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Frontrunning: March 30

  • Setbacks and progress as Iran, six powers meet to end nuclear impasse (Reuters)
  • Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Leave Iran Nuclear Talks (WSJ)
  • Obama Ramps Up Lobbying on Iran as Deadline Looms (WSJ)
  • Greek yields edge up as lenders scrutinise reform pledge (Reuters)
  • Oil prices drop on possible Iran deal, dollar (Reuters)
  • Yemen’s Houthis Battle for Aden as Saudi Strikes Hit Rebels (BBG)
  • Iran nuclear deal to see $20 oil if Tehran floods crude market (Telegraph)
  • China’s Zhou Says PBOC Has Room to Act on Growth Slowdown (BBG)
  • Just what autism nation needs: It’s Really Here: TV for Babies (WSJ)
  • How DIY Bond Traders Displaced Wall Street’s Hot Shots (BBG)
  • Greece’s Tsipras to Address Lawmakers on Creditor Talks (BBG)
  • FDA 'Taking a Very Light Touch' on Regulating the Apple Watch (BBG)
  • Oil Speculators Focused on Glut Miss Surge as Bombs Hit Yemen (BBG)
  • Why are interest rates so low? (Ben Bernanke)

 

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* BabyFirstTV, which is owned by BFTV LLC, is making its way into more U.S. homes after cutting deals with pay-TV distributors including Time Warner Cable and is aiming its programming at children as young as six months. (http://on.wsj.com/1IIL7an)

* Ford and General Motors, two biggest U.S. auto makers will unveil new passenger cars at the New York International Auto Show later this week. (http://on.wsj.com/1IILmlQ)

* Facebook Inc is hiring in Hong Kong and has tapped a second local partner to reach advertisers and is waging a charm campaign to draw more business from Chinese companies, even though Chinese users can't access its service. (http://on.wsj.com/1IILrpu)

* Reynolds American Inc and Lorillard Inc. are expected to meet this week with members of the Federal Trade Commission ahead of a final decision by the agency on whether to allow the companies to merge, according to people familiar with the matter. (http://on.wsj.com/1IILxgS)

* EIG Global Energy Partners agreed to invest $1 billion in Breitburn Energy Partners LP, a publicly traded oil and gas exploration and production company, as energy producers turn to alternative capital sources in an effort to bolster their balance sheets amid slumping oil prices. (http://on.wsj.com/1IILB05)

 

FT

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband will try to align the party on Monday with a sceptical business community, urging that only he can avert the "clear and present danger" posed to the economy by a Conservative referendum on Europe.

British Prime Minister David Cameron will be driven to Buckingham Palace on Monday to notify Queen Elizabeth of the dissolution of parliament, as he seeks to deploy the grandeur of his office to reboot a stumbling start to the general election campaign.

Fewer migrants have come to the UK looking for work during the current parliament's tenure than under Labour's final term in office, and they are ever more highly skilled, new research by the Oxford-based Migration Observatory, commissioned by the Financial Times shows.

British investment company Alliance Trust has come under fresh attack from Tim Ingram, a former director who sat on the board for two years until 2012, who criticised the company's "dismal" performance and pay of its chief executive Katherine Garrett-Cox.

 

NYT

* Some of the most aggressive contemporary purveyors of information, journalistic and otherwise, are betting on feature-length motion pictures. In the last several years, BuzzFeed Media, Vice Media, CNN, Condé Nast and Newsweek have all built units or alliances aimed in part at creating long-form narrative or documentary films that will be seen in theaters. (http://nyti.ms/1IIJDNj)

* Johanna Basford's intricately hand-drawn coloring book "Secret Garden", which released in the spring of 2013, has sold more than 1.4 million copies in 22 languages. It shot to the top of Amazon's best-seller list this month, overtaking books by authors like Harper Lee, Anthony Doerr and Paula Hawkins. (http://nyti.ms/1GFHrqL)

