) -- Here are the top stock market headlines for the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009.

Wednesday's Early Headlines

  • Citigroup CFO Gets $100K Pay Raise -- According to a regulatory filing Tuesday, Citigroup (C) - Get Report CFO John Gerspach will see his annual base pay rise by $100,000 to $500,000. James Forese, Citi's co-head of Global Markets, received a pay increase of $250,000, bringing his salary to $475,000. CEO Vikram Pandit's salary will remain at $1 per year, and Vice Chairman Stephen Volk's salary remains at $500,000 per year, the bank said.
  • Goldman Sachs is Sorry, Will Loan to Small Businesses -- Amid criticism over pay packages and government bailouts, Goldman Sachs (GS) - Get Report said it has launched a $500 million program to assist small businesses. The advisory board that will oversee the initiative includes billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Goldman's largest shareholder. Goldman said the first loans under the program will be made in early 2010. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, at a conference in New York, said, "We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret. We apologize."
  • Mortgage Applications, Rates Fall -- The Mortgage Bankers Association said mortgage loan application volume fell by 2.5% on a seasonally adjusted basis last week from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the index decreased 3.3% compared with the previous week. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.83% from 4.90%, the MBA said.
  • Simon Mulls General Growth Bid: Report -- The Wall Street Journal reports that Simon Property Group (SPG) - Get Report has hired investment adviser Lazard and law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to help explore a potential bid for rival General Growth Properties, which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
  • Hershey Confirms Mulling Cadbury Options -- Hershey (HSY) - Get Report confirmed Wednesday it is reviewing options regarding a potential offer for Cadbury( CBY). In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, Hershey said "at this stage there can be no assurance that any proposal or offer from Hershey will be forthcoming. A further announcement will be made in due course if appropriate." Hershey is examining a rival bid to Kraft's( KFT) $16 billion offer by itself or with a partner such as Italy's Ferrero, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Wednesday's Earnings Roundup

  • BJ's Wholesale (BJ) - Get Report posted third-quarter adjusted earnings of 45 cents a share, matching the Thomson Reuters average estimate. Sales rose 2% from a year ago to $2.51 billion, slightly above the $2.48-billion consensus.
  • Chico's FAS (CHS) - Get Report reported third-quarter earnings of 13 cents a share, better than the Thomson Reuters average estimate of 7 cents a share. Sale jumped 13.4% year over year to $446.9 million, also ahead of expectations. Gross margin improved to 57.6% from 53.6% a year ago, the company said.
  • Solarfun Power( SOLF) said it had third-quarter earnings of 37 cents a share, blowing past the Thomson Reuters average estimate of 15 cents a share. Revenue dropped 23% from a year ago to $144.6 million, below consensus. Gross margin was 20.7% in the third quarter, compared to -6.2% in the second quarter. Looking ahead, the company expects to see continuing good demand in the first quarter of 2010, with prices declining slightly from levels in fourth quarter.

-- Written by Robert Holmes in New York


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