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Frontrunning: February 27

  • Central Banks With Negative Rates Spur Question of How Low to Go (BBG)
  • DHS to keep running: Congress edges toward domestic security funding patch (Reuters)
  • Setbacks for Tsipras Stir Discord in Greek Ruling Party (BBG)
  • Greece’s Challenge: Appeasing Its Creditors and Its Population (WSJ)
  • Buffett, a cheerleader for America, takes his checkbook abroad (Reuters)
  • Oil’s Big Swings Are the New Normal: Market has rarely been more volatile (WSJ)
  • Ukraine Left Behind as Russian Stock Gains Are Unmatched (BBG)
  • Brent rises to $61, set for first monthly gain since July (Reuters)
  • Gilead Avoids Billions in U.S. Tax on Its $1,000-a-Pill Drug (BBG)
  • Argentine judge says no evidence government tried to derail bombing probe (Reuters)
  • GOP hopeful Scott Walker compares labor unions to ISIS (Reuters)
  • Ukraine Crisis Prompts German Debate on Restocking Military (NYT)
  • Italian, German state inflation edges higher (FT)

 

Fly On The Wall Pre-Market Buzz

WSJ

* United States' largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc, is imposing tighter controls on its coverage for hysterectomies after more than a year of debate over a medical device that was found to spread hidden cancer in some women undergoing the procedure. (http://on.wsj.com/1asyXqx)

* Bill Winters, a former deputy to JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive James Dimon, is the latest ex-executive to helm a large financial firm, U.K. bank Standard Chartered Plc . (http://on.wsj.com/1BEDm5N)

* Shoppers are making a comeback especially to retailers catering to lower income Americans, a sign that a battered segment of consumers is on the mend. Kohl's Corp and J C Penney Co Inc on Thursday both said more shoppers visited their stores in the fourth quarter and spent more money on each trip compared with a year ago, echoing similar results from Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Target Corp. (http://on.wsj.com/1Dxh9Eg)

* The Obama administration is pushing China to back away from proposed new bank-technology rules that have drawn protests from foreign tech companies, the United States' top trade official said. (http://on.wsj.com/1wo39rx)

* Coca-Cola Co's bond sale is the largest euro-denominated bond from an U.S. firm on record and the second-largest by any company in the currency. (http://on.wsj.com/1Dggogk)

* Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc will dismantle its global investment bank, including cutting more than 1,000 investment-banking jobs in the United States. (http://on.wsj.com/1AQ744g)

* The three founders of private-equity firm Carlyle Group LP reaped an $800 million bounty in 2014 that reflects the big payouts the firm made to investors as it seized on buoyant markets and acquisition-hungry corporations to cash out of investments. (http://on.wsj.com/1Ewc5BM)

* International Business Machines Corp is in the same bind as many of its corporate-tech peers: how to foster fast-growing but unproven initiatives while lucrative older businesses are slowing down. At an annual meeting with analysts Thursday, IBM said it will shift $4 billion in 2015 spending to what it calls the "strategic imperatives" of cloud, analytics, mobile, social and security technologies. (http://on.wsj.com/1E2jZE8)

 

FT

New York's Department of Financial Services probe into rigging the foreign exchange markets has held up the settlement that Barclays is willing to accept with other U.S. and U.K. authorities. Sources close to the matter say that Barclays will be reluctant to settle with other regulatory agencies in a separate deal.

Offshore drillers such as Norway's Seadrill have warned that the number of scrapped deepwater rigs is set to be the highest in two decades. The drillers have also forecasted that the current downturn in oil companies due to falling crude prices may last another two years.

U.S. retailer Gap has warned that the current downturn with American ports -- including those at California, Oregon and Washington -- will reduce its current year's earnings by about four percentage points, as wearables like t-shirts and sweaters get delayed.

Real-estate billionaire Mort Zuckerman has hired Lazard to look for a potential buyer for his tabloid New York Daily News, which he has owned since 1993.

