Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News


Top Stories
Chinese exports surge 25%, CPI slows to 2%. China’s exports jumped a greater-than-expected 25% on year in January, representing the fastest growth since April 2011. Imports rose 28.8%, while the trade surplus fell 7.6% on month to $29.2B. Meanwhile, CPI slowed to +2% on year from +2.5% in December and met consensus. The figures helped boost global equities, although it’s worth noting that the data, particularly the trade numbers, were affected by the New Year falling in February rather than January.

Apple considers returning more cash. Apple (AAPL) has been "in active discussions about returning additional cash to shareholders," the company said yesterday in response to a lawsuit from hedge fund titan David Einhorn, who wants the firm to pay out a lot more of its $137B mountain of money. The sides are also having a scrap over the issuing of preferred shares, although Apple is sounding all very conciliatory. One suspects that Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been.

LinkedIn shares surge after blowout Q4. LinkedIn’s (LNKD) stock price soared 9% premarket after Q4 earnings slayed expectations, with EPS coming in at $0.35, sales rocketing 81% to $303.6M, and net profit jumping 60% to $11.5M. Growth continued at a blistering pace across the company’s businesses, with revenue from Talent Solutions (jobs) rising 90%, Marketing Solutions (ads) 68% and Subscriptions 79%. It’s no wonder that CEO Jeff Weiner called Q4 a transformative one.

Top Stock News
Airlines cancel thousands of flights ahead of blizzard. Airlines have canceled at least 2,200 flights for today and another 500 for tomorrow ahead of a blizzard in the North-Eastern U.S. that’s forecast to dump up to 2 1/2 feet of snow, with affected carriers including United Continental (UAL), JetBlue Airways (JBLU), Delta Air Lines (DAL) and AMR (AAMRQ.PK). Power utilities bracing for the storm include National Grid (NGG), PSE&G (PEG) and Connecticut Light & Power (NU).

Nokia in talks to buy Siemens out of NSN. Nokia (NOK) and Siemens (SI) have reportedly "intensified talks" to end the latter’s involvement in their Nokia Siemens Network joint venture. One scenario involves a joint buyout of Siemens’ 50% stake by Nokia and a "strategic partner" such as Alcatel-Lucent (ALU), which has "held exploratory talks" about a deal. Nokia Siemens is finally profitable following a major restructuring and has been valued at up to €10B.

AMR-US Airways deal could close next week as deadline looms. AMR’s (AAMRQ.PK) unsecured creditors are reportedly set to vote on Monday over the airline’s merger with US Airways (LCC), with the carriers’ boards also due to decide on the deal on the same day. The transaction could then be announced on Tuesday. The sides want to finalize the merger before an NDA with AMR’s bondholders expires on Friday, after which the creditors will be able to trade the company’s debt.

NY AG probes top three ratings agencies. Not that there’s a bandwagon or anything, but New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is reportedly investigating S&P (MHP), Moody’s (MCO) and Fitch (FMLCF.PK) over their ratings of mortgage bonds. Schneiderman is also looking at whether the firms implemented agreements in 2008 to make certain reforms, which they signed to settle an earlier inquiry but which expired in 2011 and could stymie the AG’s ability to take fresh action.

Top Dell shareholder unhappy with buyout price. Southeastern Asset Management, Dell’s (DELL) largest independent shareholder with a 7.5% stake, reportedly believes that the $24.4B buyout undervalues the company. Southeastern’s dissatisfaction adds to that of other shareholders such as Alpine Capital Research and Schneider Capital Management, who have said they’ll vote against the deal.

RadioShack hires Walgreen exec as CEO. RadioShack (RSH) has named Joe Magnacca as CEO four months after Jim Gooch stepped down following a tumultuous reign. Magnacca has until now been the head of Walgreen’s (WAG) marketing and merchandising operations, and he takes the job as the electronics retailer suffers losses and hemorrhages customers to larger rivals. CFO Dorvin Lively has been serving as interim chief since Gooch’s departure. RadioShack’s shares rose 2.9% in AH trading.

Tech giants line up on either side of software patenting fight. A federal appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments today over when software is patentable. On the one side, tech giants such as Google (GOOG) reckon the patent office has been too generous with its awards – no irony intended. On the other side, IBM (IBM) and a collection of other tech companies and patent trolls argue that tightening up the standards will harm innovation. The case itself is between CLS Bank and Australian firm Alice Corp.

Top Economic & Other News
Japanese finance minister – yen’s fall has been too quick. Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso has said that the yen’s sharp drop since November has been too fast. "The yen’s sudden move from 78 or 79 to 90 was not something we anticipated," Aso said. His comments have come amid international criticism of the falling yen and talk of "currency wars," and might be a sop ahead of a G20 meeting next week. Following the remarks, the yen was +1.3% vs the dollar at 92.494 early morning U.S. time.

German 2012 trade surplus highest in 5 years. Germany’s trade surplus rose to a five-year high in 2012, jumping more than three-fold to €188.1B, a figure that’s also the second-highest since the stats began in 1950. Exports climbed 3.4% to €1.1T and imports 0.7% to €909.2B.

Editors’ Picks
Google Now: Trading Your Privacy For The Future
Microsoft’s Surface Pro: Yay Or Nay?
GE: A Fundamentally Sound Time To Add It To Your Portfolio

Today’s Markets:
In Asia, Japan -1.8% to 11153. Hong Kong +0.2% to 23215. China +0.6% to 2432. India -0.5% to 19485.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.5%. Paris +0.6%. Frankfurt +0.4%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow flat. S&P +0.1%. Nasdaq +0.15%. Crude +0.4% to $96.24. Gold flat at $13897.

Today’s economic calendar:
8:30 International Trade
10:00 Wholesale Trade

Notable earnings before today’s open: AOL, AXL, BPL, CBOE, ETR, GSM, LH, LPX, MCO, NBIX, PSEC, YRCW

Notable earnings after today’s close: CCJ, MTGE

See full real-time earnings coverage »

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