change has stirred debate in the province about what that could look like, including an option that could surprise many, a broader carbon tax similar to that implemented by its greener neighbor, British Columbia. (

** The federal government extended a work program for 50 developmentally disabled Ottawa workers on Thursday in the face of public outrage that they had been cut loose after dedicating decades of their working lives to sorting and disposing of federal documents. (

** Loyola High School has won its six-year legal battle over the mandatory "Ethics and Religious Culture" (ERC) course taught in Quebec schools. In a decision published on Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered Quebec's Department of Education to grant the private Catholic boys' school the exemption it had sought from teaching the course and "to offer an equivalent course to the ERC Program in line with Loyola's proposal and the guidelines we have outlined." (


Hong Kong


-- More Chinese are expected to apply for the United States' investor visa as people embrace an expanded immigrant quota and promising business opportunities, while better education and more diversified investment opportunities are behind the choice of the wealthy Chinese, according a report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Centre for China and Globalisation. (

-- The falling euro is putting pressure on local retailers and exporters but some stores are taking advantage by offering consumers cheap products from Europe. Snack shop 759 Store's owner, Coils Lam Wai-chun, said he planned to increase the proportion of European food items on its shelves from 15 percent to 25 percent in the coming three months. (

-- China Mobile could be poised to broaden its 14-month-old alliance with Apple as the U.S. technology giant prepares to release its new wearable smart device, the Apple Watch, next month on the mainland, according to Chairman Xi Guohua. (


-- China Merchants Bank Co Ltd is considering spinning off its wealth management and credit card business, Chief Executive Tian Huiyu said, adding the Shenzhen-based lender had a variety of businesses, many of which can exist as separate entities. (

-- A proposal for the government to conduct a poll on political reform when it is unveiled next month is gaining traction among pro-establishment groups. The poll, suggested by Basic Law Committee member Albert Chan Hung-yee, would be led by former chief justices or judges with local universities involved. (


-- William Fung, the chairman of global exporter Li & Fung Ltd, which posted an 18 percent drop in core operating profit in the first year of its three-year growth plan in 2014, said the target set for the plan was too high and the company could hardly meet it.



The Times


George Osborne's budget received a chilly verdict from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), which attacked the chancellor for his silence on 10 billion pounds ($14.76 billion) of planned welfare cuts and said coalition tax and benefit reforms had hit the poorest most.(


Mortgage lending slumped by nearly 10 percent in February as would-be buyers held off amid jitters surrounding the forthcoming general election.(

The Guardian


MPs have attempted to raise the pressure on billionaire Mike Ashley to explain what "immovable commitments" are preventing him from appearing before a parliamentary committee examining the use of zero-hours contracts and 200 job losses at his Sports Direct group.(


Aldi is considering moving into online retailing in the UK, and possibly elsewhere, opening a new front in the discounter's challenge to the major supermarkets.(

The Telegraph


The board of Ryanair Holdings Plc has been forced to admit it is not considering flying across the Atlantic just days after it said it was. In a brief stock exchange statement, the Irish airline said it had not approved any such plans, nor would it.(

AMAZON CLEARED TO TEST DRONES IN US Inc has won approval to test delivery drones in the U.S., despite public concerns over the safety and privacy implications.(

Sky News


One of the UK's biggest publicly listed water companies, Pennon Group Plc, has lured Sir John Parker, the architect of a push to improve boardroom diversity, as its new chairman.(


Saga Plc, the FTSE-100 travel and financial services group for the 'grey market', has appointed Greenhill, an investment bank, to sell the public sector operations of Allied Healthcare.(

The Independent


Kraft Foods Group Inc is the latest company to make headlines for recalling a product - 6.5 million of them. It was forced to ask customers to return 7.25-ounce packets of macaroni and cheese after metal bits were discovered in the food by eight separate customers.(


Walkabout, the bar chain that this week saw a customer tumble into the Thames to be rescued by one of its barman, assured the public that its own business will stay afloat after pulling off a financial restructuring and setting out expansion plans.(



Fly On The Wall Pre-Market Buzz


Domestic economic reports scheduled for today include:
Baker Hughes U.S. rig count for week of March 20 at 13:00--prior 1125



