US FINANCIAL MARKET
- Linn Energy is buying the drilling company Berry Petroleum for stock worth about $2.5 billion (or valued at $4.3 billion including debt). The deal will broaden Linn’s presence in California, the Permian Basin, Texas and the Rockies and boost its production by 30 percent.
- Linn said that the acquisition is expected to add more than 40 cents per unit in the first full year after the buyout is complete. The company also said it plans to recommend that its board raise its quarterly dividend by 6 percent to 77 cents per unit from 72.5 cents per unit.
- Coca Cola said it’s raising its dividend.
- Halliburton is raising its quarterly dividend 39 percent and is starting stock buybacks.
- Wal-Mart reported an 8.6 percent increase in profit for the fourth quarter. But higher gasoline prices, late tax refunds and the payroll tax increase have it wary about the coming year.
- Kellogg’s has issued another cereal recall, this time involving three package sizes of Special K Red Berries due to the possible presence of glass fragments.
- McDonald’s is widening its franchise operations in Russia to drive expansion deeper into provincial areas.
- PG&E posted a fourth-quarter loss, weighed down in part by the costs of environmental issues.
- Chesapeake Energy posted a 40 percent decline in fourth-quarter net income with the glut of natural gas continuing to subdue prices, but the company easily beat Wall Street expectations and shares edged higher. Natural gas accounted for 77 percent of its production.
US ECONOMY & POLITICS
- The Philadelphia Fed index was much weaker than expected in February at -12.5 (vs. consensus +1.0).
- Existing home sales rose by 0.4% in January to the second-highest level in three years. The January rise was driven by modest growth in single family sales (+0.2%) and stronger growth in condos sales (+1.8%).
- The headline CPI was unchanged month-on-month in January. A decline in seasonally-adjusted energy prices of 1.7% offset a 0.3% increase in core prices, while food prices were flat.
- Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose by more than expected last week to 362k, reversing last week’s decline to a revised 342k.
- Continuing claims were roughly in line with expectations at 3,148k.
- The Federal Reserve signaled it may consider slowing the pace of asset purchases as officials extended a debate over whether record monetary easing risks unleashing inflation or fueling asset-price bubbles.
EUROPE & WORLD
- Britain saw its budget surplus widen in January as the Treasury received the first payment of gilt- coupon income from the Bank of England’s quantitative easing program.
- The euro declined below $1.32 for the first time in six weeks as an industry report showed services and manufacturing in the region shrank at a faster pace in February than economists forecast.
TODAY in HISTORY
- Michael Romanov was elected czar of Russia, beginning the Romanov imperial line (1613)
- The first telephone book was issued in New Haven, Conn. (1878)
- Black nationalist leader Malcolm X was assassinated (1965)
- President Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit China (1972)
- Steve Fossett became the first person to cross the Pacific Ocean solo in a balloon (1995)
- Eurozone finance ministers reached an agreement on a second, 130-billion bailout for Greece to help with the country’s debt crisis (2012)