Chesapeake sheds $2.1B more in assets as Williams expands. Chesapeake Energy (CHK) has agreed to sell a substantial majority of its midstream assets to Access Midstream Partners (ACMP) for $2.16B. Chesapeake anticipates completing the sale of its remaining such assets by the end of Q1 2013 for $425M. Meanwhile, Williams Cos. (WMB) will acquire a 50% interest in Access GP and 25% of limited partner units of Access Midstream for $2.4B. The deals expand Williams' presence in 10 major shale and unconventional producing areas.
Molycorp slides after CEO leaves. Molycorp (MCP) shares dropped 6.7% premarket after the rare-earths company said that Mark Smith has left as CEO but didn't provide an explanation, although the WSJ reported that Smith was fired. Molycorp named Vice Chairman Constantine Karayannopoulos as Smith's interim replacement. His departure comes as the SEC investigates Molycorp over the accuracy of the company's disclosures and amid a slump in its share price over the past year.
OPEC wrangles over next leader as production left at 30M bpd. As expected, OPEC has left its oil output ceiling at 30M bpd at its meeting in Vienna today, although it's unclear whether the cartel will do anything to address the fact that it's producing well above that figure. The meeting is otherwise likely to be dominated by clashes over the appointment of a new leader for the group.
Top Stock News
Warburg Pincus puts Bausch & Lomb up for sale. Warburg Pincus is reportedly looking at selling Bausch & Lomb and is seeking at least $10B for the eyecare company. Warburg's banker, Goldman Sachs, has contacted Sanofi (SNY), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Merck (MRK), and plans to reach out to Abbott Laboratories (ABT).
Costco FQ1 EPS beats forecasts but revenues miss. Costco's (COST) FQ1 net profit jumped 30% to $416M as EPS of $0.95 beat consensus, but a revenue increase of 9.5% to $23.2B missed expectations. Costco's performance was boosted by a 14.3% increase in fee revenue after it raised some membership fees last year. Costco operates 621 warehouses, including 448 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and plans to open an outlet in Korea before the end of the month. Shares were -0.7% premarket.
Ten Big Lots execs sold stock before price sank. The WSJ has continued its focus on executive trading at Big Lots (BIG), finding that ten senior managers sold a total of over $23M in stock in March. The sales were made not long before the firm reported slowing Q1 revenues, which sent shares plunging 24% in one day. One of the executives, CEO Steven Fishman, is already the subject of FBI and SEC investigations for $10M of stock sales.
Avon to slash 1,500 jobs globally. Avon (AVP) intends to cut about 1,500 jobs worldwide and to exit South Korea and Vietnam as part of its program to save $400M a year by the end of 2015, which it announced in November. Avon predicts the latest measures will cost $80-90M in charges, of which it will probably record $50-60M in Q4. Avon expects to announce additional expense cuts in the future.
Fed tells top banks to avoid major acquisitions. The Fed is reportedly discouraging top U.S. banks from making large acquisitions as it informally uses powers it received under the Dodd-Frank Law and attempts to limit the ability of banks to threaten the stability of the financial system should they fail. Those told not to make major purchases include Capital One Financial (COF) after its $9B acquisition of ING's (ING) U.S. online business.
Top Economic & Other News
Survey: Some economists want Fed to stop the bond-buying. While the FOMC may add $45B a month of Treasury purchases to its $40B of acquisitions of mortgage-backed securities at day two of its meeting today, 52% of economists surveyed by the WSJ said the Fed should end the debt purchases. "It's distorting market prices and creating problems in the future," says Wells Fargo's John Silvia.
Obama offers to revamp tax code. The White House has reportedly offered to include an overhaul of the corporate tax code in any deal on the fiscal cliff, although it didn't provide specifics, such as how the reform would affect the overall tax burden. The Administration also cut its goal for new tax revenue to $1.4T from $1.6T. The Republicans made a new proposal as well, but derided the business tax offer as a "red herring" and said the President still needs to outline spending cuts.
Eurozone industrial output declines again. Eurozone industrial output fell a monthly 1.4% in October, and while that represented a deceleration from a 2.3% drop in September, the number badly missed consensus of -0.2%. The October decline was led by an alarming 2.6% fall in Germany, although Spain's output grew 1.2%.
European finmins to try again over bank union. European finance ministers are meeting again in Brussels today as they seek to break an impasse over plans to give the ECB supervisory powers as part of the creation of a eurozone banking union. The EU had hoped to complete a framework for the union by the end of the year. The meeting comes ahead of a parley of EU leaders tomorrow and Friday.
S&P warns companies against cash-hoarding. S&P has warned that while cash-hoarding and under-investment by U.S. corporations may have helped them through the financial crisis, it is "unsustainable," and may be exposing them to "competitive disadvantages in product innovation, manufacturing efficiency and technology." With firms cutting an estimated $175B in investment from 2009-2011, leading non-financial companies held a record $1.26T in cash balances as of June this year.
In Asia, Japan +0.6% to 9581. Hong Kong +0.8% to 22503. China +0.4% to 2083. India -0.2% to 19355.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.2%. Paris -0.1%. Frankfurt +0.2%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow +0.1%. S&P +0.1%. Nasdaq +0.15%. Crude +0.6% to $86.30. Gold +0.3% to $1715.20.
Today's economic calendar:
7:00 MBA Mortgage Applications
8:30 Import/Export Prices
10:30 EIA Petroleum Inventories
11:30 PM Results of $21B, 10-Year Bond Auction
12:30 PM FOMC Announcement
2:00 PM FOMC Forecast
2:00 PM Treasury Budget
2:15 PM Bernanke Press Conference
Notable earnings after today's close: AVNR