Stocks in the News: JPMorgan, Intel, Bare Escentuals, CF Industries

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

J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) reported Friday that in the fourth quarter it earned $3.3 billion, or 74 cents a share, more than the 66 cents a share analysts had expected and a significant improvement over last year's quarter results of $702 million, or 6 cents a share. But its credit costs remained high and it set aside nearly $2 billion to cover consumer loan losses as unemployment remains high. Revenue in the fourth quarter was $23.16 billion, versus $17.23 billion a year ago and the $27 billion analysts estimated. The banking giant also didn't change its dividend payout, which remained at 5 cent a share in the quarter. Shares fell nearly 2% in reaction to the earnings report, but have steadies since and 8:58 a.m. were down 0.87%.Intel (INTC), the world's largest chip-maker, handily beat Wall Street earnings expectations Thursday, reporting a blockbuster fourth quarter and forecasting a strong first quarter of 2010. The company's fourth-quarter profit jumped to $2.3 billion, or 40 cents per share, from $234 million in the fourth quarter of last year, helped by demand for notebooks. Analysts had expected earnings of 30 cents per share. Shares jumped over 2% in after-hours trading, but this morning shares are trading lower.

Shiseido Co. (SSDOY) is buying San Francisco-based Bare Escentuals Inc. (BARE) in a $1.7 billion deal that brings together one of the world's oldest cosmetics companies with a hip, rising star. Shiseido will offer to buy all outstanding stock of Bare Escentuals for $18.20 a share, which represents a 43% premium over its closing price on Thursday. BARE shares soared over 42% in premarket trade.

Goldman Sachs (GS), Bank of America (BAC), Morgan Stanley (MS), Wells Fargo (WFC) shares were all lower following JPMorgan's results.

Verizon Communication (VZ) introduced lower wireless pricing plans Friday. No doubt, rivals such as AT&T Inc. (T) might be forced to follow suit, and the new pricing could pressure carriers' margins.

CF Industries (CF) withdrew its year-long hostile bid to buy rival fertilizer maker Terra Industries (TRA), which itself is the target of a bid from Agrium (AGU). Agrium said it will nominate two independent directors to CF's board and asked it to drop a poison pill. CF shares surge 6.8%, while TRA shares declined 3.8% ahead of the bell.

A Wall Street Journal analysis found that major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their people about $145 billion for 2009, a record sum that is 18% higher than 2008 and which indicates how compensation is climbing despite fury over Wall Street's pay culture. Meanwhile, Citigroup (C) plans to cap cash bonuses for bankers at below $100,000, the Financial Times reported Friday.

Chevron (CVX) -- The Environmental Protection Agency has served search warrants on Chevron properties in Alaska and is searching the facilities as it investigates air emission compliance.

Interactive Data (IDC) said it's examining strategic alternatives. IDC is mostly held by publishing group Pearson (PSO). IDC jumped 4.5% before the bell. PSO shares were 1.7% higher.

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) plans to unveil its new mobile-phone operating system next month, a bid to reverse market share losses to Google Inc. (GOOG) and Apple Inc. (AAPL), Bloomberg reported. Meanwhile, BusinessWeek's Peter Burrows questions whether Apple is ready for merger mania.

Select analyst calls:
  • Novo Nordisk (NVO) was cut to hold from buy at Jefferies, which cited concern ahead of a U.S. decision on Victoza. Shares fell nearly 3% in premarket trading.
  • Citigroup downgradedRio Tinto (RTP) to hold from buy, citing valuation following the recent rise in the share price.
  • Nomura downgradedUnilever (UL) to reduce from buy.
  • SAP (SAP) was cut to equal-weight from overweight by Morgan Stanley. Shares declined about 1.2% before the bell.
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