Obama: No U.S. strikes if Syria gives up chemical weapons. Russia's proposal to work with Syria to put the latter's chemical weapons under international control "could potentially be a significant breakthrough" that could avert U.S. military action, President Obama said yesterday. However, he is skeptical of the plan and wary that Syria could use it as a delaying tactic. Still, Obama's comments buoyed global equities, which also got a lift from better-than-expected Chinese data (see below).
Chinese industrial-output growth speeds up. Chinese data provided yet more evidence that the country's economy is stabilizing and will avoid a hard landing, with industrial-production growth accelerating to 10.4% on year in August from 9.7% in July and beating consensus of 9.9%. August retail sales and year-to-date urban investment also grew strongly and topped forecasts. Following the data, Bank of America said it expects "an impressive recovery" in Q3.
Apple set to unveil two iPhones. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is today expected to introduce a new high-end iPhone that could contain a fingerprint scanner, and a lower-cost version of the handset as it seeks to gain share in emerging markets. Apple could also release a revamp of its iOS software that will include iTunes radio. However, the company won't announce a long-awaited deal with China Mobile (NYSE:CHL), the world's largest cellular carrier, Bloomberg reports.
Top Stock News
Glencore Xstrata forecasts synergies of at least $2B next year. Glencore Xstrata (OTCPK:GLCNF) expects synergies of at least $2B in 2014 from Glencore's $44.6B acquisition of Xstrata, quadruple the amount that was originally estimated. Still the figure is well below the $7.7B writedown that the commodities giant recently booked on the deal due to falling prices and a more conservative analysis of Xstrata's operations. Shares were +3.3% in London at the time of writing.
Major banks suffer from falling mortgage demand. Declining demand for mortgages due to rising interest rates is prompting large and mid-size banks to axe staff and warn of falling profitability from their home-loan operations. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is set to close 16 mortgage offices and slash 2,100 jobs, while Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) has forecast that originations will slump almost 30% in Q3 to $80B. JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) expects to lose money on its origination operations in H2.
Lloyds shares rise as government mulls stake sale. Lloyds (NYSE:LYG) shares were +1.9% in London at 78.25 pence at the time of writing and hovering around three-year highs amid speculation that the U.K. government could start selling some of its 39% holding in the bank this month and even in the next 7-10 days. The Treasury is considering a sale of a quarter of its stake, worth around £5B, if it can offload the shares at above the buy-in price of 73.6 pence.
Top Microsoft investors want Mulally, Lawrie on CEO shortlist. At least three of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) 20 leading investors reportedly want the company to appoint a turnaround specialist to replace Steve Ballmer as CEO, and have urged the board to consider Ford (NYSE:F) boss Alan Mulally and Computer Sciences (CSC) chief Mike Lawrie. While Mulally is well known for reviving Ford, Lawrie helped turn U.K. financial software company Misys around. It appears that he also has strong contacts on Microsoft's board.
PG&E agrees another settlement over pipeline explosion. PG&E (NYSE:PCG) has agreed to settle the claims of substantially all the plaintiffs in lawsuits filed against the company over the 2010 explosion of the San Bruno pipeline. PG&E expects to record a charge of around $110M on top of $455M it's already provisioned. PG&E is also operating under the shadow of a proposed $2.25B penalty from regulators, a fine that the utility has said could push it to the brink of bankruptcy.
Twitter to buy mobile ad exchange for over $300M. Twitter has agreed to acquire MoPub, a mobile-focused advertising exchange, turning Twitter into a rival to Millennial Media (NYSE:MM), Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) AdMob, and Apple's (AAPL) iAd. While financial details of the deal weren't provided, the NYT put the price at over $300M. The acquisition comes amid constant speculation that Twitter will file for an IPO.
Top Economic & Other News
European car market stops skidding downhill. The auto market in Europe is stabilizing after five years of steep declines, car executives have said, but they expect the recovery to be long and slow due to high unemployment and soft bank lending. Europe should "see the end of the tunnel next year," Renault (OTC:RNSDF) chief Carlos Ghosn said at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Meanwhile, Volkswagen (OTCPK:VLKAF) aims to increase car sales to 9.5M this year from 9.3M in 2012, helping to boost shares 2.1% in Frankfurt at the time of writing.
Alpha-Rich Stock Movers and Great Calls
1) On Friday, fund manager Ben Axler stated that Axcelis Technologies (NASDAQ:ACLS) was on the verge of an inflection point, with 50% upside on a conservative basis. The stock is +7.8% to date. Read article »
2) On August 12, Street Smart Investor said the pending close of a difficult merger and the resolution of several headwinds had Sterilite Industries (SLT) poised for 100% upside. On a merger-adjusted basis, shares are +19% since. Read article »
Alpha-Rich Stocks To Watch
1) Radian (NYSE:RDN) has survived the crisis and has taken the offensive. Having repositioned well and gained market share, the company could see 40% upside over the next two years. Read article »
2) Murphy USA (NYSE:MUSA) is a classically misunderstood spin-off, says value investor Ariana Research. The company trades below replacement cost and has 30% upside on a conservative valuation basis. Read article »
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In Asia, Japan +1.5% to 14423. Hong Kong +1% to 22977. China +1.1% to 2238. India +3.8% to 19997.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.7%. Paris +1.3%. Frankfurt +1.7%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.5%. S&P +0.5%. Nasdaq +0.6%. Crude -0.8% to $108.63. Gold -1.1% to $1371.70.
Today's economic calendar:
7:30 NFIB Small Business Optimism Index
7:45 ICSC Retail Store Sales
8:55 Redbook Chain Store Sales
10:00 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey
1:00 PM Results of $31B, 3-Year Note Auction
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