Frontrunning: July 31

  • Moscow fights back after sanctions; battle rages near Ukraine crash site (Reuters)
  • On Hold: Merkel Gives Putin a Blunt Message (WSJ)
  • Argentina’s Default Clock Runs Out as Debt Talks Collapse (BBG)
  • Argentina braces for market reaction to second default in 12 years (Reuters)
  • Banco Espirito Santo Plunges After Posting 3.6 Billion-Euro Loss (BBG)
  • GOP Says Lerner Emails Show Bias Against Conservatives (WSJ)
  • Adidas Plunges After Cutting Forecast on Russia, Golf (BBG)
  • Londoners Cashing in Flee to Suburbs as Home Rally Wanes (BBG)
  • BNP Paribas Reports Record $5.79 Billion Quarterly Loss (WSJ)
  • Swiss Banks Send U.S. Client Data Before Cascade of Settlements (BBG)
  • Putin Sows Doubt Among Stock Bears Burned by 29% Rebound (BBG)
  • China diners test McDonald's, Yum says food scare hurts KFC, Pizza Hut sales (Reuters)
  • Netanyahu vows to complete Gaza tunnels destruction (Reuters)
  • Employees’ Pay in U.S. Is Smaller Slice of Income Pie (BBG)


Overnight Media Digest


* Talks aimed at a last-minute settlement between Argentina and holdout creditors collapsed late Wednesday, and a court-appointed mediator said the country would "imminently" be in default. (

* Johnson & Johnson, which already suspended sales of a surgical tool that has been blamed for spreading a dangerous cancer in women, plans to tell doctors world-wide to return any devices now on shelves. (

* Venezuela, strapped for cash at home and staring down costly litigation overseas, is considering a deal for its U.S.-based refinery company Citgo Petroleum Corp as well as a stake in a refinery run with Exxon Mobil Corp, according to a Citgo document and people familiar with the matter. (

* The head of Samsung's mobile division, J.K. Shin, is facing pressure as weakening phone sales propel the company toward a third straight quarter of operating-profit declines. (

* Federal Reserve officials delivered a modestly more upbeat assessment of the economy Wednesday amid a second-quarter growth rebound and deepening debate inside the central bank about when to start raising interest rates. (

* A federal judge in New York ordered Bank of America Corp to pay $1.27 billion as a penalty for a case involving Countrywide Financial Corp.'s "Hustle" mortgage program. (

* Private-equity firms are increasingly buying companies from each other, a shift driven in part by the relative simplicity of completing such acquisitions. (

* Barclays Plc swung to a net profit in the second quarter but is under renewed pressure in the United States after authorities extended a non-prosecution agreement to cover a probe into alleged foreign-exchange manipulation. (

* E.W. Scripps Co and Journal Communications Inc struck a deal to put their newspaper operations into one company and their broadcast assets into another, following in the footsteps of rivals. The companies plan a series of spinoffs and stock-based mergers that would hand Journal Communications' local-television and radio stations to E.W. Scripps and E.W. Scripps newspapers to Journal Communications. (

* Puerto Rico's cash-strapped electric power authority is facing a critical deadline on Thursday to extend or make payments on lines of credit with banks or face a possible restructuring of about $9 billion in total debts. (



A judge ordered Bank of America to pay $1.3 billion for a "brazen fraud" in which bank staff sold toxic mortgages to government-backed mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Snapchat, an app that lets users send messages that disappear after a few seconds, has been in talks about selling a stake to Chinese internet group Alibaba Group <IPO-BABA.N> as part of a funding round that could value it at more than $10 billion, according to people familiar with the discussions.

AMC Networks is in exclusive talks to buy a near-50 percent stake in the BBC's flagship BBC America channel, according to people familiar with the situation.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the incoming European Commission president, is considering creating an EU financial services directorate charged with regulating the London financial scene and ensuring stability in the region.

The Glazer family is planning to sell about 5 percent of its stake in Manchester United, taking advantage of the football club's rising share price after its 750 million pound ($1.27 billion) kit supply deal with Adidas. The sale will leave the Glazer family with about 83 percent of the club in its hands.



