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Frontrunning: January 29

  • Who Doubts Yellen's Policies? Summers for One (BBG)
  • Samsung, Apple Back in Dead Heat for Global Smartphone Dominance (WSJ)
  • Islamic State purportedly sets new deadline for hostage swap (Reuters)
  • Turkey's $7.9 Billion Mystery Money That's Simply Vanished (BBG)
  • How a Two-Tier Economy Is Reshaping the U.S. Marketplace (WSJ)
  • U.S. Prisons Grapple With Aging Population (WSJ)
  • Hasenstab Sees $3 Billion Vanish in Ukraine as One Big Bet Sours (BBG) - maybe he should BTFD, pardon, "invest" in Belarus next?
  • Belarus May Seek Debt Restructuring in 2015, President Says (BBG)
  • Malaysia says MH370 crash an accident to clear compensation (AP)
  • Deutsche Bank Has ‘Stronger’ Start to Year in Trading (BBG)
  • Ford Earnings Down on North America Ops, Venezuela Charge (WSJ)
  • Alibaba Profit Misses Estimates as Jack Ma Boosts App Spending (BBG)
  • Pelosi says Netanyahu speech to Congress could hurt Iran talks (Reuters)
  • Hershey dips into meat market with Krave Jerky (AP)
  • Air Force picks Boeing 747-8 to replace Air Force One (Reuters)

 

 

Fly On The Wall Pre-Market Buzz

WSJ

* McDonald's Corp said Chief Executive Don Thompson was leaving, less than three years into his tenure, and promoted a company veteran to try to revive the fast-food giant from its worst slump in more than a decade. (http://on.wsj.com/1tuLRwF)

* The population of graying U.S. prisoners has exploded in recent years largely because more offenders are entering or re-entering prison in middle age, new research shows. (http://on.wsj.com/1HgBsuF)

* The advance of wealthy households, while middle- and lower-income Americans struggle, is reshaping markets for everything from housing to clothing to beer. (http://on.wsj.com/1LjpbVO)

* The Federal Reserve signaled it would keep short-term interest rates near zero at least until midyear, while also setting the stage for tough decisions in the coming weeks about whether it should wait even longer. (http://on.wsj.com/15SUq9n)

* Sony Corp said it is shutting down its $10-a-month Music Unlimited at the end of March, four years after launching it in the United States. The streaming service, one of the biggest in Japan, is integrated into Sony's PlayStation consoles and has counted mostly PlayStation users among its subscribers. (http://on.wsj.com/1y82x9X)

* Facebook Inc isn't signing up new users the way it once did, but the social network is generating a lot more revenue from each user. (http://on.wsj.com/1K8cmu8)

* U.S. business groups are asking China to postpone a new cyber security review process that they say is too intrusive and involves disclosing sensitive material to the Chinese government. (http://on.wsj.com/1Ljv19L)

* A surprise move by Singapore to ease monetary policy is the latest sign of the pressure on policy makers at a time of falling commodity prices, declining inflation and softening growth expectations. (http://on.wsj.com/1yB1L4h)

* Reynolds American Inc won shareholder approval for its $25 billion acquisition of Lorillard Inc. Shareholders of Reynolds, Lorillard and Imperial Tobacco Group TLC voted in favor of the deal, which still needs regulatory approval. The Federal Trade Commission is expected to weigh in later this quarter. (http://on.wsj.com/1wCGPco)

* The Chinese government accused e-commerce giant Alibaba of failing to crack down on the sale of fake goods, bribery and other illegal activity on its sites in a rare public dispute with one of the country's most prominent companies. (http://on.wsj.com/1zeNhux)

* Hundreds of Standard Chartered's most senior executives gathered earlier this month on Singapore's Sentosa island to address the global bank's dimming fortunes. From a lectern at a colonial-style resort, Chief Executive Peter Sands warned that management has just a few months to turn around the bank or risk losing the support of the board of directors, according to attendees. (http://on.wsj.com/1CNWtZJ)

* Big money is beginning to wash over the new media landscape. Both Mashable and Business Insider are expected to announce significant venture capital investments Thursday, building on a recent trend of hefty cash infusions and valuations for the sector's biggest players. (http://on.wsj.com/15WpTbK)

 

FT

* Societe Generale and Goldman Sachs Group Inc are among several banks that are discussing plans to back Aztec Money, a peer-to-peer financing platform. The sector is also attracting interests from high-profile individuals, with Arianna Huffington, the latest to join a P2P lender.

