Updated with economic data, FedEx and Discover earnings, AMR news




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

Thursday's Early Headlines

  • Initial Jobless Claims Fall - The Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell to 545,000 last week, the lowest level in two months, from a revised 557,000 in the previous week. Continuing claims rose to 6.23 million from a revised 6.1 million the week prior.
  • Housing Starts, Building Permits Rise in August - The Census Bureau said that housing starts rose to 598,000 in August from a revised 589,000 in July, matching economists' expectations. Building permits rose to 579,000 in August from 564,000 the month before, but were shy of the 583,000 consensus.
  • First FDIC Toxic Asset Sale Ready. - The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Wednesday that Residential Credit Solutions was the winning bidder in the agency's pilot sale for its Legacy Loans Program. RCS is set to pay $64 million in cash for a 50% equity stake in the $1.3 billion portfolio of Franklin Bank, which includes residential mortgage loans with an unpaid principal balance. The Legacy Loans Program is part of the Public-Private Investment Program aimed at ridding balance sheets of toxic assets.
  • Hershey Working Toward Cadbury Bid. - The Wall Street Journal reported that Hershey (HSY) - Get Report has hired banking boutique Watch Hill Partners and former Goldman Sachs & Co. banker Byron Trott to advise it on its bid for Cadbury (CBY) , according to people familiar with the matter. The report notes the difficulty Hershey could have in trying to acquire Cadbury, as the company is much smaller than both Cadbury and Kraft Foods (KFT) , and any offer could have a detrimental effect on its stock and its credit rating.
  • AMR Gets $2.9 Billion in Financing. - American Airlines parent AMR (AMR) shares were set to open higher after the company said it obtained $2.9 billion in added liquidity and new aircraft-leasing financing. AMR will also reallocate capacity to its hubs in Dallas, Chicago, Miami and New York.
  • Northrop's Sugar to Retire. - Ronald Sugar, CEO of Northrop Grumman (NOC) - Get Report will retire in June 2010 and will step down from both the CEO and chairman positions at the end of the year. President and Chief Operating Officer Wesley Bush will succeed Sugar as CEO effective Jan. 1.

Thursday's Earnings Roundup

  • Oracle (ORCL) - Get Report late Wednesday posted an adjusted fiscal first-quarter profit of 30 cents a share, in-line with the Thomson Reuters average estimates. Revenue fell 5.2% from a year ago to $5.05 billion, falling short of consensus estimates. Looking ahead to the second fiscal quarter, excluding items, Oracle expects earnings between 35 cents a share and 36 cents a share, up from 34 cents in the same period last year. Analysts had predicted second-quarter earnings of 36 cents a share.
  • Discover Financial (DFS) - Get Report reported third-quarter earnings of $577 million, or $1.07 a share, which included approximately $287 million after-tax relating to the Visa (V) - Get Report/Mastercard (MA) - Get Reportantitrust litigation settlement. The managed net charge-off rate increased to 8.39%, up from the prior year and sequential quarter. The managed net charge-off rate for the fourth quarter is expected to be between 8.5% and 9%. Loan loss provisions rose by $170 million, or 23%, from the prior year due to higher net charge-offs.
  • FedEx (FDX) - Get Report said it earned $181 million or 58 cents a share in the fiscal first quarter, in line with estimates after it preannounced last week. Revenue fell 20% to $8 billion, coming in shy of the Thomson Reuters consensus of $8.2 billion. The shipper reiterated that it sees "a continued modest recovery in the global economy."