- Heavy snowstorm hammers northeastern U.S. (Reuters)
- Coins Remain a Bright Spot for Gold (WSJ)
- Gross’s Mistake on Fed Taper Echoes Across Pimco Funds (BBG)
- China December services PMI falls to four-month low (Reuters)
- General Mills Starts Making Some Cheerios Without GMOs (WSJ)
- U.S. considers flammability risk of Bakken crude after accidents (Reuters)
- China Mobile’s Costly iPhone Deal with Apple (WSJ)
- Hezbollah Upgrades Missile Threat to Israel (WSJ)
- UK House Prices Cap Best Year Since 2006 as Mortgages Surge (BBG)
- China tells police to be loyal to party amid graft crackdown (Reuters)
- Pimco Sees Dim Sum Refinancing Boom on Cash Crunch (BBG)
- Obamacare Medicaid Expansion to Worsen Hospital ER Burden (BBG)
- Finra to Crack Down on Brokers With High Number of Complaints (WSJ)
- Euro-Zone Private Lending Plunges (WSJ)
- India Prime Minister Won’t Seek a Third Term (WSJ)
Overnight Media Digest
* The dollar surged in the first trading day of 2014, in anticipation that U.S. economic growth this year will outpace the recovery in Europe and other regions.
* The federal government warned that crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota may be more flammable than other types of crude.
* Cox Enterprises Inc, the closely held media conglomerate, has bought back a stake in AutoTrader Group Inc in a deal that implies a value of about $7 billion for the online auto marketplace.
* Sales of gold coins are booming even as the metal's price is falling, a testament to gold's continued appeal for small investors and collectors despite its first bear market in more than a decade.
* U.S. passenger airlines are bracing for the start of new federal regulations on Saturday that will guarantee their pilots more rest time and restrict the hours they can put in behind the cockpit controls.
* When Mathew Martoma's insider-trading trial begins next week, federal prosecutors will arrive armed with what they believe is one of the strongest cases to emerge from their decade-long investigation into SAC Capital Advisors LP. Lawyers from the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan are expected to call two doctors who will testify that they passed inside tips on pharmaceutical drug tests to Martoma, a former portfolio manager at the large hedge fund.
* Mandiant, the consulting firm known for outing Chinese hackers, is being purchased by FireEye Inc, the Silicon Valley company that went public last fall for about $1 billion.
* Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc has settled legal disputes with Macy's Inc and J.C. Penney Co over an ill-fated merchandising agreement, but Macy's and Penney still need to resolve their differences. Stewart found herself embroiled in a legal triangle after her company agreed in late 2011 to make bedding, bath and other products for Penney. Macy's sued both companies, arguing the deal violated a previous agreement it had with the domestic diva to sell similar items exclusively at its stores.
* The outlook for Cape Wind, a U.S. offshore wind farm project, brightened a bit as its main public investor, Pension Danmark, said it would keep its financial commitment to the project even though a key year-end deadline was missed.
Thatcherites used the allegory of City knights and peasants, one of thousands of government documents that have been declassified from 1984 reveal.
Facebook is facing a class-action lawsuit over claims the social network monitors users' private messages to sell the data to advertisers.
The plaintiffs allege Facebook systematically intercepts private messages to obtain data it shares with marketers, giving the company an advantage over other data aggregators.
Disastrous Christmas trading has plunged Debenhams, one of Britain's biggest high street retailers, into crisis, forcing its finance director to quit and prompting investors to question whether the current chief executive can turn the company around.
Mandiant, a US cyber security company at the forefront of fighting a new wave of cyber attacks, has been bought for more than $1bn, in a deal that highlights the growing concern about government-backed online spying from China and the US National Security Agency.
The world's factories roared into life towards the end of 2013 as manufacturing activity delivered its fastest growth in almost three years, fuelling hopes that the global recovery will accelerate this year.
* DreamWorks Animation SKG has partnered with a technology company, Fuhu, to make a tablet computer that the studio will be able to program much like a cable channel for children, a highly coveted audience.
* Ezra Klein, an analyst, columnist and television commentator who runs The Washington Post's Wonkblog, is making plans to leave the newspaper after failing to win support for a new website he wanted to create within the company, according to four people with knowledge of the negotiations.
* The New York Times said on Thursday that it would launch its redesigned website on Jan. 8. The new platform, which will allow for better integration of video and photography with text, among other features, would be available to a small group of readers immediately as a test rollout, The Times said.
* Former United States Senator from the Democratic Party and the its nominee for Vice President in the 2000 election Joseph Lieberman joins private equity firm Victory Park Capital to help with them with his regulatory expertise.
* A planned expansion of the Panama Canal may be halted because of a dispute between the building consortium and canal authorities over $1.6 billion in extra costs.
* Financial industry regulators are hoping to enact a rule this year that would make it easier for investors to find out if a broker pushing to sell them a stock, bond or other investment product has a clean record.
