Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News

by: Wall Street Breakfast
Wall Street Breakfast
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.

By Yigal Grayeff and the Market Currents team

AIG CEO to delay retirement. AIG (NYSE:AIG) CEO Robert Benmosche, who previously said he planned to retire in 2012, has told the company's board he'd like to stay in his position for another year. The directors don't have to approve Benmosche's decision for him to extend his tenure.

Congress set to OK payroll tax cut extension. The House is expected to pass a two-month extension to the payroll tax cut today after House Republicans yesterday caved into pressure to drop their opposition to the bill, which has already been passed in the Senate. House Speaker John Boehner said his side relented in return for new language in the legislation to make it easy for business payroll staff to process the tax relief.

Portugal sells utility stake for $3.5B to Chinese firm. China Three Gorges is acquiring Portugal's 21% stake in utility EDP (OTCPK:EDPFY) for €2.7B ($3.5B), beating out E.On (OTCPK:EONGY) and Eletrobras (NYSE:EBR). The deal also includes Chinese investment in the wider economy, and is a crucial indicator of Portugal's ability to sell state assets in the face of its debt crisis.

China continues to fuel its expansion with $2.1B coal deal. China has made another commodities acquisition that will help fuel its growth as Australia's Gloucester Coal confirms that it's being bought by Yanzhou (NYSE:YZC) for around A$2.1B ($2.1B). The deal values Gloucester at up to A$10.16 a share, or a 45% premium to its price on Monday, when trading was halted.

ECB's Stark rejects using IMF to bypass eurozone rules. The EU shouldn't use the IMF to circumvent the ban on central banks financing governments, and plans to do so might breach that principle, outgoing ECB Executive Board member Juergen Stark has told Die Welt. It would also mean that the EU and its member states would give away some of their decision-making powers. Stark is a long-time opponent of the ECB buying government bonds, and it's a major reason why he's leaving the bank.

Google+ growing but by how much? Google+ (NASDAQ:GOOG) has attracted 150M active users, trailing only Facebook (450M+) and Sina's (NASDAQ:SINA) Weibo (175M+) among social networks, GlobalWebIndex says. In contrast, comScore says Google+ had a more modest 66.8M unique visitors in November, well below Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (LNKD). Either way, it seems Google could be making headway in using its Web and mobile reach to spur Google+ uptake.

AT&T gets better news from regulators. Having been unable to convince regulators about its proposed $39B merger with T-Mobile, AT&T (NYSE:T) has won approval for the $1.9B purchase of wireless spectrum from Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). The companies expect to close the transaction "in the coming days," ahead of guidance for the end of Q1 2012.

Fed mulls signalling that rates will stay low into 2014. The Fed could signal at its next meeting that it could keep short-term interest rates near zero into 2014 or beyond, the idea being that such an assurance would cause markets to push long-term rates even lower and thus spur spending and investment. But as MarketBeat's Matt Phillips points out, while "real" interest rates are negative, "companies have tons of cash," and many consumers aren't interested in, or able to, take advantage of these rates.

Kodak selling unit, appoints co-President; shares surge. Eastman Kodak (EK) jumped 19.1% in post-market trading after the troubled company announced that it's selling its gelatin business to privately-owned Vion Food Group, and that it has elected General Counsel Laura Quatela as President. Quatela will hold the position in tandem with current President Philip Faraci.

Santander faces customer wrath over €4B bond losses. Banco Santander (STD) is facing a growing domestic backlash from hundreds of customers holding a combined €4B ($5.2B) of paper losses on bonds the bank sold four years ago. Customers say the bonds, which are due to convert to common shares in October 2012, were riskier than Santander had disclosed, and at least two individuals have already filed lawsuits.

FCC looks to relax media-ownership laws. The FCC wants to ease the limits on the ability of firms to own a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same local markets. Commissioner Robert McDowell believes the rule is anachronistic given that people increasingly get news on the Internet. The change could benefit the likes of News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS) and Tribune Co.

COF under scrutiny for improper debt-collection practices. The Wall Street Journal has shined a light on Capital One's (NYSE:COF) little-known debt-collection practices, saying the company has been accused of pursuing 15,500 "erroneous claims" to recover loans that have already been discharged in bankruptcy cases. COF disputes the figure and denies one judge's suspicion that the bank makes "conscious, malevolent" efforts to try to collect such debt.

Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan closed. Hong Kong +1.4% to 18629. China +0.8% to 2205. India -0.5% to 15739.
In Europe, at midday, London +1.0%. Paris +1.2%. Frankfurt +0.3%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow +0.4%. S&P +0.5%. Nasdaq +0.35%. Crude +0.3% to $99.80. Gold -0.2% to $1607.60.

Friday's economic calendar:
8:30 Durable Goods
8:30 Personal Income and Outlays
10:00 New Home Sales

For full real-time earnings coverage, please click here.

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