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  • Air Products raises Airgas bid. Air Products (NYSE:APD) raised its bid for Airgas (NYSE:ARG) late yesterday to $63.50 per share from $60. The new offer is a 46% premium to Airgas' closing price on February 4, the day before Air Products first launched its bid. Airgas, which has thus far been unimpressed with Air Products' advances, is reviewing the offer and has advised shareholders to take no action until further notice.
  • China avoids "currency manipulator" label. The Treasury declined to officially cite China as a currency manipulator in its semi-annual report to Congress, noting China's "significant step" of ending the yuan's dollar peg. The report said the yuan "remains undervalued" so the focus will be on "how far and how fast the renminbi appreciates."
  • China renews Google license. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) just announced this morning that China has renewed its license to operate in the country. More details to follow... Shares +1.85% premarket (7:00 ET).
  • Rio to swap shares for copper stake. Ending months of speculation, Rio Tinto (RTP) confirmed its plans to swap its shares in Ivanhoe Mines for a direct stake in Mongolia’s Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project, which is 66% owned by Ivanhoe. Any deal would require the support of the Mongolian government, which owns the remaining 34% stake in Oyu Tolgoi, one of the world's largest undeveloped copper deposits. Chinalco (NYSE:ACH), Rio's largest shareholder, is also considering a direct or indirect stake in the project. Premarket: RTP +1.8% (7:00 ET).
  • Interest is high for ING real estate unit. ING Group (NYSE:ING) is fielding expressions of interest for a sale of its world-leading real estate investment management unit. Around 10 firms sent letters indicating they could fund a bid and would buy the unit as a whole, though sources added ING may have to break the unit up to conclude a sale in a timely manner. The firm is feeling out a price range around €1B ($1.27B), though some outsiders think the platform could go for as much as €2.64B.
  • H-P wins Navy network deal. H-P (NYSE:HPQ) was awarded a contract for continued U.S. Navy information technology support that could be worth as much as $3.4B if all the options are exercised. The initial award is for $27M, and work could potentially continue until July 2015.
  • J&J recalls push down sales. Sales of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) pain relievers are taking a hit as a string of recalls scares off consumers. The most recent recall, issued yesterday, includes 21 lots of over-the-counter medicine, including Benadryl and Children's Tylenol. The company said the move is a precaution, but consumers have little tolerance for the continued lapse in internal quality control, with one analyst calling the embarrassing string of recalls "pain by a thousand cuts;" sales of J&J's pain reliever pills fell 56% in the four weeks ending June 13, compared to the year before. Premarket: JNJ -0.6% (7:00 ET).
  • P-E groups swap MultiPlan in LBO deal. Private-equity firms BC Partners and Silver Lake Partners have reportedly agreed to purchase health-care business MultiPlan Inc. in a deal that values the company at $3.1B and marks the year's largest secondary buyout. Carlyle Group and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe are the sellers, and Carlyle is expected to make more than three times its initial investment in MultiPlan, which it acquired in 2006.
  • GE may sell Garanti stake in parts. General Electric (NYSE:GE) is considering selling its 20.85% stake in Turkey's Garanti Bank (OTCPK:TKGBF) in several parts, according to a Sabah newspaper report. GE had initially tried to sell the roughly $3.8B stake in a block, but the high price tag along with the fact that it's not a controlling stake, had deterred potential investors. A partial sale holds more promise, and would allow investors a rare chance to buy into Turkey's relatively resilient banking sector.
  • KKR turns to natgas. KKR is betting on rising energy prices, with plans to build an exploration business for unconventional energy. Details aren't yet finalized, but sources said the business would focus on prospecting for fuel such as gas trapped in shale and coal beds under parts of Appalachia and Texas. Energy prices would have to rise to make this costly energy extraction process profitable, but KKR is not alone in its bet; Exxon (NYSE:XOM) and BP (NYSE:BP) are also heavily invested in U.S. shale gas. The company will begin trading on the NYSE on July 15, under the ticker KKR.
  • Mixed bag for retailers. Retailers once again reported mixed results for June's same-store sales. Discounters continued to do well, but many retailers cut into their own profit margins by using aggressive promotions to lure wallet-conscious consumers through the door, and the weak performance raised concerns about the back-to-school shopping season. Limited (LTD), Macy's (NYSE:M), JC Penney (NYSE:JCP) and Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) were among the firms that reported better-than-expected numbers, while Kohl's (NYSE:KSS), Gap (NYSE:GPS) and Target (NYSE:TGT) came up short.

Earnings: Thursday After Close

Today's Markets

  • In Asia, Japan +0.5% to 9585. Hong Kong +1.6% to 20379. China +2.3% to 2471. India +1.0% to 17834.
  • In Europe, at midday, London +0.1%. Paris +0.4%. Frankfurt +0.4%.
  • Futures: Dow -0.2%. S&P -0.1%. Nasdaq -0.2%. Crude +0.3% to $75.68. Gold +0.1% to $1196.80.

Friday's Economic Calendar

Seeking Alpha's Market Currents team contributed to this post.

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Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News