Frontrunning: February 28

  • Grillo kills move to break Italy deadlock (FT)
  • Abe nominates Kuroda to run BoJ (FT)
  • More WMT bad news: Wal-Mart Chief Administrative Officer Mars to Leave: WSJ (BBG)
  • Japan's Abe: Islands Are Indisputably Ours (WSJ) - Except for China of course
  • Low-key departure as pope steps down, to enter the final phase of his life "hidden from the world" (Reuters)
  • Cuts unlikely to deliver promised budget savings (Reuters)
  • European Union caps bankers’ bonuses (FT)
  • White House, Republicans dig in ahead of budget talks (Reuters)
  • Jockeying Stalls Deal on Cuts (WSJ)
  • Argentina Says It Won’t Voluntarily Comply With Bond Ruling (BBG)
  • Italian president says forming new government cannot be rushed (Reuters) - or happen at all
  • Central Banks Spewing Cash Must Plan Exit Timing, Rohde Says (BBG)
  • China Regional Targets Cut in Sign Debt Concerns Heeded (BBG)
  • RBA Says Up to 34 Central Banks Holding Australian Dollars (BBG)


Overnight Media Digest


* With across-the-board spending cuts set to begin in the United States on Friday, the White House and congressional Republicans are poised to let the deadline pass, each calculating that their hand in negotiations only grows stronger if they scorn a quick compromise.

* The probe of potential insider trading ahead of this month's $23 billion buyout of H.J. Heinz Co has widened, as regulators and criminal investigators scrutinize what they see as suspicious purchases of stock in the ketchup maker, according to people familiar with the inquiries.

* The European Union reached a preliminary deal on a measure that would forbid bonuses that exceed a bankers' fixed salary in the latest effort to curb what is seen by many as corporate and banking excess. Flexible pay could increase to twice fixed salary, but only with explicit shareholder approval.

* Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe moved a step closer to having a proponent of his aggressive monetary easing policies, Haruhiko Kuroda, become head of the Bank of Japan after the cabinet submitted its nominee for the top job to parliament.

* Lithium-ion battery maker GS Yuasa Corp told the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that it believes Boeing Co's proposed package of fixes to end the six-week grounding of 787s is inadequate to mitigate all potential battery hazards.

* The U.S. military, stepping up efforts to equip the Afghan Air Force, awarded a long-delayed $427.5 million contract to Sierra Nevada Corp and its Brazilian partner Embraer SA , to supply Afghanistan with a small fleet of attack planes.

* Leap Wireless International Inc, which operates the Cricket cellphone brand, said it is on pace to sell only half as many iPhones as it committed to sell during the first year of its contract with Apple Inc, and could have $100 million worth of unsold iPhones by the middle of this year.

* Mongolia has suspended two mining permits for a Canadian gold and copper explorer partly owned by Rio Tinto Plc, signaling a possible deepening in a dispute over the huge Oyu Tolgoi development in the Gobi Desert.

* Caesars Entertainment Corp has been crafting a plan to use online gambling to help pull itself out of a financial tight spot - a tactic that could get a boost from New Jersey, America's coming regulated market for Internet wagers.

* U.S. federal investigators subpoenaed shopping center owner Kimco Realty Corp in a probe of alleged foreign bribery involving retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

* Tom Mars, Wal-Mart Stores Inc chief administrative officer, will leave the retailer on March 13 after more than a decade with the company. A Wal-Mart spokesman declined to provide a reason for his departure



At least a third of Apple Inc's investors voted not to back the company's executive compensation at its annual shareholders' meeting.

Royal Dutch Shell scrapped plans to drill for oil off the north coast of Alaska this year.

New banks in the UK will not be required to hold as much capital to begin operations as their established peers.

Centrica said it would not build gas plants in Britain for at least four years.

Tesco has vowed to source more produce from within Britain in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

Nokia Siemens Networks has completed its process to sell-off its non-core businesses.

Barclays has clawed back 300 million pounds in promised bonuses from its bankers.

BP misrepresented crucial information to regulators and continued its drilling activities in "dangerous" conditions at the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, an expert witness told the trial in New Orleans centred on the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and its aftermath.

EU competition regulators on Thursday blocked the latest attempt by Ryanair to buy Aer Lingus.



* South Korean Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has been quietly adding security enhancements to the Google Inc Android software that runs on its smartphones to make them more attractive to big corporations.

* Regulators have escalated an investigation into suspicious trades placed ahead of the $23 billion takeover of H.J. Heinz Co , focusing on a complex derivatives bet routed through London, according to two people briefed on the matter.

* Boeing Co presented the Japanese government with its plan to address battery problems on its new 787 Dreamliner, stressing that added protections against possible battery fires and overheating are more than enough to allow its planes back in the air.

* The U.S. Senate approved President Obama's choice for Treasury secretary, Jacob Lew, just a day after a highly politicized vote for Chuck Hagel, the new defense secretary.

* 278 U.S. companies, including Citigroup Inc, Apple Inc and Alcoa Inc, have signed a supporting brief calling for the Supreme Court to overturn a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples, arguing that it imposes serious administrative and financial costs on their operations.

* As JC Penney Co Inc reported a fourth-quarter loss, Chief Executive Ron Johnson, said customers had not responded to his turnaround strategy.

* Drug maker Mylan Inc announced that it was acquiring Agila Specialties Private, an Indian manufacturer of generic injectable drugs, for $1.6 billion in cash.

