China overtaking U.S. as world's biggest trader. China appears to have become the world's largest trading country last year after the value of its imports and exports increased 7.6% to $4.16T. The U.S., which has held the crown until now, hasn't released its 2013 figures yet, but its trade in January-November totaled $3.5T. In December, China's export growth slowed to 4.3% from 12.7% and missed consensus, although imports accelerated to +8.3% and topped expectations.
Alcoa swings to massive loss on one-time charges. Alcoa (NYSE:AA) got Q4 earnings season off to a poor start after reporting that it swung to a loss of $2.34B from a profit of $242M a year earlier, due to a $1.72B charge related to two acquisitions made over ten years ago. Adjusted EPS of $0.04 missed consensus and revenue fell 5.3% to $5.59B, although that did top forecasts. Alcoa's results came after it said it would pay $384M to the U.S. government to settle allegations of bribery in Bahrain. Shares plunged 5.4% premarket.
Sears punished, Abercrombie & Fitch rewarded on sales figures. Sears' (NASDAQ:SHLD) shares plunged 13.8% premarket after the retailer said FQ4 same-store sales dropped 7.4% on year and it warned that it would make a loss per share in the period of $2.01-2.98, way below consensus of -$0.20. Meanwhile, Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) was the anti-Sears yesterday, surging 13.9% in post-market trading even though nine-week same-store sales fell 6%. But that beat guidance and the apparel retailer increased its FY 2014 EPS outlook to $1.55-1.65 from a prior prediction of $1.40-1.50.
Top Stock News
Machinists accuse Boeing of unfair labor practices. Boeing (NYSE:BA) machinists have filed at least two unfair-labor charges against the plane maker over its threat to build the 777X outside of the Seattle area if a new employee deal wasn't approved. The machinists have also filed several charges against the international leadership of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers for carrying out a vote on the agreement over the opposition of local union leaders and when many members were on vacation.
What's in a name: Fifth & Pacific becomes Kate Spade. Fifth & Pacific (FNP) has officially changed its name to Kate Spade after asset sales and closures left the retailer with just one major brand. The new name will come with a new CEO: William McComb will step down to be replaced by Craig Leavitt, the head of Kate Spade.
Top Economic & Other News
U.S. employment growth seen slowing slightly. U.S. employment data for December is due out this morning, with economists estimating that the number of nonfarm payrolls increased by 196,000, slightly short of the rise of 203,000 in November. The jobless rate is expected to have held steady at 7%. As ever, the data will be analyzed to death to see what it means for Fed policy.
Corn prices drop to 3.5 year low ahead of USDA estimate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to lift its estimate today for the 2013 corn harvest (NYSEARCA:CORN) to 14.05B bushels from a prediction in December of 13.99B bushels. That would make last year's output the largest in U.S. history. If confirmed, the estimates are likely to add pressure to corn prices, which hit a 3 1/2 year low of $4.08 a bushel yesterday before closing at $4.12. Corn has dropped 2.4% this year after plummeting 40% in 2013.
Spanish, French industrial production rise. Spanish industrial output rose 2.6% on year in November, recovering from a fall of 0.8% in October. The figure represents the biggest increase in over two years and adds to the flow of positive data that has been coming out of Spain over the past few months. French industrial production grew 1.3% on month in November after dropping 0.5% in October and easily topped consensus of 0.4%. However, the figures are for two months ago and PMI data for December didn't make for pretty reading.
Negotiators reach deal over cutting food stamps. Congressional negotiators have reportedly forged an agreement to cut $9B over 10 years from the food-stamp program as part of the wider farm bill. However, it's unclear how much support the deal will receive from legislators: the figure is more than twice the $4B that the Democrat-led Senate approved in May but well below the $40B that the GOP-led House has sought. Negotiators now have to agree over a program for milk producers and settle a dispute involving catfish of all things.
Trade bill would renew President's "fast-track" authority. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced that would give President Obama "fast-track authority" to get expedited consideration in Congress for free-trade deals without the threat of amendments or filibusters. The proposals come as the U.S. negotiates the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 countries, the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership with 28 nations in Europe, and a global services pact with around 50 countries. However, the fast-track measure faces opposition on Capitol Hill, particularly from Democrats.
Top Ideas: Movers and Great Calls
1) On Monday, BrooklynShorty predicted trouble ahead at container leasing company TAL International (TAL), as the expiration of favorable leases and rising depreciation would lead to dividend cuts, earnings misses, and a sharply lower share price. The stock is -14.3% since. Read article »
2) On October 4, Whopper Investments forecast a turnaround at microcap medical equipment maker Pro-Dex (NASDAQ:PDEX) that could lead to triple-digit upside. Shares are +42.1% since his call. Read article »
Top Ideas To Watch
1) ZN Capital says despite impressive revenue growth, shares of Splunk (NASDAQ:SPLK) remain overvalued, as questions remain as to whether top-line growth will ever translate into profits to support current multiples. Read article »
2) The coming release of an official and better-than-expected reserve estimate at a key mine will serve as a catalyst for Capstone Mining (OTCPK:CSFFF), leading to 50% near-term upside, writes Itinerant. Read article »
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In Asia, Japan +0.2% to 15912. Hong Kong +0.3% to 22846. China -0.7% to 2013. India -0.2% to 20758.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.9%. Paris +0.7%. Frankfurt +0.8%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.3%. S&P +0.3%. Nasdaq +0.5%. Crude +1.1% to $92.63. Gold +0.3% to $1233.50.
Ten-year Treasury Yield -0.5 bps to 2.97%.
Notable earnings before today's open: INFY
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