Stocks in the News: Banks, Dell, J.C. Penney

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

After the Federal Reserved announced an increase in the discount rate that it charges banks for emergency loans, expect shares of most major banks to react. Shares of Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C), Wells Fargo (WFC) and Goldman Sachs (GS) were generally down over 1% ahead of the bell.Dell (DELL) reported a 5% decrease in quarterly earnings late Thursday, even as sales grew 11%, slightly topping Wall Street expectations. Dell benefited from a healthy holiday shopping season and said it sees signs of a robust return of business spending. But investors were concerned about margins and sent Dell shares down over 5.5% in premarket trading.

J.C. Penney (JCP) reported its fourth-quarter profit fell 5.2% to $200 million, or 84 cents a share. Adjusted earnings were $1.02 per share, much higher than estimates of 82 cents per share. The company cited improved margins from cost-cutting and leaner inventories, that offset soft mall traffic and disappointing holiday sales. Sales during the quarter fell 3.6% to $5.55 billion. Shares jumped some 5.5% ahead of the bell.

Quarterly results are still due from PG&E Corp (PCG).

Huntsman (HUN) said on Friday its fourth-quarter profit fell sharply to $66 million, or 26 cents per share, but that was due to a settlement gain last year. Huntsman is seeing improving demand globally. Excluding one-time items, the company earned 27 cents per share, handily beating estimates of of 12 cents per share. Revenue rose 2% to $2.096 billion, also topping estimates. Shares traded 2.7% higher in premaket action.

Anglo American (AAUKY) on Friday reported that full-year profits fell 54% to $2.43 billion as the global economic downturn hit sales of coal, iron ore and other metals and revenue fell by 25% to $24.6 billion. The company said it expected to resume paying dividends this year. Shares dropped over 4% before the bell.

Toyota's (TM) president Akio Toyoda agreed to testify before a congressional hearing next week regarding the company's massive recalls. Toyoda will appeal to lawmakers and customers for understanding while the company fixes its safety problems.

Schlumberger (SLB) is in advanced talks to acquire another major oil-field services industry player, Smith International (SII), The Wall Street Journal reported, in a deal that could create an industry giant with revenues double that of its nearest rival. The transaction could be in the $9 billion range. SLB shares fell some 3.9%, while SII shares soared over 13% before the bell.

Blackstone Group LP (BX) may join Simon Property Group's (SPG) bid to buy bankrupt General Growth Properties (GGWPQ), two people with knowledge of the discussions told Bloomberg Thursday. BX and SPG shares both were down some 1.5%.

United Therapeutics (UTHR) said Friday it is withdrawing a European application for its hypertension treatment Tyvaso (approved in the U.S.) due to objections by regulators over clinical practices at testing sites. The company said its revenue growth targets are unaffected by the move. Shares sank over 7% ahead of the bell.

CBS Corp. (CBS) reported late Thursday its net profit fell by 57% to $59 million, or 9 cents per share, in the last quarter as an improvement in the advertising market was offset by a big drop in political spending. Revenue fell 1% to $3.50 billion. Adjusted earnings were 25 cents per share, meeting expectations, but revenue beat estimates of $3.47 billion. Shares skidded over 5% in premarket trading.
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