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Frontrunning: February 2

  • Germany Sees No Need to Scrap Troika in Overseeing Greek Turnaround (WSJ)
  • European markets subdued as Chinese data weighs (Reuters)
  • U.S. Oil Workers Strike Enters Second Day as Crude Prices Slide (BBG)
  • Oil prices rally above $55 as investors pile in (Reuters)
  • Obama Wants a New Tax on U.S. Companies' Overseas Profits (BBG)
  • If Trading Bonds Is Hard, Think About Pain When Rates Rise (BBG)
  • Julius Baer Braces for Swiss Franc Impact (WSJ)
  • Coke, Budweiser win as Super Bowl ad battle gets serious (Reuters)
  • Hedge Fund Brevan Howard’s Fortunes Blighted by Billions in Outflows and Management Row (WSJ)
  • AirAsia captain left seat before jet lost control (Reuters)
  • Fake FX Trader Handed Record Prison Term After FCA Probe (WSJ)
  • Want to Buy a Used German Power Plant? Shipping Is Included (BBG)
  • City of Ruin Remains After Islamic State Defeat in Kobani (WSJ)
  • Chevron Pulls Out of Poland Shale (WSJ)

 

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* The cost of General Motors Co's victims-compensation fund isn't expected to exceed the $400 million to $600 million the auto maker set aside to pay those killed or injured on account of faulty ignition switches, but it will take weeks for the fund to sort through a late rush of claims filed before the deadline passed this weekend. (http://on.wsj.com/1CotA7v)

* President Barack Obama is making an opening bid on overhauling corporate taxes and linking it to boosting infrastructure spending, a move that could clear a rare path toward common ground in a deeply divided capital. (http://on.wsj.com/1KiRyQD)

* The U.S. government will begin releasing Medicare physician-payment records every year, cementing public access to how tens of billions of dollars are spent annually on everything from office visits to radiation therapy. (http://on.wsj.com/1D4d9fv)

* A top regulator is objecting to Dish Network Corp's claim on more than $3 billion in discounts aimed at small business in the government's auction of wireless licenses. (http://on.wsj.com/1zM0Zse)

* With its case against Standard & Poor's Ratings Services nearing the finish, the Justice Department has turned its attention to another credit-rating firm under fire for issuing rosy grades on mortgage deals in the buildup to the financial crisis. (http://on.wsj.com/1DmUdGx)

* The collapse of the oil market has dragged down prices across the energy sector. One exception is the price Morgan Stanley is seeking for its oil-trading and storage business, which could profit from the recent slide. (http://on.wsj.com/1zsqBsD)

* Hedge fund Standard General LP is in talks to serve as the lead bidder at a bankruptcy auction for struggling consumer-electronics retailer RadioShack Corp, according to people familiar with the matter. (http://on.wsj.com/1z3gZ6U)

 

FT

In an agreement reached on late Sunday night, senior creditors are set to take control of insurance broker Towergate, in a restructuring exercise of its 1 billion pound ($1.51 billion) debt.

Britain's cash-strapped local municipal authorities are all set to launch a multibillion-pound municipal bond market. The first bond issue, likely in April, is expected to fetch 250 million-300 million pounds and annual issuance may go all the way up to 2 billion-3 billion pounds.

Dixons Carphone has reached an agreement with Hutchison Whampoa's 3 to use the UK mobile operator's network to offer customised Internet plans for the smart appliances sold in its stores.

Paul Evans, chairman of the Association of British Insurers has warned insurance companies on the race to gather and use 'big data' and to take "great care" ensuring that sections of society are not left vulnerable without any insurance cover.

 

NYT

* Fears that the new Greek government could be more radical than expected has caused a mini bank run in the last month, raising the question of whether the European Central Bank will come to the banks' aid. (http://nyti.ms/1z46BMh)

* On Friday, in an uncommon display of humility, Uber pledged to strengthen its user data privacy practices, acknowledging that "we haven't always gotten it right." The striking reversal in tone comes at a crucial time for Uber, which once somewhat prided itself on its antagonistic attitude. (http://nyti.ms/169rYA1)

* As part of a $1.37 billion settlement deal expected this week, Standard & Poor's has agreed to acknowledge that it never found evidence against a Justice Department lawsuit supporting its accusations of retaliation, people briefed on the matter said. (http://nyti.ms/1EYwXAf)

* The sex toy industry is banking on the hope that the "Fifty Shades of Grey" film will generate soaring sales, much the way the blockbuster erotic novel of the same name created thousands of new customers from the female readers who passed the book around their suburban culs-de-sac. (http://nyti.ms/1voo8zy)

* The game plan for the advertising blitz during Super Bowl XLIX was simple: Go straight for the heart. Many of the commercials during NBC's national broadcast of Sunday's game sought to tug at viewers' heart strings rather than make them burst out laughing. (http://nyti.ms/1tTrmd8)

* European cement makers Lafarge and Holcim agreed to sell assets to CRH Plc, an Irish manufacturer of building materials, for about $7.3 billion to help pave the way for their own merger. (http://nyti.ms/1LC8p4u)

* A clinical trial in Liberia of a drug to treat Ebola has been halted because of a sharp decline in the number of people infected with the virus, and studies in West Africa of other potential treatments are also facing problems finding patients. The developer of the drug, Chimerix, announced late Friday that it would no longer participate in the study. (http://nyti.ms/1EYBVNm)

 

China

PEOPLE'S DAILY

- China's 2015 rural policy, for which an outline was issued on Sunday, is likely to quicken the pace of the country's farm reforms, said an editorial in the newspaper, the ruling Communist Party of China's mouthpiece.

