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Frontrunning: February 20

  • Greece Should Not Give In to Germany’s Bullying (FP)
  • Greece Can Pay Its Debts in Full, but It Won’t (WSJ)
  • Early Friday humor: Euro Region Economy Strengthens Amid Wrangling on Greece  (BBG)
  • Euro zone may need extra summit to clinch Greek deal (Reuters)
  • Oil-Drop Pain Spreads to Saudi Arabia’s Energy Behemoth (WSJ)
  • Yellen Confronts Economists’ Ignorance (BBG) - where does one even start with this one
  • ECB Plans to Push Greek Banks to Shed State Debt If Talks Fail (BBG)
  • Nikkei Sets Another 15-Year High (WSJ)
  • Oil slips toward $60 as oversupply weighs (Reuters)
  • For Obamacare challengers, a Supreme Court case built for speed (Reuters)
  • Pattern of Disobedience at Direct Edge Said to Spur Record Fine (BBG)
  • Ex-Qualcomm executive pleads guilty to insider trading (Reuters)

 

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* A U.S. judge ruled that American Express's rules for merchants violate antitrust law, the second major setback in a week for CEO Kenneth Chenault. (http://on.wsj.com/1LiKqX2)

* Google is reaching for its Wallet to keep pace with Apple Pay, but differences in the companies' mobile businesses mean it won't be easy. (http://on.wsj.com/1AqoVyI)

* Saudi Aramco is starting to feel the pain from its country's decision to push OPEC members to keep pumping. Now it is asking contractors for steep discounts in an effort to cut costs. (http://on.wsj.com/1AqrUar)

* Huntington Ingalls plans to boost investment and take on more risk. The Navy's largest shipbuilder also posted lower fourth-quarter profit.(http://on.wsj.com/1MAUPih)

* A divided Federal Trade Commission sued to block Sysco Corp's acquisition of rival US Foods Inc, a long-awaited move that sets the stage for a major court battle over a plan to combine the nation's two largest food distributors. (http://on.wsj.com/1Lh41Fb)

* SABMiller Plc is searching for a new chief financial officer after Jamie Wilson resigned with immediate effect, citing personal reasons. (http://on.wsj.com/1GayGTo)

* Japan Display Inc may build a factory in Japan to increase panel production for clients such as Apple Inc , a person familiar with the matter said Friday. (http://on.wsj.com/1DyN7m1)

 

FT

Investment banks in the UK face possible conflicts of interest and anti-competitive practices' investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority regulator.

Overseas visitors seeking to work, study or attend business meetings in the UK would have to demonstrate they respected "British values", under Conservative proposals led by the British Home Secretary Theresa May, to make this commitment an integral part of any visa application.

The recent scandal over tax evasion by clients of HSBC's Swiss arm is threatening to disrupt two potential takeover deals in the private banking industry sector.

Financial institutions need a private forum to share information about traders who break rules, in order to prevent "bad apples" moving from one firm to another, a panel chaired by Elizabeth Corley, head of Allianz Global Investors will tell the Bank of England on Friday.

 

NYT

* Business in both the United States and Hong Kong is being hampered by delays in trans-Pacific shipments of food and festive items. (http://nyti.ms/1DyBBHx)

* Greece is headed toward a potentially destructive standoff with Europe after Germany rejected a last-minute request on Thursday to extend its loan program. Unless the two sides can bridge their differences, Greece could find itself cut off from its financial lifeline and facing insolvency. (http://nyti.ms/183uQAv)

* Less than 12 months after investors valued Snapchat at about $10 billion, the start-up is again in the market for money - and poised to nearly double that valuation. (http://nyti.ms/1Ljau4c)

* Wal-mart Stores Inc, the largest private employer in the country, said that it would increase wages for a half-million employees, a move that comes amid persistent scrutiny of its labor practices and high employee turnover. (http://nyti.ms/1F0xW2e)

* Wall Street is in a transformation, as bonuses shrink, revenue growth stalls and business lines are cut, driven primarily by regulatory efforts. (http://nyti.ms/1AqmVGw)

* A federal judge ruled that a longstanding practice by American Express aimed at keeping customers from using other forms of payment violates United States antitrust laws. (http://nyti.ms/1MD9eKT)

* The Federal Trade Commission filed suit to halt the proposed merger of Sysco Corp's and US Foods Inc, contending that the deal would inflict higher prices and worse service on restaurants, hospitals, hotels, schools and other food service customers. (http://nyti.ms/1LgWpCz)

 