 

NYT

* The Federal Communications Commission voted on and approved new rules to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility, a milestone in regulating high-speed Internet service into American homes.(http://nyti.ms/1zLenaM)

* David Ganek sued U.S. prosecutor Preet Bharara on Thursday, claiming that the government violated his constitutional rights by fabricating accusations against him. The lawsuit against Bharara also named as defendants the federal prosecutors and some FBI agents.(http://nyti.ms/1JTbfna)

* The three founders of the private equity giant Carlyle Group LP received more than $800 million combined in 2014, a regulatory filing on Thursday showed.(http://nyti.ms/1LPv8sS)

* Standard Chartered Plc announced on Thursday a sweeping overhaul including the departure of its chief executive, its chairman, the head of Asian markets and several directors.(http://nyti.ms/1zMmgNf)

* Irving Kahn, who made his first stock trade in June 1929 - turning a tidy profit from the stock market crash four months later - and persevered for more than eight decades to become Wall Street's oldest living active professional investor, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 109.(http://nyti.ms/18sqaEB)

* Amazon.com Inc, a technology company obsessed with secrecy, is hiring Jay Carney, a former press secretary in President Obama's administration.(http://nyti.ms/1asCJAm)

 

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

** Oil-service firms are slashing jobs and pay for executives as the fallout from tumbling crude prices spreads through the energy industry's supply chain. Trican Well Service Ltd and Calfrac Well Services Ltd are among the latest Canadian service companies to feel the pinch from deep cuts in oil producers' capital spending and a slowdown in drilling activity across North America. (http://bit.ly/1BFZxbX)

** Ford Motor Co needs to invest in an engine factory in Windsor, Ontario, now that it has pumped $700 million into its vehicle assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, Unifor president Jerry Dias says. (http://bit.ly/1vFoC3U)

NATIONAL POST

** This week's veto by Barack Obama of a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline has sparked renewed interest in a climate change pact between Canada and the United States. The latest suggestion came from Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and the UN secretary-general's special envoy for cities and climate change, who argued that Canada could offer up progress on climate change as a quid-pro-quo for the President's KXL approval. (http://bit.ly/1G0rPP9)

** The long-running and multi-million-dollar legal dispute between David Berry and his former employer, Bank of Nova Scotia , has been settled - sparing the two parties what was expected to be a particularly costly, public trial. The settlement comes almost 10 years after Berry, the former head of preferred-share trading at Scotia and at one point the bank's highest-paid employee, was terminated. Terms of the settlement are confidential. (http://bit.ly/1G0srV8)

 

China

CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL

- China's labour productivity in 2014 was 72,313 yuan ($11,554) per person, up 7 percent from the year before, according to data from China's statistics bureau on Thursday.

- China will invest over 450 billion yuan ($71.90 billion) to construct expressways and connect up road systems, transportation officials told the paper on Thursday.

SECURITIES TIMES

- The Shenzhen Stock Exchange is making preparations for China's shift from the current initial public offering (IPO) approval mechanism to a registration-based IPO system, a source close to the exchange told the paper.

PEOPLE'S DAILY

- China is launching unprecedented reforms, which is the fundamental way to purify and improve the Communist Party, the paper which acts as the mouthpiece for the Party said in an editorial.

CHINA DAILY

- China's top anti-graft watchdog will set up eight new offices in central government departments this year to tighten supervision over officials, the watchdog's deputy head said.

- U.S. law firms are investigating Chinese online lottery firm 500.com Ltd over allegations of insider trading and disclosure irregularities. The firm is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

SHANGHAI DAILY

- Police in Shanghai are looking for an executive at a peer-to-peer lender (P2P) accused of running off with 226 million yuan of investors' money, officials told the state paper on Thursday.

Britain

The Times

B&Q ATTACKED OVER PAY-TO-STAY 'THREATS'

B&Q is facing claims that it threatened its suppliers by demanding they pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to stay on its books. (http://thetim.es/1FZLBKD)

RBS'S COUTTS INVESTIGATED OVER SWISS 'TAX EVASION'

The Swiss division of Coutts, the private bank owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, is being investigated by German prosecutors over allegations that it helped wealthy clients to evade tax. (http://thetim.es/1EvJlcy)

The Guardian

GEORGE OSBORNE REBUKED FOR BOASTING HE HALVED 1.7 BLN STG EU SURCHARGE

MPs have criticised George Osborne for exaggerating claims that he halved a 1.7 billion pound ($2.62 billion) surcharge imposed by Brussels last year when Britain's rebate automatically cut the figure to 850 million pounds. (http://bit.ly/1FAw0h8)

BANK OF ENGLAND TO BOOST WATCHDOG ROLE AFTER FAILING TO SPOT FOREX RIGGING

The Bank of England plans to beef up its watchdog role after it failed to spot one of the biggest scandals in the City's recent history. (http://bit.ly/1LMuMkQ)

The Telegraph

STANDARD CHARTERED CHIEF AND CHAIRMAN TO LEAVE IN DRAMATIC 6-MAN BOARD EXODUS

Standard Chartered has announced a dramatic exodus from its board that will see both its chief executive and chairman leave the struggling bank. (http://bit.ly/1LOxhVV)