CHINA DAILY

- Turnout for the first major march, organised by the opposition camp in Hong Kong after the "Occupy" protest, was lower than expected as the government called for a rational, pragmatic and inclusive attitude to forge consensus for election reform.

CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL

- China's policy to keep the yuan relatively stable means the Chinese currency should have only limited room to depreciate despite its recent falls in line with global emerging market currencies, economists said.

SECURITIES TIMES

- The Shenzhen-Hong Kong connect, that would allow traders from the two cities to trade in the other's stock market, will be modelled after the Shanghai-Hong Kong connect, Wu Lijun, head the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, said during a recent visit to Hong Kong.

SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS

- A slew of companies have published their share issue prospectuses after the China Securities Regulatory Commission on Friday approved a new batch of 24 initial public offerings (IPOs) to be launched.

 

Britain

The Times

MERKEL REFUSES CALLS TO RELIEVE GREEK DEBTS

German chancellor Angela Merkel has flatly rejected calls to write off any more Greek debts as she increased tensions with Athens in a race to find a solution to deadlock over the country's bailout programme. (http://thetim.es/1zt4W1V)

AMERICANS LINE UP 2 BLN STG BID FOR AUTO TRADER

Private equity firm Hellman & Friedman is preparing a 2 billion pounds takeover bid for Auto Trader, Britain's biggest used-car marketplace. (http://thetim.es/16gIxuS)

CRH PAVES THE WAY TO BUY LAFARGE TARMAC

Irish building materials company CRH Plc is to take control of Lafarge Tarmac as part of a 6.5 billion euros ($7.36 billion) deal for the cast-offs of the cement mega-merger between Lafarge and Holcim. (http://thetim.es/1yqPhgK)

SOUTHEAST TO FOOT BILL FOR CROSSRAIL 2

Businesses and property owners in Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Surrey and Hampshire could be forced into helping to fund London's proposed Crossrail 2 line, the cost of which is expected to escalate to 27 billion pounds. (http://thetim.es/1CnWGnv)

The Guardian

SWISS CENTRAL BANK NOW HAS 'UNOFFICIAL EURO TARGET'

The Swiss National Bank, which last month scrapped the cap it had imposed on the value of the franc, is unofficially targeting an exchange rate of 1.05 to 1.10 Swiss francs per euro, a Swiss newspaper reported on Sunday. (http://bit.ly/162fxGK)

BP TO FOLLOW SHELL IN CUTTING SPENDING

BP Plc will on Tuesday unveil plans to slash billions of pounds off its capital spending programme in a bid to counter the impact of plunging oil prices and a 40 percent fall in its fourth quarter profits. (http://bit.ly/1EYfszP)

GREEK MINISTER TO MEET GEORGE OSBORNE ABOUT PROPOSED DEBT DEAL

Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will meet Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne on Monday on his whistle stop tour of Europe, as he attempts to win support for a renegotiated debt deal, amid fears that protracted talks will sap confidence and liquidity from the Greek economy. (http://bit.ly/16hD1Z8)

The Telegraph

BRITAIN NETS 30 BLN STG AS BORROWING COSTS FALL THAT COULD FUND PRE-ELECTION GIVEAWAYS

Plummeting borrowing costs will cut the UK debt interest bill by more than 30 billion pounds ($45.24 billion) by 2019, giving George Osborne more scope to fund pre-election giveaways or to relax a massive squeeze on the state. Osborne can afford to relax spending squeeze or fund pre-election giveaways, as borrowing costs fall, new calculations show. (http://bit.ly/1zs5wyu)

CROATIA WRITES OFF DEBTS FOR POOREST CITIZENS

Thousands of Croats will see their debts written-off on Monday as part of an attempt to boost the economy by helping households to regain access to basic facilities including bank accounts. The scheme, which has been dubbed "fresh start," will see the debts of around 60,000 citizens erased by banks, telecoms and utilities operators as part of a deal with the government. (http://bit.ly/1ypyY3T)

FREE BANK ACCOUNTS UNSUSTAINABLE, SAYS PwC

Free bank accounts are "unsustainable" despite being widely expected in the UK, according to a report that claims consumers must begin paying for services if they are to be treated fairly. Research from PwC found that although most people understand that they are paying for bank accounts through the back door, the majority would be likely to desert their bank if they began to be charged up front. Free-if-in-credit current accounts are near-ubiquitous in the UK, unlike many countries. However, senior industry figures have said it harms consumers, and the issue is under the competition regulator's spotlight. (http://bit.ly/1EYmox2)

