Wall Street Breakfast

by: SA Editors
SA Editors
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.

A one-page summary of this morning's key market- and stock-moving stories. Headlines link to the original article. Use Wall Street Breakfast as a starting point, and check the original before trading.

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Inflation Fears and Housing [Business Week]

Summary: CPI fell 0.5% in September (vs. 0.3% forecast), while core CPI (which excludes food and energy prices) rose 0.2%, in line with forecasts. Falling energy prices led the decline in overall CPI, dropping 7.2%, while gasoline prices fell 13.5%. Sectors: food +0.4%, shelter +0.3%, apparel +0.6%. On the year core CPI is up 2.9%. September housing starts rebounded, +5.9% (1.7M units annually), beating forecasts handily, and joining a host of other housing indicators that show a bounce in the sector. Regionally, South and Midwest starts were up strongly, West was down slightly, and Northeast starts fell 14%. Permits, though, were down 6.3%, falling for the eighth straight month; they are at their lowest level since 2001. Related: The federal government announced that Social Security payments, which are based on changes in the CPI, will increase 3.3 percent in 2007, putting an average $33 more per month in consumers' pockets. Overall: The sharper-than-expected drop in CPI and upside surprise for housing starts seem to be upbeat economic news. But Y/Y inflation trends remain a concern (1.5-2.5% core is considered ideal), and will command attention at the next FOMC meeting Oct. 24-25.
Related links: Bloggers' Take on InflationOptions Trader: Thursday Morning IdeasHas Inflation Been Completely Tamed?Seeking Alpha coverage of the real estate market and homebuilder stocksMr. and Ms. Median American Over The Decades
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: streetTRACKS SPDR Homebuilders ETF (NYSEARCA:XHB)


eBay: Holding Firm, for Now [Business Week]

Summary: Online auction and e-commerce site eBay has reported a 10% rise in profit and 31% revenue growth, beating analyst expectations. One critical factor in the surge was a 41% jump in revenues at the company's online payment business, PayPal. The company is optimistic about its Q4 prospects, but expects only 17-21% growth for 2007 versus Street forecasts of 25%. One challenge is the increased proportion this quarter of store listings on the site -- that is, listings of items from a store's inventory that are for direct sale -- versus the auction listings from which eBay made its name. eBay earns less on store commissions than on auctions, and the voluminous inventories cluttering the site may be driving shoppers away. The company took action late in the quarter to discourage store listings and expects to see results in Q4. Meanwhile, eBay has inked ad deals with Yahoo and Google. Yahoo will place graphical ads on eBay sites and will permit its users to use PayPal to make Yahoo purchases, while Google will place text ads on eBay sites. eBay and Google also plan to launch a "click-to-call" button that would connect consumers to sellers via Skype and Google Talk.
Related links: eBay's Results in its Own WordseBay Q3 2006 Earnings Call TranscriptEBay profit up 10 percent [Reuters]
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) • First Trust Dow Jones Internet Index Fund (NYSEARCA:FDN), Internet HOLDRs Trust Internet HOLDRs Trust (NYSE:HHH), Fidelity Nasdaq Composite Index Tracking (NASDAQ:ONEQ)

Apple's Big Mac [Business Week]

Summary: Apple's sales of its Macintosh computers soared this past quarter, coming in at $2.2 billion, or 45%, of revenue. One of the main factors for this surge was the company's emphasis on the product after the completion of its transition to Intel chips. Apple came very close to the Gateway, the third highest-selling computer company, as per Gartner figures released yesterday. Portables were the most popular product in Apple's lineup: Sales reached 986,000 and brought in $1.3 billion, or 27%, of revenue. Apple beat estimates of 51 cents per share profit with 62 cents. Total quarterly profits came in at $546 million, beating last year's Q4 profits of $430 million. The company forecasts $6 billion to $6.2 billion in sales for Q107, which includes the all-important holiday shopping season. These figures are in line with analyst expectations. No news on future products.
Related links: Prudential's Cautious on Apple for Holiday Quarter • Silicon.com Macs should be made by Dell, says Gartner • Bloomberg: Apple Shares Rise on Record Macintosh Shipments, New IPod Sales • Conference Call: Apple F4Q06 (Qtr End 9/30/06) Earnings Call Transcript
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Stocks: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Gateway (GTW). ETFs: Ml Inetarch Hldr 1240 (NYSE:IAH)

A.M.D. Posts Higher Profit, but Price War Hits Margins [New York Times]

