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Economy
Global equities were largely higher at the time of writing as markets eyed the start of a two-day meeting of the FOMC today. The Fed is expected to slice another $10B from its QE program, taking the monthly bond-buying to $45B. Meanwhile, the Senate is due to hold a preliminary vote this morning on the nominations of Stanley Fischer and Lael Brainard to the FOMC.

U.K. GDP growth strengthened to its fastest rate in six years in Q1, climbing to +3.1% on year from +2.7% previously but coming in below expectations of +3.2%. On quarter, GDP grew 0.8%, with growth occurring in three out of the four main industrial groupings in the economy. However, GDP is still 0.6% below its peak in Q1 2008. The pound was flat at $1.6806 at the time of writing after being higher before the data was released.

The Senate Banking Committee is due to meet today to discuss replacing Fannie Mae (OTCQB:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTCQB:FMCC) with an agency that will offer a government mortgage guarantee but only after private interests have absorbed big losses. The 22-member panel is expected to approve the proposals, although supporters want at least 16 votes so they can pressure for a ballot on the Senate floor.

Stocks
Samsung's Q1 operating profit fell 3.3% to 8.49T Korean won ($8.2B) but topped consensus of 8.4T won, while revenues increased 3% to 53.68T won. Operating profit at Samsung's (OTC:SSNLF) mobile division fell 1.2% to 6.43T won ($6.2B) but surpassed expectations, with the company shipping 113M phones and tablets. Samsung forecast that profits will rally in Q2 and beyond, helped by strong sales of its new Galaxy S5 flagship device.

As expected, Nokia has appointed networks boss Rajeev Suri as CEO, and the company said it plans to return over €3.1B ($4.15B) to shareholders using cash from the sale of its handset business to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). Nokia (NYSE:NOK) also said that excluding the operations sold to Microsoft, it swung to a net profit of €108M from a loss of €98M a year earlier. Sales tumbled 15% to €2.66B and missed consensus of €2.85B as revenue at the core network unit dropped 17% to €2.33B. Shares were +9% premarket.

BP's Q1 underlying replacement-cost profit, which is equivalent to net profit, dropped to $3.23B from $4.22B a year earlier, while revenue declined to $91.71B from $94.11B. BP's (NYSE:BP) production fell 8.5% to 2.13M barrels of oil a day and the company warned that output would drop in Q2 from Q1, mainly due to major maintenance. Despite the decline in earnings, BP raised its Q1 dividend to 9.75 cents a share from 9 cents last year. Shares were +1.35% premarket.

Banco Santander's Q1 net profit rose to €1.3B ($1.8B) from €1.2B a year earlier and exceeded forecasts that were also €1.2B, boosted by an improving economy and falling charges for bad loans. Net interest income slipped 3% to €6.99B from €7.21B. Separately, Santander (NYSE:SAN) intends to acquire the 25% of Banco Santander Brasil that it doesn't own for €4.69B in shares, with the price representing a 20% premium.

Allergan is reportedly preparing to make a fresh takeover approach to Shire (NASDAQ:SHPG) after the companies held talks in recent months that didn't work out. A combination of Allergan (NYSE:AGN) and Shire would create a company with a market value of nearly $72B and annual sales of more than $11B, not to mention help Allergan in its defense against a $47B acquisition offer from Valeant Pharma (NYSE:VRX) and Bill Ackman.

Sanofi's Q1 net profit increased 9.6% to €1.08B as costs related to previous acquisitions fell. However, revenue dropped 2.6% to €7.84B and undershot forecasts of €7.99B, hurt by falling vaccine and animal health sales, and currency fluctuations. Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher sees no reason to join the mega-merger craze in the pharmaceuticals industry, saying that the Paris-based drugmaker is in "pretty good shape." Shares were -2.1% premarket.

eBay, Twitter and Express Scripts are among the companies due to release their quarterly earnings after the bell today. Analysts estimate that eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) Q1 EPS rose to $0.67 from $0.63 and revenue 12.7% to $4.23B. Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) is forecast to have made a loss per share of $0.03 on revenues of $241.47M. Express Scripts' (NASDAQ:ESRX) EPS is seen rising to $1.01 from $0.99 as revenues declined 8.7% to $23.81B.


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Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan closed. Hong Kong +1.4% to 22454. China +0.8% to 2020. India -0.7% to 22466.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.6%. Paris +0.4%. Frankfurt +0.9%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.3%. S&P +0.3%. Nasdaq +0.5%. Crude +0.3% to $101.14. Gold -0.65% to $1290.60.
Ten-year Treasury Yield +2 bps to 2.72%.

Today's economic calendar:
FOMC meeting begins
7:45 ICSC Retail Store Sales
8:55 Redbook Chain Store Sales
9:00 S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index
10:00 Consumer Confidence
10:00 State Street Investor Confidence Index
1:00 PM Results of $15B, 2-Year FRN Note Auction

Notable earnings before today's open: ABB, AGCO, AIXG, ALR, AMG, ARRY, AXE, BMY, BP, BSX, CARB, CCJ, CHKP, CIT, CMI, CNX, COH, CPLA, CRY, DBD, DDD, DORM, ESV, ETN, FDP, FLWS, FRX, GAS, GEO, GLT, GT, GTLS, HCA, HCBK, HRS, HUN, HW, IPGP, IRWD, KLIC, LG, LKQ, LRN, LYB, MGI, MGLN, MGM, MHFI, MLM, MRK, NMM, NOK, OSK, PCAR, PES, PH, POR, RESI, ROK, OTC:RTRX, RYN, S, SAVE, SCOR, SLAB, ST, TRW, UBSI, UDR, UTHR, VAC, VLO, WAT, WDR, WRLD, WWW, XYL

Notable earnings after today's close: ACE, ACHC, ACMP, AEC, AEGN, AFL, ANIK, ARI, AUY, AXS, AZPN, BGFV, BOOM, BXP, CALX, CAP, CEB, CEMP, CHE, CHRW, CLD, CMRE, CNQR, COLM, CRAY, DLB, DNB, DWA, EBAY, EEFT, EIX, EPR, ESRX, EZPW, FARO, FEIC, FISV, GMED, GNW, GPRE, HURN, IPHI, LOGM, MAC, MAR, MEOH, MWA, NANO, NATI, NCR, NDLS, NFX, NUVA, OHI, OI, PNRA, PRXL, REXX, RFMD, RNG, RNR, RPXC, RVBD, SIMG, SKT, SLCA, SM, STR, STX, SWI, TE, THG, TMH, TRLA, TRN, TTS, TWTR, ULTI, USNA, VNR, VPRT, VRSK, WSH, X, XCO

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Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News