Confidence over Greek debt swap sends markets higher. Today is yet another day of reckoning for Greece and the eurozone, with private bondholders having until 3 pm ET to decide whether to accept the country's €206B debt swap. Markets are buying into Greek optimism it will receive approval of over 75% even though Athens needs 95% to avoid default. At 66%, Greece will be able to trigger its CACs and so enable the deal to proceed. At midday in Europe, the Euro STOXX 50 was +1.8% and the euro +0.5% vs. the dollar.
AB InBev's Q4 profit boosted by Brazil. A strong performance in Latin America, particularly Brazil, helped Anheuser-Busch InBev's (NYSE:BUD) Q4 EBITDA climb 8.8% to $4.24B and beat forecasts, although earnings were capped by weakness in North America and Western Europe. Revenues grew 4.2% to $9.87B, while volumes for AB InBev's three global brands - Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck's - edged up 3.3%. Shares were +2.9% at midday in Brussels.
Reaction mixed to new iPad. Analysts were split over the new iPad, which Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) introduced yesterday to much fanfare. Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster called the device a "significant upgrade" that renders his first-year sales estimates "likely too low," while UBS's Maynard Um wrote that a faster timeline for shipping the model could help beat his 12M estimate for iPad sales in the March quarter. Jefferies' Peter Misek was less enamored, though, noting the lack of Siri.
Simon Property goes on $3.5B shopping spree. Simon Property (NYSE:SPG) is buying a 28.7% stake in Klepierre (OTC:KLPEF) from BNP Paribas (OTCQX:BNPQY) for €1.5B ($2B), making Simon the biggest shareholder in the French EU mall owner. Simon is also acquiring the stake of joint-venture partner Farallon in 26 U.S.-wide assets for $1.5B. The transactions have prompted Simon to raise its 2012 guidance.
DOJ to sue Apple, five publishers over ebooks. Ever wondered why many ebooks seem way over-priced? The Department of Justice reckons Apple (AAPL) and five major publishers have been colluding to raise prices in order to undermine Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), and plans to sue, The Wall Street Journal reports. The publishers include Simon & Schuster (NYSE:CBS), Penguin (NYSE:PSO), and HarperCollins (NASDAQ:NWSA); some of the parties involved are in talks to settle.
Japan reports big deficits. Japan has posted one of its largest ever trade deficits, with the January figure widening 246% on year to ¥1.382T ($17.0B). The country's current account deficit totaled ¥437.3B for the same month - larger than the ¥322.4B expected by economists - as nuclear-plant shutdowns drove up energy imports.
Treasury to sell $6B of AIG shares. The Treasury intends to sell $6B of its AIG (NYSE:AIG) common stock, with the insurer planning to purchase as many as half of the shares. The Treasury last sold shares in May 2011 for $29, which cut its stake in AIG from 92% to 77%. Yesterday's close was $29.45.
Facebook boosts war chest ahead of IPO. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has increased its financial firepower ahead of its IPO to $8B, replacing a $2.5B credit line with one worth $5B and obtaining a one-year $3B bridge loan. The social network has also added 25 underwriters to the original group of six for its listing.
Keystone piped back onto Senate agenda. The Senate may vote today on two rival measures related to TransCanada's (NYSE:TRP) Keystone pipeline, but both face difficulty in receiving the 60 votes necessary to pass. A GOP amendment to the highway-funding bill would allow Congress to OK the project without President Obama's approval, although he would still have to sign the bill itself, while a Democrat proposal would ban exports from the pipeline.
Wells gets away with bank fees. Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) has started charging customers a monthly checking-account fee of $7 in six more states after implementing the tariff last year in a few western states - and with less backlash than Bank of America's (NYSE:BAC) infamous debit-card fiasco. Customers will be able to avoid the fee by keeping over $1,500 in their accounts, or they can reduce it to $5 by receiving statements online.
By Yigal Grayeff and the Market Currents team
In Asia, Japan +2.0% to 9769. Hong Kong +1.3% to 20901. China +1.1% to 2420. India -0.2% to 17146.
In Europe, at midday, London +1.4%. Paris +2.1%. Frankfurt +2.2%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow +0.8%. S&P +0.9%. Nasdaq +0.8%. Crude +0.7% to $106.94. Gold +1.1% to $1701.70.
Thursday's economic calendar:
7:30 Challenger Job-Cut Report
8:30 Initial Jobless Claims
10:00 Quarterly Services Report
10:30 EIA Natural Gas Inventory
4:30 PM Money Supply
4:30 PM Fed Balance Sheet
Earnings Results: Companies that beat EPS expectations last night and today include Men's Wearhouse (NYSE:MW).
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