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By Yigal Grayeff and the Market Currents team

Panasonic forecasts record annual loss. Panasonic (PC) has reported a ¥197.6B ($2.6B) net loss for FQ3 and now expects its full year results to be its worst ever at a projected loss of ¥780B. The contributing factors include: a strong yen, production problems related to Thai flooding, costs from its absorption of Sanyo, the global slowdown, and the eurozone-driven instability in financial markets.

Alan Mulally To Seeking Alpha: Ford could raise dividend. Having only recently reinstated its dividend, Ford (F) could increase its payout to shareholders in the next year or two, CEO Alan Mulally told Seeking Alpha in an interview. "That’s something that we’ll definitely consider based on the economic situation,…but clearly where we are in the growth cycle worldwide will be a primary consideration," Mulally said, adding that buybacks were "always a consideration" also.

Senate votes to ban insider trading in Congress. It's been a long time in coming, but yesterday the Senate voted 96-3 to pass the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge Act, or Stock Act, which will ban legislators from trading shares based on insider information they pick up on Capitol Hill. The bill now goes to the House for a vote next week.

Economists expect that unemployment was steady in January. Nonfarm payroll figures for January are out this morning, with economists expecting that the number grew by 140,000 after rising by 200,000 in December. The jobless rate is expected to have held at an almost three-year low of 8.5%.

Blackstone mulls bid for Brocade. Blackstone (BX) is considering a leveraged buyout of Brocade Communications Systems (BRCD), a developer of switches for data-storage networks, Bloomberg reports. Brocade, which has a market cap of $2.65B, has been looking for an acquirer since 2009, with Dell among those to have looked but not touched.

BofA wins court battle over Countrywide bonds. Bank of America (BAC) has won a dismissal in a lawsuit filed by Allstate (ALL) over losses incurred from mortgage-backed securities purchased from BofA-acquired Countrywide Financial. The judge's ruling allows Allstate to refile a narrower case, but it gives BofA a stronger position if settlement negotiations commence.

Opposition grows to Verizon-Comcast partnership. Political headwinds are building up against a marketing alliance between Verizon Wireless (VZ) and Comcast (CMCSA), as worries grow that such cooperation could restrict competition and lead to higher prices. Senate Antitrust Subcommittee chair Herb Kohl said he will hold a hearing on the deal, as well as on Verizon's recent agreements to buy radio frequency licenses from several cable companies.

Corporate tax payment rate lowest since 1972. While company profits have rebounded following the recession, when they fell sharply, corporate tax receipts have stayed low. The total paid to the government fell to 12.1% of profits earned from U.S. activities in FY 2011, under half the value paid on average from 1987-2008, and the lowest since at least 1972.

Spain's banks could get extra year to cover property assets. Spanish banks that agree to merge by May could get two years to make provisions against troubled real-estate assets rather than just a year. The merged companies would also be able to tap the state’s bank-bailout facility for funds. In total, the government's tough new rules will force Spanish banks, which have €175B of problematic property loans, to raise €50B in capital.

Swiss probe banks over interbank lending rates. Switzerland is investigating a dozen U.S., European and Japanese banks suspected of conspiring to manipulate interbank lending rates. Banks under investigation include Citigroup (C), Credit Suisse (CS), Deutsche Bank (DB), HSBC (HBC), JPMorgan (JPM), UBS (UBS) and RBS (RBS).

Swiss start action against UBS over trader's losses. Swiss financial regulators have started formal administrative enforcement proceedings against UBS (UBS) for oversight gaps that enabled an employee to make unauthorized trades last year that resulted in $2.3B in losses. The Swiss authorities have also launched a deeper investigation with their U.K counterparts.

U.S. charges Swiss bank over tax evasion. The Justice Department has indicted Swiss private bank Wegelin on charges it enabled wealthy Americans to evade taxes on at least $1.2B hidden in offshore bank accounts. It's the first time an overseas bank has been indicted by the U.S. for enabling tax fraud by American citizens.

Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan -0.5% to 8832. Hong Kong +0.1% to 20757. China +0.8% to 2330. India +1.0% to 17605.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.4%. Paris +0.3%. Frankfurt +0.2%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow +0.1%. S&P +0.15%. Nasdaq +0.3%. Crude +0.4% to $96.76. Gold +0.1% to $1761.60.

Friday's economic calendar:
6:00 Monster Employment Index
8:30 Nonfarm payrolls
10:00 Factory Orders
10:00 ISM Non-Manufacturing Index

Earnings Results: Companies that beat EPS expectations last night and today include CareFusion (CFN), Edwards Life Sciences (EW), Ruddick (RDK), Wynn Resorts (WYNN), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX), Aon Corporation (AON), Spectrum Brands (SPB).

Those in line include Fiserv (FISV), Simon Property Group (SPG).

Those that missed forecasts include Con-Way (CNW), Gilead Sciences (GILD), Principal Financial Group (PFG - operating earnings/share).

For full real-time earnings coverage, please click here.

Notable earnings before Friday's open: : AON, AXL, BEAM, CLX, EL, HNT, MAC, SPG, TSN, WY

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Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News