* Argentina failed to make payments on its government bond, and a court-appointed mediator said that it would "imminently be in default." (

* Energy companies executives are now acknowledging that the escalating tensions could sharply hurt companies with major investments in Russia. (

* Bitcoin has found another taker. On Wednesday, the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates Wikipedia, announced that it would allow people to make donations using bitcoin, becoming the latest adopter of the virtual currency as a payment option. (

* In an escalation of the confrontation between the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and Andrew Cuomo over the governor's cancellation of his own anti-corruption commission, Bharara has threatened to investigate the Cuomo administration for possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering. (

* Nordstrom plans to announce on Thursday that it has agreed to purchase Trunk Club, a five-year old website that sells about 100 brands of men's apparel, for an undisclosed amount. It is the latest sign that men are not the only ones taking their sartorial habits seriously. (

* Industry trade groups quickly signaled their intention to ask the federal courts to overturn a ruling that holds McDonald's liable for the actions of its franchisees. (

* Bank of America and federal prosecutors have accelerated their negotiations to resolve an investigation into the bank's sale of toxic mortgage securities before the financial crisis. (

* AMC Networks, the home of AMC, SundanceTV and IFC channels, is in talks to acquire close to a 50 percent stake in BBC America, the United States television network owned by the commercial arm of the BBC, according to people briefed on the discussions. (

* When Snapchat spurned takeover interest from the likes of Facebook and Google, investors scoffed at the audacity of the photo messaging service. But the start-up may have the last laugh. Snapchat has held talks to sell a stake to the Alibaba Group <IPO-BABA.N>, the Chinese Internet giant, people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday. (




* Communications Security Establishment Canada intercepts citizens' private messages without judicial warrants, in its fight against Chinese espionage and other cyberthreats, a document obtained by the paper showed. The 22-page "Operational Procedures for Cyber Defence" speaks about how the electronic-intelligence agency can log, store and study volumes of e-communications that touch government computer networks - including "private communications" of Canadians not themselves thought to be hackers.

Minster of National Defence Rob Nicholson, who approves such surveillance and is provided with statistics about its risks, is the only outsider to know full details about the tradeoffs. (

* The Supreme Court of Canada will release its decision Thursday on whether confessions elicited from so-called Mr Big police sting operations can be used in court after the technique helped convict a Newfoundland man of killing his two daughters. (

In the business section:

* Barrick Gold Corp took a $500 million charge on its Saudi Arabian copper project and appointed two more independent directors, including a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker who used to work closely with the company's new chairman John Thornton. (


* They sit in the Red Chamber for an average of about 70 days a year. But Canada's senators don't seem all that keen to have the public see what goes on in there. In a tentative baby step toward transparency, the Senate is considering the installation of video cameras in its chamber, but the two-month pilot project would only see the footage directed to an internal feed. (

* More than two-thirds of Canadians want marijuana laws softened, says an opinion poll conducted for the federal government. And while a small majority believes companies should not be permitted to sell marijuana just as they sell alcohol and cigarettes, it's clear many people have no problem with the proposition. (


* The revelation that accounting issues will force Penn West Petroleum Ltd to restate more than four years worth of financial results isn't the only thing raising the eyebrows of corporate governance experts. Among the biggest concerns is why Penn West's own audit committee is conducting the internal review of the firm's accounting practices. (

* A new poll shows that while Albertans are rapidly ramping up household debt, Ontarians are paying it down. The Bank of Montreal report says average household debt in Alberta is C$124,838, almost double that of average Ontario household debt which shrunk over the past year. (




China's Insurance Regulatory Commission has issued guidance allowing insurers to invest in asset-backed securities.


The first test for a recently-announced scheme that allows Hong Kong and mainland investors to buy stocks in each other's market will take place on Aug. 11.


China's increasing number of flight delays has driven brisk sales of flight-delay insurance policies in the past two weeks, especially on routes in eastern and central parts of China, travel agencies said.


The Times


Banks and building societies face a bill of 260 million pounds ($439.63 million) to put in place strict new rules that will overhaul the way lenders and regulators oversee finance professionals and will allow the clawback of bonuses up to seven years after they are awarded. (


Energy firms are set to double their profits in the space of 12 months after refusing to pass on to customers huge falls in the cost of wholesale oil and gas. (

The Guardian


The cost of the payment protection insurance scandal has soared again after Barclays set aside another 900 million pounds to cover the costs of compensating customers mis-sold the insurance product. (


Britain's largest domestic energy supplier, Centrica , is in talks with the government as fears mount that a worsening stand-off with Russia could undermine an important power deal. (


Three Muslim organisations, including the Finsbury Park mosque, are demanding answers from HSBC after being told by the bank that their accounts were being shut down. (