* Ford Motor Co will unveil a new version of its full-size Continental sedan this week at the New York International Auto Show, signifying the return of a car that epitomized elegance in the 1960s before it faded into obscurity and went out of production in 2002. (http://nyti.ms/1Dbfgif)

* GNC Holdings Inc, United States' largest specialty retailer of dietary supplements, has agreed to institute sweeping new testing procedures that far exceed quality controls mandated under federal law. (http://nyti.ms/1G79v5P)

* The extraordinary circumstances that led to last week's crash of the Germanwings jet, where a pilot seemingly brought down an airplane, killing everyone aboard, means that the airline's insurers could end up paying hundreds of millions of dollars to the victims' families, according to legal experts. (http://nyti.ms/1CoaY5b)

 

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

** Canada's municipalities are calling for the federal budget to include at least C$1 billion ($791.2 million) a year in new cash for public transit, insisting the projects will boost economic growth and reduce commute times. The specific request to be announced by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities comes as urban transit issues are shaping up to be a key focus for the 2015 federal election. (http://bit.ly/1EUcieL)

** The closing of two General Motors Co assembly plants in Oshawa, Ontario, would wipe out about 30,000 jobs, slice more than C$5 billion out of Ontario's gross domestic product and cost the federal and Ontario governments C$1-billion in lost revenue. (http://bit.ly/1NxZ2D1)

** After taking 26 months to launch its first stores in Canada, U.S. discounter Target Corp is now looking at shutting all 133 of them in just three months, a month less than originally planned. Target Canada plans to speed its store closings by one month and turn off the lights by mid-April, a court filing says. (http://bit.ly/1Nkmwvc)

NATIONAL POST

** Best Buy Co Inc announced it is shutting down dozens of Future Shop stores across Canada, effective immediately, resulting in about 1,500 job losses. Of 131 Future Shop locations across the country, 66 will be shuttered for good and the remaining 65 will be turned into Best Buy outlets. (http://bit.ly/19nTJH9)

** Postmedia Network Canada Corp's apparent plans to sell the 35 properties it is acquiring from Quebecor Media Inc won't come to fruition overnight, but there is a market for the portfolio which consists mostly of real estate in small towns, say industry analysts. A single buyer for the entire portfolio seems unlikely, said John Redvers, acting national manager of Royal LePage Commercial. (http://bit.ly/1Dd6Ln0)

** Oil inventories at key Alberta storage hubs of Edmonton and Hardisty breached 10 million barrels in each location last week, according to data from global energy consultancy Genscape, suggesting Canadian oil prices may trend even lower in the near future. (http://bit.ly/1Ny4gyD)

 

China

CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL

- China's monetary policies are unconventional during the "new normal" period, which means liquidity is ample but the government has to continue monetary easing as the country faces pressure to achieve its goal of 7 percent GDP growth in the first quarter, said Chen Yulu, member of the monetary policy committee of People's Bank of China.

- China's medium and large-scale steel companies continued to post losses in the first quarter of this year, which indicates increasing pressures due to the slowdown in the economy.

- A total of 1,029 listed companies released their annual financial results. Net profit increased by 1.74 trillion yuan ($279.99 billion) or 5.7 percent in 2014, data from Wind Information, a domestic financial data provider, showed.

SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS

- China Pacific Insurance Group's net profit grew 19.3 percent in 2014, its annual report showed on Monday.

- China's over-the-counter Beijing equity board reached transaction volumes of over 6.5 billion yuan last week, another all time high, according to eastmoney.com's CHOICE data service.

- The Shanghai bond clearing house will begin implementing centralized clearing to the interbank market on Monday, in accordance with a decision announced in February.

CHINA DAILY

- China will need about 10,000 new light aircraft within the next five years to accommodate the general aviation expansion, said Pan Liwu, executive vice-president of AVIC International Holding Corp, a state-controlled aviation firm.

