The Federal Reserve is due to say today whether it approves banks' plans to pay dividends and/or repurchase stock. Last year, the Fed told JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) to change their capital-allocation programs. The Fed's decision will come a week after it said that 29 out of 30 banks had passed its stress tests.
As expected, Germany's Gfk consumer confidence index has held steady at a seven-year high of 8.5 heading into April. The reading comes after the Ifo index provided a mixed picture yesterday, with the business-climate print slipping but the current-situation number rising.
Facebook has agreed to acquire Oculus VR, the developer of a virtual-reality headset, in a cash-and-stock deal worth up to $2.3B. The purchase follows Sony's (NYSE:SNE) announcement that it's developing a VR headset and reports that Microsoft is working on one as well. "Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate," Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg gushed.
Rupert Murdoch has set up what looks suspiciously like a succession battle between his sons, with Lachlan being appointed non-executive co-chairman at Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) and at News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWSA). Brother James has been promoted to the role of co-COO at Fox to work alongside Chase Carey. Lachlan Murdoch's double appointment comes seven years after he left the family business following disagreements with his father and other executives.
The British government has sold a 7.8% stake in Lloyds (NYSE:LYG) to institutional investors for £4.2B ($6.9B), thereby reducing its holding to 25%. The government is on course to completely exit Lloyds over the next year at a profit. It plans to use the proceeds from the latest sale to pay off debt. The state originally took a 39% holding in Lloyds after bailing out the bank during the financial crisis.
China's Citic Pacific, the builder of the largest magnetite mine in the world, reportedly intends to buy assets from state-owned parent Citic Group in a deal that could be valued at $40B. Citic Pacific (OTC:CTPCF) also intends to sell shares as part of the transaction.
King Digital's shares are due to debut on the NYSE today after the mobile-gaming company raised $349M by selling 15.5M shares at $22.50 each in its IPO. Existing stockholders are selling 6.7M shares. The price is in the middle of a range of $21-24 and gives King (BATS:KING) a market cap of $7.1B, or just 3.6X 2013 bookings. King is best known for its runaway hit "Candy Crush," although there are fears about the company's reliance on the game.
Occidental Petroleum's attempt to raise as much as $8B by selling a stake in its Middle East business is being stalled by regional disputes over the Muslim Brotherhood, CEO Steve Chazen has said. Occidental (NYSE:OXY) may need to break up the assets and sell them to individual countries because political tensions have made it too complicated to forge an agreement for a single sale to a consortium made up of Oman, the UAE and Qatar.
Blackstone is reportedly close to a deal to buy auto-parts and building-products maker Gates Global from Onex (OTCPK:ONEXF) and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for $5.5B-$6B, including debt. Blackstone (NYSE:BX) is preparing to do the deal on its own after TPG Capital, which it had teamed up with to submit a joint bid two weeks ago, backed out.
Toyota intends to spend ¥360B ($3.5B) on repurchasing up to 60M shares, or 1.89% of the total. The car-maker will then use half the shares to benefit a charity foundation that it's establishing by selling the stock to Japan Trustee Services Bank for a token sum of ¥1 each. Dividends will be used to finance the foundation. Toyota (NYSE:TM) will also cancel the other 30M shares.
Carlyle has received bids from Blackstone (BX), KKR (NYSE:KKR) and Clayton Dubilier & Rice for chemicals maker PQ Holdings, which could fetch $3-4B. PQ filed for a $450M IPO last month, but the move was widely seen as an attempt by Carlyle (NASDAQ:CG) to pursue a dual-track process rather than as an abandoning of sale attempts.
Zargon Oil & Gas (OTCPK:ZARFF) +10.3% since Mar. 17 Value Digger article »
Guanwei Recycling (NASDAQ:GPRC) +52.5% since Nov. 25 Jonathan Verenger article »
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In Asia, Japan +0.4% to 14477. Hong Kong +0.7% to 21888. China -0.2% to 2064. India +0.2% to 22095.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.5%. Paris +0.9%. Frankfurt +1.1%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.2%. S&P +0.2%. Nasdaq +0.3%. Crude +0.15% to $99.34. Gold +0.3% to $1314.80.
Ten-year Treasury Yield +4 bps to 2.75%.
Today's economic calendar:
2:00 Fed's Bullard: "Unconventional Monetary Policy"
7:00 MBA Mortgage Applications
8:30 Durable Goods
9:45 PMI Services Index Flash
10:30 EIA Petroleum Inventories
1:00 PM Results of $13B, 2-Year FRN Auction
1:00 PM Results of $35B, 5-Year Note Auction
Notable earnings after today's close: PAYX
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