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Frontrunning: February 24

  • Yellen faces Senate grilling on Fed rate policy, transparency (Reuters)
  • Big Banks Face Scrutiny Over Pricing of Metals (WSJ)
  • Greece makes more concessions to euro zone, Germany sets vote (Reuters)
  • Time for another executive order: Longer Lives Hit Companies With Pension Plans Hard (WSJ)
  • The Syria invasion "false flag" approaches: Islamic State in Syria abducts at least 90 from Christian villages (Reuters)
  • Why Lenders Love the $2.5 Million Home Loan (BBG)
  • Reuters journalist Maria Golovnina dies in Pakistan aged 34 (Reuters)
  • Qatar’s Ties to Militants Strain Alliance (WSJ)
  • Turkish Central Bank Cuts All Three Main Interest Rates (BBG)
  • The Secret Tax Lives of the Rich and Famous (BBG)
  • Failed Nominee Weiss Morphs Into Key Debt Official at Treasury (BBG)
  • Home Depot sets $18 billion buyback (Reuters)
  • Dish Chairman Ergen to Add CEO Title (WSJ)

 

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* U.S. officials are investigating at least 10 major banks for possible rigging of precious-metals markets, even though European regulators dropped a similar probe after finding no evidence of wrongdoing, according to people close to the inquiries.(http://on.wsj.com/1a9RLuJ)

* U.S. and Iran are exploring a nuclear deal that would keep Tehran from amassing enough material to make a bomb for at least a decade, but could then allow it to gradually build up its capabilities again.(http://on.wsj.com/1a9Shc3)

* A federal jury in New York on Monday found the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization liable for supporting six terrorist attacks in Israel more than a decade ago and ordered the groups to pay $218.5 million to the American victims' families.(http://on.wsj.com/1a9SMmn)

* J.P. Morgan Chase & Co is preparing to charge large institutional customers for some deposits, citing new rules that make holding money for the clients too costly, according to a memo reviewed by the Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the plan.(http://on.wsj.com/1a9SUCB)

* Honda Motor Co, already coping with large safety recalls over quality glitches and faulty air bags, said on Monday its chief executive would step down to make way for a low-profile engineer with extensive international experience.(http://on.wsj.com/1a9TDDC)

* Dish Network Corp said Chief Executive Joe Clayton will retire at the end of March and will be succeeded by Chairman Charlie Ergen, who will take the helm again as the satellite-TV company is pushing to diversify into new lines of business.(http://on.wsj.com/1LAB9cV)

 

FT

UK's agricultural sector is in a "disturbing" decline as farmers are unable to produce enough food to keep up with the growing population of the country, the National Farmers Union is set to warn on Tuesday.

Spending on new North Sea oil and gas projects is to drop by a third this year, energy producer Oil & Gas UK, which represents the offshore industry, will warn on Tuesday.

Former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind was fighting to save his reputation last night after he was suspended by the Conservative Party from their parliamentary group and a disciplinary investigation was launched in the wake of cash-for-access allegations.

UK's second-biggest energy supplier SSE PLC has been named and shamed by the government for failing to pay the minimum wage to all its employees.

 

NYT

* Already forced to apologize for helping clients hide their income from tax authorities, HSBC had to explain on Monday why its chief executive went to lengths for years to hide his bonus, at least from his co-workers.(http://nyti.ms/18gOppd)

* Mary Jo White leads the Securities and Exchange Commission; her husband, John, practices law at an old-guard firm as elite as the corporations it represents. Together, they are a legal power couple that straddles Wall Street and Washington like few others.(http://nyti.ms/18gOrxl)

* Not only are retail prices likely to remain at current levels, but card companies like American Express Co, Visa Inc and MasterCard Inc may also end up raising their annual fees and lending rates because they will need to make up revenue lost from the merchant fees in order to pay for the myriad rewards programs they have created. (http://nyti.ms/1AoCM9Z)

* Banks and law firms have discussed setting up a legal group that would be affiliated with the banking industry's main forum for sharing information about threats from hackers, online criminals and even nation states - the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center. Several people briefed on those discussions said those talks would most likely lead to the establishment of such a group by the end of the year.(http://nyti.ms/1FldEAG)

