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While the main topic of conversation overnight was the Apple implosion after earnings (which was mercifully spared inbound calls from repo desk margin clerks who had all gone home by the time the stock hit $460), there was some macro data to muddle up the picture, which, like everything else in this baffle with BS new normal came in "good/bad cop" pairs.
In early trading, all eyes were focused on Japan, whose trade and especially exports imploded when the country posted a record trade gap of 6.93 trillion yen ($78.27 billion) in 2012 and the seventh consecutive monthly drop in exports which showed that improved sentiment has yet to translate into hard economic data. Finance ministry data on Thursday showed that exports fell 5.8 percent in the year to December, more than economists' consensus forecast of a 4.2 percent drop. Trade with China was hit particularly hard following the ongoing island fiasco, which means that all the ongoing Yen destruction has largely been for nothing as organic growth markets simply shut off Japan. This ugly news was marginally offset by a tiny beat in the HSBC China manufacturing PMI which came slightly above consensus at 51.9 vs exp. 51.7, the highest print in 24 months, but as with everything else coming out of China one really shouldn't believe this or any other number in a country that will not allow even one corporate default to prevent the credit-driven illusion from popping.
Moving to Europe it too was a good/bad news story: shortly before 3 am the BIS FX team was summoned to defend the 1.33 support after French manufacturing PMI plummeted from 44.6 to 42.7, on expectations of a rise to 45.1 and the realization that the recession has fully engulfed Europe's core. However, this disturbing print was promptly offset by German PMI which in turn rose from 46.0 to 48.8, on expectations of a 46.8 print. Whether this modest bounce will be enough to push Germany out of what is now the first leg of a recession remains to be seen.
Judging by the fact that leading German bank announced plans to fire 4,000-6,000 earlier, we doubt there is much hope for a quick rebound in Germany.
Elsewhere, Spain reported its last depressionary data point, which was the Q4 unemployment, and which as expected rose to above the expected 26%, or a record 26.02% to be precise in the last quarter, and well above the 25.02% in Q3. Finally, completing the sad European picture were Italian November retail sales which too were worse than expected at -0.4%, on expectations of a -0.1% print, and the prior was revised further down from -1% to -1.3%.
Finally, in bad news for socialists everywhere, France has fully abandoned plans for its 75% tax rate, Europe1 reported.
More on the overnight events from DB's Jim Reid:
China's PMI and Apple's results are the two competing stories overnight with the latter weighing on sentiment in the Asian session. Indeed besides Japan (+1.2%), major bourses in Hong Kong, China and South Korea are down -0.1%, -0.3% and -0.9% respectively. Before we take a closer look at Apple’s disappointing results, the HSBC manufacturing PMI in China came in slightly above consensus (51.9 v 51.7) this morning. This was the highest print in 24 months with the series having gradually recovered from the lows of 47.6 in August of last year. Away from China, other Asian data flow overnight has generally been on the soft side. Korea’s Q4 GDP (+1.5% yoy v +1.8% yoy expected) fell short of market consensus while Japan posted a wider-thanexpected trade deficit (JPY641.5B v JPY-522.8B) in December. For Korea this is the slowest quarterly yoy growth since September 2009 and the Japanese trade deficit in 2012 is the widest on record on an annual basis.
Turning to Apple, the company managed to beat EPS consensus ($13.81 v $13.53) but revenue fell short of market expectations ($54.5bn v $54.9bn). More importantly forward looking revenue and gross margin guidance also came in light relative to street estimates. In terms of product performance in the latest quarter, our US colleagues noted that iPhone sales were largely in line but iPad sales were lighter than expected and Macs sales sharply disappointed. Apple’s shares plunged around 10% in after hours trading and have now lost a third of their value from the peak in September last year. Apple’s after market move is also dampening the performance of the S&P 500 Futures (-0.4%) and NASDAQ 100 Futures (-1.5%) overnight. It will be interesting to see how US markets trade throughout today after what proved to be a positive finish to yesterday’s trading session.
Indeed the S&P 500 edged higher (+0.15%) for its 6th consecutive session yesterday as sentiment was boosted by news that the US House of Representative has voted (285 v 144) to suspend the debt ceiling for three months. The earnings scorecard before the closing bell was also generally positive with 65% and 81% of companies that reported yesterday coming ahead of analysts’ EPS and revenue expectations, respectively. IBM’s better results helped drive the Dow (+0.49%) up to just less than 1% away from its all time highs. For the record the S&P 500 is also just 5pts away from the symbolic 1,500 mark.
