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Updated with jobless claims data

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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Here are the top stock market headlines for the morning of Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009.

Thursday's Early Headlines

  • Bank of America Names Moynihan to CEO Position -- The search was supposed to end by Thanksgiving, but the announcement didn't come until the week before Christmas. Bank of America (BAC) - Get Report late Wednesday said consumer banking head Brian Moynihan will succeed retiring Ken Lewis as CEO at the end of the year, beating out the bank's Chief Risk Officer Greg Curl for the spot.
  • Citigroup Prices Offering; U.S. Delays Share Sale -- Citigroup (C) - Get Report late Wednesday said it would sell 5.4 billion shares of common stock for $3.15 apiece, netting the company $17 billion. The price was below the $3.30 to $3.35-a-share range the market had expected Wednesday. In addition, the Treasury Department reversed course on its plans to unwind its position in the bank, instead deciding not to sell any of its shares in connection with the company's offering.
  • Citigroup Halts Foreclosures for the Holidays -- In other Citigroup news, the bank said Thursday it plans to suspend foreclosures for 30 days for homeowners with Citigroup-owned mortgages. Under the program, which begins Friday, Citigroup will halt all foreclosure sales on first mortgage accounts nationwide through Jan. 17. The bank also will cease evictions. Citigroup said the suspension will affect about 2,000 borrowers scheduled for foreclosure and another 2,000 that were to receive foreclosure notifications in the next 30 days.
  • Weekly Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Rise -- The Labor Department said that initial jobless claims rose by 7,000 last week to 480,000, surprising analysts who had expected claims to decline to 465,000. In addition, the prior week's number was revised down by 1,000. Ian Shepherdson, chief economist with High Frequency Economics, called the number "a bit disappointing but hardly a disaster. The underlying trend in claims is strongly downwards and, while we think the rate of decline will level off sooner or later, there's no reason to expect a sustained rebound." Shepherdson did warn that claims numbers will be erratic until mid-January due to the holiday season.
  • U.S. House Narrowly Approves $155 Billion Job Bill -- The House of Representatives late Wednesday approved a $155 billion jobs creation bill by a vote of 217 to 212. The bill includes continued benefits for the unemployed, as well as additional spending for "shovel-ready" construction projects and money to avoid layoffs of public employees using leftover money from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, which was created to bailout troubled banks.
  • Cedar Fair Acquired by Apollo for $2.4 Billion -- Amusement park operator Cedar Fair (FUN) - Get Report will be acquired by an affiliate of Apollo Global Management for about $2.4 billion. Cedar Fair shareholders will receive $11.50 a share, a 27% premium to Cedar Fair's closing stock price Wednesday of $9.08.

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Thursday's Earnings Roundup

  • FedEx (FDX) - Get Report said it earned $1.10 a share in its fiscal second quarter, as the company said in its preannouncement. Revenue dropped nearly 10% from a year ago to $8.6 billion, although that was above the $8.46 billion consensus. However, FedEx offered weak guidance for its fiscal third quarter, saying it expects to earn 50 cents to 70 cents in the quarter, below the consensus target of 84 cents a share. For the full year, it expects to earn $3.45 to $3.75 a share, in line with the Thomson Reuters average estimate of $3.46 a share.
  • General Mills (GIS) - Get Report posted a fiscal second-quarter adjusted profit of $1.54 a share, better than the Thomson Reuters average estimate by 9 cents. Sales rose 1.7% to $4.08 billion, also above estimates. Looking ahead to full-year 2010, General Mills upped its earnings guidance to a range of $4.52 to $4.57 a share from the prior guidance range of $4.40 to $4.45 a share. Analysts are looking for a full-year profit of $4.52 a share.
  • Rite Aid (RAD) - Get Report reported a third-quarter loss of 10 cents a share, although that was better than the Thomson Reuters average estimate for a loss of 18 cents a share. Sales fell nearly 2% from a year ago to $6.35 billion, slightly below the consensus target of $6.38 billion. Looking ahead, Rite Aid narrowed guidance for 2010, saying it now expects to lose 55 cents to 66 cents a share, compared to the previous estimate range of 48 cents to 74 cents a share and the consensus estimate of 57 cents a share. It also revised its 2010 revenue guidance to a range of $25.6 billion to $25.9 billion from the prior range of $25.7 billion to $26.2 billion.
  • Pier One Imports (PIR) - Get Report said it had adjusted earnings of 37 cents a share in the third quarter, surprising analysts who had expected the retailer to post a 5-cent-a-share loss. Sales climbed 8.7% to $327.1 million, also better than estimates. Pier One said comparable store sales jumped 13.7%, and that merchandise margin increased to $56.6% from 52.5% in the year-ago period.

-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston

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