* UK's parliamentary watchdog has abandoned hopes for examining state support to a contract with French company EDF , which is behind a proposed 24 billion pound ($36.3 billion) twin reactor scheme in Somerset, where Hinkley Point is located. This comes after the watchdog predicted that a deal would not be struck before general elections in May.

* Songbird Estates Plc, agreed on Wednesday to a 2.6 billion pound offer from Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and Brookfield for Canary Wharf, one of the world's leading financial districts. The board of Songbird maintained that the 350 pence per share offer undervalued the company but advised the minority investors to accept the deal as it had the support from the largest shareholders and there was no rival bid coming.

* BP Plc has handed U.S. oil company Chevron Corp a big stake in development of 1 billion barrels of crude in the Gulf of Mexico in a agreement that is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

 

NYT

* Switzerland's move to untie its currency from the euro has caused the franc to soar, along with hundreds of thousands of mortgage payments in Poland. (http://nyti.ms/1JKM96t)

* Investors made clear on Wednesday the depth of their concerns about Greece's new leftist-led government, driving up its borrowing costs, pushing down stock prices and highlighting the risks in the country's banking system. (http://nyti.ms/1wCLdIm)

* Yahoo Inc will be judged by its core Internet businesses after spinning off its $39 billion stake in the Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd, the Chinese e-commerce behemoth - accounting for about 85 percent of the market value of Yahoo. (http://nyti.ms/1Erejn9)

* The Chinese government has adopted new regulations requiring companies that sell computer equipment to Chinese banks to turn over secret source code, submit to invasive audits and build so-called back doors into hardware and software, according to a copy of the rules obtained by foreign technology companies that do billions of dollars' worth of business in China. (http://nyti.ms/1wCMhfj)

* The Basel Committee for Banking Supervision made public last Friday its list of priorities for the coming year, a document that is essential reading for banks and anyone else trying to determine what direction bank regulation around the world may take. The committee includes representatives of 28 countries, including the United States, who will use the committee's guidelines to write up their own standards. (http://nyti.ms/1DbAfOM)

* A federal bankruptcy judge in Delaware said on Wednesday that Caesars Entertainment Co, the troubled casino operator, could proceed with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy of its largest unit in its preferred jurisdiction of Chicago, handing an incremental but important victory to the company and its private equity backers. (http://nyti.ms/1z5ntCL)

* The Federal Reserve kept its options open on Wednesday, signaling that it would not raise short-term interest rates any earlier than June, while leaving unresolved how much longer it might be willing to wait before lifting its benchmark rate from near zero, where the central bank has held it for more than six years. (http://nyti.ms/1K8nOpN)

 

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

** When the Bank of Canada slashed its key interest rate by 0.25 percentage points last week, the big question was whether the Big Six banks would follow suit. But within hours of the surprising rate cut, Toronto-Dominion Bank said it was considering holding its prime rate steady. During this time, three banks privately told The Globe and Mail that they were closely watching each other's actions. If one cut, it was clear they all would. (http://bit.ly/1DjiM7E)

** Declining enrolment is taking a huge toll on Canada's largest school board, and one in five schools now are targets for possible closing. The Toronto District School Board released a list on Wednesday evening that compares the number of students an institution can accommodate to its enrolment numbers. (http://bit.ly/18xm8uj)

** Canada is being dragged into "overzealous" financial regulation by a global campaign to root out risky bank lending practices, former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge argues in a new report. (http://bit.ly/1CBtCHv)

NATIONAL POST

** Canada and the international coalition have relied heavily on air strikes to support Kurdish peshmerga fighters combatting the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham in Iraq, but this hasn't addressed the group's most lethal tactic. (http://bit.ly/1tw8D7d)

** Six weeks after Cenovus Energy Inc unveiled a pared-back capital budget for 2015, the continued slide in oil prices has forced the oilsands major to announce Wednesday another C$700 million in spending cuts and trim the number of contractors it employs. (http://bit.ly/1HhUjFI)

** Almost a year after the federal government revamped the way medical marijuana is produced and distributed in Canada - moving from home-based operations to large-scale commercial ones - the fledgling industry continues to encounter growing pains. (http://bit.ly/1LjXwEb)

 

Hong Kong

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

-- The mainland launched two legal experiments in Shenzhen, setting up the country's first circuit court and a court in Qianhai that will feature a jury with members from Hong Kong. The circuit court is aimed at promoting judicial independence and reducing interference by local party officials. The court will start hearings on Monday. (bit.ly/1K6VWlD)

-- The Securities and Futures Commission increased its enforcement activity as a study showed it has issued 56 percent more disciplinary and criminal actions against companies and individuals last year than in 2013. The regulator projected a budget deficit of HK$416.94 million for the coming fiscal year as it hires more staff to handle regulatory work. (bit.ly/1zdW6ok)

-- Mainland movie star and director Zhao Wei and her husband may have breached Hong Kong's disclosure law by delaying the reporting of their HK$3.1 billion purchase of a 9.18 per cent stake in Alibaba Pictures for a month. The couple made the purchase on December 20 but it was only disclosed in a stock exchange filing on January 23. (bit.ly/1Br6IyE)

THE STANDARD

-- Link REIT management defended its ground breaking move to splash some HK$10 billion on a commercial project in Kwun Tong, denying it is turning into a property developer. The shopping malls operator reassured unitholders that income distribution per unit will not be affected by the hefty spending. (bit.ly/1Br79ZQ)

-- Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah is expected to scrap more sweeteners in next month's budget for a second year in a row. Among those to be dropped is the one-month free rent that public housing tenants enjoyed this fiscal year. (bit.ly/1yOQLFk)

MING PAO DAILY

-- More people from Hong Kong and Macau choose to migrate to Taiwan amid affordable property price, with the number of application surging 40 percent year on year to 6,400 last year, while the volume of application is expected to increase to 10,000 this year, according to Centaline's Asia-Pacific chief executive Addy Wong Wai-hung.

 

Britain

The Times

Tesco has pinpointed the locations of 43 unprofitable supermarkets and earmarked them for closure under a restructuring by the struggling grocery chain's new chief executive. Up to 2,000 jobs will be affected by the closures. (thetim.es/1wBGiHN)

A report into the collapse of HBOS will be delayed until after the general election amid wrangling about the roles of senior staff in the bank's failure in 2008. (thetim.es/1DhZi3b)

The Guardian

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for justice and home affairs, called for the prompt passage of legislation to collect and retain information on anyone flying into or out of the European Union as part of a package of counter-terror policies following the attacks in Paris and the foiling plots in Belgium. (bit.ly/18vQ5Li)

The Scottish government has announced a moratorium on all planning consents for unconventional oil and gas extraction, including fracking. Energy Minister Fergus Ewing told parliament that the moratorium would allow time for the government to launch a full public consultation on the controversial drilling technique. (bit.ly/1y5F8G7)

The Telegraph

BP has moved closer to achieving its target of around $10 billion (6.60 billion pounds) of divestments in 2015 after it sold a big share in two of its prospects in the Gulf of Mexico to U.S. oil major Chevron Corp. (bit.ly/15JzS3i)

The Bank of England may increase interest rates by no more than half a percentage point a year and not return to anything like pre-crisis levels for the foreseeable future, according its chief economist. The central bank is "in no rush to raise" its interest rates, according to Andy Haldane, and the base rate could go no higher than 2.5 percent, even by the end of the decade. (bit.ly/1ywJ1Tv)

Sky News

Tesco has recalled one of its own-brand squash drinks after customers complained of a "disgusting smell" and some children were reportedly left vomiting. A flavour additive was added in error to the squash, but Tesco said it posed no food safety risk. (bit.ly/15Ve1GW)

The bosses of Britain's biggest bookmakers have urged the government to extend advertising curbs across the industry as they seek to avoid "an unlevel playing field" with smaller rivals. Executives from Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill met Helen Grant, the Gambling Minister to discuss recent progress on responsible gambling initiatives. (bit.ly/1LiM5g6)

The Independent

Canary Wharf's majority owner, Songbird Estates, has accepted a 2.6 billion-pound ($3.94 billion) bid from Qatar and Canada after international attempts to find another buyer failed. (ind.pn/1uARHHU)

 

 

Fly On The Wall Pre-market Buzz

ECONOMIC REPORTS

Domestic economic reports scheduled for today include:
Jobless claims for week of Jan. 24 at 8:30--consensus 300K
Pending home sales index for December at 10:00--consensus up 0.5%

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

AngloGold (AU) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
Arctic Cat (ACAT) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
Qorvo (QRVO) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Northland
RockTenn (RKT) upgraded to Buy from Hold at KeyBanc

Downgrades

Cavium (CAVM) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at JMP Securities
Fortinet (FTNT) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at Pacific Crest
General Mills (GIS) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
HSBC (HSBC) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Exane BNP Paribas
Helmerich & Payne (HP) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup
Infosys (INFY) downgraded to Underperform from Hold at Jefferies
MeadWestvaco (MWV) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Longbow
Petrobras (PBR) downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at HSBC
Philips (PHG) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Pinnacle West (PNW) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
RE/MAX Holdings (RMAX) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Union Bankshares (UBSH) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Compass Point
United Financial (UBNK) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Keefe Bruyette
Vivendi (VIVHY) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies
Westpac Banking (WBK) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup
Wipro (WIT) downgraded to Underperform from Hold at Jefferies

Initiations

Alpha Natural (ANR) initiated with an Underperform at Macquarie
Arch Coal (ACI) initiated with a Neutral at Macquarie
BioMarin (BMRN) initiated with a Buy at Evercore ISI
CONSOL (CNX) initiated with a Neutral at Macquarie
comScore (SCOR) initiated with an Outperform at Wedbush
Clearwater Paper (CLW) initiated with an Outperform at Macquarie
Cloud Peak (CLD) initiated with a Neutral at Macquarie
L Brands (LB) initiated with a Neutral at Wedbush
Mercer (MERC) initiated with a Neutral at Macquarie
Metaldyne Performance (MPG) initiated with a Buy at KeyBanc
PMC-Sierra (PMCS) initiated with an Outperform at Imperial Capital
Peabody (BTU) initiated with a Neutral at Macquarie
Rayonier Advanced Materials (RYAM) initiated with a Neutral at Macquarie
Vitae Pharmaceuticals (VTAE) initiated with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Wausau Paper (WPP) initiated with a Neutral at Macquarie
Xerium Technologies (XRM) initiated with an Outperform at Macquarie

COMPANY NEWS
McDonald's (MCD) President and CEO Don Thompson to retire, effective March 1. The board has elected Steve Easterbrook to replace Thompson as president and CEO. Additionally, Pete Bensen, senior executive VP and CFO, is being promoted to the newly-created role of Chief Administrative Officer. Kevin Ozan, who currently serves as SVP and Corporate Controller, will succeed Bensen and as EVP and CFO
Citrix (CTXS) announced the implementation of a restructuring program designed to increase strategic focus and operational efficiency. The restructuring will affect approximately 700 full-time and 200 contractor positions, and is expected to result in annualized pre-tax savings in the range of approximately $90M-$100M
Qualcomm (QCOM) cut 2H15 outlook for semiconductor business largely driven by the effects of: A shift in share among OEMs at the premium tier, which has reduced its near-term opportunity for sales of its integrated Snapdragon processors and has skewed our product mix towards more modem chipsets in this tier; Expectations that its Snapdragon 810 processor will not be in the upcoming design cycle of a large customer's flagship device; and Heightened competition in China  
Toshiba (TOSBF) to license North American TV business to Compal Electronics
Salix Pharmaceuticals (SLXP) said it will restate results for fiscal 2013 and the first three quarters of fiscal 2014
Facebook (FB) reported monthly active users up 13% to 1.39B

