Fed OKs 16 bank capital-return programs but rejects two. The Federal Reserve has approved the capital return plans of 14 banks and rejected two - those of Ally and BB&T (BBT). Goldman Sachs (GS) and JPMorgan (JPM) received conditional approval and were asked to resubmit their programs by the end of Q3 to "address weaknesses in their capital planning processes." JPM wants to raise its dividend to $0.38 from $0.30 and repurchase $6B in shares. Goldman's intentions weren't disclosed.
Samsung shares fall after launch of Galaxy S IV. Samsung's (GM:SSNLF) shares dropped 2.6% in South Korean trading after the company yesterday launched its new Galaxy S IV flagship smartphone, which looks a lot like its predecessor. Among a host of features, the device has a 5" 1080p display, a 13MP camera, and a text/speech translator for nine languages, as well as eye-tracking and touch-free gesture technology. Three of the first reviews ranged from the mixed to the effusive.
Inflation seen edging up. U.S. inflation figures for February are due out this morning, with economists expecting that CPI rose 0.5% on month after being flat in January. On year, inflation is seen increasing to 1.9% from 1.6%.
Top Stock News
Senate: Dimon withheld key data. A Senate report has accused JPMorgan (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon of withholding critical data about the London Whale saga from regulators. A hearing is set for today, although Dimon will not testify, and it's possible the Department of Justice will be called to investigate further. It's hard to believe that the Fed request for JPM to "address weaknesses" and the London Whale incident aren't linked.
Boeing hopes 787 can begin flying again in weeks. Boeing's (BA) 787 could restart flights "in weeks, not in months," the company said today after detailing a "permanent fix" for its lithium-ion battery problems that "addresses all (the) causal factors" which led to two burn-outs. Boeing will put the batteries in stainless steel cases, and add extra insulation, spacers and heat-resistant sleeving. Boeing has also asked suppliers Yuasa (OTC:GYUAF) and Thales (OTC:THLEF) to improve production standards.
Samsung increases number of chiefs to three. Samsung (GM:SSNLF) has appointed the heads of its mobile and consumer electronics divisions - J.K. Shin and Boo-Keun Yoon respectively - as co-CEOs, giving it three chiefs in total as Oh-Hyun Kwon will continue as CEO and Chairman. Under Shin, Samsung has become the number one provider of mobile phones in the world. Shin and Yoon will continue to oversee their respective divisions.
FDA reviews data on diabetes drugs. The FDA is reviewing data on some diabetes drugs that the agency said might lead to pre-cancerous changes in the pancreas. The treatments may include Eli Lilly's (LLY) Tradjenta, Merck's (MRK) Januvia, Novo Nordisk's (NVO) Victoza, and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (BMY) Byetta. The review could affect the labeling of the medicines, which have been linked to pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas.
Patriot Coal seeks to terminate $1.6B in retiree healthcare benefits. Patriot Coal (OTC:PCXCQ) has requested court permission to end $1.6B in retiree health benefits for thousands of employees and create a trust fund instead as part of its strategy to exit Chapter 11. The miner wants to cut wages and other worker benefits as well. Patriot has also sued Peabody Energy (BTU), from which it was spun off five years ago, to ensure that Peabody continues fulfilling its "healthcare obligations to certain retirees."
IBM, EMC eye $2B cloud infrastructure provider. IBM (IBM) and EMC (EMC) are reportedly among the companies in the running to buy Web hosting/cloud infrastructure provider SoftLayer Technologies in a deal that could sport a $2B+ price tag. SoftLayer is locked in fierce competition with Rackspace (RAX) and Amazon (AMZN). The report comes as IBM targets $7B in cloud revenue in 2015 and EMC subsidiary VMware (VMW) launches a new cloud infrastructure service.
GE receives Malaysian offer for $1.8B Thai bank stake. GE (GE) has reportedly received a surprise bid for its 25.3% stake in Thailand's Bank of Ayudhya (BAY) from Malaysia's Khazanah Nasional, pitting the sovereign wealth fund against Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MTU). GE is selling the holding, which is worth $1.8B, as part of its strategy of offloading non-core assets, having already sold a 7.6% stake in BAY in September for $466M.
Top Economic & Other News
Eurozone inflation drops to below ECB target. Eurozone CPI fell to an expected +1.8% on year in February from +2% in January, putting inflation below the ECB's target of just under 2%. That could give the bank more scope to further ease monetary policy. The data comes as EU leaders meet on day two of a summit in Brussels, where they might come to some formulation on a rescue for Cyprus. The participants have already indicated that some countries could get more time to fulfill their deficit targets and more leeway for government stimulus to boost the bloc's wretched economy.
Japanese parliament OKs BOJ appointments. The Nikkei rose 1.4% after the upper house of Japan's parliament approved the appointment of Haruhiko Kuroda as the Governor of the Bank of Japan, as well as Hiroshi Nakaso and past BOJ critic Kikuo Iwata as his deputies. Kuroda's first major task is to persuade the bank's nine-member board to back his plans for further easing, while he also may call an emergency policy meeting before the next scheduled gathering on April 3-4.
China appoints Li Keqiang as Premier. China's National People's Congress has rubber-stamped the appointment of Li Keqiang as the country's first ever premier with a doctorate in economics. The selection of Li, who replaces Wen Jiabao, follows the election of Xi Jinping yesterday as President. The legislature will complete China's once-a-decade transfer of power tomorrow with ministerial and other appointments.
China eases yuan limits for multinationals. China has further continued the internationalization of the yuan by setting up three pilot schemes that ease strict cross-border currency regulations for 13 multi-national corporations, including Caterpillar (CAT), Shell (RDS.A), Intel (INTC) and Samsung (GM:SSNLF), which estimates the scheme will save it $10M a year.
In Asia, Japan +1.4% to 12561. Hong Kong -0.4% to 22533. China +0.4% to 2278. India -0.7% to 19428.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.4%. Paris -0.6%. Frankfurt -0.1%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow flat. S&P -0.05%. Nasdaq flat. Crude +0.3% to $93.35. Gold flat at $1591.30.
Today's economic calendar:
8:30 Consumer Price Index
8:30 Empire State Mfg Survey
9:00 Treasury International Capital
9:15 Industrial Production
9:55 Reuters/UofM Consumer Sentiment
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