Summary: Advanced Micro Devices, bruised from a price war with rival semiconductor manufacturer Intel, posted a steep decline in profit margins yesterday. Though the Q3 $134.5 million net profit exceeded expectations, margins tumbled to 51.4% from 56.8% in Q2. Concerns over margins overshadowed AMD's 77% earnings leap over last year (a product of the company's success with its notebook processors) and sent the shares tumbling 12.3% in after-hours trading.
Related links: AMD Gross Margins Suffer from "Precipitous Decline" in Desktop ASPsIntel's Q3 Profits Suffer From Price War with AMDAMD Q3 2006 Earnings Call TranscriptAMD Earns 27 Cents Per Share in 3Q [Newsday]
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD), Intel (INTC) • iShares Goldman Sachs Semiconductor Index Fund (IGW)

Microsoft Releases Internet Explorer 7 at Last [TheStreet.com]

Summary: Microsoft has finally released its new browser update, Internet Explorer 7 [IE7], 5 years in the making. ieIE7 has been updated with many of the features competitor browsers like Opera and Firefox have implemented during the 5 years since Microsoft released its last version of Explorer. That 5 year period cost IE 7% of its market share - customers Microsoft hopes to bring back with IE7. Earlier yesterday, Yahoo! announced it was offering its own "optimized" version of IE 7, which sets the company as the default search engine. Shares of Microsoft, which have been on a tear of late, closed the regular session up $0.08 to $28.52 on the news.
Related links: Reuters Warns Customers: Install Internet Explorer 7.0 At Your PerilMicrosoft: "The Younger Audience Is Our Future"Microsoft Upgrades Internet Explorer -- But Not Much Is New • Firefox Expands Global Market Share
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Yahoo! (YHOO), Google (GOOG) • iShares S&P 500 Index (NYSEARCA:IVV), First Tr DJ Internet Index Fd (FDN)

Sony Cuts Annual Profit Forecast by 39 Percent After Laptop Battery Recall [Bloomberg]

Summary: Sony announced yesterday that Q2 profit fell 93% from last year's 28.5 billion yen to 2 billion yen. The company also cut its full year net income forecast to 80 billion yen, down from 130 billion yen. The company is struggling with a massive laptop battery recall as well as PlayStation 3 delivery delays and price cuts, in addition to sluggish sales for its PlayStation Portable machines. The battery recall is expected to cost the company 51 billion yen, though it's not clear whether that will be enough to cover all costs.
Related links: Is the Worst Over for Sony's Stock?Consumer Electronic Companies May Seek Damages for Battery RecallSony Spin Factor • Reuters: Sony CFO: expects big profit improvement in 07/08 • Bloomberg: Sony Forecasts Lowest Profit in Five Years on Recall, PS3 Price
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Stocks: Sony: (NYSE:SNE), Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSBF), MSFT (MSFT), Ninetendo (OTCPK:NTDOY). ETFs: BLDRS ASIA 50 FD (NASDAQ:ADRA)


Boston Globe Doesn't Deliver For the Times [Wall Street Journal]

Summary: When the New York Times reports earnings today, look out for the Boston Globe's negative effect on its performance. NYT's rationale in purchasing the Globe for $1.1 billion in 1993 centered on the affluent Boston population. This affluence has resulted in Boston's having the third highest broadband penetration in the U.S., and a quick migration from traditional print media. The Globe's division ad revenues are in a tailspin, falling 7.2% in Q1 and 10.4% in Q2, and falling 11.7% and 15.7% in July and August respectively. Its Sunday circulation has fallen 25% since the acquisition, compared to industry Sunday circulation declines of 12%. Federated's May Co. acquisition has taken a major toll of an estimated 5.9% on advertising revenue. The paper has instituted cost savings measures including buyout offers to more than 200 employees and reduction of news content; alongside these measures, the company has introduced new niche products and increased advertising space. But as NYT CFO Len Forman noted in a June call with analysts: "they've had a marketplace that basically has just turned so far south. Cutting costs won't do it, and you'll just cut to the bone. "
Related links: Check here later today for NYT's earnings call transcript • Last quarter's earnings call transcript NYT Buyout Rumors • Seeking Alpha coverage of newspaper stocks
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: New York Times (NYSE:NYT), Washington Post Company (WPO), Gannett (NYSE:GCI), Dow Jones & Co (DJ).