On the fixed income side, its quite interesting to note that the Dell-driven LBO theme is pushing the skew on the CDX IG index to negative territory. The index edged a tad tighter yesterday and now trades about 5bps ‘rich’ to intrinsic value as some single names are seeing demand for protection on LBO concerns. Overall January continues to be a good month for risk, continuing the theme from the back end of 2012. However the growth outlook isn’t necessarily much better than where we were 3 months ago. The IMF published its updated global growth forecasts yesterday and now expects global GDP to grow by 3.5% this year. This is a touch lower than the 3.6% forecast they had in October last year. This is still ok but we'll need some upward momentum in the data to reach this level still.
In terms of the day ahead, flash PMIs from France, Germany and the Eurozone will be the key European data print today. As we said in our outlook, these readings need to get into the low 50s to justify current levels of markets rather than just above the mid-40s they generally are in Europe at the moment.
They have a few months grace to get there without upsetting the party but these prints
along the way will be informative. Elsewhere Merkel and Cameron will both speak at day-2
of the Davos conference today. On the other side of the pond we also get the preliminary
Markit PMI in the US as well as the usual weekly jobless claims. 3M and Microsoft are
some of the bigger names reporting today.
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“If you are a law-abiding citizen of this country, going about your business and your personal life, you have nothing to fear.” British Foreign Secretary William Hague, responding to the revelations of mass surveillance in the
and the US (BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show on 9 June). UK
“We are dependent on being able to act and not being entirely at the mercy of the terrorists. And today, it’s on the Internet that communication takes place.” (6)
“You don’t have to follow conspiracy theories in order to suspect that data collected for fighting terrorism will also be used in other areas.” (6)
Whitehall that really runs the country with a close-knit Mafia-like clique… made up of a handful of powerful, but low-key, City brokers and financiers; the top brains at the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Ministry of Defence and the Trade Department. Key figures in the security forces… and…at least one key member of the prime minister’s secretariat… the police and judiciary… through the Home Office… can certainly be manipulated. The Super-Establishment’s power is based upon its ability to manipulate the level below it – the individuals that most people believe are governing our country. The elected government is almost irrelevant… The world in which the Super-Establishment exists is a grey and murky world in which sensitive matters of state are planned and executed in gentlemen’s clubs. It is where manipulation plots are hatched, whether it is manipulation of a certain minister towards a certain viewpoint, or the wholesale orchestration of a Foreign Office ploy to bring down a foreign government… It is almost the divine "mission of the secret services to protect the status quo, and hitherto it has been their full intention to thwart anyone who tried to disrupt it. The actual existence of the Super-Establishment is not a flight of fancy. It is entirely manipulative and exercises a great deal of power behind the scenes. (9)
But don’t worry about any of this. There is no need. If that nice Mr Hague says we’ve nothing to fear, he must be right.
Published time: March 08, 2013 12:47
New Google Glass app InSight takes the experience of spotting your friends to the next level, as it recognizes your peers by their clothes and accessories – matching specific color patterns and textures to the user.
This new human recognition software makes it impossible to lose your friends in a packed place, such as an airport, concert hall or shopping center.
The app creates a ‘fashion fingerprint’ for every friend based on the outfit they are wearing including clothes, jewelry, glasses, etc.
‘Fashion fingerprint’ is generated by snapping pictures of the user and creating a file of that image called a ‘spatiogram’, which calculates patterns and spatial distribution of colors on the user and analyzes the information to identify that particular person later on in the distance or from a different angle.
The new system is being partly funded by Google and was presented at the HotMobile technology conference last week, while currently still being developed by the Duke University in North Carolina.
So far the app has been tested by 15 volunteers and managed to identify people correctly 93 per cent of the time.
The software does not use facial recognition systems to locate individuals since it is unlikely that the users will be looking straight into the Google Glass’ camera, InSight developer Srihari Nelakuditi told New Scientist.
He also noted that the ‘fashion fingerprint’ lasts only as long as the user does not change clothes. Afterwards, a new snapshot must be made and a new ‘fingerprint’ created. Thus, for privacy protection, all the user has to do is change outfits, argues Nelakuditi.
