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Spain mulls request for credit line from ESM. Spain is considering asking for a credit line from the ESM for its bailout so that the country would only take loans when needed, a government official tells reporters. With debt yields below danger territory, Spain is in no rush to ask for assistance; the hope is that just the existence of the line will be enough to send borrowing costs plummeting and the stock market soaring.

UnitedHealth profit surges 28%. UnitedHealth's (UNH) Q3 net profit jumped 28% to $1.6B and EPS of $1.50 handily beat forecasts, but while revenue climbed 8% to $27.3B, it missed expectations. Still, sales growth was fueled by an increase of 2.15M consumers served over the past year, including 670,000 new consumers in Q3. UnitedHealth raised it 2012 EPS outlook to $5.20-$5.25, above consensus of $5.10.

Top Stock News
A123 Systems on road to Chapter 11. A123 Systems (AONE), a maker of car batteries for electric cars, may not have sufficient cash to fund operations and could need to seek bankruptcy protection. The company, which received a $249M grant from the government, failed to meet interest payments on approximately $143M of its material debt agreements yesterday.

Illinois Tool Works' CEO goes on medical leave. Illinois Tool Works' (ITW) Chairman and CEO David Speer has taken a health-related leave of absence and will be replaced on an interim basis by Vice Chairman Scott Santi, who's also becoming President and COO. Robert Morrison, the company's lead director, will become acting non-executive chairman. Speer has been treated for an unidentified medical condition for almost a year but had so far avoided a formal leave.

RBS to take first steps to re-privatization. RBS (RBS) will be given permission this week to leave the Asset Protection Scheme, a state-backed insurance program covering the bank's old "toxic assets," the FT reports. Exiting the scheme, which has cost RBS £2.5B in premiums, is seen as a first step towards the U.K. government selling its 82% stake in the bank.

Telefonica's German unit to raise up to €1.68B. Telefonica (TEF) plans to raise up to €1.68B in the IPO of Telefonica Deutschland by selling 225M shares in the German unit at €5.25-€6.50 each. The underwriting banks will have an option to buy another 33.75M shares. The money raised will help the Spanish operator further chip away at its €57B debt mountain.

Big Tobacco faces Russian wrath. Russia, the world's second-largest cigarette market, has threatened to crack down even further on sales of the product, with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev accusing Philip Morris (PM) and British American Tobacco (BTI) of intentionally hooking women and children. An anti-tobacco bill is due to hit Parliament later this month.

Bridgepoint pummeled on DOJ probe. Bridgepoint Education (BPI) plummeted by as much as 13% in post-market trading after the for-profit education company said it was being investigated by the DOJ over compensation for its admissions staff. The company has been the focus of attention since the Western Association of Schools & Colleges said in July that Bridgepoint's Ashford University spends more money on recruiting students than on teaching them.

Intel profit seen falling but IBM's seen rising. Intel (INTC) and IBM (IBM) are expected to report contrasting fortunes when they release their Q3 earnings after the close today. Analysts estimate that Intel's EPS fell to $0.50 from $0.65 a year ago as revenue dropped 7.1% to $13.23B. IBM's EPS is seen rising to $3.61 from $3.28 but revenue slipping 3% to $25.36B. OptionMonster.com's Pete Najarian criticizes Intel for being late to mobile but praises IBM's "magnificent job" on acquisitions, cloud and data.

Japanese banks spread the financial love. Japanese banks Sumitomo Mitsui (SMFG), Mitsubishi UFJ (MTU) and Resona (OTCPK:RSNHF) are providing Panasonic (PC) with $7.6B of loan commitments, allowing the electronics giant to avoid having to raise money in the markets. Sumitomo and Mitsubishi are also reportedly helping Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBF) finance its $20.1B acquisition of Sprint (S).

Japan Inc sits on massive war chest. Softbank's (OTCPK:SFTBF) purchase of Sprint (S) will bring foreign acquisitions by Japanese corporations to $75B this year, surpassing last year's record $69B and highlighting how the companies have been increasingly making large overseas purchases as a way to expand beyond their mature domestic market. With the strong yen making deals cheaper and firms sitting on $2.6T at the end of Q2, more transactions could be on the cards.

Top Economic & Other News
European car sales plunge. EU new-car registrations for September highlight the sector's troubles in the region, slumping 10.8% to 1.1M, the fastest drop in a year. VW (OTCPK:VLKAF), Ford (F), Opel (GM) and Renault all suffered sharp declines, although BMW's (OTCPK:BAMXF) sales climbed 11%.

Energy costs seen propping up inflation. Inflation data for September is due out this morning, with economists estimating that CPI fell to +0.5% from +0.6% in August. The main factor for the price rises are increasing energy costs - core inflation, which excludes such factors as well as food, is seen at +0.2%.

Editors' Picks
Citigroup - Rising Like A Phoenix
The Good News On Inflation Seems Likely to End
Mellanox On The Road To Technological Obsolescence

Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan +1.4% to 8701. Hong Kong +0.3% to 21207. China flat at 2099. India -0.7% to 18578.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.6%. Paris +0.6%. Frankfurt +0.7%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow +0.2%. S&P +0.25%. Nasdaq +0.3%. Crude +0.1% to $91.91. Gold +0.2% to $1741.70.

Today's economic calendar:
7:45 ICSC Retail Store Sales
8:30 Consumer Price Index
8:55 Redbook Chain Store Sales
9:00 Treasury International Capital
9:15 Industrial Production
10:00 NAHB Housing Market Index
12:00 PM Sarah Bloom Raskin: 'Financial Regulation'

Notable earnings before today's open: DPZ, FRX, GS, GWW, IRWD, JNJ, KO, MAT, OMC, PNC, STT, UNH

Notable earnings after today's close: APOL, CREE, CSX, FTNT, FULT, IBM, INTC, ISRG, LLTC, URI

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Source: Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News