Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News

by: SA Eli Hoffmann
SA Eli Hoffmann
Seeking Alpha's flagship daily business news summary, gives you a rapid overview of the day's key financial news. It is published before 7:00 AM ET every market day and delivered to over 900,000 email subscribers.
  • Housing slump hurts Home Depot. Profits at Home Depot (NYSE:HD) fell for the eighth straight quarter as a severe housing slump takes its toll on America's biggest home-improvement chain. EPS still beat expectations (see below). HD said it's comfortable with the low-end of its previous outlook - that 2008 EPS will fall 19-24%. Same-store sales fell 7.9%, steeper than the 5.3% drop reported by Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) yesterday; the comparison has been a point of contention among investors.
  • Nymex agrees to CME Group merger. After a twelve month courtship, Nymex Holdings (NMX) shareholders approved the CME Group's (NASDAQ:CME) $8.3B takeover bid Monday. The deal cements CME's status as the world's largest derivatives market. CME will pay $36 cash and 0.1323 of its shares for each Nymex share. The combined company may be able to save as much as $100M/year in costs, and will guarantee around 98% of the exchange-listed futures that are traded in the U.S. In AH trading, CME gained 1% and NMX was up 1.7%.
  • After you finish reading Wall Street BreakfastSeeking Alpha's Market Currentswill keep you current all day long.
  • General Dynamics to buy Jet Aviation. General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) has agreed to buy Jet Aviation, a privately-held business-plane fitter, for $2.25B. The boards of directors for both companies have already approved the deal; the acquisition should be completed by the end of the year.
  • Game developers agree to remain friends. EA (ERTS) dropped its $2B, $25.74/share hostile bid for Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ:TTWO), but said it will meet with TTWO. "EA is throwing an olive branch out there," analyst Michael Pachter says. If TTWO management is smart, he says, they'll negotiate a $26-27/share bid "and come out as heroes." TTWO says it's not averse to staying independent, and continues to feel the bid undervalued its shares. TTWO was off 4.4% Monday. ERTS fell 1%.
  • Lehman markets prized division. Lehman Brothers (LEH) has approached potential bidders, possibly Blackstone (NYSE:BX), in an attempt to sell the firm's prized investment-management division, including the Neuberger Berman unit. The money management division could be worth as much as $8-10B; the structure of any potential deal remains unclear. Lehman's efforts come as analysts predict Q3 losses of at least $1.8B and the company seeks to ease capital pressures.
  • FHA mortgage apps triple. The government-insured share of mortgage applications tripled in the past year, to 29.1% of all mortgage applications accepted last month, up from 8.4% in July 2007 and 9.4% in January - as borrowers increasingly turn to the FHA for loans. Reasons for the jump include the FHA's increased loan limits, a huge jump in conventional-to-FHA refinancings, smaller down-payments and easier credit requirements.
  • Labor gets more expensive. Growth in labor costs accelerated in most developed economies during the first three months of the year. The OECD reported a 0.5% rise in industrial labor costs, vs. a 0.1% increase in the last three months of 2007. U.S. costs were up 0.3%, euro-zone +0.2% and Japan +0.6%. The acceleration will worry central bankers, who fear inflationary pressure could lead workers to press for higher pay, leading to further price increases.
  • Crude slides as Fay fears fade. Crude oil fell Monday, and continues to drop in overnight trading as tropical storm Fay circumvents Gulf of Mexico oil rigs and tanker traffic as it heads for the West Florida coast. September crude fell $0.90 (-0.8%) to $112.87 a barrel, and is off another 0.9% to $111.90 at 6:20 AM.
  • Strange volatility surrounds naked-shorts rule. The temporarily halt of naked short sales in the shares of Fannie Mae (FNM), Freddie Mac (FRE) and 17 other financials drove up stock borrowing and increased stock-loan market volatility, a new study concludes. Stock loans for the 19 firms more than doubled, a "substantial and remarkable" rise. Still, two-thirds of the borrowed shares were returned before restrictions were lifted on Aug. 12, suggesting brokers may have overanticipated demand - and possibly indicating there was not much naked shorting going on.
  • Bats prepares to challenge NYSE and Nasdaq. Electronic-trading network BATS received SEC approval to operate a stock exchange that will compete against the NYSE and Nasdaq. BATS plans to offer discounted trading fees and promises faster order execution.

Earnings: Tuesday Before Open

  • Home Depot (HD): Q2 EPS of $0.71 beats by $0.10. Revenue of $21B vs. $20.58B. Same-store sales fell 7.9%. Sees 2008 EPS down 24%, vs. a previous 19-24%. [PR]
  • Mesa Air Group (MESA): FQ3 EPS of -$0.09 misses by $0.02. Revenue of $354M vs. $327.5M. [PR]

Today's Markets

  • Asia markets closed lower, save for a much-needed bounce in Shanghai. Nikkei -2.28% to 12,865. Hang Seng -2.13% to 20,484. Shanghai +1.06% to 2,344. BSE -0.7% to 14,544.
  • Europe is down sharply at midday, mirroring yesterday's U.S. drop. London -1.4%. Paris -1.6%. Frankfure -1.3%.
  • U.S. futures are all lower. Dow -0.37%. S&P -0.35%. Nasdaq -0.35%.
  • Crude -0.5% to $112.31. Gold -0.66% to $800.40. Platinum -4.15% to 1,336.

Tuesday's economic calendar: