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  • Intel says growth is back. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) CEO Paul Otellini sounded an optimistic note after a strong Q3 earnings report, telling analysts the firm's strength "remains primarily consumer driven with broad-based demand across all geographies." Speaking to concerns netbook sales are cannibalizing traditional PC and laptop sales, Otellini said sequential unit growth of notebook chip sales exceeded the growth rate of its Atom chips, "and we expect that to continue in the future." The strong report sent futures surging after hours, and shares of Intel are up almost 5% premarket. (read Intel's Q3 earnings call transcript)
  • Bank crisis, what bank crisis? Major U.S. banks and securities firms will pay workers about $140B this year, topping the $130B record set at the peak in 2007 and up from $117B in 2008. According to an in-depth study by the WSJ, workers at 23 top Wall Street firms will earn an estimated $143,400 on average (Table: Projected Compensation). The same firms' total revenue are projected to reach $437B, smashing the record $345B set in 2007.
  • China export decline slows. China’s exports declined 15.2% from a year ago to $115.9B, the smallest drop in almost a year, and substantially less than consensus estimates of 21%. A recovery in exports "is one more piece of evidence that the global economy is getting stronger," strategist Brian Jackson said, adding that recent gains in imports show "China is playing a greater role in driving recovery." Shanghai closed up 1.2%, and yuan forwards hit a 13-month high as traders bet the jump in exports will prompt the central bank to let the yuan climb against the dollar; some say the dollar peg will break as soon as Q1 2010.
  • BoJ stays put, delays exit plan. Bank of Japan kept its overnight call loan rate unchanged at 0.1% (.pdf), and contrary to expectations, made no mention of whether it will end measures to supply funds to the market by buying bank-owned corporate debt, suggesting it's still concerned that its termination could choke off an economic recovery. BoJ revised its economic assessment upward for the second straight month, saying Japan's economy "has started to pick up," after saying last month the economy is "showing signs of recovery." (read BoJ's statement)
  • Geithner aides making the rounds on Wall St. Members of Tim Geithner's behind-the-scenes kitchen cabinet are earnings millions of dollars a year in payments from top Wall Street firms, on top of their $163K government salaries. As members of Geithner's advisory, aides like Gene Sperling and Lee Sachs wield significant influence within the Treasury, but aren't subject to public confirmation or congressional scrutiny.
  • BofA board was troubled by Merrill deal. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) has begun opening the tap on its promised disclosure of emails and documents relating to its purchase of Merrill Lynch. In an email exchange during a Jan. 15 call in which CEO Ken Lewis revealed to the board that Merrill's losses were far worse than the bank's previous estimates, board member Charles Gifford wrote, "Unfortunately it's screw the shareholders!!" to another director, who replied, "No trail," apparently reminding him to delete the thread. The bank says it believes that the record, taken in context, will demonstrate "that we acted in good faith and with appropriate disclosure in the Merrill Lynch acquisition." Gifford was reportedly the only director to oppose the merger, urging Lewis to wait a day or two to try and spin a better deal for shareholders; Lewis argued waiting could squander a golden opportunity to make the I-bank the crown jewel of his empire.
  • Pay czar urges pay cuts at AIG. Treasury pay czar Kenneth Feinberg is urging AIG (NYSE:AIG) to reduce a portion of the $198M in incentives it claims it needed to keep crucial staffers. Feinberg's report implies the Treasury should have been more attentive to AIG's pay practices, saying it "invested $40B of taxpayer funds in AIG, designed AIG's contractual executive compensation restrictions and helped manage the government's majority stake in AIG for several months, all without having any detailed information about the scope of AIG's very substantial, and very controversial, executive compensation obligations."
  • Healthcare bill has miles to go. The Senate Finance Committee approved a proposed $829B healthcare overhaul, much to the chagrin of the health insurance industry, saddling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with the arduous task of melding it with the version passed by the Senate in July. A group of 27 unions including the UAW are coming out with a newspaper ad today saying they'll oppose the legislation unless in includes a public option. Another fault line is whether the bill should force employers to cover workers. Insurers are rankled by weakened penalties for those who fail to buy insurance.
  • Bloomberg buys BusinessWeek. McGraw-Hill agreed to sell 80-year-old BusinessWeek to Bloomberg for an undisclosed price. Sources say less than $5M in cash will change hands, but Bloomberg will also assume another $10M in liabilities, including severance for BusinessWeek staffers who might lose their jobs. Bloomberg executives say the firm hasn't made any decision about job cuts or staffing, but insist it bought the magazine and web property to build them, not gut them. "Our intention is to take a venerable brand and turn it into the best global business newsweekly," Bloomberg president Daniel Doctoroff said in an interview.
  • Cisco snaps up Starent. Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) agreed to buy Starent Networks (STAR-OLD), a supplier of mobile internet solutions, for $2.9B, or $35/share in cash, a 42% premium over the 30-days prior close. The move comes just a week after the networking giant agreed to hand over $3B for Norwegian videoconferencing vendor Tandberg, an indication CEO John Chambers is quite serious about following through with recent promises to make the coming two year's Cisco's "most aggressive ever." The acquisition should increase Cisco's ability to help carriers manage the data moving across wireless networks, which analysts say is the single biggest growth opportunity for networking vendors.
  • Mortgage rates creep higher; apps drop. Mortgage applications fell 1.8% from a week ago as mortgage rates skipped back above 5%, the Mortgage Bankers Association said this morning. The drop follows a 16.4% gain last week. 30-year fixed mortgages averaged 5.02%, up from 4.89% the previous week.

