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Thermo Fisher bids for Life Technologies. Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE:TMO) reportedly made a binding offer of over $65 a share for genetic testing equipment maker Life Technologies (NASDAQ:LIFE) ahead of a bid deadline yesterday. A consortium of private-equity firms, including Blackstone (NYSE:BX), Carlyle (NASDAQ:CG) and KKR (NYSE:KKR), are also looking to make a proposal despite missing the deadline. Life's shares closed at $66.19, giving it a market cap of $11.28B.

UnitedHealth hit with $500M jury verdict over hepatitis C cases. A Nevada jury has ordered UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) to pay $500M in punitive damages for failing to properly supervise a doctor who has been blamed for causing two colonoscopy patients to contract hepatitis C by his reuse of anesthetic vials and failure to sterilize equipment. The award comes on top of $24M in compensation that UnitedHealth must pay, and could have wider implications for the healthcare industry.

Chinese imports suggest solid demand. China swung to a shock trade deficit of $884M in March from a surplus of $15.25B in February, badly missing forecasts for a surplus of $14.7B. Imports rose 14% and beat consensus, helping to reduce worries over the strength of domestic demand, while exports climbed 10%. However, questions have been raised about the data, especially with exports to Hong Kong rising by what researcher IHS says is an "astounding" 92.9%.

Top Stock News
CBS mulls moving local TV stations to cable. CBS (NYSE:CBS) has had exploratory talks with cable operators about taking local stations signals off the air and moving them to cable. The dramatic threat is part of a response by major broadcasters to the disruption Aereo poses with its streaming model and potential partnership with Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH). Also exploring the nuclear option are Fox (NASDAQ:NWS) and Univision.

Blackstone seeks Dell bid partners. Blackstone (BX) is reportedly talking to several unnamed tech companies about a possible joint bid for Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), with any partner set to gain a role in determining the company's "strategic direction." Blackstone has also held several talks with Michael Dell about enlisting his support, but it "remains unclear" if the two sides will reach a deal.

Boeing to spend another $1B on doing the Charleston. Boeing (NYSE:BA) plans to invest another $1B and hire at least 2,000 workers at its plant in Charleston in South Carolina over the next seven years as it ramps up output at the facility, where it produces 787 jets. The state will pay Boeing $120M in incentives if it meets its spending program.

Facebook to roll out new targeted ad tool. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is due to launch a new tool today that will help advertisers directly target its members based on their non-Facebook activity, including their Web surfing, email subscriptions and spending. The tool combines the social network's data with that from third-party marketers such as Acxiom (NASDAQ:ACXM) and Alliance Data Systems (NYSE:ADS). Facebook's efforts have attracted back the likes of GM, but they've also raised privacy concerns.

Adobe launches "TV Everywhere" product. Adobe has launched a new package of tools that is designed to make "TV everywhere" - the distribution of video content to any device - easier and cheaper. Called "Adobe Primetime," the product facilitates mobile streaming, subscriber authentication, protection from privacy, and monetization via targeted ads. IDC reckons Primetime has "a multi-billion dollar market," while Comcast Cable (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is already a customer.

Siemens warns on demand. Siemens (SI) CEO Peter Loescher expects a weak global business cycle to constrain demand for the conglomerate's technology equipment. "Business has not become easier...We still don't expect any tailwind from the global economy and markets," Loescher said. "Many experts expect an upswing in the second half. We have yet to see any signs of that." (See WTO below)

Toyota: Corolla top-selling car, not Focus. Toyota (NYSE:TM) has disputed Ford's (NYSE:F) claim that the Focus was the world's best selling car in 2012, with the Japanese company saying that its Corolla marque took the crown with sales of 1.16M vehicles. That's above the 1.02M Focuses that were sold.

Goldman makes big bucks from Dollar General. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) has possibly generated $1.2B in revenue over the past six years from its involvement with Dollar General (NYSE:DG), Reuters guesstimates. Goldman, which took part in Dollar General's leveraged buyout in 2007, has earned money from the sale of the retailer's stock after its IPO in 2009, as well as from management fees, interest payments and other charges.

Eni faces penalties over Iran activities. Eni (NYSE:E) could be facing material sanctions from the U.S. due to its activities in Iran. Italy's biggest oil and natural gas company has operated in the Persian country for several years as part of four service contracts, three of which have been completed. The last one is wrapping up and being handed over to the national Iranian oil company. Eni's shares were +0.4% at around midday in Milan.

Top Economic & Other News
Obama to introduce budget proposal. President Obama is due to unveil a FY 2014 budget today that will look to cut the deficit to 2.8% of GDP by 2016 from a projected 5.3% this year. The proposal will include tax increases for the well-off but also spending cuts and an offer to use "chained CPI" to limit the cost-of-living increases on welfare programs. The package has little chance of becoming law as is, but the White House hopes it can kick-start fruitful negotiations.

WTO chops growth outlook. As if to echo Siemens' warning about the global economy, the WTO has cut its forecast for worldwide trade growth to 3.3% from a previous outlook of 4.5%. The organization also noted that last year's rate of 2% was the smallest since 1981.

French production surprises to the upside. French industrial production rose more than expected in February, climbing 0.7% vs a drop of 0.8% in January and consensus of +0.4%. Manufacturing was +0.8% vs -1.3% and +0.2%, with output boosted by robust growth in the transport and refining sectors. Despite the increases, though, economists still expect France's economy to have contracted in Q1.

Spanish and Cypriots better off than Germans, says ECB study. There are lies, damned lies and statistics, and then there's the ECB. A new survey purports to show that Cypriot and Spanish households are better off than their counterparts in Germany, which are worth €195,000 on average. That's far less than in the other countries, but that's because home ownership is lower in Germany, as is the size of the average household. It's also worth noting that some of the data is so old as to be almost meaningless.

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Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan +0.7% to 13288. Hong Kong +0.8% to 22035. China flat at 2226. India +1% to 18414.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.8%. Paris +1.3%. Frankfurt +1.2%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow +0.3%. S&P +0.3%. Nasdaq +0.4%. Crude -0.4% to $93.82. Gold -0.3% to $1581.80.

Today's economic calendar:
7:00 MBA Mortgage Applications
10:30 EIA Petroleum Inventories
1:00 PM Fed's Fisher: Economic Outlook
1:00 PM Results of $21B, 10-Year Bond Auction
2:00 PM FOMC minutes
2:00 PM Treasury Budget

Notable earnings before today's open: AH, FAST, FDO, JKS, KMX, PGR, STZ, TITN

Notable earnings after today's close: BBBY, RT

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Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News