- Installing the circuit breakers. In a bid to prevent occurrences like the May 6 "Flash Crash," U.S. regulators and stock exchanges plan a six-month pilot program for marketwide, stock-specific circuit breakers. The SEC proposes a rule for a five-minute cross-market "time-out" for any stock that moves 10% in the prior five minutes. Also, the SEC and CFTC issued a joint report on the plunge that explores six hypotheses - including stop-loss orders, liquidity mismatches and "stub quotes" for just pennies on some issues - to explain what went wrong.
- Primaries go against key Senators. In a seemingly significant demonstration of anti-Washington sentiment, newcomers ran strong races against incumbents of both parties in Tuesday's primaries. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee who introduced broad derivatives legislation last month, was forced into a June runoff; Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) lost outright despite endorsement by President Obama. On the Republican side, in Kentucky the candidate backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lost to Rand Paul, a tea-party favorite.
- Naked shorts out in Germany. Financial-markets regulators in Germany at midnight began banning naked short sales (done without actually borrowing the underlying security) and naked credit-default swaps on certain eurozone debt, as well as on a sampling of 10 financial stocks. The restrictions last until March 31. Responding to voter unrest, politicians are trying to put the heat on speculators blamed for bond volatility, though the moves may be mostly symbolic since most such trading takes place in London, outside German jurisdiction. The euro fell more than 1.5% against the dollar to under $1.22.
- Bank of America to sell Unibanco stake. In a move expected to raise $4B, Bank of America and Brazilian lender Itau Unibanco announced that BofA will sell 56.5 million shares to Itau SA, Unibanco's controlling shareholder, and do an offering of 188.5 million preferred shares of Unibanco the week of May 31, after which Bank of America will no longer hold any position in the Brazilian bank.
- Board challenges fizzle. The first challenge to the leadership of Massey Energy - still reeling from its April 5 mine accident - fell short, as three directors won re-election over protest candidates. JPMorgan Chase shareholders quashed a challenge that would have split the roles of CEO and chairman, which will remain with Jamie Dimon. And Morgan Stanley's holders kill a plan that would require an independent chairman.
- Geithner to press China. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner travels to Beijing next week with an agenda of urging officials to relax rules that discriminate against foreign companies, including U.S. firms. Continued concerns over Europe's sovereign debt may have back-burnered the original No. 1 topic: persuading China to let the yuan appreciate.
- Card issuers tumble. As credit-card executives warned of lost business due to curbed debit-card fees and a possible upcoming "volcanic" surge of regulations, shares of issuers sold off heavily Tuesday. Visa (NYSE:V) closed down 6.2%; MasterCard (NYSE:MA) -3.8%; American Express (NYSE:AXP) -3.4%; Discover (NYSE:DFS) -5.3%; Capital One (NYSE:COF) -2.4%.
- Dodd shelves controversial swaps rule. As amendments to financial regulatory reform keep falling into place, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd offers to postpone one of the most contentious proposals, which would force big banks to move swaps trading to subsidiaries. The compromise puts the measure up for a year of study by a council of regulators.
- H-P beats expectations, raises outlook. Hewlett-Packard beat expectations with its second-quarter earnings per share of $1.09, on revenue more than 12% higher than the year-ago period. H-P raised its full-year profit expectation to $4.45-$4.50 a share on demand for PCs and servers as well as a resurgent printing business, as companies are widely expected to replace old equipment as a recovery continues.
- Symantec near deal for VeriSign unit. Symantec, the highest-revenue tech security company, is reportedly close to a deal to buy VeriSign's authentication business for $1.3B, another step in Symantec's growth beyond antivirus software - and what may be the last in a series of divestitures for former dot-com star VeriSign.
- Sovereign, M&T break talks. Advanced merger discussions between Sovereign Bank and M&T Bank are now dead, sources say. The deal would have made Spain's Banco Santander - Sovereign's owner - a top-tier bank in the U.S. Santander is an outlier among European banks too weak to make acquisitions, and it's eager to push into the American market.
- Yahoo escalates the content wars. Yahoo announced yesterday that it will acquire content producer Associated Content in a deal slated to close in Q3 2010. Financial terms were not disclosed, but BoomTown’s Kara Swisher pegged the price at $90 million. The high-volume content producer will, essentially, help fill more online real estate around which Yahoo can place ads.
- Tensions close Bangkok market. The Stock Exchange of Thailand, which closed an hour early on Monday and Tuesday, did not reopen for the afternoon session Wednesday in the face of continuing conflicts between government troops and protesters in the capital.
- Another Toyota recall. A computerized steering problem in its Lexus LS line of sedans is causing the embattled automaker to recall 4,500 of the cars in Japan and another 7,000 sold globally. About 3.800 of those cars were sold in the U.S. Despite recent attempts by Toyota to appear more responsive, a company spokesperson said that the time frame for this latest recall had not yet been established.
- Deepwater Horizon fallout continues. Amidst reports of the first landings of oil on Florida beaches and fears that the oil slick has entered the loop current, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar admitted failures to a Senate panel Tuesday. Testifying before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Salazar said "We need to clean up that house" with reference to his agency's Minerals Management Service and acknowledged there were "a few bad apples." Responsibility for the massive BP oil spill rests, he said, with both industry and government.
Earnings: Tuesday After Close
- Hewlett-Packard (HPQ): Q2 EPS of $1.09 beats by $0.04. Revenue of $30.8B (+12.4%) vs. $29.8B. Shares +2.3% AH. (PR, earnings call transcript)
- Analog Devices (ADI): Q2 EPS of $0.55 beats by $0.05. Revenue of $668M (+40.8%) vs. $644M. Shares +2.4% AH. (PR, earnings call transcript)
Earnings: Wednesday Before Open
- Deere (DE): FQ2 EPS of $1.58 beats by $0.49. Revenue of $6.5B (+6%) vs. $6.6B. (PR)
- BJ's Wholesale Club (BJ): Q1 EPS of $0.49 beats by $0.06. Revenue of $2.5B (+12.8%) vs. $2.6B. (PR)
- In Asia,Japan -0.5%. Hong Kong -1.8%. China -0.3%. India -2.8%.
- In Europe, at midday, London -2.3%. Paris -2.9%. Frankfurt -2.7%.
- Futures: S&P -0.89%. 10-yr +0.22%. Euro -0.15% vs. dollar. Crude -1.44% to $71.65. Gold -0.61% to $1207.20.
Wednesday's Economic Calendar
- 7:00 MBA Mortgage Applications
8:30 Real Earnings
8:30 Consumer Price Index
10:30 EIA Petroleum Inventories
2:00 PM FOMC minutes
- Notable earnings before Wednesday's open: Notable earnings before Wednesday's open: BJ, CHS, DE, TGT
- Notable earnings after Wednesday's close: AAP, ADSK, AMAT, ARUN, GYMB, LTD, PETM, SNPS
Seeking Alpha editor Jason Aycock contributed to this post.
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