Iranian banks to be cut off from global payments system. The international community has ratcheted up the pressure on Iran by several more notches, with the EU ordering Swift, the Belgian organization that handles over $6T worth of international payments a day, to cut off Iranian banks blacklisted by the EU from its messaging system. Swift, which is seen as the glue of the global banking system, will comply with the directive tomorrow, although some in Congress want all Iranian banks to be disconnected.
Appeals court slams Rakoff over SEC-Citigroup deal. A federal appeals court yesterday chastised Judge Jed Rakoff for his rejection of the SEC's $285M settlement with Citigroup (C) over toxic mortgage debt, and said the agency and the bank are likely to win their attempt to get Rakoff's decision overturned. The court faulted Rakoff for his criticism that Citigroup wasn't forced to admit liability.
Geithner: U.S. needs to make major cuts - but not yet. The U.S. will need about $4T in savings to get the deficit back to a sustainable level over the next decade, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said last night. However, to get there, the U.S. needs to focus first and foremost on strengthening the economy over the short term. Despite the fiscal challenges, we simply can't "cut our way to growth," Geithner said.
U.S. regulators probe Google over Safari privacy breach. The FTC and state attorneys-general have joined France in investigating Google (GOOG) for bybassing the privacy settings on Apple's (AAPL) Safari Web browser to install cookies, The Wall Street Journal reports. If regulators find proof that Google deliberately violated a pledge last year not to "misrepresent" its privacy practices, things could get very expensive: up to $16,000 per violation per day.
New iPad goes on sale after Apple hits $600. The new iPad went on sale today in stores across ten countries just hours after Apple (AAPL) shares touched $600 for the first time. Australia was the first country in which the iPad was sold, with Wal-Mart (WMT), Best Buy (BBY) and RadioShack (RSH), as well as Apple, selling it in the U.S.
Inflation seen rising on higher gasoline prices. February CPI figures are due out this morning, with economists estimating that inflation rose a monthly 0.4%, the most in 10 months, after increasing 0.2% in January. Higher gasoline prices are expected to have been a big factor in the rise, and core prices - which excludes energy - are seen unchanged at +0.2%.
Exxon in talks to divest Hong Kong power asset. Exxon Mobil (XOM) is in negotiations to sell its 60% stake in Hong Kong's Castle Peak Power to CLP Holdings (CLPHY.PK) - which already owns the other 40% - and China Southern Power Grid. RBS analyst Jenny Cosgrove estimates that the U.S. oil giant could receive up to HK$22B ($2.83B) for the stake. Any sale would be part of Exxon's strategy of divesting non-core assets.
Chevron's troubles in Brazil continue. Chevron (CVX) has filed a request to suspend production at the 61,500 bpd Frade field off the coast of Brazil after a "small new seep" of oil was detected in the area. Frade is the same field in which Chevron suffered a high-profile leak in November, which continues to cause the firm much legal and potentially monetary aggravation.
UPS still wants to buy TNT Express. UPS (UPS) has reiterated its plan to make an offer for TNT Express and intends to file for the approval of its bid documents to Dutch market regulator AFM by May 11, UPS said in an obligatory update. Despite TNT rebuffing UPS's €4.9B ($6.4B) offer, the firms remain in talks, although the latter is not expected to raise its bid due to TNT's poor results and the lack of a rival suitor.
UBS invests in China Cinda Asset Management ahead of IPO. UBS (UBS) has joined three other strategic investors in investing $1.6B to buy a 16.5% stake in China Cinda Asset Management in advance of a future public offering of shares. The Chinese company is one of the asset managers set up by the government to remove bad loans from the nation's largest lenders.
Taibbi aims fire at Bank of America. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi continues to go after the financial community in a big way, setting his sights this time on "too crooked to fail" Bank of America (BAC). Taibbi alleges that BofA has defrauded everyone from investors and insurers to homeowners and the unemployed. Why does the government keep bailing it out, he asks. He probably has much to say on the latest SEC-Citigroup ruling as well.
Feedback or story tip? Please direct message WSB editor Yigal Grayeff »
In Asia, Japan +0.1% to 10130. Hong Kong -0.2% to 21318. China +1.3% to 2405. India -1.2% at 17466.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.3%. Paris +0.1%. Frankfurt +0.3%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow +0.1%. S&P flat. Nasdaq +0.1%. Crude +0.1% to $105.26. Gold -0.6% to $1648.80.
Friday's economic calendar:
8:30 Consumer Price Index
8:30 Real Earnings
9:15 Industrial Production
9:55 Reuters/UofM Consumer Sentiment
3:00 PM Fed's Evans: Economic Outlook
Earnings Results: Companies that beat EPS expectations last night and today include Dole Food (DOLE).
For full real-time earnings coverage, please click here.
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