Romney, Santorum and co. battle it out for Super Tuesday. "It's the economy stupid," someone once said. Mitt Romney seems to agree and has been keeping it the focus of his campaign heading into the 10-state Super Tuesday extravaganza today. For Rick Santorum, "This country is more than just the economy," and he's been talking about Romney's perceived culpability for Obamacare. A key battleground is Ohio, where the top two rivals are roughly equal in the polls.
U.K. mulls revamp of Libor. U.K. regulators and major global banks are discussing an overhaul of the calculation and regulation of the Libor rate amidst numerous investigations into charges it has been manipulated. The inter-bank lending rate sets the benchmark for $350T of contracts across the globe.
The rich get richer. Income discrepancies seem to be growing again, as 93% of all salary gains during 2010 went to the top 1% of earners, a new study shows. Income share for the highest percentile reached a post-1929 peak of 23.5% in 2007, tumbled to 18.1% by 2009, but in 2010 bounced up to 19.7%. It's likely "this uneven recovery has continued in 2011 as the stock market has continued to recover."
GM, Peugeot to develop four cars together. GM (NYSE:GM) and Peugeot (OTCPK:PEUGY) will develop at least four cars together by 2016 as part of their alliance in which GM will pay €320M for a 7% stake in the French automaker. The partnership can end early under several circumstances, including if one of GM's competitors buys 10% or more of Peugeot stock. GM's purchase of Peugeot's shares is part of a rights issue in which the latter plans to sell €1B ($1.32B) of stock at a 42% discount.
Tornadoes could cost insurers up to $2B. Insurers can expect a claims bill of $1B-$2B from the wave of 150 tornadoes that swept fives states in the south and Midwest last week, risk-modeling firm Eqecat said yesterday.
Roche has "other options" if Illumina deal goes dark. "Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY) and Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN) both stand to benefit from a rapid merger," Roche Chairman Franz Humer said at the company's annual meeting today. But in an acknowledgment that the acquisition efforts have not gone smoothly, Humer added, "we have other options should the transaction fail over price."
Companies feast on cheap debt. Companies sold $19.7B worth of bonds yesterday as they sought to exploit what feel like eternally low interest rates and heavy demand from investors looking to do something semi-useful with their cash. DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) led the way by raising $4B, with UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), Philips (NYSE:PHG) and CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL) also joining the party.
Jury fails to reach verdict in Stanford trial. After over 20 hours of deliberations, the jury in Allen Stanford's $7.1B Ponzi-scheme trial has been unable to reach a verdict. They'll go at it again today after the judge told them to keep deliberating. Stanford faces up to 20 years in prison.
Iran throws the West a bone. Iran has said it is willing to allow IAEA inspectors to visit its Parchin military complex, once. Frequent visits to the base, which is suspected of being involved in the country's nuclear-weapons drive, aren't apparently possible, because accessing it is "a time-consuming process," but a one-off future visit could be arranged. Iran's announcement follows yesterday's meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in which their differences over the use of force remained.
China to cap expansion of major industries. China is planning to limit growth in some of its largest industries, according to a work report Premiere Wen Jiabao recently delivered to the nation's legislature. The report lists four sectors in which capacity increases should be curbed: auto manufacturing, steel making, shipbuilding and cement production.
IMF upbeat on Portugal. Portugal should be able to return to bond markets next year, Abebe Aemro Selassie, the head of the IMF's aid mission to the country, has said. Private creditors aren't expected to face writedowns, although the path to financial health "will not be easy."
By Yigal Grayeff and the Market Currents team
In Asia, Japan -0.6% to 9638. Hong Kong -2.2% to 20806. China -1.4% to 2410. India flat at 17173.
In Europe, at midday, London -1.1%. Paris -1.7%. Frankfurt -1.6%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow -0.8%. S&P -0.9%. Nasdaq -0.9%. Crude -0.6% to $106.12. Gold -0.85% to $1689.40.
Tuesday's economic calendar:
7:45 ICSC Retail Store Sales
8:55 Redbook Chain Store Sales
Earnings Results: Companies that beat EPS expectations last night and today include VeriFone (NYSE:PAY).
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