Sky News

EX-BP BOSS HAYWARD LURES MONAGHAN TO GENEL

Oil company Genel Energy Plc led by Tony Hayward, the former boss of BP Plc, is poised to announce a shake-up of its executive team four years after it was founded. The company will issue a statement on Monday in which it will say that Julian Metherell is to step down as its chief financial officer. He will be replaced by Ben Monaghan, who is understood to have resigned from his role leading JPMorgan Chase & Co 's European energy business on Friday, and a source close to the bank said that he had done so in order to join Genel. (http://bit.ly/1Duc271)

The Independent

LGBT EMPLOYEES WHO FEEL UNABLE TO COME OUT AT WORK MORE LIKELY TO LEAVE THEIR JOBS - AND COST BUSINESS MILLIONS

Businesses are squandering millions replacing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees who quit after not feeling comfortable enough to "come out" at work. A report, LGBT2020, to be published tomorrow, suggests that the UK economy could save 678 million pounds a year if businesses better implemented "diversity and inclusion" policies to encourage LGBT employees to be themselves. (http://ind.pn/1692rHg)

Fly On The Wall Pre-market Buzz

ECONOMIC REPORTS

Domestic economic reports scheduled for today include:
Personal income for December at 8:30--consensus up 0.3%
Consumer spending for December at 8:30--consensus down 0.2%
Market PMI for January at 9:45--consensus 54.0
ISM manufacturing index for January  at 10:00--consensus 54.5
Construction spending for December at 10:00--consensus up 0.6%

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

Cameron (CAM) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Cedar Fair (FUN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
Deckers Outdoor (DECK) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
Delhaize (DEG) upgraded to Hold from Underperform at Jefferies
Diamond Foods (DMND) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
EnLink Midstream (ENLK) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Government Properties (GOV) upgraded to Hold from Underperform at Jefferies
MeadWestvaco (MWV) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
NuStar Energy (NS) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
NuStar GP Holdings (NSH) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
RockTenn (RKT) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital

Downgrades

ACE Limited (ACE) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
Ahold (AHONY) downgraded to Underperform from Hold at Jefferies
Airbus (EADSY) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
American Midstream (AMID) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays
DCP Midstream (DPM) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays
Enable Midstream (ENBL) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays
LabCorp (LH) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
Ophthotech (OPHT) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Randgold (GOLD) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley
Summit Midstream (SMLP) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays
USA Compression (USAC) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays
Werner (WERN) downgraded to Neutral from Positive at Susquehanna
Yara (YARIY) downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at JPMorgan

Initiations

Porsche (POAHY) assumed with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Southcross Energy Partners (SXE) reinstated with an Underweight at Barclays
Western Gas Equity (WGP) reinstated with an Equal Weight at Barclays
Western Gas Partners (WES) reinstated with an Overweight at Barclays

COMPANY NEWS

BGC Partners (BGCP) said GFI Group (GFIG) shareholders reject CME Group (CME) merger proposal
CRH (CRH) acquires assets from Lafarge (LFRGY), Holcim (HCMLY) for EUR6.5B
Intel (INTC) signed a definitive agreement to acquire Lantiq, a supplier of broadband access and home networking technologies
The United Steelworkers Union called for a work stoppage at the following U.S. refineries: LyondellBasell (LYB) in Houston, TX; Marathon (MRO ) Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City, TX; Marathon Houston Green Cogeneration facility, Texas City, TX; Marathon Refinery, Catlettsburg, Ky; Shell (RDS.A) Deer Park Refinery, Deer Park, TX; Shell Deer Park Chemical Plant, Deer Park, TX; Tesoro (TSO) Anacortes Refinery, Anacortes, Wash.; Tesoro Martinez Refinery, Martinez, Calif.; and Tesoro Carson Refinery, Carson, Calif
GNC Holdings (GNC) raised its quarterly dividend 12.5% to 18c per share
Chimerix (CMRX) to cease further participation in studies of brincidofovir for Ebola

EARNINGS

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Talmer Bancorp  (TLMR)

Bank of Commerce Holdings (BOCH) reports Q4 EPS 12c, one estimate 11c

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

Panasonic (PCRFY) to stop TV manufacturing in China, WSJ reports
S&P (MHFI) to avoid admission of fraud, NY Times reports
Ford (F) CFO says 2015 prospects in Russia do not 'look good,' Reuters reports
Moody's (MCO) probed by DoJ for mortgage ratings before financial crisis, WSJ reports
Standard General may be lead bidder in RadioShack (RSH) bankruptcy auction, WSJ reports
AOL's (AOL) head of AOL Platforms to become president of company, Re/code reports
Google's (GOOG) Nest loses Dropcam CEO, VP of technology, The Verge reports
Wendy's (WEN) investors should take profits, Barron's says
AMD (AMD) could rise 75%, Barron's says
Delphi Automotive (DLPH) shares could climb 20%, Barron's says