Time Warner Cable Will Play Solo [Business Week]

Summary: Time Warner has announced it will spin off its cable TV business in an IPO, with 16% offered to the public. Proceeds will go to creditors in Adelphia Communications, which was acquired by Time Warner and Comcast in bankruptcy proceedings in July. It is estimated that the value of the IPO could reach $5.4 billion. The IPO will create a separate market for Time Warner's cable business, which will trade under the ticker TWC. The move is considered positive for two reasons. First, some believe Time Warner trades at a discount because investors are unable to value the conglomerate's separate parts; the valuation of the cable business via the IPO provides welcome information. Second, cable -- which is Time Warner's fastest-growing business -- is a sector of increasing interest to both public and private investors.
Related links: Time Warner Spins Off the Last of its European AOL UnitsThreatened by Internet Video, Cable Providers Strive to CompeteTime Warner Cable Files for Initial Public Stock Offering [LA Times]
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: TimeWarner (NYSE:TWX), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) • Internet HOLDRs Trust Internet HOLDRs Trust (HHH), Vanguard Consumer Discretionary ETF (NYSEARCA:VCR), PowerShares Dynamic Large Cap Growth Portfolio (NYSEARCA:PWB)

NBC Universal to Slash Costs In News, Prime-Time Programs [Wall Street Journal]

Summary: In recognition that they can't keep on spending the way they did in decades past, NBC Universal is slashing their operating budget by as much as $750 million by the end of next year, in large part by eliminating 5% of its global work force (700 jobs) in coming months. nbcWith NBC unable to climb out of last place versus the other three major networks since blockbuster sitcom hits like 'Friends' and 'Frasier' went off air over a year ago, NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright promises he will return the unit to double-digit growth in 2007. "As we reprioritize ourselves toward digital, we've got to be as efficient in our current businesses as possible," Wright said. The GE-owned company also plans to refocus spending on internet programing and says revenue from digital initiatives which will earn the company $400 million this year will exceed $1 billion by 2009. Another money-saving move proposed by the company is to cut its nightly primetime slot down to 2 hours from the current 3. This will allow the company to air shows that cost a fraction of what sitcoms and scripted dramas with big name actors cost to produce. News Corp.-owned Fox has used the 2-hour primetime format since it first went on the air in 1989 with success.
Related links: GE Reports Strong Growth, With NBC Universal Unit LaggingNBC's Streamed Online Video Lands Ad Partners • General Electric Q3 2006 Earnings Call TranscriptGE Executives Discuss NBC's Tough Quarter (NYSE:GE) • Nielson/NetRatings: TV Broadcasters Should Put Content On Web
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS), Disney (NYSE:DIS), CBS (NYSE:CBS)

Bloomberg Dismisses Talk of Sale [New York Times]

Summary: Yesterday New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that while he had been approached by potential buyers of his multibillion-dollar financial information company, he has no intentions of selling it. Estimates say the company may be worth $12B. McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. and The Thomson Corp., along with several private equity firms, were said to be prospective suitors. Forbes estimated the private company had $4.1B in revenue last year. M. Bloomberg has a 72% stake in the company; Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. owns 20%. The mayor's statement came amid rumors he might consider running for president in 2008, a bid that could be enhanced by his severing personal ties to his media conglomerate. But former Mayor Ed Koch said he can keep the company and run. Mayor Bloomberg's chief spokesman had this to say: (He), "has said he is not running for president, and his next career will be in philanthropy." Despite the plethora of free information on the internet, Bloomberg continues to claim a 31% market share of the +$10B financial data market (rival Reuters has 23%).
Related links: Bloomberg insists he is not selling [Times Online] • Bloomberg LP Not For Sale At This Time -- Founder [Reuters]
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. (MHP), The Thomson Corp. (TOC), Reuters Group plc (RTRSY), Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. (MER)

Income Rises at Dow Jones; Journal’s Ads Are Weaker [New York Times]

Summary: Third-quarter profit increased 57% at Dow Jones & Co., beating analyst estimates by a penny. Backing out a $0.09/share tax gain and a $0.01/share cost for job cuts, DJ earned $0.11/share versus $0.12 last year. Revenue grew 3.8% to $412.4 million, but missed analysts' estimates of $442.8 million. An analyst at Benchmark in NY commented, "It was not a good quarter for The Wall Street Journal, and that follows the trend of the industry." A potential positive development is its complete acquisition of Factiva from Reuters. Online advertising revenue grew 12.4%, compared to 0.3% for advertising in The Wall Street Journal print edition.
Related links: Dow Jones: Maybe Our Online Business is Part of Yahoo's ProblemQ3 2006 Earnings Press Release [Dow Jones, .pdf] • Reuters Reports Beat Quarter, Sells Factiva To Partner Dow JonesSeeking Alpha's Coverage of Newspaper Stocks • Conference call transcript: Dow Jones Q3 2006Gannett Q3 2006
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Dow Jones & Co (DJ)


