Friday, September 11, 2009

Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News

Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News

by SA Editor Rachael Granby

  • Probe into TARP influence on SEC fines. SEC Inspector General David Kotz has launched an inquiry into whether the SEC's imposition of fines on financial firms may be influenced by TARP, since the fines it assesses on TARP recipients could be passed along to hurt U.S. taxpayers. In particular, Kotz will look at the SEC's decision to settle with Bank of America (BAC) for $33M. Rep. Elijah Cummings requested the investigation, and said that in addition to Bank of America, "it is conceivable to expect that additional violations of securities laws will be revealed” at other banks that took aid.
  • China to allow foreign listings. China is gearing up to transform Shanghai into a major finance center and to become a larger player on the international financial stage. In its most recent move, it plans to finally start allowing foreign companies to list on the Shanghai stock exchange. Foreign listings will begin with a pilot phase, with the first few companies expected to be listed early next year. China is also nearing a deal that would open Taiwan's stock exchange to mainland investment. Earlier this week, the finance ministry announced a small but groundbreaking step earlier this week by saying it plans to sell 6B yuan ($878M) of bonds in Hong Kong as part of a strategy to "improve the international status" of its currency.
  • Magna wins Opel bid. After months of deliberation, General Motors decided to sell a 55% stake in its Opel unit to the consortium of Magna International (MGA) and Russia's Sberbank, while keeping a 35% stake for itself and a 10% stake for employees. The deal is a victory for Germany's Angela Merkel, who had lobbied for Magna's bid and could get a boost in the upcoming elections, as well as for Russia, which has aggressively pushed for a role in the consolidating global car market. Details of German financing for the deal will be finalized in the next few weeks. (Read GM's press release)
  • More signs of a China recovery? China's industrial output rose at a faster pace than forecast in August (+12.3%), new lending spiked to 410B yuan ($60B, vs. consensus of 320B yuan), and retail sales were up a robust 15.4%, sending the Shanghai Composite up 2.2%. Strategists say policy stimulus is driving the robust growth, and note the biggest challenge Beijing now faces is how to take its foot off the gas before it's too late.
  • Geithner: Time to start unwinding gov't support. Testifying before the Congressional Oversight Panel, Geithner said the economy is strengthening, which leaves room for the government to begin unwinding some of its emergency support measures. Though the economy still has problems to correct, "it is clear that we have stepped back from the brink and that we are pointed in the right direction." As a result of this improvement, "we are now in a position to evolve our strategy as we move from crisis response to recovery." (Read Geithner's prepared testimony (.pdf))
  • Ex-AIG exec to face grand jury. Federal prosecutors are reportedly preparing to impanel a grand jury to consider the indictment of former AIG (AIG) executive Joseph Cassano on charges of securities fraud. Cassano led the AIG Financial Products unit that nearly caused the insurer to collapse a year ago, and the Justice Department and SEC have been investigating whether Cassano misled investors by overstating the value of mortgage-related contracts and by failing to disclose material facts to AIG's external auditor.
  • Heightened scrutiny on Microhoo deal. The Justice Department has expanded its review of the search deal between Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo (YHOO) and has asked both firms for more details on the proposed partnership. Though this means the deal will be subject to extensive examination rather than immediate approval, a Microsoft spokesman said the company expected as much when it announced the deal in July.
  • Morgan Stanley gets new chief. Morgan Stanley (MS) CEO John Mack plans to step on January 1 and will be replaced by co-president James Gorman. Mack will retain his position as chairman. (Read the press release)
  • Jobless claims decline. Initial jobless claims came in at 550K, down 26K from a week ago (revised) and better than the 565K consensus. Continuing claims fell 159K to 6.088M.
  • International trade. July's trade balance was -$32B vs. consensus of -$27.3B. June's balance was revised to -$27.5B from -$27B. Exports rose to $127.6B from $124.9B in June, while imports were up to $159.6B from $152.4B.

Earnings: Thursday After Close

  • National Semiconductor (NSM): FQ1 EPS of $0.13 beats by $0.06. Revenue of $314M (-33%) vs. $300M. (PR)

Today's Markets

Most overseas markets moved higher Friday, led by sharp gains in China. Futures are marginally higher.

  • Asia: Nikkei -0.66% to 10,444. Hang Seng +0.44% to 21,161. Shanghai +2.22% to 2,989. BSE +0.29% to 16,264.
  • Europe at midday: London +0.7%. Paris +0.9%. Frankfurt +0.6%.
  • Futures: Dow +0.1%. S&P +0.2%. 30-year Tsy +0.1%. Euro +0.1% vs. dollar. Yen +1.1%. Crude flat at $71.90. Gold +0.6% to $1,002. Natural gas +0.5% to $3.272.

Friday's Economic Calendar

Seeking Alpha editor Eli Hoffmann contributed to this post.

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