Frontrunning: Mayan Apocalypse Edition

  • This is signal, the rest is noise: Russia's Putin set for stand-off with EU on Syria, energy (Reuters)
  • Boehner's Budget 'Plan B' Collapses (WSJ)
  • Boehner has few options in "fiscal cliff" mess (Reuters)
  • Maya "end of days" fever reaches climax in Mexico (Reuters)
  • Monti Praised by Merkel Favored Less by Taxed Italians (BusinessWeek)
  • China probes Yum Brands' KFC over safety of chicken productsa (Reuters)
  • Looting in Aregentina: 400 Border Guard officials deployed to Bariloche over looting (BAH)
  • Regulatory 'Whale' Hunt Advances - Comptroller Expected to Take Formal Action Regarding JPM's Trading Fiasco (WSJ) - but no punishment
  • U.K. Banks Seen Sacrificing Lending to Meet BOE Demand (Bloomberg)
  • US banks face rise in bad loans cover (FT)
  • Daily Gun Slaughter in U.S. Obscured by Newtown Rampage (BBG)
  • China Restricts Bond Sales by Risker Companies (BBG)
  • China makes largest cancellation of US soy in 14 years (Reuters)
  • BOJ Member Deposit Plan Would Unleash $373 Billion (BBG)


Overnight Media Digest


* Facebook Inc said it has begun testing a system for users to send messages to people outside their immediate circle of social contacts for a payment of $1, as the company continues to find new ways to capitalize on its popularity.

* Apple Inc is taking its case for a sales ban on Samsung Electronics Co mobile devices to a higher court.

* Research In Motion Ltd swung back to profitability in its fiscal third quarter, but the BlackBerry maker fell short of resolving some of its biggest challenges as it gears up to introduce its new line of smartphones next month.

* AMR Corp's American Airlines and US Airways Group Inc are nearing a tentative deal on how their pilots would be treated in a potential merger, a crucial step toward determining whether the two airlines will combine when the former emerges from bankruptcy proceedings next year, said people close to the discussions.

* PSA Peugeot Citroën and General Motors Co said that they will deepen and accelerate a 10-month alliance aimed at cutting costs and fixing their loss-making European operations with a new joint project to develop a small engine.

* JP Morgan Chase & Co is buying daily-deals startup Bloomspot Inc as it looks to target customers with merchant offers to spur card spending.

* Pershing Square Capital Management LP's William Ackman took to a New York City stage to press his case for selling short the stock of Herbalife Ltd, a nutritional-supplement maker he calls a pyramid scheme.

* Eli Lilly and Co agreed to pay $29.4 million in a settlement of U.S. government allegations that the drugmaker's units made improper payments to foreign government officials to win business.

* House Speaker John Boehner, facing a rebellion in his party's conservative ranks, abandoned his own plan to avert tax increases for most Americans, throwing Washington's high-stakes budget negotiations into disarray and bringing the prospect of tumbling over the "fiscal cliff" into sudden focus.




* The cost of getting a Canadian passport is going up significantly in the new year. Without the fee increases, Passport Canada would not be able to maintain current operations, let alone offer security-enhanced travel documents, the agency says.

New regulations posted this week confirm the cost of a five-year passport will increase to C$120 ($120) from C$87.

* Tony Bernardo, a member of the Canadian advisory committee, says the elimination of the long-gun registry was a common sense move aimed at keeping legitimate gun owners from being targeted as criminals.

But gun control advocates say the registry's demise is part of a broader set of policy changes that will make it easier for firearms to fall into the wrong hands.

Reports in the business section:

* Research in Motion Ltd, edging past low analyst expectations for its third quarter, says it has amassed enough cash to launch its make-or-break BlackBerry 10 phones next month.

But the company faces fresh worries about a key source of revenue. Service access fees that wireless operators pay to use RIM's proprietary network have been falling, but now the company's reduced market power has forced it to cut them further by offering tiered pricing plans.

* Oil-rich Alberta is dialling back its budget forecasts, saying that slumping commodity prices could mean belt-tightening, bigger deficits, broken election pledges and a slower national economic recovery.

The warning on Wednesday from Finance Minister Doug Horner is the latest signal that Canada's economy will not turn around as swiftly as governments across the country had hoped. British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the federal government have pulled back on revenue projections in recent weeks because of sluggish growth and low commodity prices, particularly in oil and gas.


* Releasing a snakehead - the so-called "Frankenfish" capable of walking on land and eating small ducks - now carries a fine of C$250,000, according to new invasive species laws drawn up by the Province of B.C.


* Pan American Silver Corp is denying speculation that it plans to bail out of its flagship Navidad silver project in Argentina. However, the project's future remains very much in question.

"Where we go in January depends on our sense of what the governor and the legislature's urgency is to actually bring this forward as a debate item," chief executive Geoff Burns said Thursday, after a Spanish-language report suggested the company could be planning to exit Argentina's Chubut province.

* Richardson International Ltd said on Thursday it has received the OK from the Competition Bureau for its deal to buy a group of former Viterra grain handling assets from Glencore International.

The company said it was the final regulatory hurdle and it now expects to close the deal early next year.