Google Glass is a new wearable computer with a head-mounted display. It displays information in a smartphone-like format hands-free and can interact with the internet via natural language voice commands.
The new product does raise new privacy issues, especially considering that users will be able to video record everything through Google Glass without being noticed by others.
Australian Senator Cory Bernardi believes that Google Glass will be “the end of privacy as we know it” because the device can be used for massive surveillance, The Register quoted him as saying.
“A single Google Glass wearer in your favorite restaurant could capture your image and your conversation without you ever knowing,” argues Bernardi. “The footage would be stored on the Google servers, your voice could be translated into text and with the use of facial recognition, could be actually matched to your Google profile.”
Google also has been facing a row of privacy battles in EU and US for its current products.
Just last month European data protection agencies said they intend to crack down on the US internet giant Google before summer after it allegedly failed to follow their orders to comply with EU privacy laws.
Since January, Google has also been embroiled in its biggest privacy battle yet in the UK over reportedly tracking users’ online habits. At least 10 UK citizens began legal action with dozens more lining up. According to media estimates up to 10 million Britons could join in.
Google is accused of evading security settings on Apple’s devices and Safari’s web browser in order to keep tabs on people’s online preferences.
Europe intends to take coercive action against the US-based internet giant Google over its failure to follow orders to comply with the European Union privacy laws.
France's CNIL data protection agency said on Monday that European data organizations have planned to set up a working group to “coordinate their coercive actions which should be implemented before the summer.”
CNIL further added that European data agencies are set to hold talks next week to approve the action plan. The France-based organization will lead the effort.
“At the end of a four-month delay accorded to Google to comply with the European data protection directive and to implement effectively (our) recommendations, no answer has been given,” said CNIL.
The Internet giant contends the move simplifies and unifies its policies through its various services such as Gmail, YouTube, Android mobile systems, social networks and Internet search.
However, critics argue that the policy gives Google, which is the operator of the world's largest search engine, unprecedented ability to monitor its users.
Google Inc. is an American multinational corporation that hosts many internet-related services including, Internet search, cloud computing and advertising technologies.
Most of the company's profits are generated by the advertising revenue coming from its on-line advertising system known as AdWords.
(AFP Photo / Daniel Mihailescu)
European data protection agencies intend to crack down on the US Internet giant Google before summer after it allegedly failed to follow their orders to comply with EU privacy laws, France’s data watchdog said.
"At the end of a four-month delay accorded to Google to comply with the European data protection directive and to implement effectively (our) recommendations, no answer has been given," France's Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) data protection agency said in a statement on Monday.
CNIL, which led the probe on behalf of EU data-protection authorities, vowed EU regulators “are determined to act and continue their investigations” and their “repressive action.” CNIL did not elaborate on what those measures would entail.
European data protection agencies plan to set up a working group to "coordinate their coercive actions which should be implemented before the summer," and they will meet next week to approve the action plan, CNIL continued.
In October the data protection agencies warned Google that its new confidentiality policy was not in line with EU laws, giving the Internet giant four months to make changes or face legal action, including possible fines.
Google maintained in a statement released Monday that its confidentiality policy was not in breach of EU law.
The California-based firm argues the creation of a uniform set of policies for more than 60 of its products last year would improve the user experience and give them a more integrated view of its users – bringing them in line with Apple and Facebook.
EU competition authorities are separately investigating whether Google has used its search engine to promote its own services and hinder competitors like Microsoft by manipulating search rankings.
Google has offered to change some of its business practices in response to that probe in order to avoid billions of dollars in potential fines.
Reuters / Jessica Rinaldi
The US government is reportedly considering requesting details from banks of foreigners holding accounts in America. The news follows US demands for details of foreign nationals’ accounts abroad.
Labeled ‘part of a crackdown on tax evasion’, the US will potentially have access to the details of millions of foreign customers who hold accounts with America-based branches, according to Reuters. The move is expected to face strong resistance from the banking industry.
Wealthy foreigners and financial institutions that bank in the US could have their account details given to the US government. The Obama administration is expected to make the request of Congress in a forthcoming Whitehouse budget proposal.
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) already requires overseas financial companies to identify their American customers to the Internal Revenue Service.