EARNINGS
Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Qualcomm (QCOM), Facebook (FB), Wi-LAN (WILN), Capital Bank (CBF), Capital Bank (CBF), Alexion (ALXN), Cabot Microelectronics (CCMP), Cascade Bancorp (CACB), Helmerich & Payne (HP), Xcel Energy (XEL), Air Products (APD), Potash (POT), MEDNAX (MD), Thermo Fisher (TMO), CARBO Ceramics (CRR), Check Point (CHKP), IBERIABANK (IBKC), PTC Inc. (PTC), Teradyne (TER), Murphy Oil (MUR), Kirby (KEX), First Connecticut (FBNK), Astoria Financial (AF), DHT Holdings (DHT), Celadon Group (CGI), Tetra Tech (TTEK), MKS Instruments (MKSI), Cabot (CBT), Washington Trust Bancorp (WASH), West Corp. (WSTC), ShoreTel (SHOR), Financial Institutions (FISI), Intersil (ISIL), Ameriprise (AMP), PAREXEL (PRXL), Flextronics (FLEX), Extreme Networks (EXTR), ServiceNow (NOW), Swift Transport (SWFT), Electro Scientific (ESIO), Mellanox (MLNX), Aspen Technology (AZPN), Cardiovascular Systems (CSII), Cavium (CAVM), Tractor Supply (TSCO), Hologic (HOLX), Qorvo (QRVO), Citrix (CTXS), Vertex (VRTX), Las Vegas Sands (LVS), Cirrus Logic (CRUS), Silicon Graphics (SGI)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
World Acceptance (WRLD), Enterprise Products (EPD), Cash America (CSH), Regis (RGS), WESCO (WCC), Time Warner Cable (TWC), BE Aerospace (BEAV), Methanex (MEOH), Jacobs Engineering (JEC), Triumph Group (TGI), Royal Gold (RGLD), IDEX Corp. (IEX), Albemarle (ALB), Kearny Financial (KRNY), Umpqua Holdings (UMPQ), NewBridge Bancorp (NBBC), C1 Financial (BNK), Capstead Mortgage (CMO), TriState Capital (TSC), Fox Chase Bancorp (FXCB), Datawatch (DWCH), Flowserve (FLS), CACI (CACI), QIAGEN (QGEN), Greenhill & Co. (GHL)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Steel Dynamics (STLD), Northfield Bancorp (NFBK), Brookline Bancorp (BRKL), Core Laboratories (CLB), Fortinet (FTNT), MainSource Financial (MSFG)

Facebook (FB) sees FY15 revenue 5% lower than it would be under FY14 exchange rate
Qualcomm (QCOM) sees Q2 EPS $1.28-$1.40, consensus $1.28, Q2 revenue $6.5B-$7.1B, consensus $6.74B. The company also lowered FY15 adjusted EPS view to $4.75-$5.05 from $5.05-$5.35, consensus $5.21 and lowered FY15 revenue view to $26B-$28B from $26.8B-$28.8B, consensus $27.81B
Silicon Graphics (SGI) sees Q3 EPS (10c)-0c, consensus 8c, sees FY15 revenue $540M-$560M, consensus $551.7M

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES
Alibaba (BABA) taken by surprise of Yahoo's (YHOO) split decision, Financial Times reports
Some see Yahoo (YHOO) as takeover target after Alibaba spinoff, NY Times says
GM (GM) rejects request to extend deadline for victims fund, Bloomberg reports
Federal judge says forex manipulation case to proceed, Reuters reports (BAC, BCS, BNPQY, C, CS, DB, GS, HSBC, JPM, MS, RBS, UBS)
Boeing (BA), Lockheed Martin (LMT) get $383M deal from Air Force, Reuters says
Samsung (SSNLF) to invest $84.23M in smartphone factory in India, DigiTimes reports

SYNDICATE
CTPartners (CTP) suspends proposed common stock offering
Entellus Medical (ENTL) 4.6M share IPO priced at $17.00
FlexPharma (FLKS) 5.4M share IPO priced at $16.00
Gevo (GEVO) files to sell common stock and warrants
Mirati Therapeutics (MRTX) files to sell common stock, no amount given
Omeros (OMER) files to sell common stock and pre-funded warrants
Oxford Immunotec (OXFD) files automatic ordinary share shelf
Post Holdings (POST) 6.5M share Secondary priced at $47.50
Rexford Industrial (REXR) files to sell 10M shares of common stock
XenoPort (XNPT) files to sell $100M of convertible senior notes due 2022