GLAXOSMITHKLINE BRIBERY SCANDAL LED TO 13-FOLD INCREASE IN CHINA WHISTLEBLOWER REPORTS

A 15-month bribery investigation into GlaxoSmithKline by Chinese authorities has led to a dramatic increase in whistleblower reports from the company's operation in the country, its annual report has disclosed. (http://bit.ly/1Ay6lpx)

Sky News

RBS POSTS 3.5 BLN STG LOSS AS BOSS HANDS BACK 1 MLN STG

A 4 billion pound writedown on its U.S. business meant Royal Bank of Scotland remained in the red in 2014, with the bank confirming a 3.5 billion pound loss. (http://bit.ly/1FZMzGL)

U.S. REGULATORS STEP UP FOREX SETTLEMENT TALKS

Barclays will more than double its 500 million pound provision for foreign exchange-rigging fines next week, Sky News learns. (http://bit.ly/1vD0Pl9)

The Independent

OUTRIGHT HOMEOWNERS OVERTAKE MORTGAGE HOLDERS FOR FIRST TIME

For the first time, the proportion of households where the property is owned outright by its inhabitants has overtaken those that have a mortgage. The finding highlights the changing financial make-up of the country's households and is likely to embolden those arguing that the Bank of England can safely begin to increase interest rates without threatening the recovery. (http://ind.pn/1JPrgL3)

MOD WASTED 33 MLN STG ON BOTCHED PRIVATISATION ATTEMPTS, REPORT CLAIMS

The Ministry of Defence wasted 33 million pounds on botched attempts to semi-privatise the 14 billion pound budget agency that buys military equipment, according to report published by the National Audit Office.

 

Fly On The Wall Pre-Market Buzz

ECONOMIC REPORTS

Domestic economic reports scheduled for today include:
Second estimate of Q4 GDP growth at 8:30--consensus 2.0%
Q4 GDP price index at 8:30--consensus flat for the quarter
Chicago PMI for February at 9:45--consensus 58.0
U. of Michigan consumer sentiment for February at 10:00--consensus 94.0
Pending home sales for January at 10:00--consensus up 2.0%

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

Acura Pharma (ACUR) upgraded to Buy from Hold at MLV & Co.
Alaska Air (ALK) upgraded to Strong Buy from Outperform at Raymond James
Almost Family (AFAM) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
CSX (CSX) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
FedEx (FDX) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse
Fresenius Medical (FMS) upgraded to Neutral from Underweight at HSBC
InterContinental (IHG) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Kohl's (KSS) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Telsey Advisory
Rexford Industrial (REXR) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Jefferies
Silver Bay Realty (SBY) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at JMP Securities
UIL Holdings (UIL) upgraded to Neutral from Underweight at JPMorgan
Zions Bancorp (ZION) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie

Downgrades

Akorn (AKRX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Needham
Allscripts (MDRX) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Leerink
Bank of America (BAC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
CA Technologies (CA) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse
CBOE Holdings (CBOE) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
CONE Midstream (CNNX) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
Calamos (CLMS) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse
Crane (CR) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at FBR Capital
Dick's Sporting (DKS) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays
Hercules Offshore (HERO) downgraded to Sell from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Intelsat (I) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse
Laredo Petroleum (LPI) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Northland
Mavenir Systems (MVNR) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley
Memorial Production (MEMP) downgraded to Underperform from Perform at Oppenheimer
NTELOS (NTLS) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Pharmacyclics (PCYC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Potbelly (PBPB) downgraded to Underweight from Overweight at Piper Jaffray
SYNNEX (SNX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel
Safe Bulkers (SB) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
Seadrill Partners (SDLP) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
Spirit Realty (SRC) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
WCI Communities (WCIC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Walter Investment (WAC) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse

Initiations

Colfax (CFX) initiated with an Outperform at Cowen
Global Eagle (ENT) initiated with a Buy at Citigroup
ITT Corp. (ITT) initiated with an Outperform at Cowen
Laclede (LG) initiated with an Outperform at RBC Capital
Restaurant Brands (QSR) initiated with a Perform at Oppenheimer
Unilever (UN) initiated with an Overweight at HSBC

