NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Here are the top stock market headlines for the morning of Thursday, March 25, 2010.
Thursday's Early Headlines
- Health Care Bill Sent Back to House -- The health care reform bill will have to return to the House for final congressional approval after Senate Republicans found two provisions that violate Congress' budget rules. The two provisions, dealing with Pell grants for low-income students, are expected to be formally removed from the bill on Thursday, according to a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The spokesman added that the Senate is expected to approve the measure without the provisions, and that top House Democrats expect the House to approve the revised measure.
- Initial Jobless Claims Fall to 442,000 -- The Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell to 442,000 last week from a revised 456,000 the week before, surprising analysts who had forecasted a smaller decline to 450,000. Continuing claims fell to 4.648 million from 4.702 million the week before.
- Treasury Planning Citigroup Stake Sale: Report -- The Treasury Department is planning to unload its 27% stake in Citigroup (C) through a preset trading plan that will follow a schedule for selling shares, Bloomberg reported, citing people with direct knowledge of the matter. The program, which may be announced next month, is similar to those used by executives to protect themselves against accusations of insider trading, the people told Bloomberg.
- Ambac May Seek Bankruptcy Protection -- Ambac Financial (ABK) said it may consider a negotiated restructuring of its debt through a prepackaged bankruptcy proceeding or may seek bankruptcy protection without agreement concerning a plan of reorganization with major creditor groups. This comes as the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of Wisconsin has established a segregated account for certain of Ambac Assurance Corporation's liabilities, primarily policies related to credit derivatives, residential mortgage-backed securities and other structured finance transactions, an immediate action to address AAC's financial position. Ambac did say it will have sufficient liquidity to satisfy its needs through the second quarter of 2011.
- Germany's Merkel Sets "Last Resort" Terms for Greece -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she supports loans from both the International Monetary Fund and euro-zone partners as a last resort if debt-laden Greece were to approach a default. Once default fears abate for Greece, Merkel said European governments must toughen up sanctions to stop future crises.
Thursday's Earnings Roundup
- Best Buy (BBY) notched a fourth-quarter profit of $1.82 a share, which was above the Thomson Reuters consensus estimate of $1.79 a share. Sales were up 12.4% to $16.55 billion, also better than forecasts. Looking ahead, Best Buy offered better-than-expected earnings guidance for 2011, saying it expects to earn $3.45 to $3.60 a share, compared with the consensus target of $3.37 a share.
- ConAgra (CAG) posted a third-quarter adjusted profit of 44 cents a share, matching the Thomson Reuters average estimate. Looking ahead, ConAgra reaffirmed its guidance for 2010, saying it expects earnings to approach $1.73 a share, which is slightly below the target estimate of $1.75 a share.