In January this year, Switzerland’s oldest bank, Wegelin & Co., was forced to close after the US imposed a $22 million fine on the institution, alongside restitution of $20 million to the IRS, and a $15.8 million fee. The bank was accused of allowing American nationals to hide their earnings after US judge gave the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permission to obtain data on the bank from Swiss financial institution UBS. On January 5th, a Manhattan federal court ruled the information on Wegelin & Co’s former clients could be demanded by the US.
It’s highly possible that the new proposal will be part of a move to aid negotiations with foreign financial agencies. Reuters published part of a letter written last October by Mark Mazur, Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, saying that the government aimed “to pursue equivalent levels of reciprocal automatic exchange in the future.” America is requesting data from foreign sources even now, and some are resisting its pressure. If successful, it is likely further fines will be imposed.
Bilateral agreements mean that four countries have already started sharing information on the finances of their US residents – the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland and Mexico. The US is negotiating with another 50 countries.
Many have been unable to meet the US’s requirements as they would come into direct conflict with local privacy laws.
Some countries, including France, Germany and China have been delaying the sharing of information, as they consider it one-sided and unreasonable that they are expected to share details of the US accounts of French, German and Chinese nationals abroad. However, the US has already progressed in their negotiations with the three.
Reuters said that although China appears reluctant to comply, the country is in ‘behind the scenes’ discussions.
FATCA requires financial institutions (non-US banks and investment funds) to inform the IRS about accounts held by those from the US with balances of more than $50,000. They face economic restrictions should they fail to provide data. FATCA was set into motion in 2010, and will come into play towards the end of 2013.
The IRS held an ‘offshore amnesty’ in October 2011, which offered the opportunity for people with money in offshore bank accounts to come forward, before the IRS found them through data sharing.
Switzerland is following the UK and signed a FATCA deal with the US in December 2012, which is due to come into play in January 2014. Switzerland attracts many rich foreigners and has already been subject to US action.
“The United States is committed to a policy of transparency and equivalence, where appropriate, in furtherance of international cooperation to combat offshore tax evasion,” said a Treasury spokesman.
Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) stated in 2012 that the model for the agreement raised numerous privacy and data protection concerns. FDPIC’s 19th annual report called the agreement effectively an ‘automatic exchange of information,’ adding “We are very critical of this law that has been imposed unilaterally by the United States.”
On January 18th, the European commission also warned the Swiss over its tax practices, saying that if the country did not agree to an automatic exchange of information, it would be ‘blacklisted’, and sanctions could be imposed.
- 'London Whale' Sounded an Alarm on Risky Bets (WSJ)
- Deadly Blast Strikes U.S. Embassy in Turkey (WSJ)
- Abe Shortens List for BOJ Chief as Japan Faces Monetary Overhaul (BBG)
- Endowment Returns Fail to Keep Pace with College Spending (BBG) - More student loans
- Mexico rescue workers search for survivors after Pemex blast kills 25 (Reuters)
- Lingering Bad Debts Stifle Europe Recovery (WSJ)
- Peregrine Founder Hit With 50 Years (WSJ) - there is hope Corzine will get pardoned yet
- Deutsche Bank to Limit Immediate Bonuses to 300,000 Euros
- France's Hollande to visit Mali Saturday (Reuters)
- France, Africa face tough Sahara phase of Mali war (Reuters)
- Barclays CEO refuses bonus (Barclays)
- Edward Koch, Brash New York Mayor During 1980s Boom, Dies at 88 (BBG)
- Samsung Doubles Tablet PC Market Share Amid Apple’s Lead (BBG)
- Hagel Endures Republican Criticism as Levin Sees Approval (BBG)
- U.S. sues to stop beer deal to unite Bud and Corona (Reuters)
Overnight Media Digest
* The JP Morgan Chase & Co trader known as the "London whale" tried to alert others at the bank to mounting risks months before his bets ballooned into more than $6 billion in losses, according to people familiar with emails reviewed by J.P. Morgan and a U.S. Senate panel.
* The U.S. government filed suit to block Anheuser-Busch InBev's $20.1 billion deal to buy the rest of Grupo Modelo, saying it would reduce competition.
* Chinese hackers believed to have government links have been conducting wide-ranging electronic surveillance of media companies including The Wall Street Journal, apparently to spy on reporters covering China and other issues, people familiar with incidents said.
