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08/22/2014 03:33 AM
By Wall Street Breakfast:

In an emergency hearing held yesterday due to Argentina's newly proposed debt swap, Judge Thomas Griesa declared that the attempt to dodge his rulings was "lawless", but stopped short of finding the country in contempt of court. Meanwhile, a group of Argentina's exchange bondholders is working with Deutsche Bank to eliminate the "RUFO clause" preventing the sovereign from offering holdout investors better terms than those of its 2005 and 2010 restructurings.

The U.S. has indicated that it will be expanding its international campaign to combat extremists of the Islamic State, and will likely extend its fight from Iraq into neighboring Syria. The Obama administration has outlined several different fronts to combat ISIS, including continued airstrikes, support for the new Iraqi central government and influencing Persian Gulf states to halt the funding their citizens may be providing the extremist forces.

The status of Kurdish crude oil will come to a head today, as the high-stakes dispute over a tanker carrying 1M barrels of Kurdish crude still situated in the Gulf of Mexico will be determined by a federal court in Texas. The ruling will define the status of importing the controversial crude, as the Iraqi Oil Ministry and the Kurdistan Regional Government wrangle over the latter’s right to produce and sell its natural resources.

CEO of the Japan Exchange Group, Atsushi Saito, says he supports the proposal for longer trading hours for the exchange and a decision over the long-debated issue will be made this year. Currently, JPX (JPXGY) closes its trading day at 3pm, making its 5-hour trading day the shortest among major world exchanges.

London Stock Exchange has announced that it is looking to raise £938M ($1.6B) to part fund the acquisition of stock index unit Frank Russell. LSE will offer 74,347,813 new shares at a price of 1,295 pence, a 30.1% percent discount to yesterday's closing price. The deal would give London Stock Exchange (LDNXF) third place in the booming ETF market, behind market leaders S&P Dow Jones and MSCI (MSCI).

Due to Citigroup's $285M fraud settlement earlier this month, the bank will no longer be able to sell investments in hedge funds and private-equity funds to private clients. Citi's (C) restriction is the result of the "bad actor" rule adopted by the SEC in July of last year, which bars companies or individuals with a criminal conviction that occurred after September 2013 from participating in private offerings.

The DEA has reclassified hydrocodone combination drugs to stem a rise in their abuse, and has now labelled them in a category reserved for medical substances with the highest potential for harm. The move has been resisted by many drug makers and wholesalers, but others like Mallinckrodt (MNK) support it and say it will have no significant impact on their business. Major makers of hydrocodone combination drugs include Actavis (ACT), Teva (TEVA) and AbbVie (ABBV).

BP is planning to spend A$10B ($9.3B) over the next decade on expanding its gas station network and developing oil and gas projects in Australia. The new objective is fueled by BP's (BP) new focus on expanding its retail business on the continent, while scaling back on refining operations. "The big opportunities we’re after is at the customer end of the business," says President Andy Holmes. "Filling stations...that’s the area where we’re turning up our focus."

Sears' operations burned through another $747M as it lost another $573M in a dismal Q2, prompting it to announce that it is weighing additional steps to shore up its balance sheet. Sears (SHLD) may now look to refinance some debt or issue debt against its real estate. Sales have now fallen for 30 straight quarters, and Credit Suisse (CS) is calling Sears "one of the worst service stores in America."

After edging analyst estimates for Q2 earnings and revenues, Gap (GPS) has stated its plans to expand in emerging markets, by opening forty franchise-operated Gap stores in India. "India is an emerging, vibrant market and an important next step in our global expansion strategy," says Global President Steve Sunnucks. The company has also raised its FY 2014 EPS guidance to $2.95-$3.00 from $2.90-$2.95.

Allergan's request to advance its lawsuit against Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) and Pershing Square has been denied by a California federal judge. Allergan (AGN) claims the two engaged in insider trading ahead of their takeover bid, saying their unusual partnership violated securities regulations. Pershing Square's Bill Ackman began acquiring a stake in Allergan in February in partnership with Valeant after the two had begun discussing offering a bid for the company.

Home Depot has named U.S. retail chief Craig Menear its new CEO, effective Nov. 1. Frank Blake, who has been Home Depot's (HD) CEO since 2007, will remain chairman. "Craig has taken on increasing leadership responsibility over the last several years and has excelled in all his roles," says Blake. "He'll do an outstanding job leading our company in the years ahead."

Deep Nishar, LinkedIn's SVP of products/user experience and a 6-year company vet, is leaving. LinkedIn (LNKD) states that its user base has grown by over 10x to 313M since Nishar came on board. Nonetheless, the company has struggled in recent years to boost its historically low engagement rates depite a series of product changes meant to address the issue. The company's Q2 numbers suggest it's starting to make some headway.

Federal prosecutors have uncovered that GM (GM) lawyers were present at key meetings when information was discussed about auto problems of some vehicles, Reuters reports. The DOJ is probing what level the lawyers participated in those discussions and what they did afterward with the information that was shared during the meetings. GM has previously pinned most of the blame on lower-level employees and has left most of the company's tops execs untouched.

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Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan -0.3% to 15539. Hong Kong +0.5% to 25112. China +0.5% to 2241. India +0.2% to 26420.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.4%. Paris -1.3%. Frankfurt -1%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow flat. S&P -0.1%. Nasdaq flat. Crude -0.5% to $93.53. Gold +0.5% to $1281.90.
Ten-year Treasury Yield -2 bps to 2.39%

Today's economic calendar:
10:00 Janet Yellen speech

Notable earnings before today's open: [[ANN]], [[FL]], [[HIBB]], [[RY]]

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