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Dish bids $25.5B for Sprint. Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) has bid $25.5B in cash and stock for Sprint, with the $7-a-share offer representing a 13% premium to Softbank's proposal to acquire 70% of Sprint for $20.1B. The bid is also 12.5% above Sprint's close of $6.22 on Friday. The offer marks Dish's boldest attempt yet to move into the cellular market; while the satellite-TV company has bought plenty of spectrum, it's hit regulatory obstacles in its quest to use it for mobile purposes. Sprint was +10.9% premarket.

Precious metals in vicious sell-off. Gold futures (NYSEARCA:GLD) were -6.05% at $1416.80 an ounce premarket, continuing a sell-off that began last week and has turned into a full-scale stampede. A number of reasons have been given for gold's free-fall, chief among them the ECB's pressurization of Cyprus' central bank to sell its gold reserves to help pay for the country's bailout. Other precious metals are also suffering, with silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) -12.15% and platinum -4.05%.

Chinese slowdown hits global risk markets. China's Q1 GDP slowed to 7.7% on year from 7.9% in Q4 and missed expectations for growth of 8%. Industrial production data for March also disappointed, coming in at +8.9% vs consensus of +10%, although retail sales beat forecasts with an increase of 12.6%. The decelerating GDP growth helped drag down risk markets around the world, including U.S. stock futures, Asian and European shares, and oil. (See below for details)

Top Stock News
Thermo Fisher in $13.6B deal to buy Life. Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE:TMO) appears to have agreed to acquire genetic testing equipment maker Life Technologies (NASDAQ:LIFE) for $13.6B plus debt after the latter's board chose Thermo Fisher's offer over lower proposals from Sigma-Aldrich (NASDAQ:SIAL), a provider of chemicals for research laboratories, and from a consortium involving private-equity firms Blackstone (NYSE:BX), Carlyle Group (NASDAQ:CG) and KKR (NYSE:KKR). Thermo Fisher has offered $76 a share, 11.8% above Life's close of $68 on Friday. Life's shares were halted at the time of writing.

Mining stocks sell off on gold plunge, China. Mining stocks have been taking a hiding following China's slowing GDP growth and the sell-off in precious metals. Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) was -4.2% premarket, BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) -4.2%, Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) -4.9%, AngloGold (NYSE:AU) -7.2%, IAMGold (NYSE:IAG) -6.8%, Gold Fields (NYSE:GFI) -7.7% and Goldcorp (NYSE:GG) -8.2%.

Supreme Court to discuss whether genes are patentable. The Supreme Court is due to hear arguments today on whether it's possible to patent isolated human genes. The case involves Myriad Genetics (NASDAQ:MYGN), which holds two patents that allow it to genetically screen those at risk of breast or ovarian cancer. The impact of any ruling on the human-gene field will probably be limited, although it could have ramifications for the wider pharmaceuticals sector, agriculture, industrial microbiology and alternative fuels.

Foxconn ramps up hiring, possibly for new iPhone production. Foxconn has started a hiring blitz of assembly workers in China in the latest indication that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is gearing up for the production of a new iPhone. Foxconn said that it has added 10,000 assembly-line workers a week in Zhengzhou since the end of March and that hiring will continue to meet seasonal demand.

Google looks to escape heavy EU antitrust fine. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) could avoid heavy penalties after it offered a package of proposals to settle an EU antitrust investigation into the company's search business. Google's offer reportedly includes making "users clearly aware" when it promotes its own specialized sites in search results, and allowing Internet publishers to opt out of "vertical" sites such as Google News and Google+. However, the company's rivals aren't happy with its offer.

GM, Ford team up to develop transmissions. General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Ford (NYSE:F) have joined together to develop nine- and 10-speed automatic transmissions as part of an effort to make their cars more efficient. The move represents the third time the car giants have teamed up in the last ten years to produce new transmissions. Ford and GM have their eyes on a 2025 deadline to develop cars with a fuel economy of 39 miles per gallon, or two thirds above the average for 2012 vehicles.

Top Economic & Other News
Chavez heir provisionally wins tight Venezuelan election. Venezuela looks set for a recount after Hugo Chavez's handpicked heir apparent, Nicolas Maduro, won a majority of just 50.6% in the nation's presidential election against opposition challenger Henrique Capriles. A recount could extend the uncertainty not just for Venezuelans, but also for the oil sector and for companies with major operations in the country, such as Harvest Natural Resources (NYSE:HNR).

North Sea investment heralds reverse of decline. Investment in North Sea energy is forecast to rise to a record £13B this year from £11.4B in 2012 as 14 new oilfields start production. Around 470M barrels of oil and gas are expected to come on stream – five times the average of the past three years, while output is predicted to rise to 2M barrels of oil equivalent a day by 2017 from 1.5M boe/d. The boost in a once-moribund area comes amid technological advances and government investment incentives.

Greece on track to receive €2.8B bailout tranche. Greece looks poised to receive the next €2.8B tranche of its rescue package after the Troika said in a review that the country is on course to meet its bailout targets, with the recapitalization of the banks nearly complete. The Troika also said that it could provide more help to Greece once it reaches a primary surplus, which the government hopes to achieve this year.

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Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan -1.6% to 13276. Hong Kong -1.4% to 21773. China -1.1% to 2182. India +0.6% to 18358.
In Europe, at midday, London -1.2%. Paris -1%. Frankfurt -1.1%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow -0.4%. S&P -0.5%. Nasdaq -0.45%. Crude -2.6% to $88.89. Gold -6.05% to $1416.80.

Today's economic calendar:
8:30 Empire State Mfg Survey
9:00 Treasury International Capital
10:00 NAHB Housing Market Index

Notable earnings before today's open: C, MTB

Notable earnings after today's close: PBY

See full real-time earnings coverage »

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Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News