Top Stories
Boeing wins $18B order from Ryanair. Boeing (BA) has reportedly received an $18B order from Dublin-based Ryanair (RYAAY) for 200 jets in a deal that is set to be confirmed next week, when Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny visits the White House. It’s not clear whether Ryanair will acquire the 737-800 or Boeing’s new ‘Max’ model. The booking would be one of Boeing’s largest ever and presumably mark the end of a feud that goes back to 2009 over a collapsed order.

U.K. production slump sends pound tumbling. U.K. manufacturing and industrial production unexpectedly fell in January, renewing fears that Britain will enter a triple-dip recession. Manufacturing output dropped 1.5% on month and industrial production 1.2%, with the latter hurt by the suspension of a North Sea oil platform. The pound sank to $1.4832, its lowest since June 2010, after the data was released, and was -0.4% at $1.4855 at midday in Europe.

Top Stock News
Costco net profit jumps 39% to $547M. Costco’s (COST) FQ2 net profit climbed 39% to $547M, boosted by a $62M tax gain on a dividend paid to a retirement savings program for employees. The wholesaler’s revenues rose 8% to $24.34B but missed expectations, with favorable forex movements and gasoline sales helping comparable sales to increase 5%. A particular bright spot was that membership fees rose 15% to $528M – an improvement based on volume rather than on a price hike.

Race for Life Technologies back in full swing. KKR (KKR) is reportedly mulling a joint bid with other private-equity firms for biomedical laboratory equipment maker Life Technologies (LIFE), which has a market cap of $10.5B. Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO) may renew its interest after backing off earlier this year – as did others – while Danaher (DHR) is also sniffing around. A group led by Blackstone (BX) and Carlyle (CG) has been rumored to be in talks as well.

U.K. joins Autonomy probe. The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating Autonomy over allegations of wrongdoing, joining U.S. authorities in probing the H-P (HPQ) unit. The SFO wouldn’t say which individuals it is focusing on. Separately, H-P’s lead independent director, Rajiv Gupta, has defended Chairman Ray Lane and fellow directors following recommendations from proxy firms ISS and Glass Lewis to oust Lane and other board members.

Yum jumps on better-than-expected China numbers. Shares in Yum Brands (YUM) climbed 5.4% in pre-market trading after the restaurant operator said that January-February same-store sales in China fell "just" 20% rather than an earlier estimate of 25%. Yum looks to be recovering from the food scandal in the country, with February revenues rising 2%. Sales were flat at KFC, which was involved in the scare, and rose 13% at Pizza Hut.

Apollo, Metropoulos snap up Twinkies. Hostess Brands will sell its snack-cake business to stalking-horse bidders Apollo Global Management (APO) and veteran food executive Dean Metropoulos after no other bids were received for the operations by yesterday’s deadline. Apollo and Metropoulos had offered $410M in January for the unit, which includes Twinkies, Cup Cakes and Suzy Q’s.

CEO departure boosts VeriFone. VeriFone (PAY) rose 8.3% in post-market trading following news that CEO Douglas Berenson will leave today after twelve years in the job and not long after the payment-technology company slashed its profit outlook. Chairman Rich McGinn will serve as interim CEO while VeriFone searches for a permanent replacement.

MGM mulls IPO. MGM’s board expects to discuss a potential IPO at a meeting this month, with the iconic movie studio due to release financial numbers on Monday and provide an update if an IPO is in the works. The news follows recent hits for MGM such as the James Bond "Skyfall" film and the "Lord of the Rings" prequel, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

Algorithms can predict Facebook users’ private information. Computer programs that track how people use Facebook (FB) can discern undisclosed information about the social network’s members with a high degree of accuracy, including their race, religion and political leanings, Cambridge University scientists show. "We used very simple and generic methods," said study author Michal Kosinksi. "Marketing companies…(could) get much higher accuracy than we did."

Top Economic & Other News
SEC accuses Illinois of securities fraud. Illinois has become only the second state to be accused of securities fraud, with the SEC saying that it misled bond investors from 2005-2009 about the ever-worsening condition of its public workers’ retirement plans by claiming that it was properly funding the scheme when it wasn’t. However, while Illinois has agreed to a cease-and-desist order, it has escaped any fines and it hasn’t had to admit any wrongdoing.

White, Cordray set for Senate confirmation hearings. Prospective SEC Chairperson Mary Jo White and Richard Cordray, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are due to face Senate confirmation hearings today. White could receive questions about possible conflicts of interest stemming from her past representation of major Wall Street clients. Meanwhile, the GOP is loathe to approve Cordray until the CFPB is converted into a bipartisan commission and its funding is changed.

Editors’ Picks
SA Pro: Weyco Group – Good Brands, Family Management, Growing Business
Philips Is Much Improved But Not That Cheap
Coinstar’s Debt Raise A Problem For Netflix

Today’s Markets:
In Asia, Japan -0.3% to 12315. Hong Kong -0.9% to 22891. China -1% to 2287. India -0.4% to 19565.
In Europe, at midday, London, Paris and Frankfurt flat.
Futures at 7:00: Dow -0.2%. S&P -0.1%. Nasdaq -0.2%. Crude -0.05% to $92.01. Gold +0.3% to $1582.90.

Today’s economic calendar:
7:30 NFIB Small Business Optimism Index
7:45 ICSC Retail Store Sales
8:55 Redbook Chain Store Sales
1:00 PM Results of $32B, 3-Year Note Auction
2:00 PM Treasury Budget

Notable earnings before today’s open: AMED, BONT, BPI, COST, EJ, TICC

Notable earnings after today’s close: DOLE, GERN, HRZN, IRET, KTOS, PPHM, VELT

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