* Citigroup Inc is selling a development site that will most likely house an apartment complex in what has become one of the New York City's hottest residential neighborhoods.(http://nyti.ms/1GnjvGN)

* Greece on Monday delayed the submission of the proposed reforms that European creditors have made a condition of the country's financial aid.(http://nyti.ms/1A2lomv)

* Syngenta AG, a Swiss chemicals company, produces one of America's most popular herbicides. It is called atrazine, and 73.7 million pounds of the chemical compound were applied in the United States in 2013. It was used on more than half of all corn crops, two-thirds of sorghum and up to 90 percent of sugar cane. But Syngenta cannot sell atrazine to farms in its own backyard.(http://nyti.ms/1vu7X3s)

* Honda Motor Co Ltd said on Monday that it would replace its president and chief executive, Takanobu Ito, a sign the Japanese automaker may be trying to draw a line under recent quality problems.(http://nyti.ms/1FRHznx)

 

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

** Canada's biggest railway reached a last-minute tentative agreement with one of its unions on Monday, averting a lockout that threatened to delay imports from Asia and compound a U.S. West Coast port logjam. (http://bit.ly/1AoX3w6)

** Royal Dutch Shell Plc has scrapped plans for a long-delayed oil sands mine, becoming the latest company to pull the plug on a major Alberta expansion as crude prices hover near multiyear lows. (http://bit.ly/1MNqoFQ)

** Keystone XL's supporters - back in Washington after a congressional recess - will deliver on Tuesday the bill to U.S. President Barack Obama that attempts to wrest control of the pipeline's approval. (http://bit.ly/18h9aAV)

NATIONAL POST

** Shell Canada Ltd says it is pulling its regulatory application for the proposed Pierre River oilsands project north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, to focus on existing operations. (http://bit.ly/1zcnU9L)

** Magna International Inc is selling its battery-pack business to Samsung SDI Co Ltd, giving the South Korean electronics giant access to new electric-vehicle customers in Europe, North America and China. (http://bit.ly/1D6U7Sa)

** One of Canada's biggest mobile companies is hoping the courts will overturn a decision by the telecom regulator that is aimed at creating greater price fairness for mobile TV services. Bell Mobility Inc has filed an application with the Federal Court of Appeal, asking that it be allowed to appeal a Jan. 29 ruling, which called the service provider's pricing model for its mobile TV app "unlawful". (http://bit.ly/1MOouET)

 

Britain

The Times

APPLE TO INVEST 1.7 BILLION EUROS IN GREEN EUROPEAN DATA CENTRES

Apple Inc is to spend 1.7 billion euros ($1.93 billion) opening data centres in Ireland and Denmark in its largest ever investment in Europe. The centres will support Siri, Apple's artificially intelligent personal assistant, as well as its App and iTunes stores, its maps and iMessage applications, the company said. (http://thetim.es/1Bg7VPd)

SNOOPING TRADERS 'FORCED' HSBC CHIEF TO OPEN OFFSHORE ACCOUNT

HSBC Holdings Plc chief executive has said it was the ability of traders at the bank who were routinely able to spy on the bank accounts of fellow employees that forced him to set up a secret offshore stash for his bonuses from the lender. (http://thetim.es/1DfCCBG)

The Guardian

MP MALCOLM RIFKIND CLINGS ON TO CHAIRMANSHIP OF INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE

Malcolm Rifkind was clinging on to chairmanship of parliament's intelligence and security committee (ISC) on Monday, despite being suspended from the party whip. David Cameron said the allegations of cash for access made against Rifkind were very serious, but added it was a matter for the ISC to decide if he could continue as its chair. (http://bit.ly/1LwAabX)

HSBC SCANDAL: GEORGE OSBORNE SIGNALS NEW TAX EVASION MEASURES

New financial and civil penalties for bankers and accountants who aid and abet tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance are expected to be included in the budget next month in the wake of the HSBC tax avoidance scandal. Information about the planned fines emerged as George Osborne made his first detailed parliamentary response to the HSBC affair. (http://bit.ly/1FQE0hp)

The Telegraph

EU LAUNCHES FULL INVESTIGATION INTO GE'S 9 BILLION POUNDS BID FOR ALSTOM

EU regulators have launched a full investigation into General Electric Co's 12.4 billion euros bid for Alstom power equipment business. The European Commission is concerned the deal will leave Siemens as the only remaining competitor to GE in Europe in the market for heavy-duty gas turbines used in gas-fired power plants. (http://bit.ly/1Flfgdw)

