Seeking Alpha
Get ready for today's market
Profile| Send Message|
( followers)  

Top Stories
China OKs HSBC's $7.5B sale of Ping An stake. The China Insurance Regulatory Commission has approved HSBC's (HBC) sale of its remaining 15.7% stake in Ping An Insurance to Thailand's Charoen Pokphand for $7.5B. There had been reports that the agency would block the deal due to concerns about how Charoen Pokphand would fund it. HSBC will now be able to book a $2.6B post-tax gain. The bank's shares were -0.1% premarket. (previous)

Chinese PMI readings show diverging paths. China's HSBC PMI, which focuses on smaller and privately owned firms, rose to 52.3 from 51.5 in December. However, the official PMI, which concentrates on larger state-owned enterprises, slowed to 50.4 from 50.6 and missed expectations. "We see increasing signals of a sustained growth recovery in the coming months," HSBC says.

Pfizer spin-off Zoetis raises $2.24B in IPO. Shares in Zoetis (ZTS), Pfizer's (PFE) animal-health spin-off, are set to begin trading on the NYSE today after the company raised $2.24B in an IPO by selling 86.1M shares at $26 each. That's above the expected range of $22-25 and gives Zoetis a market cap of $13B, making it the largest listed firm of its kind and one of the few that concentrates only on animal treatments.

Top Stock News
Sony to unveil next-generation PlayStation. Sony (SNE) reportedly intends to unveil its next-generation PlayStation at a meeting on February 20, seven years after the company debuted the PlayStation 3. The new console will probably incorporate more social gaming elements and changes in how players interact with the device. The next PS is likely to include chips from AMD (AMD) as opposed to the "Cell chip" technology developed by IBM (IBM) and Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSBF) that is used in the PS3.

Dell buyout could be announced on Monday. The deal to take Dell (DELL) private could reportedly be finalized over the weekend and announced on Monday. As already speculated, Michael Dell will gain majority control, while Silver Lake and Microsoft (MSFT) will become minority shareholders, although there's no word on the final price. Barclays (BCS), Bank of America (BAC), Credit Suisse (CS) and RBC Capital (RY) will provide $15B of debt financing.

Samsung Electronics chairman maintains control. Samsung Electronics (OTC:SSNLF) Chairman Lee Kun-hee has kept his grip on the company after a South Korean court rejected a demand by close relatives that he hand them up to 4.1T won ($3.7B) in shares in the firm and in Samsung Life Insurance, which sits at the heart of the complex web of companies and cross-holdings that make up the main Samsung "chaebol."

MetLife to buy BBVA Chilean ops for $2B. MetLife (MET) has agreed to acquire Chilean pension fund administrator AFP Provida for $2B in a deal that is part of the U.S. company's strategy of expanding in emerging markets. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) will sell its 64.3% stake in Provida to MetLife, which will carry out a tender offer for the other shares.

Panasonic generates surprising profit. Panasonic (PC) swung to an FQ3 net profit of ¥61B ($662M) from a loss of ¥198B last year and beat consensus for a loss of ¥17B. This was despite revenues sliding 8% to ¥1.8T. The bottom line was helped by the weakening yen and the massive job cuts that Panasonic has carried out since April. Despite the surprising profit, though, the company reiterated its FY forecast for a loss of ¥765B.

Peregrine founder set to spend rest of life in jail. Peregrine Financial founder Russell Wasendorf has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from the collapsed brokerage's customers, who are unlikely to get all their money back. Wasendorf was also told to pay $215.5M in restitution. Meanwhile, Roomy Khan, an FBI informant in the insider-trading case against Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam, received 12 months in jail for securities fraud, obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

Barclays allegedly lent Qatar cash to buy the bank's shares. The U.K. investigation into Barclays' (BCS) 2008 fundraising from Qatar has taken a new turn, with the bank alleged to have lent the Persian Gulf state money to invest in its shares during the financial crisis. While the cash-call enabled Barclays to avoid a British government bailout, the loan could have breached market rules if it wasn't properly disclosed; the revelation of the arrangement could further damage the bank's already battered reputation.

Holland bails out major bank. The bank-rescue culture is continuing strongly, with the Netherlands bailing out SNS Reaal at a cost of €3.7B after a private-led attempt collapsed. The 4th largest financial institution in the country with €134B in assets, SNS was hit by losses in its property holdings. The bailout should do wonders for the already struggling Dutch government budget deficit.

Blast rocks Pemex HQ in Mexico City. An explosion yesterday at the headquarters of state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos in Mexico City has killed 25 people and left around 100 injured. Pemex said it will be able to continue to operate normally despite the blast, which may have been caused by a gas boiler that blew up. The explosion comes just five months after a blast at a Pemex natural gas facility in northern Mexico killed 30.

Top Economic & Other News
Jobless rate seen stuck at 7.8%. Unemployment data for January is due out this morning, with economists expecting that nonfarm payrolls rose by 160,000 vs the 155,000 increase in December. The jobless rate is expected to have stayed at 7.8% for the third month in a row. It's probably worth remembering that the Q4 GDP data earlier this week sprung a nasty surprise.

Eurozone PMI points to mid-year recovery. Eurozone manufacturing PMI rose to an 11-month high of 47.9 in January from 46.1 in December, with output improving in Germany, Holland and Ireland but with France's slump deepening. The data suggests "that the industrial sector is close to stabilizing after contracting throughout much of last year," says Markit, adding to the "expectation that the eurozone is on course to return to growth by mid-2013."

Eurozone inflation falls towards ECB target. Eurozone annual inflation fell to a preliminary 2% in January from 2.2% in December, thereby edging closer to the ECB's target of just under 2%. Consensus was for 2.2%. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in December stayed at a record high of 11.7%, although it was below consensus of 11.9%. The number of unemployed people was stable at 18.715M.

Senate passes bill to suspend the debt limit. The Senate yesterday authorized measures to suspend the debt ceiling until May 19 after the House approved the bill last week. It will now go to President Obama for his signature. The package includes a section about withholding the pay of House and/or Senate members until they pass a budget bill for the next fiscal year if they fail to do so by April 15.

Editors' Picks
Exxon Mobil: What The Numbers Say
Existing Forces Driving FX Are Strengthened
What The GDP Report Says About Gold

Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan +0.5% to 11191. Hong Kong flat at 23722. China +1.4% to 2419. India -0.6% to 19781.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.4%. Paris +1%. Frankfurt +0.3%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow +0.4%. S&P +0.3%. Nasdaq +0.3%. Crude -0.3% to $97.24. Gold +0.3% to $1666.70.

Today's economic calendar:
Auto sales
6:00 Monster Employment Index
8:30 Nonfarm payrolls
8:58 PMI Manufacturing Index
9:55 Reuters/UofM Consumer Sentiment
10:00 ISM Manufacturing Index
10:00 Construction Spending

Notable earnings before today's open: AON, BEAM, BEN, BPO, CVX, HCLP, IR, LM, LYB, MAT, MRK, NOV, NS, NWL, PRGO, TSN, WETF, XOM

See full real-time earnings coverage »

Wall Street Breakfast is sent out by email for free -- Get it now »

Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News