Scrutinizing Chinese Airline Stocks [Wall Street Journal]

Summary: China's Big 3 airlines include China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Air China. The first two are listed on the NYSE, but analysts warn of their high leverage, negative cash flows and inability to hedge fuel costs due to government regulation. In comparison, Air China is profitable and has a strategic partnership with "best-in-class" Cathay Pacific Airways. Analysts, however, think its shares may have all positive factors priced in and instead suggest its two rival's shares could have more potential. All three airlines will face challenges as the industry is opened to foreign competition. Meanwhile, China's airline industry itself has been growing handsomely since 2000, with annualized growth of 16% and having carried 138 million passengers last year. China Southern is the nation's largest carrier by passengers carried, but is most subject to risks of rising fuel costs and price wars, since 90% of its business is domestic flights. It is in the midst of an aggressive expansion, and on Tuesday announced a purchase of 12 new Boeing aircraft. Merrill Lynch rates it a "Sell" because of 'pinched passenger yields and mounting debts.' Both Citigroup and BNP Paribas rate it a "Buy."
Related links: US airlines battle for last China-US route [China Daily] • Lower Oil Helping AirlinesChina Eastern and China Southern [Wikipedia]
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: China Eastern Airlines (NYSE:CEA), China Southern Airlines (NYSE:ZNH), Cathay Pacific Airways (OTCPK:CPCAY), Boeing (NYSE:BA)


HEARD ON THE STREET: Investors to Wal-Mart: Slow Construction Pace [Wall Street Journal]

Summary: Wal-Mart is on track this year to keep to its target of 8% annual square foot expansion by building 370 new stores in the U.S. But not all investors believe that this aggressive growth strategy is appropriate for the company as new locations cannibalize sales of existing stores and present high opening costs in markets where WMT currently has no presence; they would prefer to see share buybacks, dividend increases or remodeling of existing stores. If WMT announces in its analyst meetings next Monday that it will slow U.S expansion, investors are expected to reward the stock. Says Goldman Sachs' Adrianne Shapira: "If they do rein in that 8% [expansion rate], expect deafening applause from the investment community." Slowdown advocates point to McDonald's which instituted a reduced expansion plan in 2003 accompanied by increased dividends and share buybacks. The stock doubled in one year, and increased 30% since then.
Related links: WMT Last Quarter Earnings Call Transcript • WMT Finds it Hard to ExpandWMT to Benefit from Lower Oil PricesWMT Facing Tough Times
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT); Competitors: CostCo (NASDAQ:COST), Target (NYSE:TGT).

Wal-Mart to Expand Discount Drug Plan [New York Times]

Summary: Wal-Mart is expected to announce today that it will expand its discount generic drug plan ahead of its original plan to do so in January, due to strong demand. Its program was introduced in Florida, and will be extended to more than 12 additional states including: New York, Texas, Oregon, Arizona, Vermont and North Carolina. Consumers can purchase month-long doses of 150 different medicines for $4, compared to the average cost of generics of $10-$30.
Related links: Wal-Mart's Cheap Drugs Not as Threatening as they AppearWalgreen Claims No Threat From Wal-Mart's Low Price Generic Drugs • Wal-Mart's Low Cost Generic Drug Implications for Pharmacy Benefit Managers, on Retailers, and on a Macro OutlookWhy Wal-Mart's Drug Program Shouldn't Worry Walgreen and CVS Investors
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Wal-Mart (WMT), Walgreen (WAG), CVS (NYSE:CVS), Longs Drug Stores (LDG), Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) • Teva Pharma (NASDAQ:TEVA), largest seller of generics in U.S. • Pharmacy benefit managers: Medco Health Solutions (NYSE:MHS), Express Scripts (NASDAQ:ESRX) and Caremark (CMX) • Retail HOLDRs ETF (NYSEARCA:RTH)


Boston Scientific Swings to $76M Profit [AP]