* Intel Corp plans to invest $152 million in Brazil over the next five years in research and development, joining forces with the Brazilian government, which has made increasing the country's software output a top priority




* A single entrée at many chain restaurants across Canada contain hazardous levels of sodium that may increase the long-term risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, according to new research.

Reports in the business section:

* Canada is resisting pressure from Europe to allow its financial institutions and investors to directly sue Ottawa for measures it might take to protect the stability of the financial system or market players, according to a leaked draft of the services and investment chapter of the deal.

* Canada's oil industry is warning the federal government that an aggressive move to force reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions and other pollutants could force the closing of several Eastern Canadian refineries, with the loss of hundreds of well-paying jobs.


* Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says he is going to Washington next week to not only urge U.S. lawmakers approve the Keystone XL pipeline, but also to highlight green initiatives taking place in his province.


* As erstwhile smartphone leader Nokia Oyj fails to gain much headway on Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co, the Finnish company is setting its sights on a weaker rival: BlackBerry. Nokia is betting its partnership with Microsoft Corp will help it win business users, targeting BlackBerry's stronghold.




-- Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China denied rumours that they had suspended offering mortgages for second house purchases due to policy tightening, saying the major reason for the suspension was that their monthly credit line quotas were exhausted early this month.

-- China's new loans are expected to hit 750 billion yuan ($120.44 billion) in February, several analysts told the newspaper.


-- China's securities regulator has meted out the toughest possible punishment to intermediaries who helped the initial public offering of Chinese company Yunnan Green-Land Biological Technology Co, which was accused of cooking its books.

-- Officials in Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang province on China's east coast, said the city will try hard to keep its banks' non-performing loan ratio below 2.8 percent after it hit 3.43 percent as of November last year.



Fly On The Wall 7:00 Am Market Snapshot



Deutsche Bank (DB) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette
Edison International (EIX) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
InterXion (INXN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
Lamar Advertising (LAMR) upgraded to Neutral from Underweight at Piper Jaffray


AutoNavi (AMAP) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Groupon (GRPN) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Groupon (GRPN) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
HEICO (HEI) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
OGE Energy (OGE) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies
STAAR Surgical (STAA) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at William Blair
Saks (SKS) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
UBS (UBS) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Keefe Bruyette
Vitamin Shoppe (VSI) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Whiting Petroleum (WLL) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS


Apollo Investment (AINV) initiated with a Buy at UBS
Axiall (AXLL) initiated with a Neutral at Citigroup
Fusion-io (FIO) initiated with a Buy at Mizuho
Red Hat (RHT) initiated with an Overweight at Barclays
Regeneron (REGN) initiated with an Overweight at Barclays
Vipshop (VIPS) resumed with a Buy at Goldman
eBay (EBAY) initiated with an Outperform at BMO Capital


Regency Energy Partners (RGP) to acquire Southern Union Gathering Co. (ETE, ETP) for $1.5B
Mylan (MYL) to buy Agila Specialties Private Limited for $1.6B
Corning (GLW) to acquire Bargoa, terms not disclosed
Sears (SHLD) expects to cut 2013 peak domestic inventory by $500M
Continental Resources (CLR) sees FY13 production growth range 35%-40%
Nordstrom (JWN) announced $800M share repurchase and 11% dividend raise
Morgan Stanley (MS) sold EMEA-based GSPS business to Computershare
Iron Mountain (IRM) expects to tap into unvended segment in developed markets in 2013


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Valeant (VRX), Sears Holdings (SHLD), Continental Resources (CLR), Pall Corp. (PLL), Sturm, Ruger (RGR), Mylan (MYL), Limited (LTD), Chicago Bridge & Iron (CBI)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Visteon (VC), Iron Mountain (IRM), Seacor Holdings (CKH), Vale (VALE), J.C. Penney (JCP), Greif (GEF), Monster Beverage (MNST)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
EPAM Systems (EPAM), ICF International (ICFI), STAAR Surgical (STAA)


  • U.S. natural-gas production will accelerate over the next three decades, new research indicates, providing the strongest evidence yet that the energy boom remaking America will last for a generation, the Wall Street Journal reports
  • The investigation of potential insider trading ahead of this month's $23B buyout of H.J. Heinz (HNZ) has widened, as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the FBI scrutinize what they see as suspicious purchases of stock in the ketchup maker, sources say, the Wall Street Journal reports
  • In China, profitability and sales are harder to come by as U.S. firms face increasing competition from domestic and foreign players, according to an annual survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, Reuters reports
  • Two former UBS (UBS) traders in Singapore are suing the bank for wrongful dismissal, saying the bank fired them to lessen its role in the alleged manipulation of reference rates used to price currency derivatives known as non-deliverable forwards, Reuters reports
  • Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), struggling to attract shoppers constrained by higher taxes, is “getting worse” at keeping shelves stocked, the retailer’s U.S. CEO Bill Simon told executives, according to minutes of an officers’ meeting obtained by Bloomberg News
  • Facebook (FB), pressured to expand sales from its 1.1B users, is moving into a business that lets marketers buy advertisements in real time on the basis of a member’s Web-browsing habits. The company is broadening Facebook Exchange’s global footprint, with plans to expand in Asia and Latin America, Bloomberg reports


American Capital Agency (AGNC) announces public offering of 50M shares
CommonWealth REIT (CWH) 30M share Secondary priced at $19.00
DCP Midstream (DPM) announces public offering of 10.25M common units
Del Frisco's (DFRG) files to sell 5.46M shares of common stock for holders
Medical Properties Trust (MPW) files to sell 9M shares of common stock
TriMas (TRS) files to sell 1.5M shares of common stock for holders