The Telegraph


AMC Entertainment, the U.S. cable TV broadcaster home to such hits as 'The Walking Dead' and 'Mad Men', is in talks to buy a stake of around 50 percent in BBC America, according to reports. (


The damaging impact the strong pound is having on UK exporters and companies with sizeable operations abroad was laid bare on Wednesday, as British American Tobacco, National Express, ITV and Barclays all warned that the appreciation of sterling had put a dent in profits and revenues. (

Sky News


The restructuring of the Co-operative Group is poised to continue with the sale of its security arm in a deal that will raise money to help shore up its troubled finances. (



Fly On The Wall Pre-Market Buzz


Domestic economic reports scheduled for today include:
Jobless claims for week of July 26 at 8:30--consensus 305K
Chicago PMI business barometer index for July at 9:45--consensus 63.2



AXIS Capital (AXS) upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at BMO Capital
Alexandria Real Estate (ARE) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
AllianceBernstein (AB) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
BOK Financial (BOKF) upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at BMO Capital
Booz Allen (BAH) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse
Cliffs Natural (CLF) upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at Bernstein
Ecolab (ECL) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan
Huntington Bancshares (HBAN) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
Lumber Liquidators (LL) upgraded to Market Perform at Raymond James
Open Text (OTEX) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse
Praxair (PX) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at First Analysis
Raymond James (RJF) upgraded to Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna
Sallie Mae (SLM) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Janney Capital
SodaStream (SODA) upgraded to Equal Weight from Underweight at Barclays


EZCORP (EZPW) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Eli Lilly (LLY) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Franklin Resources (BEN) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
LPL Financial (LPLA) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Mobile Mini (MINI) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
On Assignment (ASGN) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
Quanex (NX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T
Rayonier Advanced downgraded to Sector Perform at RBC Capital
Sagent Pharmaceuticals (SGNT) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Needham
TTM Technologies (TTMI) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Tetra Tech (TTEK) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
UPS (UPS) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Atlantic Equities
Unilever (UN) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
United Microelectronics (UMC) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup
United Microelectronics (UMC) downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at JPMorgan
Whole Foods (WFM) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
Whole Foods (WFM) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Yelp (YELP) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James


Enphase Energy (ENPH) initiated with an Outperform at Imperial Capital
lululemon (LULU) initiated with a Positive at Susquehanna


Tesla (TSLA), Panasonic (PCRFY) sign agreement for construction of U.S. Gigafactory
Scripps (SSP), Journal (JRN) merging broadcast operations, to spin off newspapers
Yum! Brands (YUM) said that OSI had a "significant, negative impact" to its sales in China
Endurance Specialty (ENH) terminated its offer to acquire Aspen Insurance (AHL)
Marathon Petroleum (MPC) announced an additional $2B stock buyback program
Tesoro (TSO) announced a new $1B share repurchase plan and raised its quarterly dividend 20% to 30c from 25c per share
Whole Foods (WFM) announced a new $1B share repurchase plan
RealNetworks (RNWK) named Rob Glaser as permanent CEO


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:

Yelp (YELP), Whole Foods (WFM), Iron Mountain (IRM), NiSource (NI), (CRCM), Amerseco (AMRC), MEDNAX (MD), State Auto Financial (STFC), Quanta Services (PWR), Generac (GNRC), Cigna (CI), ACI Worldwide (ACIW), (CTRP), Swift Energy (SFY), American Railcar (ARII), Blackbaud (BLKB), LivePerson (LPSN), Cleco (CNL), First Bancorp (fbnc), Fox Chase Bancorp (FXCB), C&J Energy (CJES), Kirby (KEX), Churchill Downs (CHDN), Noble Corp. (NE), Amerisafe (AMSF), SciQuest (SQI), Selective Insurance (SIGI), Atwood Oceanics (ATW), General Cable (BGC), eHealth (EHTH), Boston Beer (SAM), Intersil (ISIL), Intrepid Potash (IPI), Entropic (ENTR), Superior Energy (SPN), Curtiss-Wright (CW), Newport (NEWP), Albemarle (ALB), Endologix (ELGX), Halcon Resources (HK), Vistaprint (VPRT), Moelis (MC), Lincoln National (LNC), Digital River (DRIV), LifeLock (LOCK), Glu Mobile (GLUU), Anika Therapeutics (ANIK), Weight Watchers (WTW), FormFactor (FORM), Veeco (VECO), Molina Healthcare (MOH), Con-way (CNW), NCI, Inc. (NCIT), Ruckus Wireless (RKUS), Fidelity National (FNF), Western Digital (WDC), Lam Research (LRCX), FEI Company (FEIC), MedAssets (MDAS), Cavium (CAVM), Shutterfly (SFLY), Unum Group (UNM), BioMarin (BMRN), CTPartners (CTP), (SPRT), Steiner Leisure (STNR), Cardtronics (CATM), Cytokinetics (CYTK), Open Text (OTEX), American Capital Mortgage (MTGE), Allstate (ALL), Hologic (HOLX), Rovi (ROVI), Fortune Brands (FBHS), Whiting Petroleum (WLL), AMC Entertainment (AMC), QuickLogic (QUIK), Akamai (AKAM), Forrester (FORR), Century Aluminum (CENX)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:

Kraft Foods (KRFT), L-3 Communications (LLL), Midcoast Energy (MEP), Xcel Energy (XEL), Acorda Therapeutics (ACOR), Embraer (ERJ), Chart Industries (GTLS), Time Warner Cable (TWC), Enterprise Products (EPD), Suncor (SU), Methanex (MEOH), Buenaventura (BVN), SJW Corp. (SJW), Triumph Group (TGI), Furmanite (FRM), Kraton Performance (KRA), Bennett Environmental (BEL), Murphy Oil (MUR), Allegion (ALLE), Haverty Furniture (HVT), Martin Midstream Partners (MMLP), Tesoro Logistics (TLLP), Manitowoc (MTW), Luxfer (LXFR), Tenaris (TS), Smith Micro (SMSI), Kinross Gold (KGC), Barrick Gold (ABX), FMC Corporation (FMC), (STMP), Tesoro (TSO), Legacy Reserves (LGCY), Capstead Mortgage (CMO), Tetra Tech (TTEK), KapStone (KS), Solazyme (SZYM), ManTech (MANT), Williams Partners (WPZ), Hartford Financial (HIG), Penn Virginia (PVA), Macquarie Infrastructure (MIC), Cabot (CBT), Spansion (CODE), A10 Networks (ATEN), Manning & Napier (MN), American Equity (AEL), Regional Management (RM), Coherent (COHR), Roadrunner (RRTS), Town Sports (CLUB), MetLife (MET)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:

Alamos Gold (AGI), Brookline Bancorp (BRKL), Silicon Image (SIMG), AVG Technologies (AVG), Service Corp. (SCI), TTM Technologies (TTMI), Williams (WMB), Nanometrics (NANO), Hudson Technologies (HDSN), ServiceNow (NOW), TFS Financial  (TFSL)


Target (TGT) to name PepsiCo's (PEP) Brian Cornell as new CEO, WSJ reports
Apple (AAPL) said to fire 200 Beats employees after buyout, Bloomberg reports
AMC Networks (AMCX) in talks for stake in BBC America, Bloomberg reports
FCC questions Verizon's (VZ) plan to manage data speeds for some customers, WSJ reports
NY governor steps in to BNP (BNPQY) agreement for $1B more for state fund, Reuters reports
EU regulators ready challenge to Google (GOOG) mobile software business, Reuters reports
Amgen (AMGN) shares could gain 25%, Barron's says
Twitter (TWTR) looks pricey, Barron's says


Athlon Energy (ATHL) files to sell 12.5M shares of common stock for holders
Avalanche Biotechnologies (AAVL) 6M share IPO priced at $17.00
Bio Blast Pharma (ORPN) 3.2M share IPO priced at $11.00
Catalent (CTLT) 42.5M share IPO priced at $20.50
Ceragon Networks (CRNT) 21.25M share Secondary priced at $2.00
Endurance Specialty (ENH) requests withdrawal of registration statement
Gevo (GEVO) files automatic common stock, warrant shelf
HealthEquity (HQY) 9.1M share IPO priced at $14.00
Macrocure (MCUR) 5.35M share IPO priced at $10.00
Manchester United (MANU) files to sell 8M Class A Ordinary Shares for holders
Ramco-Gershenson (RPT) files to sell 5.25M common shares of beneficial interest
Synchrony Financial (SYF) 125M share IPO priced at $23.00
Tyson Foods (TSN) 23.81M share Secondary priced at $37.80
Vascular Biogenics (VBLX) 5.4M share IPO priced at $12.00

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