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In China: A tale of two PMIs. China's official manufacturing PMI surprisingly rose to 50.3 in July from 50.1 in June, coming in above consensus of 49.9. In contrast, HSBC's reading dropped to 47.7 from 48.2. The reason for the disparity, says HSBC's Frederic Neumann, is that the "official PMI is more skewed to larger companies and the HSBC figure reflects the smaller companies." The data indicates how small businesses are more vulnerable to China's efforts to tighten lending, as well as to falling exports.

Dell buyout group could snatch victory from jaws of defeat. Some of the largest Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) investors that have abstained so far in Michael Dell's and Silver Lake's bid to take the company private will reportedly back the buyout group's increased offer of $13.75 a share. That would appear to be enough for Michael Dell and Silver Lake to win out if the record date for shareholders is amended. The buyout group had feared that their deal would collapse because of the requirement to count abstentions as no votes.

Shell profit plunges after $2.2B charge on N. American assets. Shell's (NYSE:RDS.A) Q2 net profit equivalent plummeted to $2.4B from $5.98B a year earlier, due to a $2.2B charge on liquids-rich shale properties in North America, which reflects "the latest insights from exploration and appraisal drilling results and production information." Shell is carrying out a strategic review of the business and could sell some assets. Revenues fell to $112.67B from $117.07B a year earlier. Shares were -5.3% pre-market.

Top Stock News
Strong PMIs boost equities. Asian and European shares (NYSEARCA:FEZ) have mostly risen today following strong manufacturing PMI data out of China - the official print at least - and Europe. U.S. stock futures were also solidly in the green at the time of writing.

Time Warner Cable beats the Street on EPS but misses on revenue. Time Warner Cable's (NYSE:TWC) Q2 EPS came in at $1.69 and topped consensus by $0.03, but although revenue rose 2.7% to $5.55B, the number undershot forecasts by $30M.

J.C. Penney tanks on new credit concerns. J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) shares sank 10.2% yesterday following a report that commercial lender CIT is apparently no longer supporting deliveries from small manufacturers to the company's stores due to credit fears. Research firm RetailSails reacted with a note that JCP is still receiving factoring services from firms other than CIT, but that gave no help to JCP's stock.

CBS's net profit climbs 10.5% as earnings beat forecasts. CBS's (NYSE:CBS) Q2 net profit rose 10.5% to $472M as earnings topped estimates, with EPS coming in at $0.76 and revenues climbing 11% to $3.7B. CBS's performance was boosted by digital streaming and international syndication deals, and higher fees from TV operators. Advertising revenue, which provides over half of the company's top line, grew 4.7% to $2.09B, lifted by higher sales from the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship semifinals. Shares were +1.4% pre-market.

MetLife net profit plunges 78%. MetLife's (NYSE:MET) Q2 net profit slumped 78% to $502M as increasing interest rates lowered the value of the insurer's derivatives. EPS of $1.44 beat forecasts by $0.11, and while operating revenue, which strips out investment effects, rose 1.8% to $17.04B, the figure missed expectations. Still, operating earnings grew 11% to $1.6B, helped by strong results in the Americas and Asia. Shares dropped 0.35% in AH trading.

AstraZeneca Q2 net profit -48% to $823M. AstraZeneca's (NYSE:AZN) Q2 net profit sank 48% to $823M and came in worse than forecast as revenue slipped 6% to $6.23B. Core EPS of $1.20 was in line. AstraZeneca's earnings were hurt by the loss of patent protection for key drugs, which amounted to $500M in lost sales, and a higher tax rate. The company reaffirmed that it expects FY sales to fall by a mid-to-high single-digit percentage, and it estimates that earnings will decline significantly more than revenue.

Sony swings to net profit. Sony (NYSE:SNE) swung to a net profit of ¥3.48B ($35.38M) from a loss of ¥24.64B a year earlier while sales rose 13% to ¥1.71T. Sony's earnings were boosted by a recovery at its mobile and semiconductor businesses, the weak yen, and a strong performance at its financial division. Sony said it is still considering Third Point's proposal to spin off the company's entertainment business in remarks that contradict a report it has ruled out Dan Loeb's plan. Shares dropped 3.3% pre-market.