* President Barack Obama let his jobs council disband Thursday as its two-year charter expired, sparking criticism among Republicans and conservative economists that the group had provided more show than substantive policy.
* Morgan Stanley said it would increase the salaries of Chairman and Chief Executive James Gorman and other top executives to make their pay more competitive.
* AirAsia Bhd's chief executive hopes to list the group's Indonesia arm on the Jakarta stock exchange in the third quarter as the budget carrier seeks to expand its foothold in Southeast Asia's largest air travel market.
* Roomy Khan, one of the first cooperating witnesses who helped build the U.S. government's case against convicted hedge-fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, was sentenced to one year in prison Thursday.
* Animal-medicine maker Zoetis Inc, which is being carved into a standalone company by drug maker Pfizer Inc, raised about $2.2 billion in an initial public offering, a strong showing for the largest IPO deal from a U.S. company since Facebook Inc debuted last May.
* Best Buy Co is closing 15 of its 75 big-box stores in Canada as its new chief executive tries to stem slumping sales and profits at the consumer electronics chain.
BARCLAYS IN QATAR LOAN PROBE - UK authorities are looking into an allegation that Barclays lent Qatar money to invest in the bank during the height of the 2008 financial crisis, allowing it to avoid a government bailout, according to unnamed sources cited by the newspaper.
SEYMOUR PIERCE'S FUTURE UP IN THE AIR - The board of Seymour Pierce held talks on Thursday night over the future of the stockbroker, with an unnamed source saying this has come about due to the FSA previously blocking funding from Ukrainian backers.
AB INBEV'S 20 BILLION DOLLAR DEAL THREATENED BY US SUIT - The United States moved to block Anheuser-Busch InBev in its 20 billion dollar acquisition of Grupo Modelo , the Mexican brewer, saying it would lead to an increase in prices and deter competition.
BERTELSMANN SEEKS BUYER FOR TWO BILLION EURO RTL STAKE - German media group Bertelsmann said it intends to sell a stake in broadcasting subsidiary RTL, aiming to raise up to 2 billion euros
LAWSON URGES FULL NATIONALISATION OF RBS - Former Conservative finance minister, Nigel Lawson said the UK government should nationalise RBS and there was a case for no bonuses to paid this year.
DEUTSCHE BANK RISES ON CAPITAL STRENGTH - The bank offered good news to investors reporting a capital base above expectations, bolstering its share price.
CHINA'S WORKERS ENDURE UNHAPPY NEW YEAR - An austerity drive by the new Chinese leadership of Xi Jinping has led government departments and state-owned enterprises to cut back or cancel new year festivities.
US BANKS SQUEEZED AS MORTGAGE PROFITS HIT - Bonanza profits at US banks from mortgages are being squeezed, raising doubts about earnings at lenders such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and others.
WASENDORF GETS 50 YEARS JAIL FOR FRAUD - A federal court in the United States sentenced the ex head of collapsed future broker Peregrine Financial Group, Russell Wasendorf Sr., to 50 years in prison.
* The Justice Department has sued to block Anheuser-Busch InBev's proposed $20.1 billion deal to buy control of Grupo Modelo, the first major roadblock in a decade of consolidation by brewers around the world.
* A bankruptcy court judge approved a broad settlement deal on Thursday that paves the way for MF Global customers to recover much of the $1.6 billion that disappeared when the brokerage firm blew up in 2011.
* European antitrust officials on Thursday accused drug giants Johnson & Johnson and Novartis of colluding to delay the availability of a less expensive generic version of a powerful medication often used to ease severe pain in cancer patients.
* James Gorman, chief executive of Morgan Stanley, will receive a huge raise in his base salary this year, but his overall pay package for 2012 was down from 2011, according to a regulatory filing.
* Pfizer Inc's animal health unit, known as Zoetis, raised $2.2 billion in its initial public offering on Thursday, exceeding expectations by pricing its stock at $26 a share, above the expected range of $22 to $25 a share. The sale values the company at about $13 billion.
* Roomy Khan, a central figure in the investigation that led to the conviction of hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, was sentenced to one year in prison on Thursday for illegally passing inside information and obstructing justice.
* Fabrice Tourre, the Goldman Sachs trader accused of misleading clients over a controversial mortgage deal, is no longer working at the firm.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
* Canada will begin a two-year stint at the helm of the eight-nation Arctic Council amid a clamor of competing calls for leadership, as the ice recedes and the race heats up to extract resource riches while protecting a fragile and now-exposed environment.
* Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is publicly at odds with a key member of his team again, this time in a he-said, she-said spat with the Toronto Transit Commission chair.
The verbal tussle over the approval last week by the transit commission of a 15-year sole-source contract is the latest example of Ford's difficulty seeing eye to eye with even fiscal conservatives on council.
Reports in the business section:
* The Canadian economy expanded at its fastest pace in more than half a year, but the bigger picture is still one of slow growth. The country's gross domestic product rose 0.3 percent in November, Statistics Canada said Thursday, its strongest showing in seven months as auto makers and oil firms ramped up activity.
* Prime Minister Stephen Harper says while some of his Conservative Members of Parliament may not agree, abortion is legal in Canada. Harper made the comments while under questioning in the House of Commons over a letter written by three Tory MPs who want the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate hundreds of abortions as possible homicides.
* Two of Canada's biggest retailers, Best Buy Canada and Sears Canada Inc, announced layoffs Thursday in what is shaping up to be a turbulent and competitive year for the country's retail sector.
-- Premier Wen Jiabao pledged that China would continue its opening up policy during a meeting with foreign experts on Monday.
SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS
-- The People's Bank of China (PBOC) drained a net 300 billion yuan ($48 billion) via reverse bond repurchase agreements in its open market operations in January as the country's interbank market was flooded with cash.
-- The recent serious pollution in Beijing has given rise to suspicion of the quality of China's fuel and gasoline.
CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL
-- Sources say Chinese authorities have suspended a plan to expand an experimental property tax now levied in a few cities including Shanghai and Chongqing.
-- A monthly index issued by China's national fund for protecting stock investors shows that in January, investor confidence in the domestic equity market reached its highest since April 2011 as the main Shanghai Composite Index began a sharp rebound since early December.
CHINA BUSINESS NEWS
-- High costs and bureaucracy have made 78 percent of Chinese firms feel it is difficult to operate in the European Union, according to a survey by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.
CHINA DAILY (www.chinadaily.com.cn)
-- In a move aimed at strengthening personal data protection, companies will be instructed to delete customer information after use, according to new guidelines implemented on Friday.
Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot
AB InBev (BUD) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Bernstein
Arthur J. Gallagher (AJG) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at William Blair
Audience (ADNC) upgraded to Hold from Sell at Deutsche Bank
Chubb (CB) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank (DB) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Ericsson (ERIC) upgraded to Neutral from Underperform at Credit Suisse
GameStop (GME) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray
Greenway Medical (GWAY) upgraded to Strong Buy from Market Perform at Raymond James
Neutral Tandem (IQNT) upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at Raymond James
Oracle (ORCL) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
PACCAR (PCAR) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Verizon (VZ) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray
W. R. Berkley (WRB) upgraded to Hold from Sell at Deutsche Bank
WMS Industries (WMS) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Goldman
Wynn Resorts (WYNN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Janney Capital
AB InBev (BUD) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Societe Generale
ARMOUR Residential (ARR) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Alkermes (ALKS) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Amerseco (AMRC) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
Bob Evans (BOBE) downgraded to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc
Brightcove (BCOV) downgraded to Outperform from Top Pick at RBC Capital
Colfax (CFX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc
Constellation Brands (STZ) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Constellation Brands (STZ) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Copart (CPRT) downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T
Edison International (EIX) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at SunTrust
HSBC (HBC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Harris Teeter (HTSI) downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T
Harris Teeter (HTSI) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
HealthSouth (HLS) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Hologic (HOLX) downgraded to Reduce from Neutral at SunTrust
Life Time Fitness (LTM) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at William Blair
MasterCard (MA) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Quiksilver (ZQK) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Time Warner Cable (TWC) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Time Warner Cable (TWC) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
