Tuesday's Early Headlines
- New Banking Regulations Deal Imminent: Report -- Key senators were nearing a deal on legislation to overhaul financial regulations which includes creating a new consumer-protection division within the Federal Reserve, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd, chairman of the banking Committee, and Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee are selling the agreement to other members of their parties, Senate aides told the paper. Dodd is likely to introduce the bill in the Senate later this week, but it remains uncertain whether the White House will accept the proposal.
- FDIC Preps $1.8 Billion Mortgage Deal -- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is preparing to sell $1.8 billion of guaranteed debt backed by residential mortgage assets seized from failed banks, according to a report by IFR, a Thomson Reuters service. The move, widely anticipated by investors, is seen another step toward restoring confidence in securities that helped bring on the financial meltdown. The two-part deal is expected to sell this week via Barclays Capital, the IFR report said.
- Feb. Auto Sales Data Due Tuesday -- February's auto sales tally is expected to show a marked improvement from January's showing, with auto researcher Edmunds.com predicting that new vehicle sales rose 12.9% last month. The increase comes thanks to "robust" sales over Presidents' Day weekend. Ford (F) likely sold 136,000 units in February, up 35.3% from a year ago and 18.9% above the previous month's tally. General Motors likely sold 147,000 units last month, up 16.2% from last year but up only 0.2% from January, according to Edmunds.com. The auto researcher is also predicting that Toyota (TM) will see its market share plummet to 12.6%, the lowest level since July 2005, due to the automaker's continued struggle with recalled vehicles. A Senate committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on Toyota's recalls
- GM To Revamp Sales Operation, Joins Recall Parade -- General Motors said Tuesday it would triple its funding for the turnaround of its Opel and Vauxhall divisions in Europe to 1.9 billion euros ($2.57 billion). GM's original pledge was 600 million euros. Separately, The Wall Street Journal reports that GM is likely to announce Tuesday a revamp of its sales and marketing operations in an attempt to revive growth and gain market share in North America. The report comes as the automaker said it would recall 1.3 million compact Chevrolet and Pontiac vehicles in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to fix problems with power steering motors.
- CF Launches Counterbid for Terra -- CF Industries (CF) has offered to acquire Terra Industries (TRA) for a higher bid than one Terra agreed to with Norway's Yara International. CF Industries is offering $37.15 in cash and 0.0953 a share of CF Industries common stock for each Terra share. The offer has a total value of $47.40 a share based on CF Industries closing price on Monday.
- Australia Hikes Key Interest Rate Again -- After a one-meeting pause, the Reserve Bank of Australia once again upped the benchmark overnight cash rate target to 4% from 3.75%. "The Board judges that with growth likely to be close to trend and inflation close to target over the coming year, it is appropriate for interest rates to be closer to average. Today's decision is a further step in that process," Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens said in an accompanying statement.
Tuesday's Earnings Roundup
- Staples (SPLS) notched a fourth-quarter adjusted profit of 38 cents a share, which was a penny below the Thomson Reuters average estimate. Sales were up nearly 4% to $6.41 billion, which was better than consensus. Looking ahead, Staples offered in-line earnings guidance for the first quarter and better-than-expected earnings guidance for the full year.
- AutoZone (AZO) reported a fiscal second-quarter profit of $2.46 a share, which came in ahead of the Thomson Reuters average estimate for a profit of $2.35 a share. Revenue was up 4.1% to $1.51 billion, also better than expectations.
- CIT Group (CIT) said in a regulatory filing late Monday that it expects to report a fourth-quarter loss of $900 million and a loss of $4 billion for the year. CIT said the loss for the year is "expected to be essentially offset by the impact of reorganization," primarily the cancelation of debt. CIT was expected to issue its results on Monday but said they would be delayed until March 16 because the company didn't have enough time since it emerged from bankruptcy to complete them.