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Verizon makes preparations for $100B wireless bid. Verizon Communications (VZ) has reportedly hired bank and legal advisers ahead of a possible $100B cash and stock bid to buy Vodafone's (VOD) 45% stake in Verizon Wireless. Verizon Com, which reckons it can raise $50B from banks to help fund the deal, will structure its offer so that Vodafone's tax bill would be $5B rather than a possible $20B. The latter's shares were +3.4% premarket.

Asia hasn't "seen this kind of gold support in over 20 years": Hong Kong Exchange CEO. Physical gold waxes as paper gold wanes. — Read more here »

U.K. avoids triple-dip recession. The U.K.'s GDP recovered to grow a quarterly 0.3% in Q1 compared with a fall of 0.3% in Q4, topping expectations of +0.1% and ensuring that Britain avoided the ignominy of a triple-dip recession. The growth, tepid as it was, could reduce the pressure on the Bank of England to increase its QE program. The pound spiked following the GDP release and was +1.2% vs the dollar at the time of writing.

Qualcomm tumbles after light outlook. Qualcomm's (QCOM) FQ2 earnings topped expectations, but its shares dropped 4.9% premarket after the company issued EPS guidance that was below some expectations as competition for its smartphone components intensifies and moves toward Asia. In FQ2, Qualcomm's net profit fell 16% to $1.87B, EPS came in at $1.17, and revenue jumped 24% to $6.12B.

Top Stock News
Samsung caught short by Galaxy S4 demand. Notwithstanding some fairly tepid reviews for Samsung's (SSNLF.PK) Galaxy S4, "pre-order demand is much stronger than expected," the company said today, "so it's difficult to rapidly boost supply in the short term." The problem has prompted Sprint (S) and T-Mobile (DTEGF.PK) to delay their launches of the device, which is due to be released tomorrow in South Korea and in other countries on Saturday.

Sony rises after upping earnings guidance. Sony (SNE) has doubled its FY 2013 net profit estimate to ¥40B ($400M) from prior guidance of ¥20B, due to the weaker yen and asset sales, and after the improving stock market boosted earnings at the company's life insurance operations. Sony also increased its estimate for operating profit to ¥230B from ¥130B and for sales to ¥6.8T from ¥6.6T. Shares were +3.1% premarket.

Patent losses hit AstraZeneca's earnings. AstraZeneca's (AZN) Q1 pretax profit dropped a greater-than-expected 36% to $1.3B, hurt by the loss of patent protection for key products. Revenue slumped 13% to $6.39B, and the company reiterated that it expects a mid-to-high single digit decline in its 2013 sales. AstraZeneca also said it has received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston about production standards at the company's plant in Macclesfield in northern England. Shares were -1% premarket.

Amazon and Starbucks earnings in focus. Amazon (AMZN) and Starbucks (SBUX) are among the standouts in the flood of earnings results that are due after the bell today. Analysts expect that Amazon's Q1 EPS will have dropped to $0.09 from $0.28 a year ago, while its revenue is seen jumping 22.6% to $16.16B. Starbucks' FQ2 EPS is estimated to have risen to $0.48 from $0.40 and its sales 12.3% to $3.59B.

Santander Q1 net profit -26% to €1.21B. Banco Santander's (SAN) Q1 net profit tumbled 26% to €1.21B and missed consensus of €1.31B, hurt by significant charges on the bank's property assets. Net interest income dropped 14% to €6.65B, weighed down by low interest rates and recession in important markets. However, Santander expects its 2013 profit to be "significantly higher" than the €2.295B it earned in 2012. Shares were -3.1% premarket.

Unilever's sales growth weakens. Unilever's (UL) Q1 underlying revenues slowed to +4.9% from +8.4% a year earlier and undershot Street forecasts for +5.5%. Sales grew 10.4% in emerging markets, but were stagnant in North America and dropped 3.1% in Europe. Ice cream sales melted over 10% due to the unseasonably cold spring.

Prologis sells 50% stake in property interest for €1.2B. Prologis (PLD) has sold 50% of a portfolio of properties to Norway's sovereign wealth fund for €1.2B. The portfolio comprises 195 properties in 11 countries across Europe, including in France, the U.K., Spain, Poland and Italy. The news of the deal follows Prologis' EPS miss yesterday and the company's announcement that it intends to raise $1.3B via an offering of 31M shares.

Netflix to raise money to finance its own content. Netflix (NFLX) intends to raise capital as needed in order to fund the cost of producing original programming. The company invests more than $2B a year on such content, a cost that looms as an impediment to profitability. Netflix's plans follow the success of its "House of Cards" series.

Top Economic & Other News
Spanish unemployment exceeds 6M. Spanish unemployment rose to a fresh record of 27.2% in Q1 from 26% in the previous quarter and topped consensus of 26.5%, with 6.2M people out of work. Youth unemployment increased to 57.2%. The figures "highlight the serious situation of the Spanish economy as well as the shocking decoupling between the real and the financial economy," says Citi strategist Jose Luis Martinez. The Ibex was -1.2% at midday in Europe.

New Italian PM looks to form government. New Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, of the center-left Democratic Party, has started talks about forming a grand coalition with Silvio Berlusconi's center-right grouping. Letta has already indicated that he may alter the government's eurozone-inspired austerity, saying that it's "no longer enough," although he's expected to maintain good relations with the EU. The FTSE MIB was +0.1% at midday in Milan.