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By Yigal Grayeff and the Market Currents team

Banks binge on ECB liquidity. The ECB lent 800 banks a total of €529.5B in its super low cost three-year second refinancing operation, above the €489B it supplied in December but below the €680B expected in a Goldman Sachs survey. The chief beneficiaries will probably include the Italian and Spanish governments when they next sell some debt. In response, EU stocks bounced around while the euro slipped and was -0.2% at $1.3439 at 6:50 am ET.

SEC poised to charge banks over mortgage bonds. Goldman Sachs (GS), Wells Fargo (WFC) and (apparently) JPMorgan (JPM) have received Wells notices from the SEC relating to the sale of sub-prime mortgage bonds during the credit boom. Such notices are an indication that SEC attorneys have recommended the agency file civil suits.

First Solar tumbles following Q4 earnings miss. First Solar shares melted 8.5% in post-market trading after a fairly awful Q4 report, with the company swinging to a net loss of $413.1M from a profit of $155.9M a year earlier due to write-downs, other charges and lower sales prices. Adjusted EPS fell to $1.26 from $1.88 and revenues rose 8% to $660M, with both figures missing forecasts. Because of weaker-than-expected demand, First Solar cut its 2012 revenue guidance, and said it will scale back output and halt plans for a new factory in Vietnam.

Costco's earnings grow. Costco's (COST) FQ2 net profit rose 13.2% to $394M, or 0.90 a share, and beat expectations, as net sales increased 10% to $22.51B.

Apple edges towards $500B market cap. Another day of Apple (AAPL) love yesterday pushed shares to another all-time high and propelled its market cap to within a hair of $500B - rarefied air indeed. Only five companies have ever had $500B market caps in absolute value terms, and three of those pooped out during the tech boom in 2000. Josh Brown's latest "thing Apple is worth more than": the U.S. interstate highway system.

France to delve into Google's privacy policy. France's data-protection regulator will launch an official investigation into Google's (GOOG) new privacy policy. The authority's preliminary view is that the policy doesn't conform to EU laws.

Fed makes $2.8B profit on former AIG bonds. The NY Fed yesterday completed the sale of its former AIG mortgage bonds, with total profits from three auctions of the assets amounting to $2.8B for the U.S. taxpayer. That's above the $1.5B the Fed would have made had it accepted AIG's offer for the entire portfolio a year ago.

DOJ turns Libor probe into criminal investigation. The DOJ is conducting a criminal inquiry into whether the world's largest banks manipulated the Libor inter-bank lending rate, a source tells Reuters. Though it was well-known that the probe was ongoing, it wasn't previously known to have a criminal aspect to it.

Feds probe GS manager over insider trading. Federal criminal authorities are reportedly investigating whether a top Goldman Sachs (GS) manager passed inside information about tech stocks to the firm's hedge-fund clients, The Wall Street Journal reports. David Loeb, a 10-year Goldman veteran, was mentioned by a defense witness during the insider-trading trial of Raj Rajaratnam last year.

German unemployment remains steady. Germany's jobless rate has stayed unchanged in February at a seasonally adjusted 6.8% vs. expectations for a modest decline to 6.7%.

Abbott in $1.35B deal for arthritis treatment. Belgian drug developer Galapagos has signed a deal worth up to $1.35B with Abbott Laboratories (ABT) for the development and production of an oral drug to treat arthritis and other auto-immune diseases.

Greece edges closer to bailout. Greece’s Parliament has ratified a €3.2B package of spending cuts in a 202-80 vote, bringing the country one step closer to securing its rescue funds. Another vote follows today over permanent changes to pension funds and healthcare spending.

Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan flat at 9723. Hong Kong +0.5% to 21680. China -0.9% to 2428. India +0.1% to 17753.
In Europe, at midday, London flat. Paris +0.6%. Frankfurt +0.5%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow +0.15%. S&P +0.2%. Nasdaq +0.2%. Crude +0.3% to $106.84. Gold -0.1% to $1786.80.

Wednesday's economic calendar:
7:00 MBA Mortgage Applications
8:30 GDP Q4
9:30 Fed's Fisher: 'U.S. Economic Overview'
9:45 Chicago PMI
10:00 Hearing: Monetary Policy (Bernanke)
10:30 EIA Petroleum Inventories
2:00 PM Fed's Beige Book
3:00 PM USDA Ag. Prices

Earnings Results: Companies that beat EPS expectations last night and today include Collective Brands (PSS), Integrys Energy Group (TEG), Sodastream International (SODA), Carter's (CRI).

Those in line include ITT Industries (ITT), Staples (SPLS).

Those that missed forecasts include Dreamworks Animation (DWA), First Solar (FSLR), Warnaco Group (WRC), Joy Global (JOY).

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

Notable earnings before Wednesday's open: AH, CNP, COST, CRI, DRH, HPT, ITT, JOY, NOG, SPLS, WFT

Notable earnings after Wednesday's close: BID, BWC, DAR, DRC, EEP, EIX, FNSR, GEF, MBI, MDR, MDVN, PETM, STV

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Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News