* Wal-Mart Stores Inc says it's considering taking legal action against "responsible parties" after DNA testing showed traces of fox meat in the donkey meat it sold in China.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
* Toronto's Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly says he is "exploring" whether to call in the army, with the city facing a lengthy and costly cleanup after an ice storm that knocked out power to 300,000 homes and other buildings.
* Hundreds of Albertans are lining up to get flu shots as the number of confirmed cases of H1N1 climbs in the province, with residents saying they are getting vaccinated out of concern for little children.
* Employers convicted of human trafficking, sexually assaulting or causing the death of an employee will be allowed to access the Temporary Foreign Worker program after Ottawa decided to back away from a proposed ban. Ottawa had released draft regulations in June that proposed to ban employers from using the program if they have at least one conviction from a list of criminal offences. But the final version of the regulations, which took effect on Dec. 31, removed that provision.
* The prospect of liquefied natural gas plants being built in northwestern British Columbia has sent assessed values for residential properties soaring in the region.
Reports in the business section:
* BlackBerry Ltd has snuffed out its partnership with the Girl on Fire. The Waterloo, Ontario company said Thursday it is parting ways with singer and celebrity Alicia Keys on Jan. 30, one year after she took on the role of "global creative director" to accompany the launch of the BlackBerry 10 smartphone.
* The province of Quebec formally linked its cap-and-trade system with California's market on Thursday, as the two jurisdictions plow ahead with ambitious plans to put an escalating price on carbon in order to reduce emissions.
* Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd has agreed to sell the western end of its Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern railway in the United States for about $210 million. The buyer is Genesee & Wyoming Inc, which operates short-line and regional freight railways in the United States, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Belgium.
* Calgary based TransCanada Corp said Thursday it has bought Mississippi Mills in eastern Ontario from Canadian Solar Solutions Inc as part of the ongoing expansion of its presence in the renewable energy sector.
* Canada's auditor general has notified senators that a sweeping probe of their spending may include visits to their homes, and that they could be interviewed under oath in "exceptional circumstances." The details are laid out in documents auditor general Michael Ferguson's office provided to senators in November about the comprehensive audit of Senate expenses.
* The Opposition says Alberta's governing Progressive Conservative party should be forced to repay more than C$1 million ($939,900) in taxpayer money spent on signs touting building projects in the province. The Wildrose party says the signs, in hues similar to Tory colors and featuring Premier Alison Redford's name, are nothing more than partisan political advertising.
* The Canada Revenue Agency is planning to cut auditors at the same time it acknowledges difficulty in tracking and collecting billions of dollars in unreported income from domestic and international tax evasion.
* Simmering disputes over the oil sands between Alberta aboriginals and the provincial and federal governments will break into the open in 2014 as virtually every one of the many recent changes in oversight of the controversial industry comes under legal and political attack.
- Chinese judges are quitting in droves, complaining of too much interference from government officials, heavy caseloads, and salaries of 5,000 yuan ($830) per month.
CHINA BUSINESS NEWS
- China is expected to take over the United States as the world's largest foreign trader by volume in 2013.
- A poll by the National Bureau of Statistics showed 87.3 percent of citizens surveyed in 21 provinces believed a campaign against official corruption launched by the country's new leadership, which came into power in November 2012, had won some success.
- A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon picked up the first batch of passengers from stranded Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy as a rescue operation got underway in the Antarctic on Thursday.
- The China Securities Regulatory Commission plans to revise rules, including those governing corporate restructuring, to implement principles announced last month by the State Council, the cabinet, to strengthen protection of small investors.
CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL
- Another five companies have obtained regulatory approvals to launch initial public offerings (IPOs), with general equipment producer Anhui Yingliu Electromechanical publishing its share issue prospectus to float 80 million shares for a listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. More than a dozen firms have won approvals to launch IPOs since China ended a 14-month freeze.
- The first batch of companies launching IPOs after the freeze appears to be pricing their issues at 20 to 30 times of their historical earnings, lower than prices that firms fixed before the freeze, because regulators have issued new rules to clamp down on excessive pricing and rampant speculation in new shares.
SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS
- China CNR Corp, one of the country's top two train makers, said it won approval from the state asset management bureau to issue H shares to be listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
- China will study Tobin Tax, a proposal made by the European Union to levy trading tax globally on spot foreign exchange transactions so as to curb speculation, vice central bank governor Yi Gang said in an article published by the "Qiu Shi" (Seeking Truth) magazine.
AGUSTAWESTLAND WARNS UK JOBS UNDER THREAT AFTER INDIA CANCELS CONTRACT
British helicopter company AgustaWestland has prepared a "mitigation plan" that involves "a reduction to the workforce" after the Indian government terminated a £465m contract
IMF PAPER WARNS OF 'SAVINGS TAX' AND MASS WRITE-OFFS AS WEST'S DEBT HITS 200-YEAR HIGH
Much of the Western world will require defaults, a savings tax and higher inflation to clear the way for recovery as debt levels reach a 200-year high, according to a new report by the International Monetary Fund.
