Stocks in the news: AIG, HSBC, AmEx

American International Group (AIG) reported a $61.7 billion fourth-quarter loss. While the magnitude was largely expected, it doesn't make it any smaller. Meanwhile, the government announced it will extend AIG additional federal assistance of up to $30 billion. This is in addition to previous large bailouts. AIG shares are gaining over 19% in pre-market trade.

HSBC (HBC) said it would raise $17.7 billion in new capital by selling discounted stock to existing shareholders, rather than turn to the British government. This was announced as Europe's largest bank reported that 2008 net income dropped 70 percent. It also said it would cut its dividend and 6,100 jobs in the U.S. as it would scale back its consumer lending in its U.S.-based HSBC Finance arm, leaving only the selling of credit cards. HBC shares are declining over 19% in pre-market trade.

Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) reported a drop in profit to $4.99 billion in 2008 from $13.21 billion. Buffet admitted In his annual letter to shareholders he did some "dumb things in investment," including investing in ConocoPhillips (COP). COP shares are declining over 2% in pre-market trade.

Among companies reporting today are:
Apple Inc. (AAPL) -- a rumor is swirling around the blogosphere Apple may hold an event similar to the notebook event on March 24, World of Apple posted. Apple also said in a filing with the SEC that it has replaced KPMG LLP after 12 years with Ernst & Young LLP as its independent registered accounting firm. Also, preliminary figures released Sunday morning by Net Applications show Apple's Internet market share dropped a little in February. AAPL shares are down about 1.5% in pre-market trade.

General Motors Corp. (GM) and Chrysler LLC, facing such dismal sales, may find it hard to close enough plants to repay federal loans until demand rebounds, a Credit Suisse analyst said. GM shares are declining 4.5% in pre-market trade.

General Electric Co. (GE), whose AAA credit rating has been threatened, cut its dividend for the first time in 71 years on Feb. 27. That still wasn't enough to convince Moody's credit agency to change the company's credit profile. GE shares are down about 3% in pre-market trade.

American Express (AXP) is going back to its roots as a charge-card issuer to wealthy Americans who can pay off their balance every month. It also is getting tough on many customers, the ones it courted when times were good, the Wall Street Journal reports. AXP shares are down 3.7% in pre-market trade.

Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) expects its world-wide production to drop roughly 12 percent in the next fiscal year to 6.2 million vehicles -- its lowest level in seven years, according to the WSJ. Inc. (AMZN) decided not to include a universal text-to-speech feature in the latest version of its Kindle electronic-book reader. The feature, which reads books out loud in a computer-generated voice, would added on a book-by-book basis depending on the author.

Analyst upgrades:
  • Adobe Systems (ADBE) was upgraded from Sell to Neutral at UBS.
  • Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Dell (DELL) were upgraded from Hold to Buy at Argus.
  • JP Morgan Chase (JPM) was upgraded by Keefe Bruyette from Market Perform to Outperform.
  • Wendy's (WEN) was upgraded from Underweight to Neutral at JPMorgan.
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