Honeywell (HON) upgraded to Conviction Buy from Buy at Goldman
Nintendo (NTDOY) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank
Owens Corning (OC) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Pier 1 Imports (PIR) upgraded to Outperform from Perform at Oppenheimer
STMicroelectronics (STM) upgraded to Equal Weight from Underweight at Morgan Stanley
Yamana Gold (AUY) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at HSBC


Actuant (ATU) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel
Campus Crest (CCG) downgraded to Underperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital (CRCM) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Electrolux AB (ELUXY) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Ericsson (ERIC) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley
Extreme Networks (EXTR) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James
TD Ameritrade (AMTD) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Tableau (DATA) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Mizuho
Tesoro (TSO) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Vince Holding (VNCE) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray


Benefitfocus (BNFT) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo
Boston Scientific (BSX) initiated with an Outperform at Raymond James
Carnival (CCL) initiated with a Neutral at Wedbush
Castlight Health (CSLT) initiated with a Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Cooper Companies (COO) initiated with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray
eHealth (EHTH) initiated with a Market Perform at Wells Fargo
FleetCor (FLT) initiated with a Perform at Oppenheimer
Headwaters (HW) initiated with a Buy at SunTrust
Information Services (III) initiated with a Buy at B. Riley
Maximus (MMS) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) initiated with an Outperform at Wedbush
Perceptron (PRCP) initiated with a Buy at Canaccord
Royal Caribbean (RCL) initiated with a Neutral at Wedbush
The Medicines Co. (MDCO) initiated with a Neutral at Mizuho
Trimble (TRMB) initiated with a Neutral at Goldman
WEX Inc. (WEX) initiated with an Outperform at Oppenheimer
WageWorks (WAGE) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo


FedEx (FDX) said it paid $1.4B for GENCO, $43M for Bongo international
Ryanair (RYAAY) said it has not considered or approved transatlantic project
American Airlines (AAL) to replace Allergan (AGN) in S&P 500 as of 3/20 close, Hanesbrands (HBI) to replace Avon Products (AVP) in S&P 500 as of 3/20 close, SL Green Realty (SLG) to replace Nabors Industries (NBR) in S&P 500 as of 3/20 close, Equinix (EQIX) to replace Denbury Resources (DNR) in S&P 500 as of 3/20 close
The boards of Holcim (HCMLY) and Lafarge (LFRGY) reached an agreement on revised terms for the merger of equals between both companies. Both parties agreed on a new exchange ratio of 9 Holcim shares for 10 Lafarge shares. A new CEO for the combined group, to be proposed by the Lafarge board and accepted by the Holcim board, will be appointed as from the closing of the transaction
Prothena (PRTA) reported positive results from Phase 1 study of PRX002
SeaWorld (SEAS) named Joel Manby as president and CEO


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include: (CTRP), Cerulean (CERU), Nike (NKE), Gordmans Stores (GMAN), Zafgen (ZFGN)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Star Bulk Carriers (SBLK), AK Steel (AKS), New Source Energy (NSLP), Rally Software (RALY), Veracyte (VCYT), New York & Co. (NWY), Mattress Firm (MFRM)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Vital Therapies (VTL)

Nike (NKE) sees Q4 revenue in constant dollars up low double digits, sees FY15 revenue in constant dollars up low teens, sees FY16 EPS up high-single digits to low double digits
New York & Co. (NWY) sees Q1 adjusted EPS "approximately breakeven", consensus 2c
Mattress Firm (MFRM) sees FY15 adjusted EPS $2.50-$2.70, consensus $2.77


2012 antitrust report calls Google (GOOG) harmful to market, WSJ reports
Sharp (SHCAY) not planning to spin off LCD business, Reuters reports
Bank of America (BAC) faces pressure to defend structure, Financial Times reports
Global smartphone shipments to reach 1.4B units in 2015, DigiTimes Research says (GOOG, AAPL, MSFT, BBRY)
GM (GM) CEO to be questioned October 8 over ignition failures, AP reports


Biodel (BIOD) files to sell $30M of common stock
ING Groep (ING) files automatic mixed securities shelf
National Fuel (NFG) files automatic mixed securities shelf
Tekmira (TKMR) 7.5M share Secondary priced at $20.25
Trade Street Residential (TSRE) files to sell 9.32M shares for holders