HUNTERS TO LIST ON STOCK MARKET, APPOINTS EX-COUNTRYWIDE BOSS AS CEO

Hunters, the UK's sixth-largest estate agent, has appointed former Countrywide chief executive Harry Hill as its new boss to lead it through a stock market flotation. The group will raise up to 2.5 million pounds privately prior to listing on London's Aim index, in a move that will see investors, including staff and partners, invited to buy shares. (http://bit.ly/1a7ES4m)

Sky News

TESCO EXEC LEAVES WEEKS AFTER SUSPENSION ENDS

Sean McCurley, a senior buying executive in the Tesco Plc convenience operations, left the company in recent days. His departure comes amid a huge redundancy programme at the retailer's head office, with new chief executive Dave Lewis committed to slashing the company's cost-base by hundreds of millions of pounds. (http://bit.ly/17rIP2a)

MINIMUM PAY RECOMMENDED TO RISE TO 6.70 POUNDS AN HOUR

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the Government would decide whether to adopt the Low Pay Commission's (LPC) recommendation and make an announcement later. The commission suggested that adults should be paid a minimum of 6.70 pounds per hour, those aged 18 to 20 5.30 pounds an hour, those aged 16 to 17 3.87 pounds an hour and those on apprenticeships 2.80 pounds an hour. (http://bit.ly/1BgzuIa)

The Independent

HEATHROW MUST EXPAND TO COMPETE WITH INTERNATIONAL RIVALS, SAYS AIRPORT BOSS

Heathrow must be expanded to prevent Britain falling behind its international rivals, its chief executive has warned. Following the London airport's busiest ever year, John Holland-Kaye said cross-party support was needed for Howard Davies' Airports Commission, which is expected to publish its final report after the General Election. (http://ind.pn/1A0Poiv)

TREASURY MAKES 500 MILLION POUNDS SELLING LLOYDS SHARES AS IT REDUCES ITS STAKE IN THE BANK

The Treasury has raised around 500 million pounds by selling shares in Lloyds Banking Group. The move marks a further reduction in its stake in the bank it bailed out in 2008. The latest trade takes its holding down to 23.9 percent and the total amount raised from the process to just under 8 billion pounds. (http://ind.pn/1DN87nQ)

Fly On The Wall Pre-Market Buzz

ECONOMIC REPORTS

Domestic economic reports scheduled for today include:
S&P Case-Shiller 20-city house price index for December at 9:00--consensus up 0.6%
Markit U.S. services PMI for February at 9:45--consensus 54.5
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen Speech to be released at 10:00
Consumer confidence for February at 10:00--consensus 99.5
Richmond Fed manufacturing index for February at 10:00--consensus 6

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

Chegg (CHGG) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
Coach (COH) upgraded to Outperform from Perform at Oppenheimer
DSW (DSW) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Sterne Agee
Memorial Production (MEMP) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
Peugeot (PUGOY) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank

Downgrades

American Airlines (AAL) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Cowen
Armstrong World (AWI) downgraded to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc
Basic Energy (BAS) downgraded to Outperform from Strong Buy at Raymond James
CSC (CSC) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel
Chevron (CVX) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
Choice Hotels (CHH) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Eni SpA (E) downgraded to Underperform from Hold at Jefferies
Fifth Street Asset (FSAM) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
HSBC (HSBC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
Home Loan Servicing (HLSS) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Huntington Ingalls (HII) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse
Kayne Anderson (KED) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel
Newmont Mining (NEM) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at HSBC
Polypore (PPO) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at William Blair
Rosetta Resources (ROSE) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Topeka
Rosetta Resources (ROSE) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
Rosetta Resources (ROSE) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Sprint (S) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at BTIG
Timmins Gold (TGD) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
Transocean Partners (RIGP) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Vodafone (VOD) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Williams Partners (WPZ) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Williams (WMB) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup

Initiations

BP Prudhoe Bay (BPT) initiated with an Underweight at JPMorgan
InfraREIT (HIFR) initiated with a Buy at Citigroup
InfraREIT (HIFR) initiated with an Outperform at RBC Capital
InfraREIT (HIFR) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo
Interactive Intelligence (inin) initiated with a Market Perform at William Blair
Newtek Business Services (NEWT) initiated with a Market Perform at JMP Securities
Shake Shack (SHAK) initiated with a Buy at Stifel
Shake Shack (SHAK) initiated with a Hold at Jefferies
Shake Shack (SHAK) initiated with a Market Perform at William Blair
Shake Shack (SHAK) initiated with a Neutral at Goldman
Shake Shack (SHAK) initiated with a Neutral at JPMorgan
Shake Shack (SHAK) initiated with an Equal Weight at Barclays
Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) initiated with an Overweight at JPMorgan
TRACON Pharmaceuticals (TCON) initiated with a Buy at Stifel
TRACON Pharmaceuticals (TCON) initiated with an Outperform at Oppenheimer

COMPANY NEWS

Hitachi (HTHIY) confirmed acquisition of Finmeccanica's railway assets for EUR 773M
Philips (PHG) said it intends to separate Lighting business through IPO
Bob Chapek named Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (DIS)
First Solar (FSLR), SunPower (SPWR) said they plan to partner to form joint YieldCo vehicle
WEDC to provide up to $9M in tax credits to Exact Sciences (EXAS)
Chegg (CHGG) announced an agreement in principle to establish a multi-year renewable agreement with Ingram Content Group

EARNINGS
Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Home Depot (HD), Carrizo Oil & Gas (CRZO), Pacira (PCRX), Integra LifeSciences (IART), ExlService (EXLS), United Therapeutics (UTHR), Gentherm (THRM), Chart Industries (GTLS), Toll Brothers (TOL), Agrium (AGU), Haverty Furniture (HVT), Hansen Medical (HNSN), Delek US (DK), Delek Logistics (DKL), Quad/Graphics (quad), Sun Hydraulics (SNHY), On Deck Capital (ONDK), AXT, Inc. (AXTI), ONEOK Partners (OKS), Invesco Mortgage (IVR), ONEOK (OKE), Kaman (KAMN), Chegg (CHGG), Nautilus (NLS), Five9 (FIVN), Depomed (DEPO), Continental Building (CBPX)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Sanderson Farms (SAFM), Westlake Chemical Partners (WLKP), Westlake Chemical (WLK), Stock Building Supply (STCK), INC Research (INCR), RCS Capital (RCAP), Alliant Energy (LNT), Rosetta Resources (ROSE), American Tower (AMT), Orchid Island Capital (ORC), Endurance (EIGI), Redwood Trust (RWT), PDL BioPharma (PDLI), Ophthotech (OPHT), Dillard's (DDS), Stifel Financial (SF), MDC Partners (MDCA), Express Scripts (ESRX)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Vitamin Shoppe (VSI), Donaldson (DCI), Seaspan (SSW), DealerTrack (TRAK), AtriCure (ATRC), Texas Roadhouse (TXRH)

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

Eli Lilly (LLY) CEO states company is not for sale, Financial Times reports
Apple (AAPL) hiring chip, battery experts from Samsung (SSNLF), Korea Times reports
JPMorgan (JPM) plans to charge fees for deposits from large clients, WSJ reports
Banks probed for possible rigging of precious metals markets, WSJ reports (HSBC, BNS, BCS, CS, DB, GS, JPM, SCGLY, UBS)

SYNDICATE

BofI Holding (BOFI) files $50M at-the-market equity offering
Colfax (CFX) files automatic mixed securities shelf
Health Care REIT (HCN) files to sell 17M shares of common stock
Marin Software (MRIN) files to sell 1.56M shares of common stock for holders
National Retail Properties (NNN) files automatic mixed securities shelf
Opexa Therapeutics (OPXA) files to sell $63.3M in common stock and units
Q2 Holdings (QTWO) files to sell 4.56M shares of common stock
Real Goods Solar (RGSE) files to sell $3.5M of units
Spirit Airlines (SAVE) files mixed securities shelf, no amount given
Tallgrass Energy (TEP) files to sell 10M common units representing limited partners
Tenax Therapeutics (TENX) files $100M mixed securities shelf
Unisys (UIS) files automatic mixed securities shelf
Xencor (XNCR) files to sell 5.5M shares of common stock