What’s the Story?

by CC April 13, 2012 9:06 am • Commentary


China’s economy grew 8.1 per cent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, allaying global fears of a collapse in the world’s second-largest economy as it shifts towards slower growth.

With Europe struggling and the US recovery appearing to ebb, signs of strength from China could still help alleviate concerns of a global slowdown.

Economic growth in the first quarter was China’s lowest in almost three years, the result of weak exports and of Beijing’s cooling policies. But strong March data left economists and policy makers optimistic that faster growth may be seen in coming months.


U.S. consumer prices eased a bit in March compared to a month earlier, suggesting inflation pressures appear contained heading into the spring and summer months.

CPI rose 0.3% from a month ago and 2.7% on a year-over-year basis, according to the Labor Department. Both figures were slightly lower compared to February’s readings. When stripping out volatile food and energy costs, the core prices rose 0.2% from February.

Gas and other energy prices rose at a much slower pace in March compared to previous months.

This report is unlikely to change the Fed’s stance on whether it will implement additional stimulus if its warranted.


JPMorgan Chase, which holds the most assets of any bank in the country, said Friday that it issued more mortgage loans in the first three months of the year and turned a bigger profit than Wall Street expected.

The bank said it earned $5.4 billion for the first quarter, or $1.31 per share. Analysts were expecting $1.16 per share. Revenue and profit declined at most of JPMorgan’s businesses, including investment banking.

As the largest bank, JPMorgan is a barometer of the economy and the financial industry. It is also the first major bank to report its results for the first quarter.


Google has announced an unusual stock split that will effectively hand founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin lifetime control of the search engine they invented as graduate students 16 years ago.

The decision to cement control for what Mr Page called “the very long term” marks what corporate governance experts described as a first for a big public company in the US. It will also result in a new class of Google shares trading on Wall Street.

Under its first stock split in eight years as a public company, Google said it would issue a new share for each of its shares already outstanding. Such moves are normally welcomed on Wall Street, where a lower price per share is sometimes seen as an inducement for smaller investors to buy, though financial purists maintain it should have no impact on share prices.

In a departure from normal practice, Google’s new shares will carry no voting rights, leaving control of the company “frozen” in the hands of holders of its existing shares. That is designed to leave Mr Page, 39, and Mr Brin, 38, with a firm grip on the nearly 58 per cent of the voting rights they control between them under a special class of shares.


Former Research In Motion co-chief executive Jim Balsillie sought to reinvent the BlackBerry smartphone maker with a radical shift in strategy before he stepped down, two sources with knowledge of his plans said.

Balsillie hoped to allow major wireless companies in North America and Europe to provide service for non-BlackBerry devices routed through RIM’s proprietary network, a major break with the BlackBerry-only strategy pursued by RIM since its inception.

The plan would have let the carriers use the RIM network to offer inexpensive data plans, limited to social media and instant messaging, to entice low-tier customers to upgrade from no-frills phones to smartphones.


Wells Fargo [WFC  34.02        ] – The bank earned $0.75 per share for the first quarter, two cents above estimates, with revenues also beating Street forecasts.

Google [GOOG  651.01        ] – The company reported quarterly profit of $10.08 per share compared to estimates of $9.65. Revenue was largely in line with estimates, with Google also announcing a two-for-one stock split. That split creates new classes of stock in a move designed to solidify the power of co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Dow Chemical [DOW  32.67        ] – The chemical maker has raised its quarterly dividend by 28 percent, with its payout rising to 32 cents per share from the prior 25 cents. Dow also says it expects earnings to grow for the foreseeable future.

Best Buy [BBY  22.24        ] – The electronics retailer says it’s creating a search committee to find a replacement for recently resigned CEO Brian Dunn. The search may take up to nine months, and interim CEO Mike Mikan will be among those considered for the job.

Coinstar [CSTR  61.31        ] – The company is raising its current quarter revenue outlook, citing better-than-expected sales at its Redbox DVD rental unit. It now expects first quarter revenue of $567 million to $569.2 million, compared to the prior range of $530 million to $555 million.

Adobe [ADBE  33.55        ] – The software maker has announced a $2 billion dollar stock buyback program, saying the new program will run through the end of fiscal 2015.

Videogame makers like Electronic Arts [EA  16.52  —  UNCH    ] and Activision Blizzard [ATVI  12.48  —  UNCH    ] are on the watch list today, after NPD reported that videogame industry sales fell 25 percent in March, with both hardware and software sales taking a hit.

Infosys [INFY  56.77        ] – The software producer saw its shares tumble in overseas trading, after it issued a worse-than-expected outlook for revenue growth. It cites an uncertain global economy and volatility in the currency markets.

Apple [APPL  0.00  —  UNCH    ] – Apple says the U.S. Justice Department’s accusations in a lawsuit involving electronic book pricing are “simply not true.” The U.S. alleges Apple and others colluded to keep prices high, but Apple says the launch of the iBookstore was designed to heighten competition and break Amazon.com’s [AMZN  190.69        ] “monopolistic grip” on the e-book market.

Gap [GPS  25.96  —  UNCH    ] – Jefferies reiterated its “Buy/Top Pick” rating on clothing retailer Gap, following a meeting with the company’s management. It says it has increased confidence in the company’s strategic direction.

Illinois Tool Works [ITW  56.69        ] – Morgan Stanley has downgraded the stock to “underweight” from “equal weight.”