Britain

The Times

UK TREASURY TAKES AIM AT 'SLOPPY' ONS DATA

The Treasury has criticised the British government's own statisticians for a catalogue of sloppiness, including mistakes and slow responses with data. (http://thetim.es/19jTHjy)

ALLIANCE TRUST COMES UNDER FIRE CLOSER TO HOME

Alliance Trust, the investment trust under attack by an American hedge fund, has come under fire on a second front. Tim Ingram, a former non-executive director who claims that he was eased out of the embattled investment trust, has written to shareholders, 60,000 of whom are private investors, arguing that Alliance had lagged the average return in its sector over five years. (http://thetim.es/19jUYXI)

The Guardian

EU REFERENDUM WILL PLAY HAVOC WITH BUSINESS, ED MILIBAND WARNS

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband will attempt to win over a reluctant business community on Monday by warning that an EU referendum proposed by David Cameron would trigger a bitter two-year campaign in which a re-elected Tory party would tear itself apart over whether the UK should remain in Europe. (http://bit.ly/1BICN5I)

PAY FREEZES AND CUTS CONTRADICT CLAIMS BY GEORGE OSBORNE

More than 40 percent of Britain's recession-scarred workers expect to receive a pay freeze or a cut to their wages this year despite Britain's Finance Minister George Osborne's claim to have restored living standards, ensuring they would "grow strongly every year for the rest of the decade". (http://bit.ly/1HebaFe)

The Telegraph

NATIONWIDE DEFIES BANKS' BRANCH CLOSURES WITH MAJOR CASH INJECTION

Britain's biggest building society is planning a major investment in its branches, despite its banking rivals close hundreds of high-street locations. Nationwide plans to spend around 300 million pounds ($446.88 million) on its branch network over the next five years, it is understood, in a ringing endorsement of its bricks and mortar operation. (http://bit.ly/1G6t3av)

NETWORK RAIL TO BE BROKEN UP OR SOLD OFF UNDER RESTRUCTURING

The Government is thought to be exploring restructuring options over the future of Network Rail, fuelling speculation that the state-owned company could be broken up or sold. (http://bit.ly/1HeaTSZ)

Sky News

MILIBAND'S NHS PLEDGE AT CAMPAIGN LAUNCH

Labour leader Ed Miliband has launched his party's General Election campaign with a promise to safeguard the future of the National Health Service. (http://bit.ly/1D9H5rb)

GULF KEYSTONE INVESTORS PUSH TO REMOVE MURRAY

Investors in a controversial London-listed oil company are demanding that it begins hunting a successor to its chairman in return for backing a 30 million pounds fundraising. (http://bit.ly/1BBDaOt)

The Independent

SPORTS DIRECT: TRIBUNAL THREAT OVER 'DODGY' USC REDUNDANCIES

Sports Direct ignored repeated attempts by administrators to consult with staff who lost their jobs in the "dodgy" collapse of its fashion brand USC, and could potentially face employment tribunals for not giving workers enough notice. (http://ind.pn/1OCaZc8)

GOOGLE FACED WITH PRIVACY LAWSUITS FOR SNOOPING ON APPLE USERS WITHOUT CONSENT

Google Inc could face a wave of privacy lawsuits in the UK after three people won the right to sue the search giant for snooping on their web browsing. (http://ind.pn/1En0lTI)

Fly on The Wall Pre-Market Buzz

ECONOMIC REPORTS

Domestic economic reports scheduled for today include:
Personal income for February at 8:30--consensus up 0.3%
Consumer spending for February at 8:30--consensus up 0.2%
Pending home sales index for February at 10:00--consensus up 0.4%
Dallas Fed manufacturing activity index for March at 10:30--consensus -9.0

