Updated with jobless claims data, Rite Aid earnings, Aeropostale CEO news




) -- Here are the top stock market headlines for the morning of Thursday, September 24, 2009.

Thursday's Early Headlines

  • Citigroup to Pare Back Retail Banking. - The Wall Street Journal reports that Citigroup (C) - Get Report to narrow the focus of its U.S. branch network to six major metropolitan areas, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and Miami. The report, citing people familiar with the matter, said Citigroup plans to limit its overall consumer lending in the U.S. primarily to credit cards and "jumbo" mortgages. Citi's proposal also includes selling branches in Texas and a look at whether it will continue to maintain a presence in Boston and Philadelphia, the Journal reported.
  • Fed's Exit Strategy Involves Money Market Funds. - The Financial Times reports that the Federal Reserve is toying with the idea of borrowing from money market mutual funds as part of eventual steps to withdraw stimulus. The central bank would borrow from the funds through reverse repurchase agreements involving some of the Fed's portfolio of mortgage-backed securities and Treasuries that it has purchased during the financial crisis, the Times reported.
  • U.S. Taxpayers Will Not Get 100% of Bailout Back: TARP Watchdog. - The Wall Street Journal reports that Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, will tell Congress that U.S. taxpayers won't get 100% of their investment back on the government's $700 billion financial bailout. "While several TARP recipients have repaid funds for what has widely been reported as a 17% profit, it is extremely unlikely that the taxpayer will see a full return on its TARP investment," Barofsky will tell the Senate Banking Committee, according to prepared remarks.
  • Jobless Claims Tumble; Housing Data to Come. - The Labor Department said initial jobless claims dropped sharply last week, unexpectedly sliding 21,000 to 530,000. Economists had expected claims to rise to 550,000. Later, the National Association of Realtors will release the August reading on existing-home sales, which economists expect will rise to 5.33 million units from 5.24 million in July.
  • Aeropostale CEO Stepping Down. - Aeropostale (ARO) said CEO Julian Geiger will resign from the position by the end of the fiscal year, but still plans to serve as chairman. Geiger will be replaced by Mindy Meads and Thomas Johnson, who will serve as co-chief executive officers.
  • Microsoft Denies EA Takeover Rumors. - Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report denied it plans to acquire video game-maker Electronic Arts (ERTS) , according to a Marketwatch report. A Reuters report, citing information from traders, circulated Wednesday saying the software giant was interested in buying EA, the publisher of the Madden NFL and Tiger Woods video game series.
  • Nintendo Cuts Price of Wii by $50. - Following in the footsteps of other console makers like Microsoft and Sony (SNE) - Get Report, Nintendo on Sunday will cut the U.S. price of its popular Wii console by $50. The new $199.99 Wii will be tied with Microsoft's low-end Xbox 360 Arcade as the cheapest.

Thursday's Earnings Roundup

  • McCormick (MKC) - Get Report reported a third-quarter profit of 57 cents a share, topping the Thomson Reuters consensus of 54 cents a share. Revenue climbed 1% from a year ago to $791.7 million, coming in slightly below analysts' average target of $801.4 million. Looking ahead, McCormick raised the low end of its guidance for 2009. The company now expects full-year earnings in a range of $2.31 to $2.33 a share, up from its previous target range of $2.29 to $2.33 a share.
  • Rite Aid (RAD) - Get Report reported a fiscal second-quarter loss of $116 million, or 14 cents a share. Analysts expected a loss of 16 cents, according to Thomson Reuters. Rite Aid lowered its full-year forecast, said it now expects to lose between 48 cents and 74 cents a share. Analysts predict the company will lose 47 cents for the year.
  • Research In Motion (RIMM) will post quarterly results after the closing bell Thursday. The Blackberry maker is expected to report quarterly earnings of $1 a share on revenue of $3.62 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.