FOMC signals flexibility in asset purchases. One would be hard pressed to point out the differences between Wednesday's FOMC policy statement and that released in March. There was one new sentence however: "The Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes." The consensus seems to be that, taken with unchanged inflation language, the new nod to flexibility tacitly suggests an increase in the size of monthly asset purchases may be on the horizon. Esther George, once again the lone brave hawk amongst a flock of aggressive doves, dissented for the third time in as many meetings.
ECB seen cutting rates. The Fed did its part Wednesday to perpetuate the global monetary easing status quo and the Bank of Japan has gone above and beyond. Now it's the ECB's turn — at least that's how the market sees things. With eurozone unemployment running at all-time highs and inflation tracking well below the ECB's target, expectations are for a 25 basis point rate cut. Regardless of the outcome, grave doubts will persist about the central bank's ability to combat a crisis which, increasingly, is seen as endemic to the structure of the currency bloc itself.
Facebook tops revenue estimates as mobile grows up. Facebook (FB) said revenues grew 38% Y/Y in Q1 to $1.46B, beating analysts' top line estimates even as EPS came up light by a penny. Advertising revenues rose 43% to $1.25B, 30% of which came from mobile ads, an improvement from 23% in Q4. This was welcome news for investors who were eager to see if the company had made progress on monetizing mobile — nearly 67% of users access the site from their phones, according to the company. "The opportunity for us to connect people to marketers has never been greater," said COO (and best-selling author) Sheryl Sandberg. Shares finished essentially flat in after hours trading.
Top Stock News
Visa, MasterCard beat profit view. Payment processing giants Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA) both beat Wall Street's profit estimates, but MA's revenue came up short as CEO Ajay Banga described Q2 as "dodgy." Shares of MA fell more than 2% after the report. Meanwhile, V's revenues grew 15% Y/Y to $3B, beating estimates handily — shares rose 2% in late trading.
Siemens cuts outlook. Siemens (SI) reported FQ2 net income from continuing operations of €982M, missing estimates. Revenue, which came in at €18B, fell 6.7% Y/Y. The company also cut its full year guidance, saying net income will likely be in the low end of its range (€4.5-5B). SI cited a weak economic environment and charges associated with ill-fated solar and wind projects as reasons for the lowered profit projections.
Sanofi misses on generic competition. Sanofi (SNY) said Q1 business net income fell to €1.61B (-12% Y/Y) on revenue of €8.1B, missing estimates on both the top and bottom line. The results largely reflected the expiration of patents on Plavix and Eloxatin as well as U.S. generic competition for Avapro. All told, generic competition cost the firm more than half a billion euros in the quarter. The company also appointed two new executive committee members.
Ghost of Lehman sues Intel. The ghost of Lehman Brothers is suing Intel (INTC) over a $1B swap deal originated in 2008, Reuters reported Thursday. Ultimately, Lehman says it was to deliver 50.5M shares of INTC while Intel claims the deal was for $1B in shares regardless of the stock price. INTC seized $1B in cash collateral which Lehman claims is unfair given that, as of the termination of the swap (September 29, 2008), "the value of 50.55M shares of Intel common stock was about $873M, not $1B."
Yelp gives itself upbeat review. Online reviews site Yelp (YELP) reported Q1 revenue of $46.1M, a 68% Y/Y increase, beating Wall Street's top line expectations. The company said it launched mobile display ads during the quarter and promised to continue to execute on its mobile strategy — 36% of local ads were shown on mobile devices during the period. YELP also guided above estimates for Q2 revenue.
Buffett unloads Moody's shares. Ever the savvy investor, Warren Buffett took advantage of the sharp rally in shares of Moody's (MCO) stemming from the settlement of lawsuits alleging fraud related to crisis-era structured finance deals tied to subprime mortgages. Berkshire Hathaway (MCO's largest shareholder) sold 1.75M shares of the ratings agency's stock over the past three days at six-year high prices ranging from $59.93 to $60.94.
Top Economic & Other News
HSBC China PMI revised lower. China's final April HSBC manufacturing PMI printed at 50.4, slightly lower than the "flash" print released April 22 and markedly lower than March's 51.6 reading. In keeping with the official government PMI released Wednesday, HSBC said new export orders fell into contraction territory for the first time in 2013. The manufacturing data, combined with subpar GDP growth, could "invite more policy responses in the coming month," HSBC said.
IBM-Lenovo talks falter. Talks between IBM and Lenovo (LNVGY.PK) regarding the sale of IBM's x86 server business have broken down, sources told Fortune. Lenovo reportedly balked over IBM's asking price - according to one CRN source, it was around $5B-$6B - for the business, which had an estimated $4.9B in 2012 sales and saw a 9% Y/Y revenue drop in Q1. Regardless of the specific price, Lenovo (current market cap of $10.4B) would have a tough time digesting the unit.
France's borrowing costs fall. Worries that France is next in line to get the euro debt contagion are not being reflected in the bond market. France sold €4B in 10-year bonds Thursday at an average yield of just 1.81%, an all time low. Some commentators have expressed concern about a perceived decline in France's competitiveness and jobless claims in the country have hit an all-time high. Nonetheless, Thursday's debt sale suggests investors still view the country as closer to the eurozone's core than its periphery.