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Putin "does not rule out" action against Syria. Has Vladimir Putin changed his position on Syria a bit? The Russian President has been a major opponent of military action against the Middle Eastern country but now says that he "does not rule out" intervention if it can be proved "beyond doubt" that the government used chemical weapons. Russian expert Fyodor Lukyanov believes Putin's stance is still the same, as he's unlikely to accept whatever evidence is provided.

Rising drumbeat for action against Syria weighs on stocks. Asian shares traded mixed today, while European equities and U.S. stock futures were lower at the time of writing as the likelihood of military action against Syria - by the U.S. at least - increased after President Obama received support for intervention from John Boehner. Vladimir Putin's comments may also be adding to the mood, irrespective of Fyodor Lukyanov's interpretation. Interestingly, crude oil was in the red.

Top Stock News
LinkedIn announces $1B stock offering. LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) shares dropped 2.1% in post-market trading after the business social-networking site said it is offering $1B worth of stock, with a $150M underwriter option. LinkedIn said it's looking to increase its "financial flexibility" and "further strengthen its balance sheet." With $873M in cash/investments at the end of Q2 and no debt, LinkedIn's finances are already pretty strong. Is it looking to make a big acquisition?

Samsung set to unveil smartwatch. Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) is due to introduce a smartwatch today ahead of the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin. The Galaxy Gear is expected to be more of a fashion accessory and companion to mobile phones rather than a replacement, with VentureBeat reporting this week that it's likely to be a wearable fitness device to rival Nike's (NYSE:NKE) Fuelband or the Fitbit Flex. The Gear is seen incorporating a camera and Bluetooth so it can connect to a phone.

S&P accuses government of revenge for downgrade. Standard & Poor's has accused the government of suing it for $5B in retaliation for the ratings agency downgrading the U.S.'s debt two years ago. The "allegation is preposterous," said the Justice Department, which launched the lawsuit over S&P's ratings of mortgage bonds in the run-up to the financial crisis. In a court filing, the McGraw Hill (NYSE:MHFI) unit also said it wasn't the only one to not foresee the impending doom - Ben Bernanke and then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson were among the others.

Bank of America agrees to sale of remaining CCB stake. As flagged, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) has agreed to sell its remaining stake in China Construction Bank - about 2B shares or 1% of the company. The transaction is expected to generate a pretax gain of around $750M in Q3. It's the end of an era, with BofA the last of the big American banks to divest its holding in a major Chinese peer company. Global banks have been selling such assets since the financial crisis in order to meet increased capital requirements.

Top Economic & Other News
Eurozone business activity grows at fastest pace in two years. The eurozone composite PMI rose to 51.5 in August from 50.5 in July, indicating the fastest rate of expansion since 2011. The services index climbed to 50.7 from 49.8, representing the first increase in activity for a year and a half. "The eurozone recovery is looking increasingly broad-based," says Markit. Spain and Italy have joined Germany in returning to growth, while France's decline is far weaker than earlier in the year.

Chinese services activity strengthens. The China HSBC services PMI rose to 52.8 in August from 51.3 in July in a reading that's largely consistent with the official non-manufacturing PMI print. Stronger demand and promotions lifted new orders, HSBC says, although the employment sub-index contracted for the first time since April. Still, the improvement in the services sector adds to PMI data showing that the manufacturing industry is stabilizing.

U.K. services sector completes "glowing picture" of economy. The U.K. services sector expanded at the fastest rate for over 6 1/2 years in August, with the Business Activity Index edging up to 60.5 from 60.2 in July. New-business growth was the strongest in more than 16 years, while the rise in backlogs was the largest since February 2000. The reading, along with strong manufacturing and construction PMIs, "completes a glowing picture for the U.K. economy," says the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply.


Alpha-Rich Stock Movers and Great Calls
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Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan +0.5% to 14054. Hong Kong -0.3% to 22326. China +0.2% to 2128. India +1.8% to 18568.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.6%. Paris -0.9%. Frankfurt -0.7%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow -0.2%. S&P -0.1%. Nasdaq -0.1%. Crude -0.7% to $107.75. Gold -0.5% to $1405.20.

Today's economic calendar:
Auto sales
7:00 MBA Mortgage Applications
7:45 ICSC Retail Store Sales
8:30 International Trade
8:55 Redbook Chain Store Sales
10:00 Quarterly Services Report
2:00 PM Fed's Beige Book

Notable earnings before today's open: CIEN, DG, FRAN, NAV, SAI, VRNT

Notable earnings after today's close: BV, DDC, FCEL, MIND

See full real-time earnings coverage »

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Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News