Two big stories this morning as Greece completed its debt swap with 85.8 percent of creditors participating and here in the U.S. the Labor Department reported slightly stronger than expected jobs numbers. The jobs number in particular continues to show an economy here in the U.S. that is gaining strength, but as is typical following a credit shock like we had in ’08, doing it slowly. The big thing to wonder about is how will rising oil prices effect this strength over the next few months and if we see any more worries bubbling up out of Europe.
The U.S. economy added 227,000 jobs in February while hiring in January and December was revised up by a combined 61,000, the Labor Department reported Friday. The unemployment rate remained at 8.3%, largely because more people entered the workforce in search of jobs. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast the U.S. would add 213,000 jobs last month, with the jobless rate holding steady at 8.3%. Subtracting another decline in government jobs, the private sector boosted payrolls by 233,000. Average hourly earnings rose by 3 cents, or 0.1%, to $23.31 and hours worked was flat at 34.5. Job gains for January were revised up to 284,000 from 243,000 – the biggest monthly increase since the recession ended – and December’s employment gains were revised up to 223,000 from 203,000. The past three months of full-time job growth is the fastest since early 2006.
The Greek finance ministry said that 85.8 percent of private creditors holding 177 billion euros in Greek bonds participated in the bond swap. After invoking collective action clauses, provisions that will force the holdouts to accept the offer, the participation rate would rise to 95 percent and meet the target set by Europe and the I.M.F. for the release of crucial rescue funds.
The ministry also said that 69 percent of investors holding a category of Greek bonds issued under laws other than Greek law had agreed to the exchange — or about €20 billion worth. This figure is much higher than anticipated because many of these investors were expected to either challenge Greece in court or hold out for better terms.
Greece said it would extend the invitation period for these foreign law bond holders to March 23. Ramping up the pressure on these investors, Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said that after this date, the offer to foreign law bond holders to participate in the bond swap would be withdrawn.
The U.S. trade deficit surged to the widest imbalance in more than three years in January as imports hit an all-time high, reflecting big demand for foreign-made cars, computers and food products.
U.S. exports to Europe fell, raising concerns that the debt crisis in that region could dampen U.S. economic growth.
The Commerce Department says the January trade deficit widened to $52.6 billion, the biggest gap since October 2008. Imports rose 2.1 percent to a record $233.4 billion. Exports were up a smaller 1.4 percent to $180.8 billion. Exports to Europe fell 7.5 percent.
Starbucks [SBUX 50.37 ], Green Mountain [GMCR 62.40 ] – Starbucks is introducing its own single-serving coffee brewing system that will compete with Green Mountain’s popular Keurig machine. However, Starbucks will continue to make the K-Cups used in the Keurig coffeemakers.
Kohl’s [KSS 49.05 ] – Jefferies has upgraded the retailer’s stock to “buy” from “hold”, saying current management is doing a good job addressing the company’s current challenges.
Texas Instruments [TXN 32.60 ] – The chipmaker is cutting its first quarter guidance to $0.15 – $0.19 per share from its prior $0.16 – $0.24 range, citing lower demand for chips used in smartphones and tablet computers. However, it also says a sales slump has bottomed out, and it does expect revenue growth during the second quarter.
Altera [ALTR 37.42 ] – The maker of programmable computer chips says first quarter revenue could be at the low end of its previous guidance, due to the trimming of inventories by its customers.
AstraZeneca [AZN 44.83 ] – The FDA has blocked the company’s attempt to delay generic versions of its best-selling anti-psychotic drug Seroquel. Generic Seroquel is due to debut in the U.S. market later this month.
American Airlines parent AMR [AAMRQ 0.00 --- UNCH ] – The carrier is asking for a six-month extension of its exclusivity period for filing a bankruptcy reorganization plan. If not, that period would expire on March 28.
Aeropostale [ARO 18.95 ] – The teen apparel retailer earned 44 cents per share for the fourth quarter, 12 cents above estimates, although it sees current quarter earnings below estimates. The company calls 2011 “disappointing” overall but says it’s working to update its merchandise offerings and expects better results for 2012.
Boston Scientific [BSX 5.93 ] – The medical device maker will acquire privately-held Cameron Health, which offers a subcutaneous implantable defibrillator. Boston Scientific will pay $150 million up front and another $150 million if the device is approved by the FDA for U.S. use.
UPS [UPS 76.72 --- UNCH ] – The stock may extend Thursday’s gains, following reports that it’s near an agreement to buy European package delivery company TNT Express. TNT had rejected an initial $6.5 billion offer.
Western Digital [WDC 38.98 --- UNCH ] – The hard drive maker has completed its $4.8 billion purchase of Hitachi’s U.S. hard drive business.
Smith & Wesson [SWHC 5.66 ] – The firearms maker earned 8 cents per share for its fiscal third quarter, four cents above estimates, and sales improved and the company cut costs.