Eurozone recovery firms up. A veritable feast of eurozone GDP data has shown that the bloc's nascent recovery strengthened a bit in Q4. The eurozone's growth accelerated to 0.3% on quarter from 0.1% in Q3 and topped forecasts of +0.2%, while German GDP increased to +0.4% from +0.3%. Even in France, where data has been variable lately, the economy recovered from a fall of 0.1% in Q3 to expand 0.3% last quarter. The GDP figures have helped boost European stocks.
Chinese inflation remains tame. China's CPI held steady at +2.5% on year in January, while PPI dropped for the 23rd consecutive month with a fall of 1.6%. The benign inflation could give the People's Bank of China room to loosen monetary policy should the economy slow further, although the PBOC is also concerned about reining in soaring debt. "Inflation is one target for the central bank, but financial stability is a bigger concern," says JPMorgan economist Haibin Zhu.
Jos. A. Bank to buy Eddie Bauer in $825M deal. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (JOSB) has agreed to acquire Everest Holdings, the parent company of the Eddie Bauer brand, for an enterprise value of $825M. The deal, which has been on the cards, will complicate the attempt of Men's Wearhouse (MW) to buy Jos. A. Bank. The latter also plans to acquire up to 4.6M shares for $65 each.
Top Stock News
AIG returns to profit, ups dividend and cuts jobs. AIG (AIG) swung to a net profit of $1.98B from a loss of $3.96B a year earlier, when earnings were hit by costs from superstorm Sandy and a charge related to the sale of the insurer's aircraft-leasing unit. AIG is raising its dividend by 25% to $0.125 a share and it added $1B to a stock buyback, bringing the total authorization to $1.4B. However, AIG is cutting jobs and costs, and took a pretax severance charge of $265M in Q4.
WSJ: Charter set to forgo TWC counter-offer, mulls other deals. Charter Communications (CHTR) is unlikely to make a counter-bid for Time Warner Cable (TWC), the WSJ reports, due to the gap between Comcast's (CMCSA) $158.82-a-share offer and Charter's $132.50 proposal. Instead, Charter is considering other possible acquisitions, including the 3M managed subscribers that Comcast has pledged to sell in order to win antitrust approval for its deal. Charter will also look at other cable-TV firms, with one possible target Cox Communications.
Lloyds faces £1B tax bomb. Lloyds (LYG) is embroiled in a £1B legal dispute with the British government over losses the bank took when it wound down its Irish unit. Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs department has rejected the way Lloyds used those losses to offset its tax bill. If Lloyds loses the case, it would have to pay £600M in tax and write off a £400M deferred tax asset.
Kraft net profit jumps, but warns of slow start to 2014. Kraft Foods Group's (KRFT) net profit jumped to $931M in Q4 from $90M a year earlier, boosted by a large accounting gain related to retiree benefits and by lower costs. EPS was $1.54 as revenue increased 2.2% to $4.59B. However, Kraft warned of a "soft start" to the year, partly because of the weak U.S. labor market and the recent cut in food stamps.
First Twitter lock-up period set to end. Twitter's (TWTR) first post-IPO lock-up period is due to expire tomorrow, allowing non-executive staff holding 9.87M shares to sell their stock. That would increase the number of tradeable shares by 12% to 90M. Another 474.7M shares will become eligible for sale in May. Twitter's shares have more than doubled since it listed in November, although they've sunk 14% since the company released its latest quarterly earnings report last week.
Reuters: Murphy Oil mulls $3B in Asian asset sales. Murphy Oil (MUR) is thinking about following some of its U.S. peers and selling Asian oil and gas assets worth as much as $3B, Reuters reports. One possible deal is the sale of 30% of Murphy's operations in Malaysia; the company also has interests in Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei and Australia. Murphy has been inspired by the strong demand for assets that Newfield Exploration (NFX) and Hess (HES) sold in auctions last year.
Anglo American earnings hit by $1.9B in writedowns. Anglo American (OTCPK:AAUKF) suffered its second consecutive annual net loss in 2014 after the mining company wrote down $1.9B in the value of assets as commodity demand continued to be soft. Still, net losses narrowed to $961M from $1.47B a year earlier but badly missed consensus for a profit of $2.01B. Underlying income fell 7% to $2.7B even though revenue rose 1% to $33.06B.
Top Economic & Other News
Indian WPI eases, adding to slowing CPI. India's wholesale-price index slowed to +5.05% on year in January from +6.2% in December. The data adds to a reading which showed that CPI eased to +8.8% last month from +9.9% in December. The falling inflation comes as the Reserve Bank of India focuses on reducing consumer prices, with the RBI hiking interest rates three times since September.
Top Ideas: Movers and Great Calls
1) On February 6, Inflection Point Investing detailed the bull case for MeetMe (MEET), pointing out that while the valuation of the social-media player was lagging, its mobile revenues were growing faster than those of its peers. Shares are +17.2% since. Read article »
2) In August, Money Investor recommended shares of housing-supplier USG Corp (USG), citing the large stakes held by Warren Buffett and Prem Watsa, and a coming rebound in construction. The stock is +44.4% to date. Read article »
Top Ideas To Watch
1) Telecom provider Luna Innovations (LUNA) is worth less than the proceeds of a recent division sale, while the remaining business shows the promise of future growth, writes Inefficient Market. Read article »
2) Falling propane prices could threaten margins at PetroLogistics (PDH), writes Grizzly Bear. Read article »
Top Ideas are the best long and short ideas on Seeking Alpha. SA PRO subscribers receive early access to these Top Ideas, which often move markets. For more information about SA PRO and becoming a subscriber, click here.
In Asia, Japan -1.5% to 14313. Hong Kong +0.6% to 22298. China +0.8% to 2116. India +0.9% to 20367.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.1%. Paris +0.4%. Frankfurt +0.6%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow, S&P flat. Nasdaq +0.1%. Crude -0.4% to $99.92. Gold +0.8% to $1311.90.
Ten-year Treasury Yield -1 bps to 2.73%.
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