The IMF has agreed to provide Ukraine with $14-18B as part of an economic-reform program that will enable the country to tap a total of $27B of international support over the next two years. The Senate is set to approve aid for Ukraine, including $1B in loan guarantees and $150M in direct assistance, and the chamber could authorize imposing further sanctions on Russia, although nothing too major. The House has already approved help for Ukraine.
French consumer confidence has strengthened to 88 in March from 85 in February and topped consensus that was also 85. The rise follows an unexpected return to growth in business activity, as indicated by the latest PMI surveys.
The Fed has approved 25 out of 30 capital-return plans from the nation's largest lenders, but rejected those from Citigroup (NYSE:C), RBS's (NYSE:RBS) Citizens subsidiary - which could affect the divestiture of the unit - HSBC North America (NYSE:HSBC), Santander Holdings (NYSE:SAN), and, of course, Zions Bancorp (NASDAQ:ZION). Citigroup's shares sank 5.1% premarket, with the Fed saying that improvements in the bank's capital-planning processes have not been made fast enough.
Following Fed approval for their capital-allocation plans, various banks announced repurchase programs and dividends. JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) plans to boost its quarterly dividend by $0.02 to $0.40 a share and buy back $6.5B. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is increasing its payout to $0.05 from $0.01 and repurchasing $4B, while Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) announced a $1B program and a doubling of its quarterly dividend to $0.10.
Bank of America has agreed a $9.5B deal with the Federal Housing Finance Agency to settle four lawsuits related to mortgage bonds sold to Fannie Mae (OTCQB:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTCQB:FMCC). BofA (BAC) will pay $6.3B in cash and repurchase certain securities for $3.2B. The bank believes it has now resolved 88% of its total exposure to mortgage-bond litigation it has faced.
ANA Holdings has ordered 40 airplanes from Boeing (NYSE:BA) and 30 from Airbus (OTCPK:EADSY) in deals worth ¥1.7T ($16.6B) at list prices. ANA (OTC:ALNPF) is sticking with Boeing for its wide-bodied fleet, saying it will buy 14 787s and 26 777s. From Airbus, the Japanese carrier is purchasing 23 A321 aircraft and seven A320s. The latter deal represents further progress for Airbus in the Japanese market, which Boeing has dominated for decades.
New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is expected to unveil Office for the iPad today in a move that would end the company's policy of only providing Office for tablets that run Windows. Analysts estimate that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) could earn at least $1B a year from an iPad Office edition, although versions for the iPhone and Android handsets haven't enjoyed great success.
Yum Brands unit KFC intends to overhaul its menu in China, launch a marketing campaign involving celebrities and digital initiatives, and revamp its restaurant design as part of an attempt to escape the effects of a food scandal that has hit sales for well over a year. Yum (NYSE:YUM), which generates a large part of its revenues in China, intends to open 700 stores in the country in 2014.
Novartis' Ceritinib reduced the size of tumors in 58% of patients in a study of those suffering from a form of lung cancer that strikes 10,000 people a year in the U.S. Ceritinib is the leader of a class of drugs that targets a gene known as ALK and is 20 times more effective than Pfizer's (NYSE:PFE) Xalkori in turning off the gene. Novartis (NYSE:NVS) is using the results to file for FDA approval based on the drug's "breakthrough therapy designation."
Yahoo Japan has agreed to acquire mobile and broadband provider eAccess from SoftBank (OTCPK:SFTBF) for ¥324B yen ($3.17B) in a deal that will expand the Internet portal's services for tablets and smartphones. SoftBank, which owns 42.5% of Yahoo Japan (OTCPK:YAHOF), will book a special gain of ¥55.7B for the fiscal year ending March 2015. Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) owns 35% in its Japanese namesake.
CEO salaries at companies that generate over $8B in revenues rose 4.1% to a median $9.8M in 2013 as shareholder activism kept a lid on pay, a WSJ-commissioned survey shows. While the increase was slightly greater than in 2012, it was well under the median 25% shareholder return for the companies that were analyzed.
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In Asia, Japan +1% to 14623. Hong Kong -0.2% to 21834. Shanghai -0.8% to 2047. India +0.5% to 22214.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.3%. Paris -0.1%. Frankfurt +0.1%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.3%. S&P +0.3%. Nasdaq +0.3%. Crude flat at $100.26. Gold -0.7% to $1294.80.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 2.7%.
Today's economic calendar:
8:30 Initial Jobless Claims
8:30 GDP Q4
8:30 Corporate Profits
8:30 Fed's Pianalto: "The Federal Reserve and Monetary Policy"
9:45 Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index
10:00 Pending Home Sales
10:30 EIA Natural Gas Inventory
11:00 Kansas City Fed Mfg Survey
1:00 PM Results of $29B, 7-Year Note Auction
4:30 PM Money Supply
4:30 PM Fed Balance Sheet
9:30 PM Fed's Evans: Economy and Monetary Policy
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