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Jan. 8 Premarket Briefing: 10 Things You Should Know

Here are 10 things you should know for Wednesday, Jan. 8: 

1.-- U.S. stock futures were rising Wednesday, following robust gains in Japan and Hong Kong.

European stocks were trading mixed early Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.9% to close at 16,121.45 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.3% to finish at 22,996.59.

2.-- The economic calendar in the U.S. Wednesday includes the ADP Employment Change Index for December at 8:15 a.m. EST, and minutes of the Dec. 18 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee at 2 p.m.

3.-- U.S. stocks on Tuesday rose for the first time in 2014, snapping a three-day losing streak after an improved trade report and eurozone data bolstered investor sentiment.

The S&P 500 rose 0.61% to close at 1,837.88 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.64% to finish at 16,530.94. The Nasdaq jumped 0.96% to 4,153.18.

4.-- Ford (F - Get Report) CEO Alan Mulally put to rest rumors on Tuesday that he will leave the automaker run Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report). Mulally said he'll be staying at Ford at least through the end of 2014. 

"I would like to end the Microsoft speculation because I have no other plans to do anything other than serve Ford," Mulally told The Associated Press in an interview.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is closer to naming a new CEO, Reuters reported, citing a source familiar with the board's thinking. Sources familiar with the process told Reuters that Microsoft is down to a "handful" of candidates, including one or more outsiders from the tech industry, former Nokia  (NOK) CEO Stephen Elop and insiders Satya Nadella and Tony Bates.

5.-- Forest Laboratories (FRX) is nearing an agreement to acquire specialty pharmaceutical company Aptalis Holdings from private-equity firm TPG Capital for about $3 billion, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

An announcement of a deal could come as early as Wednesday, the person said.

Aptalis develops drugs that treat cystic fibrosis and gastrointestinal disorders.

6.-- Citigroup (C) is considering selling its $1 billion stake in a private-equity fund to comply with the so-called Volcker rule, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The move is in line with Citigroup's strategy of shedding its private-equity and hedge-fund assets to comply with the rule, according to the Journal.

Citigroup is considering selling its remaining stake in an emerging-markets fund it sold in August to the Rohatyn Group, a private-equity fund run by Nick Rohatyn, son of financier Felix Rohatyn, the Journal reported.

7.-- Monsanto (MON), the seed maker, is expected by Wall Street on Wednesday to report fiscal first-quarter earnings of 64 cents a share on revenue of $3.07 billion. 

8.-- CEC Entertainment (CEC), the parent company of restaurant and entertainment chain Chuck E Cheese, is exploring a potential sale to private equity, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

CEC is working with Goldman Sachs and has been speaking with interested buyers over the last several months, the people said.

9.-- WellPoint (WLP) agreed Tuesday to sell online contact lens retailer 1-800 Contacts to private-equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners and also reached a deal to sell the glasses.com Web site to Italy's Luxottica.

The deals are expected to close in the first quarter of 2014.

10.-- Kraft Foods (KRFT) is dealing with a shortage of Velveeta cheese. A company representative didn't give any reasons for the apparent shortage, telling the AP only that they happen from time to time given the "nature of manufacturing."

The company rep noted that the lack of availability is more noticeable because of the seasonal demand during the NFL playoffs.  

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

To contact the writer of this article, click here:Joseph Woelfel

To submit a news tip, send an email to:tips@thestreet.com.

Follow @josephwoe58

Copyright 2014 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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