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

** A Toronto-based market research firm that did work for Target Corp says it was told to switch an invoice from the retailer's U.S.-based parent to Target Canada just several days before the company filed for creditor protection, leaving the firm with what it says is now a C$232,328 ($186,384) unpaid claim. (http://bit.ly/1F1vDfe)

** Steve Laut, the president of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, delivered a stern warning to the oil sands industry, telling a room full of Fort McMurray business people that they need to start cutting costs or the industry will fall into a "death spiral". (http://bit.ly/1AXAL5g)

** British Columbia's police complaint commissioner has reviewed hundreds of Abbotsford police search warrants and found problems that could put at least 43 cases in jeopardy. The investigation into the alleged misconduct of 17 Abbotsford officers dates as far back as 2008 and could stretch further. (http://bit.ly/1CRx4dG)

NATIONAL POST

** After three years of diligently trying to avoid the inevitable, the embattled board of directors at SNC Lavalin Group Inc went into full combat mode Thursday when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police charged the Montreal-based multinational in connection with a criminal investigation into its dealings in Libya. (http://bit.ly/1FBBvPS)

** In the face of new technology and budget cuts, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is mulling the sale of its downtown Toronto headquarters, a move network officials admit may shake staff morale and its public image. (http://bit.ly/1EcyV1a)

** Bombardier Inc will sell C$750 million ($601.68 million) worth of shares at a 10 percent discount to its already beaten-down stock price as it seeks to bolster its balance sheet amid deteriorating financial results. (http://bit.ly/1zshdkX)

 

Britain

The Times

LABOUR'S BIGGEST PRIVATE DONOR? 'TAX DODGE SPECIALISTS' ACCOUNTANCY FIRM PWC

Labour's biggest private donor is the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers the Electoral Commission revealed yesterday despite accusations from a senior Labour MP that the firm has been "selling tax avoidance on an industrial scale". (http://thetim.es/1zRI3BS)

BERLIN REJECTS GREEK PLEA TO EXTEND BAILOUT FOR SIX MONTHS

Greece's new radical left government applied today for a six-month extension of its international bailout but Germany dismissed the request because it failed to renew Athens' commitments to reform and spending cuts. (http://thetim.es/1CPfBCN)

The Guardian

UK SOLDIER LEAVES BASE TO JOIN FIGHT AGAINST ISIS - REPORT

A serving British soldier is believed to have travelled to the Middle East to fight against Islamic State. (http://bit.ly/1zRSRQz)

DAILY TELEGRAPH MAKES 'NO APOLOGY' FOR ITS COVERAGE OF HSBC SCANDAL

The Daily Telegraph has published a leader defending its coverage of the HSBC scandal in which it makes "no apology" for the paper's decision to largely ignore the story. (http://bit.ly/1ApK7Vr)

The Telegraph

REXAM RECOMMENDS 4.4 BLN POUNDS BID FROM BALL CORPORATION

Rexam, the British drinks can maker, has recommended a 4.4 billion stg takeover bid from US rival Ball Corporation after securing a break fee worth up to 302 million stg if the deal falls apart. (http://bit.ly/1BrSRNP)

Sky News

CHELSEA SUSPENDS THREE FANS OVER RACIST CHANT

Chelsea have suspended three supporters as the club investigates racist chanting and a black man being pushed on the Paris Metro. The commuter, Sylla Souleymane, appeared to be stopped from getting on an underground train by fans travelling to a Champions League game against Paris St Germain. (http://bit.ly/1ApzNNk)

THREE UK BANKS TO AWARD 2.5 BLN POUNDS-PLUS BONUS POT

Barclays and two taxpayer-backed lenders - Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland - will separately announce approximately 2.8 billion stg in new awards alongside their annual results during the next 12 days. (http://bit.ly/1EbiqT8)

The Independent

BRITISH GAS'S PARENT COMPANY SEES SHARES TUMBLE AFTER ANNOUNCING 35 PCT PROFIT DROP

The parent company of British Gas has seen a dramatic fall in profits after being hit by falling oil prices and warmer weather. Centrica, which as well as owning British Gas also counts Direct Energy and Bord Gais Energy among its assets, saw profits slide by 35 percent for the financial year to 31 December. (http://ind.pn/1DEqPhp)

 

Fly On The Wall Pre-Market Buzz

ECONOMIC REPORTS

Domestic economic reports scheduled for today include:
Markit’s flash manufacturing PMI for February at 9:45--consensus 53.6
Baker Hughes rig count for week of February 20 at 13:00--prior 1358