UPS (UPS) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Viacom (VIAB) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Whirlpool (WHR) downgraded to Outperform from Strong Buy at Raymond James
Blue Nile (NILE) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo
Edwards Lifesciences (EW) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
Helmerich & Payne (HP) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
NCI Building Systems (NCS) initiated with a Buy at BB&T
Nabors Industries (NBR) initiated with an Underperform at Credit Suisse
National Oilwell (NOV) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Oceaneering (OII) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Oil States (OIS) initiated with an Outperform at Credit Suisse
Patterson-UTI Energy (PTEN) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Precision Drilling (PDS) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Shutterfly (SFLY) initiated with a Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Sunshine Heart (SSH) initiated with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Zoetis (ZTS) initiated with a Buy at ISI Group
Sprint (S): DISH (DISH) proposal for Clearwire (CLWR) is “illusory”
Moody's said DOJ suit is credit negative for AB InBev (BUD) but doesn’t change rating
Barrick (ABX) considering sale of Barrick Energy unit, other assets, Bloomberg reports
Chubb (CB) announced new $1.3B share repurchase plan
Sees FY13 net written premiums up 2% to 4%
Goodyear Tire (GT) to exit farm tire business in Europe, Middle East and Africa region
OCZ Technology (OCZ) sees 20%-30% company growth year-over-year
Brink's (BCO) to divest cash-in-transit operations in Germany
Said will be “very difficult” to match 2012 earnings
Viad (VVI) sees FY13 revenue decreasing “at a low to mid single-digit rate”
Newell Rubbermaid (NWL) sees FY13 net sales up 1% to 3%
Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Viad (VVI), Chubb (CB), C.R. Bard (BCR), Fortune Brands (FBHS), Bally Technologies (BYI), Affymetrix (AFFX), Principal Financial (PFG)
Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Brink's (BCO), Consolidated Edison (ED), McKesson (MCK), Wynn Resorts (WYNN), bebe stores (BEBE)
Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Eastman Chemical (EMN), Reinsurance Group (RGA), PerkinElmer (PKI)
The JPMorgan Chase (JPM) trader known as the "London whale"--Bruno Iksil--tried to alert others at the bank to mounting risks months before his bets ballooned into more than $6B in losses, sources say, the Wall Street Journal reports
Asian manufacturing data today suggested the region's economic recovery is continuing. HSBC's China PMI reached a two-year high of 52.3 from December's 51.5, while the official PFLP number fell to 50.4 from December's 50.6, the Wall Street Journal reports
Dell (DELL) is close to an agreement to sell itself to a buyout consortium led by its founder and CEO Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, with a deal coming as soon as Monday, sources say, Reuters reports
Airbus (EADSY) studied alternatives to lithium-ion batteries for its next jet, the A350, and has time to adapt to any rule changes prompted by the problems that have grounded Boeing’s (BA) 787 Dreamliner, says CEO Fabrice Bregier, Reuters reports
Anheuser-Bush InBev (BUD) may have to give up more control of U.S. beer distribution or sell a brewery to settle an antitrust lawsuit by the U.S. to block its $20.1B takeover of the rest of Grupo Modelo SAB (GPMCF), Bloomberg reports
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Introducing its new search engine, Facebook assured users that the system is strongly privacy aware. However, prank searches made by one of the beta testers have revealed that the system may expose just a bit more people would want.
The new ‘Graph Search’ system was presented by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his team last week. The engine was designed to search Facebook for specific information, be it a Mexican restaurant your Facebook friends like the most or single people from India in your neighborhood.
The current Graph Search is a beta version still to be tested; it is limited to searches of people, their likes, places, interests and photos. Posts and status messages so far are out of reach, but soon may become searchable as well, Forbes reported.
During the presentation Zuckerberg and his crew devoted a special part to the issue of Facebook privacy. They assured the audience that the engine is only going to process data that has been allowed to be processed by the users themselves.
To demonstrate the system at work the team conducted a number of sample searches including ‘Friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter’, ‘Languages my friends speak’, ‘Music liked by people who like Mitt Romney’ and ‘Music liked by people who like Obama’.
However, one of the people invited to test the beta version of the engine soon found out that Graph Search can find way more than Star Wars fans and music preferences of Obama supporters.
In his blogpost published on Wednesday, computer programmer and ‘Gadget Geek’ Tom Scott revealed some peculiar searches he conducted using Graph Search. The results turned out to be quite controversial, if not scandalous.
Scott found out that the new search engine will readily find ‘Married people, who like prostitutes’ and ‘Spouses of married people who like Ashley Madison’, a dating website for people who are already in a relationship.
Furthermore, he was able to find ‘Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran, Iran’, where homosexual relations are prohibited by law and ‘Places where they’ve worked’.
