Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News

by: Wall Street Breakfast
Wall Street Breakfast
Seeking Alpha's flagship daily business news summary, gives you a rapid overview of the day's key financial news. It is published before 7:00 AM ET every market day and delivered to over 900,000 email subscribers.

Top Stories
Philippines storm: 10,000 feared dead; markets drop. The Philippines Stock Exchange Index (NYSEARCA:EPHE) has dropped 1.4%, the peso has weakened and government-bond yields have risen following the immense devastation caused over the weekend by Super Typhoon Haiyan, which is estimated to have killed up to 10,000 people. On top of the horrific human cost, the concern is that the disaster will hurt the Philippines' economy, whose growth has exceeded 7% for four consecutive quarters. The damage caused is projected to reach an estimated $14B, of which $2B will be insured.

Shire to acquire ViroPharma for $4.2B. Shire's (NASDAQ:SHPG) shares were +3.3% premarket after the U.K. drugs company said it has agreed to acquire ViroPharma (VPHM) for $4.2B. The deal fits into Shire's strategy of expanding its rare-disease portfolio and will create a revenue base in that field of $2B. ViroPharma provides the treatment Cinryze for the prophylactic treatment of hereditary angioedema ((NYSE:HAE)), which is when the deeper layers of the skin swell due to a build-up of fluid.

Chinese inflation edges up. Chinese shares increased 0.2% following a weekend data dump which showed that inflation rose to an eight-month high of 3.2% on year in October from 3.1% in September, driven up by higher food prices. However, the producer price index dropped for the 20th month in a row, suggesting that deflationary forces remain an issue. The growth in industrial production accelerated to 10.3% from 10.2%, while retail sales again climbed 13.3%. The data comes as Chinese leaders meet to discuss major economic reforms.

Top Stock News
Novartis to sell diagnostics ops for $1.675B. Novartis has agreed to sell its blood-transfusion diagnostics unit to Spanish healthcare company Grifols for $1.675B in a move that is part of the Swiss pharmaceuticals group's plan of selling smaller units in order "to focus more sharply on our strategic businesses." Novartis' shares were +0.85% at midday in Switzerland.

Transocean to pay $1.1B in dividends following Icahn pressure. Transocean (NYSE:RIG) has ended a months-long proxy battle with 5.6% shareholder Carl Icahn by agreeing to pay $1.1B in dividends, or $3 a share. The world's largest offshore rig contractor will also aim to improve its operating margins by $800M by the end of 2014. The company will reduce the number of board seats to 11 from 14 as well, and it will create a Master Limited Partnership ((NYSE:MLP)) that will hold an IPO next year. Transocean's shares were +2% premarket.

U.S. wants $864M from Bank of America over "Hustle" program. The government is seeking to impose a fine of $864M, the maximum allowed, on Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) in connection with a Countrywide loan program dubbed "Hustle." The scheme was designed to accelerate the creation and sale of loans to Fannie Mae (OTCQB:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTCQB:FMCC). While the government has accused Countrywide of "unyielding and brazen arrogance," BofA argues that the state's demands exaggerate "the volume of loans and appropriate measure of damages."

Battery issue hits Boeing 787. A Japan Airlines Boeing (NYSE:BA) 787 has experienced problems with a battery on a flight from Helsinki to Tokyo, although it didn't overheat or give off smoke, as happened earlier in the year in two cases. Those incidents led to a long grounding of the Dreamliner.

Washington legislature OKs Boeing 777 package. Washington's state legislature has passed a bill to extend $8.7B of tax breaks and other incentives for Boeing through 2040 in an attempt to persuade the aircraft maker to build the next-generation 777X in the Seattle area. The vote comes amid discontent among machinists over a new labor contract, prompting Boeing to warn that it could produce the jet elsewhere if staff don't approve the deal in a vote on Wednesday.

KKR closes in on $1.5B deal for landscaping firm. KKR (NYSE:KKR) is reportedly in late-stage talks to acquire commercial landscaper Brickman Group Holdings from fellow private-equity firm Leonard Green for $1.5B. The deal, which could be announced today, would add to KKR's acquisitions, or prospective acquisitions, of Gardner Denver, Panasonic's healthcare business, and lifting-equipment firm Crosby.

Alibaba set for $5B boon from China's "Singles Day." Alibaba expects to sell 30B renminbi ($5B) worth of goods today in celebration of "Singles Day" in China, which the online giant has managed to turn into by far the world's largest e-commerce discount event, even surpassing Cyber Monday in the U.S. Major foreign multinationals have also been participating in the celebration - or lamentation - of "singlehood" by offering notable online bargains, including Nike (NYSE:NKE) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG). For those who were wondering, today is Singles Day because November 11, or 11/11, has four 1s, or singles.

Top Economic & Other News
Talks over Iran's nuclear program stall. High-level ministerial talks between Iran and the P5+1 world powers over the Persian nation's nuclear activities have ended without a preliminary agreement in which the country would curb its program in a return for an easing of sanctions. France objected that the proposals didn't do enough to limit Iran's program. However, the sides plan to go at it again in nine days time. Brent oil was +0.6% at $105.67 at the time of writing.

Another Californian city mulls Chapter 9. The city of Desert Hot Springs in California could file for Chapter 9 after it projected FY revenue of $13.9M, $2.7M less than budgeted. The city, whose population is 26,000, forecasts that it will run out of cash on March 31. An alternative to bankruptcy protection could be disincorporation. Should Desert Hot Springs apply for Chapter 9, it would become the fourth Californian city to do so since June last year, the others being San Bernardino, Stockton and Mammoth Lakes.

Alpha-Rich Stock Movers and Great Calls
1) On Wednesday, Value Digger pegged Arsenal Energy (OTCQX:AEYIF) as an under-the-radar oil play with big upside. The stock is +18.4% since. Read article »
2) On October 1, DAG1996 said Aceto's (NASDAQ:ACET) changing operating model for its Human Health segment hasn't been fully recognized by the market, leaving the potential for substantial upside via both growth and revaluation. Shares are +26.6% to date. Read article »

Alpha-Rich Stocks To Watch
1) Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores' (NASDAQ:SHOS) clean balance sheet and capital-light operating model should give it room to outgrow market expectations. The stock has 70% upside. Read article »
2) Specialty materials producer Celanese (NYSE:CE) is a rare growth opportunity at a reasonable price, with 40%+ return potential. Read article »

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Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan +1.3% to 14270. Hong Kong +1.4% to 23070. China +0.2% to 2109. India -0.85% to 20491.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.3%. Paris +0.3%. Frankfurt +0.1%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.1%. S&P +0.1%. Nasdaq flat. Crude -0.2% to $94.37. Gold -1% to $1283.80.
Ten-year Treasury Yield 2.75% - the Treasury market is closed for Veterans Day.

Today's economic calendar:
No events scheduled.

Notable earnings before today's open: ABFS, CRNT, GOGO, PGNX, SLW

Notable earnings after today's close: AGO, ALIM, BID, CRAY, FTEK, HOLX, IOC, RAX, SHO, SLTM, SPRD, VSAT

See full real-time earnings coverage »

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