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

Analog Devices (ADI) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
BHP Billiton (BHP) upgraded to Outperformer from Sector Performer at CIBC
Continental Resources (CLR) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Societe Generale
FirstEnergy (FE) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Gibraltar Industries (ROCK) upgraded to Overweight from Sector Weight at KeyBanc
ITG (ITG) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Evercore ISI
Madison Square Garden (MSG) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Topeka
Madison Square Garden (MSG) upgraded to Overweight at Morgan Stanley
Nike (NKE) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
Restoration Hardware (RH) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
Western Union (WU) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Evercore ISI
Wolverine World Wide (WWW) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird

Downgrades

Altera (ALTR) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley
Genesco (GCO) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
LINN Energy (LINE) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at UBS
LinnCo (LNCO) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at UBS
MTN Group (MTNOY) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Goldman
Melco Crown (MPEL) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
S&T Bancorp (STBA) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James
Spark Energy (SPKE) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel
WM Morrison (MRWSY) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
World Point Terminals (WPT) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel
Xilinx (XLNX) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley
Xilinx (XLNX) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at MKM Partners

Initiations

Carrizo Oil & Gas (CRZO) initiated with a Buy at Societe Generale
Dominion Midstream (DM) initiated with a Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Hilltop Holdings (HTH) initiated with an Outperform at Macquarie
Hortonworks (HDP) initiated with an Equal Weight at Barclays
InfraREIT (HIFR) initiated with a Buy at Evercore ISI
LendingClub (LC) initiated with a Sector Perform at Pacific Crest
On Deck Capital (ONDK) initiated with an Outperform at Pacific Crest
Stonegate Bank (SGBK) initiated with a Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette
Summit Therapeutics (smmt) initiated with a Buy at Needham
TiVo (TIVO) initiated with an Outperform at Macquarie

COMPANY NEWS

Microsoft (MSFT), Yahoo (YHOO) extend search partnership discussions for 30 days
UnitedHealth's (UNH) OptumRX to acquire Catamaran (CTRX) for $61.50 per share in cash
Horizon Pharma (HZNP) to acquire Hyperion Therapeutics (HPTX) for $46.00 per share
Best Buy Canada (BBY) announced consolidation of Future Shop and Best Buy stores
BreitBurn Energy (BBEP) announced $1B strategic investment by EIG, said to reduce common distribution to 50c per unit on an annualized basis
GSK (GSK) reached agreement with U.K. on meningitis B vaccine
Realty Income (O) to replace Windstream (WIN) in S&P 500 as of 4/6 close

EARNINGS

Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Fifth Street Asset (FSAM)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Cypress Energy (CELP)

China Nepstar (NPD) reports Q4 EPS 6c, one estimate (1c)
Best Buy (BBY) sees FY16 EPS lower by 10c-20c due to Canada consolidation
Earthstone Energy (ESTE) reports Q4 EPS ($3.83) vs. ($1.41) in Q413

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

Intel (INTC) in talks to buy Altera (ALTR), WSJ reports
If Intel (INTC) buys Altera (ALTR), Xilinx (XLNX) may become a takeover target, Re/code reports
BNY Mellon (BK) denies initiating CEO search, FT reports
Yahoo's (YHOO) Mayer may look to 'shuffle' executive suite, NY Post reports
Reynolds American (RAI), Lorillard (LO) to meet with FTC this week, WSJ reports
HD Supply (HDS) could gain over 30%, Barron's says
J.M. Smucker (SJM) could rise 25%, Barron's says
Investors should use caution with Urban Outfitters (URBN), Barron's says
Shake Shack (SHAK) looks overvalued, Barron's says

SYNDICATE

Aldeyra (ALDX) files to sell 2.23M shares of common stock for holders
BlackRock Capital Investment Corp. (BKCC) files $1.5B mixed securities shelf
Cara Therapeutics (CARA) files $150M mixed securities shelf
Crown Castle (CCI) files automatic mixed securities shelf
Dara BioSciences (DARA) files $30M mixed securities shelf
MPLX (MPLX) files to sell $1.5B of common units representing limited partners
Mylan (MYL) files to sell 35M shares of stock for Abbott subsidiaries