Stocks in the News: Kraft, Cadbury, Apple, Ford, Google

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

Kraft Foods (KFT) boosted its offer for British candy maker Cadbury (CBY) following Monday's announced $3.7 billion sale of Kraft's pizza business to Nestlé. The sweetened offer increases the amount of cash in the deal. Cadbury turned down a prior bid by Kraft, saying it undervalued the company, best known for its chocolate and creme eggs. It had been thought Nestlé might be gearing up to bid for Cadbury following news Monday that the Swiss chocolatier agreed to sell its stake in eye-care company Alcon (ACL). But Nestlé said it is not interested in challenging Kraft's offer.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% Shares of Apple (AAPL) edged higher in pre-market trading on reports the company is set to introduce a new tablet device later this month, possibly for less than $1,000. Apple also has reportedly reached a deal to acquire Quattro Wireless for $275 million. Quattro is a creator of mobile-advertising technology used on smart phones, such as Apple's popular iPhone. A similar company, AdMob, was acquired last November by search-engine giant Google (GOOG) for $750 million.

Ford Motor (F) along with other suppliers to the U.S. auto market will release December sales figures Tuesday, beginning about midday Eastern time. Auto makers are believed to have boosted sales in the final days of December as consumers flocked to showrooms to take advantage of end-of-year sales. General Motors is expected to report increased volumes as interest in its discontinued Pontiac and Saturn cars peaked on news reports dealers were offering substantial discounts for the orphaned brands.

Google is expected to unveil its Nexus One smart phone Tuesday to rival Apple's iPhone. Google has kept mum about the device except to confirm that its workers received the handsets ahead of the Christmas holiday for testing. Google is expected to provide the first concrete details about the phone during a news conference at company headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Shares of Chesapeake Energy (CHK) rose nearly 9% yesterday and are poised to make additional gains today after the natural-gas exploration company inked a $2.25 billion deal, giving France's Total (TOT) access to deep shale-gas fields in north-central Texas. The deal follows on the heels of Exxon Mobil's (XOM) agreement to buy XTO Energy (XTO), another prolific natural gas company, in a $31 billion all-stock deal.

H&R Block (HRB) and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service (JTX) are among tax preparers that will have to register with the Internal Revenue Service as the federal government imposes news standards for the industry. The plan, which will take several years to implement, would require tax preparers to pass a competency test and supply an identification number when filing clients' returns in an effort to stem fraud and abuse.
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