COMPANY NEWS

Bank of America (BAC) said in a filing that Chief Accounting Officer Neil Cotty and directors Charles O. Holliday, Jr. and Clayton S. Rose will step down. Rudolf Bless has been appointed CAO
Lloyds Banking (LYG) to recommend a dividend resumption of 0.75p per share
Ericsson (ERIC) filed two complaints with the ITC and seven complaints in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against Apple (AAPL) asserting 41 patents covering many aspects of Apple's iPhones and iPads
J.C. Penney (JCP) CEO Ullman said company 'back and competing effectively'
Monster Beverage (MNST) announced an expanded partnership with Coca-Cola (KO)
Vitae (VTAE) said partner Boehringer Ingelheim put BI 1181181 put on voluntary clinical hold for safety evaluation

EARNINGS

Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Exelis (XLS), Aqua America (WTR), Nelnet (NNI), Belmond Ltd (BEL), Ziopharm (ZIOP), Universal Health (UHS), Southwestern Energy (SWN), Seacor (CKH), MasTec (MTZ), US Ecology (ECOL), Amerisafe (AMSF), Bio-Rad (BIO), Northern Oil and Gas (NOG), Comfort Systems USA (FIX), Aegerion (AEGR), TubeMogul (tube), EnerNOC (ENOC), Procera Networks (PKT), Clean Energy (CLNE), RealPage (RP), OmniVision (OVTI), ServiceSource (SREV), Aspen Aerogels (ASPN), SandRidge Energy (SD), A.V. Homes (AVHI), Mentor Graphics (MENT), DigitalGlobe (DGI), Encore Capital (ECPG), 2U (TWOU), Pegasystems (PEGA), Interval Leisure (IILG), McGrath RentCorp (MGRC), Outfront Media (OUT), Infoblox (BLOX), Envestnet (ENV), Power Solutions (PSIX), Herbalife (HLF), Aruba Networks (ARUN), Tumi (TUMI), Federated National (FNHC), Air Lease (AL), Air Methods (AIRM), Monster Beverage (MNST), American Public Education (APEI), Autodesk (ADSK), Splunk (SPLK), Lombard Medical (EVAR), Ross Stores (ROST), Intersect ENT (XENT), Nimble Storage (NMBL), Gap (GPS)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:

HMS Holdings (HMSY), Goodrich Petroleum (GDP), Northwest Natural Gas (NWN), Del Frisco's (DFRG), Buenaventura (BVN), Safe Bulkers (SB), Summit Midstream (SMLP), Nevsun Resources (NSU), Third Point Reinsurance (TPRE), Ascent Capital (ASCMA), Bonanza Creek (BCEI), Stonegate Mortgage (SGM), Immersion (IMMR), Synageva (GEVA), Novavax (NVAX), Rose Rock Midstream (RRMS), TetraLogic (TLOG), SemGroup (SEMG), Alphatec (ATEC), Entravision (EVC), ICF International (ICFI), Raptor Pharmaceuticals (RPTP), Universal Display (OLED), SBA Communications (SBAC), American Vanguard (AVD), Tutor Perini (TPC), Solazyme (SZYM), Performant Financial (PFMT), Ingram Micro (IM), Rockwell Medical (RMTI), ACADIA (ACAD), J.C. Penney (JCP), Cerus (CERS), National CineMedia (NCMI), Boingo Wireless (WIFI), HFF Inc. (HF), Insulet (PODD), Mavenir Systems (MVNR)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:

Ritchie Bros. (RBA), Kindred Healthcare (KND), Quaker Chemical (KWR), Capital Senior Living (CSU), Envision Healthcare (EVHC), Live Nation (LYV), Weight Watchers (WTW), Allscripts (MDRX)

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

Barclays (BCS) likely to delay forex settlement, FT reports
Google Ventures' (GOOG) European arm takes stake in Kobalt, FT reports
AstraZeneca (AZN) turning antibiotic R&D into separate subsidiary, Reuters reports
PGGM calls for new directors at American Realty (ARCP), WSJ reports
Texas company sues Apple (AAPL) over additional alleged patent violations, Reuters reports

SYNDICATE
Bloomin' Brands (BLMN) files to sell 18.31M shares of common stock for holders
Boeing (BA) files automatic mixed securities shelf
Concho Resources (CXO) files to sell 5.6M shares of common stock
CyberArk (CYBR) files $200M ordinary share offering
Eaton (ETN) files automatic mixed securities shelf
Echo Global (ECHO) files $450M mixed securities shelf
MoSys (MOSY) files to sell common stock, no amount given
PG&E (PCG) enters $500M equity distribution agreement
Q2 Holdings (QTWO) 5.122M share Secondary priced at $19.75
Tandem Diabetes (TNDM) 5.25M share Secondary priced at $11.50
Transgenomic (TBIO) raises $6.2M through an equity offering
WashingtonFirst Bankshares (WFBI) files $50M mixed securities shelf