Stocks in the News: IBM, Bank of America, Alcon

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

International Business Machines
(IBM) posted strong earnings results late Tuesday, handily beating analyst expectations. Big Blue reported earnings per share of $3.59, beating the $3.47 per share Wall Street analysts had been expecting. It also offered a strong earnings outlook for 2010, guiding full-year earnings at $11.00 per share, which is higher than analysts had projected. Nonetheless, shares declined 1.6% ahead of the bell.Bank of America (BAC), Morgan Stanley (MS) and Wells Fargo (WFC) are some of the banks reporting Wednesday, mostly in the morning. Also reporting in the afternoon are eBay (EBAY) and Starbucks (SBUX).

Bank of America Corp. (BAC) said Wednesday its fourth-quarter loss widened to $5.2 billion, or 60 cents a share, and was greater than analysts had estimated. Revenue, however, rose to $25.1 billion from $15.7 billion. Adjusted loss was $194 million compared to a loss of $1.8 billion in the year-ago period. BAC shares rose over 1% in premarket trading as much of the loss was attributable to TARP payback.

Alcon Inc.'s (ACL) board blasted Wednesday an offer to acquire the remaining shares of the eye-care company made by majority holder Novartis (NVS), calling it "grossly inadequate" and "offensive." Novartis is offering 2.8 of its own shares for each share of Alcon, an offer below what Novartis is paying Nestle to obtain control of the company.

ASML Holding (ASML), Europe's largest maker of semiconductor equipment, on Wednesday said it swung to a profit of 50.5 million euros in the fourth quarter as chip makers resumed buying its machines, encouraged by a pickup in demand for electronics. Net sales climbed 18% to 581 million euros from the year-ago quarter. Shares climbed over 2% before the bell.

Bank of New York Mellon Corp.
(BK) reported Wednesday fourth-quarter earnings jumped on strength in asset management and despite the negative effect of lower interest rates on net interest revenue and fees. BK results exceed analyst estimates as its provision for loan losses fell considerably. Shares were nearly a percent higher in premarket trading.

Charles Schwab Corp. (SCHW) reported a 47% drop in fourth-quarter profit to $164 million, or 14 cents a share, late Tuesday as the discount brokerage firm grappled with record low interest rates and a decline in trading activity. Schwab was expected to make 15 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters. Net revenue was down 23% from the fourth quarter of 2008. Shares declined over 2%

Kraft Foods (KFT) credit rating was downgraded to BBB- from BBB by Fitch Ratings, following the company's agreement to buy Cadbury (CBY). Shares of both fell about 1% before the bell.

Apple (AAPL) is in talks with Microsoft (MSFT) to replace Google (GOOG) as the default search engine on its iPhone, according to two people familiar with the matter, BusinessWeek reports. The talks have been under way for weeks, say the people.

Google (GOOG), meanwhile, prepares for talks with the Chinese government over its decision to stop cooperating with censorship laws there, as the rest of Google's business and operations in China hangs in the balance.

Baidu Inc. (BIDU), China's most popular search engine and the obvious beneficiary from Google's spat with the government, is accusing its U.S.-based domain name registry of negligence in a lawsuit over a hacking attack that temporarily blocked access to the site last week.

Coach Inc. (COH) said Wednesday that its fiscal second-quarter profit rose along with sales, beating analyst estimates. However, North American same-store sales rose 3.2%, which was lower than estimates and COH shares sank over 7% ahead of the bell.

More earnings in brief:
  • Morgan Stanley (MS) swings to profit, but misses target; shares higher in premarket trading
  • Wells Fargo (WFC)swings to profit, but charge-offs rise; shares trade some 2% higher in preamarket action
  • U.S. Bancorp (USB) profit rises, but so do charge-offs; shares rose 1.6% in premarket trading
  • State Street's (STT) per-share profit, revenue top views; shares climbed 2.3%
  • Covidien (COV) profit rises 7%; shares jumped over 5% ahead of the bell
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