GOLDFISH DEATH AMONG FLIMSIEST EXCUSES FOR SENDING LATE TAX RETURNS
The tax agency has compiled a list of the most "bizarre and flimsy" excuses for sending in a late tax return, including a builder who was mourning the death of his pet goldfish and a trader who claimed his wife refused to hand over his mail.
DEBENHAMS CHIEF EXECUTIVE UNDER PRESSURE AFTER PROFIT WARNING
Debenhams' chief executive, Michael Sharp, is under mounting pressure to turn around the department store group's performance after its finance director, Simon Herrick, was forced to resign in the wake of this week's profit warning.
HOUSE OF FRASER CHIEF SAYS PREPARED TO FLOAT FIRM THIS YEAR
Record Christmas trading at House of Fraser has laid the ground for its flotation before the end of the year, according to its chief executive.
NATWEST CARDS BLOCKED BY TESCO PUMPS
NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland debit and credit card users have had their cards locked after trying to pay for fuel at Tesco petrol stations.
SIGNS OF STRONG GROWTH IN UK MANUFACTURING CONTINUE
UK manufacturers are beginning 2014 in their best condition in nearly three years, according to the latest health check of the industry's fortunes.
BBC'S LIZ BARCLAY JOINS THE FINANCIAL SERVICES CONSUMER PANEL
BBC business journalist Liz Barclay is set to join the Financial Consumer Panel, which advises the Financial Conduct Authority.
Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot
DTE Energy (DTE) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Fidelity National (FNF) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Janney Capital
Finisar (FNSR) upgraded to Strong Buy from Outperform at Raymond James
Infosys (INFY) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at HSBC
Maxim Integrated (MXIM) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
MetLife (MET) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Janney Capital
PPL Corp. (PPL) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
PSEG (PEG) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Sirius XM (SIRI) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Evercore
Westar Energy (WR) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
ARM Holdings (ARMH) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
Applied Micro (AMCC) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
Chubb (CB) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
Consolidated Edison (ED) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Coronado (CNDO) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
Endurance Specialty (ENH) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
Entergy (ETR) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup
Exelon (EXC) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup
FirstEnergy (FE) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup
General Electric (GE) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
IPC The Hospitalist Co. (IPCM) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
Joy Global (JOY) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Goldman
Micron (MU) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
Moog (MOG.A) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
NRG Yield (NYLD) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Prudential (PRU) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
Sprint (S) downgraded to Sell from Hold at Stifel
White Mountains (WTM) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
Bank of Montreal (BMO) initiated with an Outperform at RBC Capital
Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS) initiated with an Outperform at RBC Capital
CIBC (CM) initiated with a Sector Perform at RBC Capital
CNO Financial (CNO) initiated with a Buy at Citigroup
China Distance Education (DL) assumed with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray
FX Energy (FXEN) initiated with a Buy at Roth Capital
LIN Media (LIN) initiated with an Outperform at Wedbush
Manulife Financial (MFC) initiated with an Outperform at RBC Capital
Nexstar (NXST) initiated with a Neutral at Wedbush
Sinclair Broadcast (SBGI) initiated with an Outperform at Wedbush
Sun Life Financial (SLF) initiated with a Sector Perform at RBC Capital
Toronto-Dominion (TD) initiated with an Outperform at RBC Capital
Canadian Pacific (CP) to sell west end of line to Genesee & Wyoming (GWR)
FireEye (FEYE) acquired Mandiant for $106M and 21.5M shares of FireEye stock, raised FY14 revenue guidance to $400M-$410M from $240M-$250M
Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Resources Connection (RECN)
- Boeing’s (BA) largest union is set to vote today on a contract that will likely shape the power of organized labor at one of the U.S.'s biggest manufacturers for years, the Wall Street Journal reports
- China Mobile (CHL) may have secured a deal with Apple (AAPL) to sell iPhones, but it’s looking like a costly partnership at least in the near term. Brokerages have been swiftly reducing their earnings forecast for the world’s largest carrier by subscribers because of steep capital outlays for a new network and anticipated handset subsidies, the Wall Street Journal reports
- Fiat's (FIATY) deal to take full control of Chrysler on better-than-expected terms has cemented CEO Sergio Marchionne's dealmaking reputation, but he might run out of road to channel that drive into operational success for the business, Reuters reports
- Telefonica (TEF) is working on a joint offer to take over TIM Participacoes (TSU) and break up the local wireless unit of Telecom Italia (TI) also known as TIM Brasil, Reuters reports
- Safety rules will probably be tightened on crude oil shipments from North Dakota following a string of railway explosions, threatening to damp an energy boom (CLR, HES, WLL) that has boosted the region’s economy, Bloomberg reports
- The airline industry (DAL, UAL, LUV, JBLU) and one of its prominent allies are gearing up to fight a possible push in Congress to tax baggage fees and other air-travel charges as a way to generate additional federal revenue, Bloomberg reports
Western Gas Equity (WGP) files to sell 40M common units for holder
S.A.C. Capital reports 5.6% passive stake in E-House (EJ)