- Putin rebuffs Obama as Ukraine crisis escalates (Reuters)
- Behind the $100 Billion Commodity Empire That Few Know (BBG)
- Initial Public Offerings Hit Pace Not Seen in Years (WSJ)
- Russian Parliament Will Back Crimea Split From Ukraine (WSJ)
- Nakamoto Named as Bitcoin Father Denies Involvement, Flees Press (BBG)
- Chaori Can’t Make Payment in China’s First Onshore Default (BBG)
- Zombies Spreading Shows Chaori Default Just Start (BBG)
- Pimco's Gross declares El-Erian is 'trying to undermine me' (Reuters)
- U.S. Fighters Circle Baltics as Putin Fans Fear of Russia (BBG)
- College Grads Taking Low-Wage Jobs Displace Less Educated (BBG)
- Malaysia's Anwar convicted of sodomy, political future in doubt (Reuters)
- Biggest Wealth Fund Urged to Explain Formula One Investment (BBG)
- Regulator Deletes Red Flags From Brokers' Records, Says Study (WSJ)
Overnight Media Digest
* Crimea's Moscow-backed government voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia and accelerated a snap referendum to ratify the move, a dramatic escalation of tension that pushed the West closer to imposing sanctions if Russian troops don't withdraw.
* As Crimea's legislators voted for secession on Thursday, residents expressed a mixture of shock and satisfaction about the prospect of splitting from Ukraine and joining Russia.
* With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to rule on race-conscious college-admissions policies, University of California officials say they still struggle to meet diversity goals for their university system 18 years after state voters banned affirmative action
* The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority "routinely" strips out some possible red flags on brokers from its database in the information it makes available to investors, according to a study released Thursday by an organization of lawyers who represent investors in claims against brokers.
* When the leaders running law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP realized in the depths of the financial crisis that they were about to violate the terms of their bank loan, prosecutors allege they took the easy way out and cooked the books.
* Canadian regulators on Thursday approved a plan by Enbridge Inc to reverse the flow of a major pipeline and ship more oil to refineries in the East, a move designed to ease bottlenecks that have depressed prices of crude from Western Canada.
* Abercrombie & Fitch Co is preparing to reposition its surfer-themed Hollister chain as a fast-fashion brand, hoping to better compete with rivals such as H&M and Forever 21 Inc. that have eaten into sales to teens.
* Hundreds of workers at an International Business Machines Corp plant struck for a fourth day as the company prepares to transfer the computer-server factory to Lenovo Group Ltd.
* One of the country's biggest retailers sounded a worrying call for the future of brick and mortar: Staples Inc is not only closing a big swath of its North American stores, but it also wants those that remain to be half the size.
* General Electric Co raised $3 billion in a sale of new debt Thursday, stocking its coffers while rates are low.
* Cerberus Capital Management LP agreed to buy Safeway Inc in a deal the companies valued at more than $9 billion that would be the private-equity firm's latest acquisition of a big U.S. grocery chain.
* A top Food and Drug Administration official on Thursday rejected the cosmetic industry's latest proposal for a regulatory overhaul aimed at improving the safety of beauty and personal-care products.
Britain might have to go through another year of austerity due to a 20 billion pound black hole in public finances, according to economic models used by the Office for Budget Responsibility.
Russia was at receiving end of the western powers over its intervention in Ukraine, with the United States issuing visa bans on Russian officials and EU signing an integration agreement with Kiev.
A consortium led by private equity firm Cerebus Capital Management will acquire Safeway Inc in a deal worth $9 billion, and merge it with Albertsons supermarket chain.
Two years after the collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf, the U.S. authority has charged its former management with "a massive effort to cook the books".
Shares of Reynolds American Inc and Lorillard Inc jumped this week on talks of a potential deal between the U.S. cigarette makers.
* Former executives at Dewey & LeBoeuf were accused of manipulating the firm's books to keep it afloat during the financial crisis.
* An article about a man in Southern California named Satoshi Nakamoto has prompted many enthusiasts to question whether the right person had been identified as the creator of the virtual currency Bitcoin.
* With the music industry turning digital, music companies can now understand their customers' listening habits in greater depth than ever before.
* John Lefevre, the man behind the @GSElevator Twitter account, has lost his book deal after his true identity came to light.
* Some employers are offering as many as 25 health care plans to employees from a variety of insurers, including Blue Cross and UnitedHealthcare, to lower their costs for the benefit. ()
* Gene McQuade, the chief executive of Citibank, the entity that holds 70 percent of the company's assets and runs its international businesses, is leaving, as is Cece Stewart, who runs Citigroup's consumer and commercial banking operations in the United States. ()
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
* Enbridge Inc has won approval to reverse the flow of oil in its Line 9 pipeline between Southern Ontario and Quebec, a contentious project aimed at giving Quebec refiners access to more affordable Western Canadian and North Dakota oil.