Top Economic & Other News
Eurozone factory activity expands for first time in two years. Eurozone manufacturing PMI climbed to a two-year high of 50.3 in July from 48.8 in June, entering expansion territory for the first time since July 2011. PMIs rose in all nations except Spain, helped by growing export demand and stabilizing domestic markets. The reading will hopefully "help the euro area exit recession," Markit says.

Fed downgrades economic view. The FOMC slightly downgraded its view of the U.S. economy yesterday, saying it's expanding at a "modest" pace vs. "moderate" at the last meeting. However, the Fed didn't provide any hint about any alteration to the future course of QE.

Alpha-Rich Stock Movers and Great Calls
1) On July 12, Josh Burwick argued that Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC) controlled its own destiny, with up to 30% upside in its future. The stock is now +12.2% after a strong earnings report. Read article »
2) On April 25, fund manager Thomas Finser made the bullish case for LCA-Vision (NASDAQ:LCAV) as management's efforts took root. The company reported strong earnings this week and is +19.5% since the article came out. Read article »

Alpha-Rich Stocks To Watch
1) Uranium Resources (NASDAQ:URRE). Uranium Resources' recent run-up has left it drastically overvalued and Energy Fuels undervalued. It's a good combination as the market takes a closer look. Read article »
2) Oxford Resource Partners (OXF). A recent debt refinancing leaves OXF free to execute on a turnaround plan. As coal reaches a positive inflection point, shares could have 50-150% upside. Read article »

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Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan +2.5% to 14006. Hong Kong +0.9% to 22089. China +1.8% to 2029. India -0.2% to 19,314.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.4%. Paris +0.4%. Frankfurt +1.2%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.7%. S&P +0.7%. Nasdaq +0.7%. Crude +1.1% to $106.22. Gold +0.8% to $1323.10.

Today's economic calendar:
Auto Sales
7:30 Challenger Job-Cut Report
8:30 Initial Jobless Claims
9:00 PMI Manufacturing Index
9:45 Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index
10:00 ISM Manufacturing Index
10:00 Construction Spending
10:30 EIA Natural Gas Inventory
4:30 PM Money Supply
4:30 PM Fed Balance Sheet

Notable earnings before today's open: ABMD, ABX, ACOR, ADP, AEE, ALE, AMAG, ANSS, APA, ARNA, ATK, AUXL, AVP, AZN, BCOR, BDBD, BDX, BGCP, BZH, CAH, CCJ, CHK, CI, CLX, CME, CNP, COP, COV,CVI, CVRR, DTV, ELNK, ENB, EPD, EPL, FCH, FIG, FLR, FLY, GEL, GIL, GWR, HCA, HGG, HK, IIVI, INCY, IRDM, IRM, ITT, IVR, K, LKQ, MMP, MNTA, MPC, MPLX, MT, MWW, MYL, NGLS, NIHD, NILE, NNN, NUS, NYT, OCN, PDCE, PG, PKD, PPL, PRLB, PWR, Q, SBH, SCG, SFY, SHOO, SNE, STRZA, TDC, TE, TEVA, TWC, UAN, VICL, VMC, VPHM, WLT, WNR, WPX, WWE, XEL, XOM, XRAY

Notable earnings after today's close: ACLS, ACTV, ADNC, ADUS, AHS, AIG, AIV, ALSK, AREX, AVG, BBG, BERY, CCO, DCT, DXPE, EIX, ELLI, EVC, EXR, FEIC, FLT, FRT, GMED, HME, HTGC, KOG, KRFT, LBTYA, LEAP, LF, LNKD, LRE, MELI, MHK, MOVE, MRC, MTZ, ONNN, OPEN, OPTR, PACB, PKI, PSA, QTM, RMD, SBAC, SKUL, SREV, SSNI, SWN, SYNA, TLAB, TS, TSO, TTMI, VCLK, VPRT, WTW, WWWW, ZAGG

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Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News