Something corporate America would not like – a search exposing ‘Current employers of people who like Racism’.
These are just some of the searches Scott was able to do using the new Graph Search. When posting the results, he blurred the names and the pictures of those he found.
Commenting on his research, Scott said that although the search does not directly violate Facebook privacy settings, users just need to be aware of the new search engine capabilities and might want to reconsider the information they put on the web.
“If it’d be awkward if it was put on a screen in Times Square, don’t put it on Facebook. Oh, and check your privacy settings again,” he said.
Facebook has repeatedly been accused of violating the privacy of its users. In early January, the EU pressured the world`s most popular social network to provide more data protection. In September, Facebook was forced to stop using its facial recognition software in Europe following an investigation by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland.
Envy and dissatisfaction on Facebook
A recent study conducted by German scientists revealed that envy and dissatisfaction are among most popular feelings Facebook users experience while browsing through their friends’ ‘timelines’.
The survey of some 600 Facebook users showed that one third of them have negative feelings as using the social network mostly because they are envying their ‘Facebook friends’, whose life seems more interesting and wholesome than their own.
“Although respondents were reluctant to admit feeling envious while on Facebook, they often presumed that envy can be the cause behind the frustration of ‘others’ on this platform – a clear indication that envy is a salient phenomenon in the Facebook context,” said project manager Dr. Hanna Krasnova from Humboldt-Universität.
She explained that access to positive news and the profiles of seemingly successful friends bolsters social comparison, which can easily provoke envy.
The survey found that about one-fifth of all recent online and offline events provoking envy among respondents were posted on Facebook. According to the researchers, respondents’ envy often led to “embellishing their Facebook profiles” creating what they called “envy spiral.”
It was also established that the envy provoked by looking through Facebook lead many to “greater life dissatisfaction”.
“Considering the fact that Facebook use is a worldwide phenomenon and envy is a universal feeling, a lot of people are subject to these painful consequences,” Co-author Helena Wenninger of TU-Darmstadt University said.
Google received a record number of requests to disclose user information to governments and law enforcement bodies in 2012. Requests have rocketed by 25 per cent in the last year, with the US leading the field by far in calls for data disclosure.
The search giant published its findings in its annual transparency report, detailing the number of requests for user information by country. Since Google began documenting figures in 2009, there has been an increase of over 70 per cent in disclosure requests. The company says it has complied with 66 per cent of recent cases.
National governments and law enforcement agencies made 42,327 requests for personal data in 2012, a drastic increase from the 34,001 requests in 2011.
The US comprised the most submissions for private information, with over 8,438 requests in the latter half of 2012, a large portion of which were made through subpoenas. Google granted 88 per cent of these requests, the lowest since the search giant began reporting the figures.
None of the other countries in the report even came close the US total, but India came in second, reporting a total of 2,431 in the latter half of 2012, followed by 1,693 from France.
The UK also saw a significant number of requests, 70 per cent of which were granted by the company in 2012.
Google said that it could not specify as to the details of the case, but they did say “the statistics primarily cover requests in criminal matters.”
“In some instances the same Gmail account may be specified in several different requests for user data,” wrote Google in the report. Google also noted the statistics where not a hundred percent accurate because the company can comply with a request sometime after it was lodged.
Private data, not a ‘treasure trove’
UK-based rights group Privacy International said that the report showed that “Google, Facebook and Twitter are highly vulnerable to government intrusion.”
"The alarming statistics in this latest Transparency Report serve as a reminder of the need for stronger national and regional privacy protections in relation to online communications,” said Carla Nyst, head of International Advocacy in a statement.
She went to say that the personal information held by Google “paints a detailed picture of who we are – from our political and religious views to our friendships, associations and locations.”
With this in mind, the government needs to stop treating Google and other similar companies as “treasure troves,” often bypassing judicial authority, concluded Nyst.
EU double standard?
In spite of the growing quantity of data requests from governments, the EU is moving to put in place more controls on the information Facebook and Google can share without users’ consent.
Last week a German MEP proposed modifications to the 1995 Data Protection Act that would restrict the personal data that Google and Facebook can sell without a user’s consent.
"Users must be informed about what happens with their data," said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green Party MEP. "And they must be able to consciously agree to data processing or reject it."
Google and Facebook have protested such modifications to EU legislation, claiming they will impede innovation and damage business in the region.
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