* The union representing 41,000 teachers in British Columbia has voted overwhelmingly in favour of job action, although its president says there will be no immediate school closures or disruptions to students, and members are committed to a negotiated settlement.
Reports in the business section:
* As grocers slash prices to win bargain-hungry customers, makers of food and consumer goods are pushing back against heavy discounting of their products. In the intensified competition, grocers have demanded price cuts from their suppliers. Now vendors are retaliating by setting minimum advertised prices in a bid to stop retailers from using their merchandise as loss leaders.
* Canada is on the verge of clinching a free-trade deal with South Korea after more than half a decade of on-and-off negotiations, and an announcement is expected early next week.
* British Columbians will soon be able to buy wine and beer at the same grocery store where they pick up their eggs and bread.
* Toronto moved one step closer to having a ranked ballot vote in municipal elections, an initiative that is getting support from across the political spectrum.
* John Chen has surprised skeptics and pleased investors, but the BlackBerry chief says his next aim is to get the devices business growing and to expand its BBM messaging service.
* Target Corp made a splash with colourful billboards, ads and flyers in Canada. But in this country of heavy Internet usage, it's website doesn't show much of what it sells.
CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL
- The two-way movements of China's yuan against the dollar are favourable for further financial reforms, including the liberalisation of deposit rates and the introduction of foreign exchange derivative products, a commentary by the newspaper said.
SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS
- China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone plans to shorten its negative list for foreign investment in 2014, Shanghai's Party Secretary, Han Zheng, said in a sub-session of China's on-going annual parliamentary meeting in Beijing.
CHINA BUSINESS NEWS
- China's central bank has finished drafting regulations governing the country's first deposit insurance mechanisms, which are expected to be promulgated soon.
- The Chinese government should keep economic reforms a top priority and step up enforcement of pronounced reform polices, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party of China said in an editorial.
UKRAINIAN TENSIONS COULD HAVE SERIOUS IMPLICATIONS FOR EUROPE - DRAGHI
Tensions in Ukraine could pose a "very serious" threat to the rest of Europe, Mario Draghi has warned. The president of the European Central Bank (ECB) said the impact of the Ukrainian crisis on the energy market, while minimal in the short term, could escalate.
UK HOUSE PRICE GROWTH 'APPROACHING MADNESS'
The speed UK property prices are rising at is "approaching madness", analysts have warned, after data showed house prices jumped 2.4 percent in February, the biggest monthly increase in five years.
LOSS-MAKING RBS TO GIVE MILLIONS IN SHARES TO EXECUTIVES
Royal Bank of Scotland is poised to release millions of pounds worth of shares to its top executive team through bonus schemes put in place by the loss-making bank over the last three years.
LLOYDS BANKING GROUP TO PAY EXTRA 1BN POUND TO BUY BACK BONDS
The bailed-out Lloyds Banking Group is to take an unexpected 1 billion pound accounting charge as the result of a complex scheme to buy back financial instruments it issued during the banking crisis.
BNP TRADER SUSPENDED AS FOREX SCANDAL ESCALATES
A senior currency trader who served on the Bank of England's foreign exchange committee has been suspended by his bank BNP Paribas, dealing a further blow to London's position as the world's leading centre for forex trading.
BP CHIEF GIVEN HUGE PAY RISE AS REWARD FOR PLAYING IT SAFE
BP more than tripled its chief executive's pay to $8.7 million last year after it hit new performance targets put in place after the Gulf of Mexico disaster in 2010.
CURTAIN TO FALL ON BARCLAYS' 120-YEAR AUDIT
Barclays is to end its 120-year audit relationship with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and appoint one of its main rivals in the latest shake-up at the embattled bank.
SHELL BOSS REJECTS SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE
The chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell has said he wants Scotland to remain part of the UK. At the company's annual reception in London, Ben van Beurden said he valued the "continuity and stability" of the UK.
Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot
Domestic economic reports scheduled for today include:
Nonfarm payrolls for February at 8:30--consensus 150K
Unemployment rate for February at 8:30--consensus 6.6%
International trade balance for January at 8:30--consensus -$39.0B
Consumer credit for January at 15:00--consensus $14.0B
Copa Holdings (CPA) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
Cross Country Healthcare (CCRN) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Cantor
Cross Country Healthcare (CCRN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
GT Advanced (GTAT) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse
Omnicare (OCR) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
Polycom (PLCM) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Quality Systems (QSII) upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at FBR Capital
Safeway (SWY) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at UBS
Skullcandy (SKUL) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Northland Securities
Teva (TEVA) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
The Buckle (BKE) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Janney Capital
The Fresh Market (TFM) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
Alpha Natural (ANR) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Goldman
American Capital Mortgage (MTGE) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
CYS Investments (CYS) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Houghton Mifflin (HMHC) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel
Houghton Mifflin (HMHC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Humana (HUM) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies
Kindred Biosciences (KIN) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Roth Capital
New York Mortgage (NYMT) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Numerex (NMRX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Canaccord
Pinnacle Financial (PNFP) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Wunderlich
Safeway (SWY) downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T
Star Bulk Carriers (SBLK) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley
TCP Capital (TCPC) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Violin Memory (VMEM) downgraded to Underperform from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Bridge Capital Holdings (BBNK) initiated with a Buy at DA Davidson
Conatus Pharmaceuticals (CNAT) initiated with a Buy at Roth Capital
E2open (EOPN) initiated with a Buy at B. Riley
Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ) reinstated with an Overweight at Barclays
Ladder Capital (LADR) initiated with a Buy at Deutsche Bank
Regency Energy Partners (RGP) initiated with a Hold at Deutsche Bank
Rouse Properties (RSE) initiated with a Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Salesforce.com (CRM) initiated with a Neutral at B. Riley
ServiceNow (NOW) initiated with a Neutral at B. Riley
Tallgrass Energy (TEP) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo
Thomson Reuters (TRI) initiated with a Hold at Deutsche Bank
Albertsons to buy Safeway (SWY) for $40 per share
Kimco Realty (KIM) to own 9.94% of combined Safeway-Albertsons
Gap (GPS) reported February SSS down 7%
Ford (F) to move production of F-650, F-750 medium-duty trucks to Ohio from Mexico
American Apparel (APP) gave a FY14 revenue outlook that came in below estimates, and said February preliminary SSS were down 5%
Cooper Companies (COO) said foreign currency continues to have negative effect
Big Lots (BIG) said wind down of Canadian operations remains on schedule, sees Q1 “slightly positive” to “slightly negative”
FreeWheel confirmed that it has been acquired by Comcast (CMCSA)
Casablanca Capital nominated six for election to Cliff’s Natural (CLF) board
Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Achillion (ACHN), Information Services (III), Qihoo 360 (QIHU), Comtech (CMTL), Ambarella (AMBA), Alamo Group (ALG), Korn/Ferry (KFY), Numerex (NMRX), Emergent BioSolutions (EBS), Jamba (JMBA), Cooper Companies (COO), U.S. Auto Parts (PRTS)
Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Timmins Gold (TGD), Denison Mines (DNN), BPZ Resources (BPZ), The Fresh Market (TFM), Baxano Surgical (BAXS), Analogic (ALOG), Novatel Wireless (NVTL), H&R Block (HRB), Thor Industries (THO), Synergetics (SURG), Quantum (QTWW), Quiksilver (ZQK)
Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Craft Brew (BREW), Manitex (MNTX), Violin Memory (VMEM), Finisar (FNSR)
Facebook (FB) faces privacy advocates who want WhatsApp deal stopped, Reuters reports
Atlanta Fed's Lockhart: Keep reducing policy accommodation, Reuters reports
AT&T (T) CEO: Comcast (CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (TWC) a 'redefining' industry deal, WSJ reports
Oil industry (CVX) facing rising production costs, WSJ reports
Cigarette manufacturers (RAI, LO,TYBY, BTI) surge on deal discussions, FT reports
Twitter (TWTR) paid IBM (IBM) $36M for 900 patents to end dispute, Bloomberg reports
U.S. clients of Credit Suisse (CS) face uncertainty over probe, Bloomberg reports
Time Warner's (TWX) Warner Bros. plans to lead an investment of $18M in Machinima, WSJ reports
Alimera Sciences (ALIM) files to sell 6.25M shares of common stock
Applied Optoelectronics (AAOI) files to sell 2.7M shares of common stock
Aquinox (AQXP) 3.7M share IPO priced at $11.00
Artisan Partners (APAM) 8.07M share Secondary priced at $62.00
CDW Corporation (CDW) files to sell 10M shares of common stock for holders
Coupons.com (COUP) 10.5M share IPO priced at $16.00
FireEye (FEYE) 14M share Secondary priced at $82.00
Flamel Technologies (FLML) files to sell common stock
Recro Pharma (REPH) 3.75M share IPO priced at $8.00
Windstream (WIN) files to sell 4.32M shares of common stock for holders