In a grudging first step towards opening its state-dominated oil sector, China has granted a crude import license to non-state-owned Guanghui Energy. China's Ministry of Commerce stopped short of truly opening the market, since the new license does not actively pose a threat to China’s Sinopec (NYSE:SNP) and PetroChina (NYSE:PTR). Included in its WTO commitments, China allocates about 10% of its crude imports to non-state traders, but additional paperwork limits their competitiveness.
Russian stock indexes and the ruble fell sharply this morning, following new reports of Russian tanks, artillery and infantry being passed over the border in eastern Ukraine. At 6:00 EST, the dollar-denominated RTS index was down 3.1% at 1,222 points, while its ruble-based peer MICEX was 2.1% lower at 1,419 points. Meanwhile, Ukrainian PM Arseny Yatseniuk has appealed to the U.S., EU and G7 countries to freeze Russian assets until Russian forces withdraw from Ukrainian territory.
Telefonica and Telecom Italia have both launched new bids for Vivendi's (OTCPK:VIVHY) GVT, which will be examined by the latter's supervisory board today. Telefonica (NYSE:TEF) has raised its bid to €4.66B in cash and will offer Vivendi a 12% stake in Telefonica Brasil (NYSE:VIV) - a bid valued at a total €7.45B. Telecom Italia's (NYSE:TI) offer represents a total enterprise value of €7B ($9.24B) and includes €1.7B in cash, a 16% stake in Telecom Italia and 15% of TIM Brasil.
In the latest round of the remaining Apple and Samsung patent wars, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has denied Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) bid for a permanent injunction prohibiting Samsung (OTC:SSNLF, OTC:SSNGY) from selling infringing features on its smartphones that relate to three earlier patents. Earlier this year, Apple won a $120M jury verdict against Samsung related to the patents and was hoping to extend the ruling.
The two face off again in the wearables market, after a report surfaced that stated Apple's (AAPL) plans to "unveil a new wearable" on Sep. 9, although no reference to the "iWatch" was mentioned. Samsung (OTC:SSNLF, OTC:SSNGY) is planning to show off its new "standalone" watch in Berlin next week. The device will support 3G wireless networks and be able to make and receive calls without having to be tethered to a smartphone.
Mobile-payment startup Square is in talks to raise $200M of financing for a $6B valuation, pushing up the company's earlier $5B estimate. Some of the funding is expected to come from the Government of Singapore Investment Corp. Square still faces heavy competition from PayPal's (NASDAQ:EBAY) mobile-payments device and Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) new credit card reader unveiled earlier this month.
Paramount Group has filed to go public in what could be the second-largest U.S. real estate IPO after Hilton Worldwide's last year. The company will likely be valued at up to $15B and raise approximately $2B. Expecting to trade on the NYSE under the symbol PGRE, Paramount intends to structure itself as a REIT after the offering.
A blast late last night shook BP's Whiting, Indiana refinery, which produces 413,500 barrels-per-day, and is the company's largest in the nation. The resulting fire from the explosion had been contained as of 9:30 pm local time, and a BP (NYSE:BP) spokesman said the company was investigating and preparing a statement. Last November, BP invested $4B in the facility to increase its Canadian crude oil intake from 85K to 350K bpd.
Lear has agreed to acquire Eagle Ottawa, the world's largest supplier of automotive leather, in a deal valued at $850M. Lear (NYSE:LEA) expects the transaction to be about 5% accretive to annual EPS upon closing and intends to continue to return cash to shareholders; at the end of Q2, the company had approximately $600M in remaining share repurchase authorization.
A new announcement by U.S. health officials today will state that a human study for the Ebola vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) will begin within a couple of weeks instead of later this year as the company originally estimated. Glaxo's vaccine contains a common cold virus that has been engineered to carry two genes of the virus.
Keith Benes, a U.S. State Department lawyer who played a key role in the Keystone XL pipeline review is moving on, marking the latest senior official to depart from TransCanada's (NYSE:TRP) long-delayed project. The move could spark some fresh conversations about Keystone XL, prior to the lawsuits and rulings that will come about later this year. Benes' review concluded that the pipeline would not meaningfully worsen global climate change.
DuPont will pay $1.28M to settle alleged violations tied to hazardous chemical leaks at the Belle chemical plant in West Virginia during 2006-10 that left one DuPont (NYSE:DD) worker dead. The company has also agreed to implement new procedures to improve its response to alarms over hazardous releases, which are expected to cost $2.28M; the company already spent $6.83M to comply with a 2010 order from the EPA over Clean Air Act violations.
Despite GM declaring yesterday that production of its Cadillac SRX will shift from Mexico to Tennessee, a new report from Reuters states that the company also intends to redirect work the other way. GM (NYSE:GM) is planning to move production of its Chevy Equinox to Mexico, when the crossover vehicle is redesigned in 2017. The move could partially offset any new jobs created by the production shift of the SRX.
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In Asia, Japan -0.5% to 15460. Hong Kong -0.7% to 24741. China -0.6% to 2196. India +0.3% to 26638.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.4%. Paris -0.7%. Frankfurt -1.2%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow -0.3%. S&P -0.4%. Nasdaq -0.4%. Crude -0.1% to $93.76. Gold +0.5% to $1289.60.
Ten-year Treasury Yield -2 bps to 2.35%
Today's economic calendar:
8:30 Initial Jobless Claims
8:30 GDP Q3
8:30 Corporate Profits
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
3:00 PM Farm Prices
4:30 PM Money Supply
4:30 PM Fed Balance Sheet
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