Earnings: Wed. Before Open

  • JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM): Q3 EPS of $0.82 beats by $0.30. Revenue of $26.62B (+3.9%) vs. $24.96B. Says credit costs remain high and adds $2B to consumer credit reserves, but says it's seeing initial signs of consumer-credit stability. Firmwide loan-loss coverage ratio of 5.3%. Shares +2.1% premarket. (PR)
  • Host Hotels (NYSE:HST): Q3 FFO of $0.11 beats by $0.03. Revenue of $912M (-19.9%) vs. $892M. (PR)

Earnings: Tue. After Close

  • Altera (NASDAQ:ALTR): Q3 EPS of $0.19 in-line. Revenue of $287M (+2.7%) in-line. Sees Q4 revenue of $303-314M vs. $291M. Shares +2% AH. (PR)
  • Intel (INTC): FQ3 EPS of $0.33 beats by $0.05. Revenue of $9.4B (-8%) vs. $9B. Gross margin at 57.6%, above expectations. Sees Q4 revenue of $9.7B-10.5B vs. $9.5B. Shares +4.9% premarket. (PR)
  • Linear Technology (NASDAQ:LLTC): FQ1 EPS of $0.27 beats by $0.03. Revenue of $236M (-24%) vs. $216M. Sees Q2 revenue of $241M-248M vs. $223M. Shares +0.5% AH. (PR)

Today's Markets

Overseas markets posted impressive gains on Wednesday, and futures are up more than 1% after bellwether Intel (INTC) posted better than expected Q3 earnings.

  • Asia: Nikkei -0.16% to 10,060. Hang Seng +1.95% to 21,886. Shanghai +1.17% to 2,971. BSE Sensex +1.2% to 17,231.
  • Europe at midday: London +1.7%. Paris +1.7%. Frankfurt +2%.
  • Futures: Dow +1.1% to 9918. S&P +1.3% at 1083. Nasdaq +1.3%. Crude +1.1% to $74.96. Gold +0.15% to $1,066. 30-year bonds -0.59%. 10-year -0.28%. 5-year -0.17%. Euro +0.5% vs. dollar. Yen +0.6%. Pound +0.6%.

Wednesday's Economic Calendar

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Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News