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

Aixtron (AIXG) upgraded to Hold from Sell at Societe Generale
DSW (DSW) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Canaccord
Eni SpA (E) upgraded to Neutral from Underperform at Credit Suisse
Kaiser Aluminum (KALU) upgraded to Buy from Hold at KeyBanc
Knowles (KN) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
Marvell (MRVL) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at FBR Capital
MiMedx (MDXG) upgraded to Strong Buy from Buy at Needham
Reliance Steel (RS) upgraded to Buy from Hold at KeyBanc

Downgrades

A. M. Castle (CAS) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies
Approach Resources (AREX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Canaccord
CIBC (CM) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette
Caixabank (CAIXY) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
EOG Resources (EOG) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
Fiesta Restaurant (FRGI) downgraded to Outperform from Strong Buy at Raymond James
Garmin (GRMN) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Atlantic Equities
Granite Construction (GVA) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Hasbro (HAS) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays
Home Loan Servicing (HLSS) downgraded to Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette
Home Loan Servicing (HLSS) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Host Hotels (HST) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel
Materion (MTRN) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies
Noodles & Company (ndls) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
Noodles & Company (ndls) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
Northern Oil and Gas (NOG) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Canaccord
Oil States (OIS) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
Rocket Fuel (FUEL) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
Royal Bank of Canada (RY) downgraded to Underperform at Keefe Bruyette
Tenaris (TS) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Exane BNP Paribas
Tenaris (TS) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie
Wal-Mart (WMT) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays

Initiations

Advanced Drainage (WMS) initiated with an Outperform at Boenning & Scattergood
Cash America (CSH) initiated with a Buy at Jefferies
DealerTrack (TRAK) coverage resumed with a Buy at Evercore ISI
Forest City (FCE.A) initiated with a Neutral at Citigroup
GrubHub (GRUB) initiated with an Overweight at Barclays
Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ) initiated with an Outperform at BMO Capital
Kinder Morgan (KMI) reinstated with an Overweight at Barclays

COMPANY NEWS

Intuit (INTU) CFO said fraud did not result from breach of company's systems
BGC Partners (BGCP), GFI Group (GFIG) reached agreement, GFI board supports BGC offer
General Motors (GM) named Craig Glidden as new general counsel
Sanofi (SNY) appointed Olivier Brandicourt CEO
Newmont Mining (NEM) reported FY14 gold reserves 82.2M oz, copper reserves 7.9B lbs

EARNINGS

Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Barnes Group (B), CommScope (COMM), Genesis Healthcare (GEN), Hudbay Minerals (HBM), EnPro (NPO), New Gold (NGD), AuRico Gold (AUQ), Novatel Wireless (MIFI), Tremor Video (TRMR), Rocket Fuel (FUEL), Universal Electronics (UEIC), AMN Healthcare (AHS), Marvell (MRVL), Paragon Offshore (PGN), Keysight Technologies (KEYS), Century Communities (CCS), Tallgrass Energy (TEP), XenoPort (XNPT), Newmont Mining (NEM), inContact (SAAS), TrueCar (TRUE), Arista Networks (ANET), NMI Holdings (NMIH), Spectranetics (SPNC), IPC Healthcare (IPCM), Rovi (ROVI), Bruker (BRKR), Fiesta Restaurant (FRGI), Brocade (BRCD), Intuit (INTU)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Silver Standard (SSRI), Basic Energy (BAS), Eldorado Gold (EGO), Thompson Creek (TC), Builders FirstSource (BLDR), Hyster-Yale Materials (HY), Consolidated Edison (ED), Colony Financial (CLNY), Superior Energy (SPN), Universal Truckload (UACL), Chesapeake Lodging (CHSP), Community Health (CYH), BioTelemetry (BEAT), MRC Global (MRC), TESARO (TSRO), Equinix (EQIX), Nordstrom (JWN), Financial Engines (FNGN), Noodles & Company (ndls), California Resources Corp. (crc), Frontier Communications (FTR), Acacia Research (ACTG)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Select Medical (SEM), Internap (INAP)

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

Ann Inc. (ANN) working with JPMorgan on potential sale, Bloomberg reports
YouTube (GOOG) to release standalone app for kids, WSJ reports
Sony (SNE) may be contemplating replacing CEO Hirai with CFO Yoshida, NY Post reports
Amazon (AMZN) expands two-hour delivery program to Brooklyn, Re/code reports
Bayer (BAYRY) close to selling diabetes unit to Panasonic Healthcare (KKR, PCRFY), Bloomberg says
Apple (AAPL) pushing for 2020 production of its electric car, Bloomberg reports

SYNDICATE

AvalonBay (AVB) files automatic mixed securities shelf
BofI Holding (BOFI) files $300M mixed securities shelf, $50M in common stock
CollabRx (CLRX) 3.84M share Secondary priced at $1.25