-- The China Securities Regulatory Commission has approved the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange to trade rapeseed and rapeseed dregs futures, sources told the newspaper.

-- The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development is conducting an investigation into property market trends, and industry insiders expect policy-makers to launch more property tightening measures.

-- China's National Development and Reform Commission has approved four wind power projects worth about 57 billion yuan ($9.15 billion).


-- Amid difficulties in raising capital, the Ministry of Railways is aiming to raise as much as 1.5 billion yuan from private investors in Wenzhou to finance the Wenzhou S1 inter-city railway line at a yield of 6 percent. So far the ministry has raised 200 million yuan.


-- Sina Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, said on Thursday it would sell smartphones made by Xiaomi Corp, a company that hopes to become the Chinese version of Apple Inc.


-- Li Keqiang, Chinese Vice Premier said on Thursday that China should rely on reforms to achieve real development and urbanization holds the greatest potential to spur development.



Fly on the Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot



Access Midstream (ACMP) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Ameren (AEE) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
Infineon (IFNNY) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan


Amicus Theraputics (FOLD) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Wedbush
Bank of Commerce Holdings (BOCH) downgraded to Market Perform at Raymond James
Eloqua (ELOQ) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Goldcorp (GG) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) downgraded to Market Perform at Bernstein
Nike (NKE) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
Research in Motion (RIMM) downgraded to Sell from Underperform at CLSA
THL Credit (TCRD) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank


Arbor Realty (ABR) initiated with a Buy at Deutsche Bank
Big Lots (BIG) initiated with a Buy at Citigroup
Crosstex Energy LP (XTEX) initiated with an Outperform at Credit Suisse
Crosstex Energy (XTXI) initiated with an Outperform at Credit Suisse
Exact Sciences (EXAS) initiated with a Buy at Mizuho
ExactTarget (ET) initiated with a Buy at Roth Capital
F5 Networks (FFIV) initiated with an Outperform at FBR Capital
New York Mortgage (NYMT) initiated with a Buy at Deutsche Bank
OraSure (OSUR) initiated with a Buy at Mizuho
Resource Capital (RSO) initiated with a Hold at Deutsche Bank
Two Harbors (TWO) initiated with a Buy at Deutsche Bank


General Electric (GE) to acquire aviation business of Avio for $4.3B
Greenbrier (GBX) rejected $22 per share proposal from American Railcar (ARII), Carl Icahn
Aviva (AV) to sell Aviva USA Corp. to Athene Holding for $1.8B
Oando Energy Resources acquired ConocoPhillips (COP) Nigerian assets for $1.79B
Mohawk (MHK) acquired Marazzi Group for $1.5B
Crane (CR) to acquire MEI Conlux Holdings for about $820M
Nokia (NOK) entered into a new patent license agreement with Research In Motion (RIMM), settling all existing patent litigation
Research in Motion (RIMM) expects continued pressure on operating results in Q4
Said BB10 launch scheduled for January 30, 2013
A judge said he needs data to justify scope of IBM (IBM) settlement with SEC over foreign bribery charges, Bloomberg reports
SanDisk (SNDK) authorized $750M in additional share repurchases
Chase Bank USA (JPM) to acquire Bloomspot, terms not disclosed
Adobe Systems (ADBE) acquired privately held online social media platform Behance


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
TIBCO (TIBX), Cintas (CTAS), Nike (NKE), Research in Motion (RIMM), CalAmp (CAMP)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Micron (MU), Resources Connection (RECN)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Red Hat (RHT)


Robert Khuzami, head of the SEC’s enforcement unit, plans to leave the agency as soon as next month, sources say, the Wall Street Journal reports
Gambling companies (IGT, CZR) have been acquiring and making deals with firms that develop simulated casino games for devices like the iPhone (AAPL), betting that they will be able to build a user base that could pay off if online betting is legalized in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reports
Fees for advising on mergers, share listings and bond issues have declined in 2012, forcing investment banks to cut jobs and begin overhauling business models. Worldwide investment banking is down 7% to $69.4B so far this year, according to Thomson Reuters and Freeman Consulting data, Reuters reports
Credit Suisse Group (CS) was the top underwriter for U.S. IPOs this year for the first time, as the bank generated $4.7B in IPO proceeds from 41 issues, pushing it past JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) with $4.6B, according to Thomson Reuters data. Goldman Sachs (GS) was third with $4.5B, and previously top-ranked Morgan Stanley (MS) was fourth, Reuters reports
Shares of companies such as Granite Construction (GVA) and Aecom Technology (ACM) have outperformed the broader market since June as a $105 transportation bill is boosting the industry, Bloomberg reports
Morgan Stanley (MS) said a portfolio based on its currency recommendations returned 5.72% this year, the best performance since 2008. The firm said its best recommendations were to buy the Russian ruble against the yen from October 23 to December 14, which returned 7.1%, and to purchase the dollar versus Japan’s currency from September 25 to December 14, which gained 6.6%, Bloomberg reports


CombiMatrix (CBMX) files to sell 1.94M shares of common stock
Echo Therapeutics (ECTE) prices public offering of common stock at 95c per share


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