Summary: The medical device producer, Boston Scientific, beat Wall Street estimates and announced a $76 million profit in the third quarter after a sharp decline following its $27 billion acquisition of Guidant. The net income was 5 cents a share in contrast to 33 cents last year when Boston Scientific recorded $598 million in legal expenses. Sales of the company's defibrillators and pacemakers were responsible for the 34% rise, but sales of its cardiac rhythm devices and Taxus drug-coated stents fell 7% and 5% respectively. Questions over the safety of both devices and the cost of the acquisition contributed to the second quarter decline.
Related links: J&J Sues Boston Scientific and Abbott Labs Over Guidant DealBoston Scientific Comes Clean on Stent RiskBoston Scientific gets European OK for drug-coated stent [Marketwatch] • Boston Scientific, J&J Stent Sales Hurt by Blood-Clot Concerns [Bloomberg]
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX), • Competitors: Johnson&Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), XTENT (NYSEMKT:XTNT), Medtronic (NYSE:MDT)


JPMorgan Beats Analysts Expectations [AP]

Summary: JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), America's third largest bank by market cap size, reported a beat quarter yesterday, increasing profits by 30% from the year earlier period. But while the bank beat Wall Street analysts on strong performance from its investment banking unit and favorable market activity, JPMorgan reported significant problems with its retail and credit-card divisions which suffered as a result of the housing slowdown and fierce competition for customers. jpmimageNet income totaled $3.3 billion, or 92 cents a share up from $2.53 billion, or 71 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue was $15.4 billion in the third quarter, up from $14.27 billion a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had predicted net income of just 86 cents on revenue of $14.63 billion. Still, investors were not impressed sending shares down $0.78, or 1.68%. For one, previous year comparisons include losses JPMorgan incurred from hurricane Katrina. And due to the housing slump, mortgage loan originations fell 28% from the previous year and 10 percent from the second quarter. Credit card revenue also suffered, lessening 8% from the same period last year. Never-the-less, J.P. Morgan executives said they were pleased with the results with CEO James Dimon saying, "It is gratifying that our focus on improving each of our businesses is becoming evident, although we still have much work to do."
Related links: Audio Webcast of JPMorgan's 3Q'06 Earnings Conference CallGoldman Sachs and JPMorgan Debate Economy, Fed Rate CutsFor Credit Card Issuers, The Sky's the Limit When It Comes to Rewarding Customers3rd-Quarter Profits Rose 30% at J. P. Morgan Chase [NYT] • Consumer Divisions Struggle, But J.P. Morgan's Net Rises 30% [WSJ]
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Citibank (NYSE:C), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Wachovia (NASDAQ:WB), WisdomTree High-Yielding Equity (NYSEARCA:DHS), WisdomTree LargeCap Dividend Fund (NYSEARCA:DLN)


General Dynamics Profit Up On Military, Jet Sales [Reuters]

Summary: U.S. defense contractor General Dynamics Corp. saw third-quarter profits rise $1.08/share (17%), slightly higher than Wall Street's $1.06 forecast, helped by strong sales of its government information systems, army vehicles and Gulfstream business jets. GD, manufacturer of Abrams tanks and Stryker combat vehicles, also operates intelligence networks for the U.S. government; it has benefited from heavy spending on Iraq and Afghanistan military operations. Revenues came in at $6.1B (+14.5%), a touch lower than the $6.27B forecasted. But shares fell yesterday $1.36 to $74.40. Bank of America analyst R. Stallard: "General Dynamics' stock has been very strong, and an in-line quarter may not be enough to sustain recent momentum." GD stock is up 21% in the last six months, vs. 4% for the S&P 500 index. Sales in information systems and technology rose 21% ($2.4B), combat systems were up 10% ($1.4B), aerospace rose 20% ($1.1B), marine systems was up just 4% ($1.2B). CEO N. Chabraja warned profit margins in some units would be down in Q4, and claimed Wall Street analysts were over-forecasting.
Related links: Conference call webcastIraq Project Translates Into Huge Dollars9/11: Its Lasting Impact on the Economy and Defense Stocks • Cramer mentions of GD: Mad Money In-Depth Stock Picks, Oct. 9Real Money Radio Recap, Oct. 5Mad Money In-Depth Stock Picks, Sept. 29Mad Money Lightning Round Picks, Sept. 26 • Previous earnings: General Dynamics Profits Up 84% -- Apparently Not Enough for Investors
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE:GD) • Defence stocks: Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE:LMT), Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE:NOC), Armor Holdings Inc. (AH), Boeing Co. (BA), Orbital Sciences Corp. (ORB) • ETFs: PowerShares Aerospace & Defense (NYSEARCA:PPA)

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