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FAA backs Boeing's battery plans. Boeing (NYSE:BA) has received the FAA's approval for the company's plan to test and certify improvements to the 787's battery system. The successful completion of each step of the program will result in the FAA allowing the resumption of commercial flights for the Dreamliner. Boeing's shares were +0.5% premarket.

BHP refutes bribery accusations. BHP (NYSE:BHP) has denied any wrongdoing associated with its sponsorship of the Beijing Olympics, saying that it believes its "activities complied with all applicable law." BHP's comments came after Australian police and U.S. authorities opened an investigation into bribery allegations against BHP in relation to the games, which took place in 2008. Shares were -0.2% premarket.

Sense of economic tightening intensifies in China. Zhou Xiaochuan, the Governor of the People's Bank of China, has said the country should be on "high alert" over inflation after February's price increases topped expectations. Monetary-policy is "no longer relaxed" and is "neutral," he said. Zhou's remarks add to signs that China is tightening policy even as its recovery may be hitting a bump, including the city of Shenzen banning property developers from raising home prices. The move helped drag property stocks and the benchmark index lower (See below for more details).

Top Stock News
Chevron to spend $36.7B on oil and gas capex in 2013. Chevron (NYSE:CVX) plans to invest $36.7B to increase its oil and gas production this year, but only around 25% will be spent in the U.S., CEO John Watson has told CNBC. Increasing the proportion of money Chevron puts into the U.S. will depend on more acreage being made available for exploration, easier permitting, and more prudent environmental regulations.

LBO consortium to raise offer for Dell, or maybe not. Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) shareholders will receive a modest LBO offer price increase, dealReporter reports, somewhat contradicting a NY Post article that Michael Dell and co. won't increase their bid at all. Is the LBO consortium playing hardball, or is it just waging a covert PR campaign to discourage investors who want a significantly higher offer?

Google aims to take on Amazon and Microsoft in cloud dogfight. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is doubling the size of its office space near Seattle and ramping up the hiring of cloud-technology engineers as it looks to take on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Web Services and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Azure. Separately, and as expected, the company has come to an agreement with 38 states to pay $7M to settle accusations that it breached people's privacy with the "drive-by data collection" of personal information when mapping Street View.

Top Economic & Other News
Government to go to Supreme Court over Obama's NLRB appointments. The White House plans to ask the Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court ruling in January that President Obama's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional because the Senate wasn't officially in recess at the time he made them, and nor did it approve them. The ruling has prompted dozens of companies to attempt to block the board's decisions, saying it doesn't have the authority to make those decisions.

Doubts about prospective BOJ deputy governor help send Japan shares lower. Japan's main opposition party, the DPJ, plans to oppose the nomination of Kikuo Iwata as the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Japan. Support from smaller parties should enable the government to win approval for Iwata - who's considered to be a major dove - in the upper house, where it lacks a majority. However, that's not stopped the yen from strengthening and shares from falling (See below for more details).

Government refinancing program starts to make an impact. "HARP 2.0 is working," says mortgage-bond trader Patrick Ahn. The Federal Housing Finance Agency will show in a report today how more borrowers, particularly those who are in negative equity, are taking advantage of the government's Home Affordable Refinance Program, which has become easier to access after the government changed the rules in January.

Corruption costs Africa $1.3T over three decades. Africa lost $1.3T in illicit outflows stemming from bribes, tax evasion and other corrupt practices in the three decades to 2009, a report shows, with the $74.2B that left in 2009 representing three times the amount of development aid the continent received that year. Outflows peaked at $103.7B in 2007, but have declined since then along with the weakening of the global economy, while African officials have also tightened laws and oversight.

Longer workweek points to growth in manufacturing jobs. An increase in the factory workweek to the longest since World War II indicates that the jobs growth in the sector is set to continue. Production staff worked an average 41.9 hours a week in February, tying with December 1997 and January 1998 as the most since May 1944. Companies will need to think about recruiting for future needs, not just for their immediate requirements, if demand stays steady, says employment consultant John Challenger.

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Dividend Aristocrats + Equal Weighting > S&P 500

Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan -0.6% to 12240. Hong Kong -1.5% to 22557. China -1% to 2264. India -1% to 19363.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.8%. Paris -0.5%. Frankfurt -0.2%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow -0.15%. S&P -0.1%. Nasdaq -0.2%. Crude +0.3% to $92.79. Gold -0.1% to $1595.

Today's economic calendar:
7:00 MBA Mortgage Applications
8:30 Import/Export Prices
8:30 Retail Sales
10:00 Business Inventories
10:30 EIA Petroleum Inventories
1:00 PM Results of $21B, 10-Year Note Auction

Notable earnings before today's open: AH, AMRC, ATRS, EXPR, KRO, PERI, SNSS, TA

Notable earnings after today's close: CWTR, FTK, HOTT, SIGM, VRA

See full real-time earnings coverage »

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Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News