Stocks in the News: Google, Kraft, Baidu

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The following is a round-up of news likely to affect stock prices today:

Google Inc. (GOOG) late Tuesday explained on its Google Blog how in mid-December it detected cyber-attacks originating from China. The attacks were part of a larger assault on other companies. At Google, the attackers accessed the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists and the accounts of dozens of American and European-based supporters of human rights in China. The "Don't Be Evil" search engine giant may return to the roots of its motto, as it has said it will stop censoring its search results in China and is considering pulling out of the country. Shares declined 1.4% in premarket trading.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% Kraft Foods (KFT) said after Tuesday's market close that it is boosting its earnings outlook for 2009 to "at least $2.00" per share. Analysts expect earnings per share for the year to come in at $1.99, according to FactSet research. KFT shares traded 1.7% higher in premarket action.

Kraft is also attempting to take over Cadbury Plc (CBY), which had rejected Kraft's $16.9 billion bid as insufficient. Italy's Ferrero has decided not to bid for Cadbury, further strengthening the case of Kraft, but the Wall Street Journal believes Kraft will have to raise its bid for Cadbury. CBY shares were 1.3% higher ahead of the bell.

Four of Wall Street's most powerful leaders -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) Chairman-CEO Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) CEO James Dimon, Morgan Stanley (MS) Chairman John Mack and Bank of American Corp. (BAC) CEO-President Brian Moynihan -- will stand in front of a bipartisan, 10-member congressional panel to give sworn testimony as the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission holds its first session Wednesday, attempting to write the official narrative of what went wrong before the financial system nearly collapsed in the fall of 2008.

Bank of America Corp. CEO Moynihan named finance chief Joe Price to head consumer banking, the biggest unit at the largest U.S. lender, seeking to curb losses in a $70 billion credit-card portfolio. Moynihan made other moves in the top jobs, replacing Chief Risk Officer Greg Curl with global capital markets head Bruce Thompson, and retaining Sallie Krawcheck as president of the wealth management business, among others.

Societe Generale SA issued a profit warning Wednesday and said it would record about 1.4 billion euros ($2 billion) in fresh asset writedowns in the fourth quarter of 2009, leaving the French bank barely in the black for the period.

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) will soon disclose details of a joint investment and joint venture to "prepare customers for the next generation of business computing," the companies said Tuesday.

A unit of Ambac Financial Group Inc (ABK) sued Credit Suisse Securities and a mortgage affiliate for "pervasive and material misrepresentations" on mortgage-backed securities that Ambac insured in 2007. Shares gained about 2.5% before the bell.

H.B. Fuller Co. (FUL) returned to profit in the fourth quarter and beat estimates when it reported results late Tuesday. Shares jumped nearly 3% in premarket trading.

Select analyst calls:
  • Deutsche Bank upgraded Baidu.com (BIDU) from hold to buy. Baidu stands to gain if Google pulls out of China. Shares climbed about 16% in premarket trading.
  • Canaccord Adams upgraded BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RTP) from hold to buy. Shares of both traded about 2% higher in premarket action.
  • Deutsche Bank upgraded MetroPCS (PCS) to hold from sell. PCS shares rallied over 2% in preamarket trade.
  • Credit Suisse upgraded AstraZeneca (AZN) from underperform to neutral and Merck (MRK) from neutral to outperform and downgraded GlaxoSmithKilne (GSK) from outperform to underperform. AZN and MRK shares jumped over 1.5% ahead of the bell.
  • Deutsche Bank upgraded Wyndham Worldwide (WYN) from hold to buy. Shares are up over 3% before the bell.
  • Goldman Sachs issued bullish comments on oil service firms Tenaris SA (TS), Halliburton Co. (HAL), Schlumberger (SLB) and Helmerich & Payne (HP).
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