Top Stories
Samsung projects Q1 profit jump of 53%. Samsung (SSNLF.PK) has estimated that its Q1 operating profit surged 53% to 8.7T won ($7.7B), beating estimates for 8.38T won, while sales rose 15% to 52T vs consensus of 53T. Samsung didn’t provide a break-down by unit, nor a net profit figure. Seoul-based analyst Lee Sei Cheol said: "In addition to the Galaxy S3, mini models sold well in emerging markets, including China, Brazil and India."

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H-P Chairman Ray Lane quits following sustained criticism. H-P (HPQ) Chairman Ray Lane has stepped down after coming under fierce criticism from investors and shareholder advisory firm ISS, which opposed Lane’s recent re-election as chairman because of his role in the Autonomy debacle. Lane will remain as a director, although John Hammergren and G. Kennedy Thompson, who were also the target of disgruntled shareholders, are stepping down. H-P’s shares were flat pre-market.

Jobs growth seen slowing. Unemployment data for March is due out this morning, with economists expecting that nonfarm payrolls grew by 193,000 vs 236,000 in February, with the jobless rate staying unchanged at 7.7%. However, Calculated Risk’s Bill McBride reckons the forecasts may be optimistic, based on recent other data, with the manufacturing and services PMIs suggesting something a little closer to a gain of 150,000 jobs. Stock futures were lower ahead of the print.

Top Stock News
UBS saved HSBC’s Ping An stake sale with $5.5B loan. UBS (UBS) reportedly provided Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont with a last-minute $5.5B loan that enabled him to acquire HSBC’s (HBC) 15.6% stake in Ping An, the second-largest insurer in China, for $9.4B. Chearavanont was left badly short after China Development Bank backed out of a deal to lend his CP Group the money to finance the acquisition. UBS is set to earn over $100M for its troubles.

Blackstone, Michael Dell yet to broach the most delicate of topics. Blackstone (BX) and Michael Dell have reportedly yet to discuss what role he would play should the private-equity firm win the battle to buy Dell (DELL). If Dell doesn’t get a deal he likes, he will sell his 15.6% stake and walk away, although in another scenario, he could end up with a holding of over 50% and remain CEO. Meanwhile, bank and other fees for any transaction could exceed $400M.

FAA could join Boeing on 787 test flight today. Boeing (BA) could reportedly carry out an FAA-supervised test flight of the 787 today as part of the company’s attempts to persuade the agency that its modified lithium-ion battery system is safe. Boeing is also looking to ensure that it’s ready to act quickly if and when the FAA approves the resumption of commercial 787 flights, including preparing battery-replacement kits and sending engineers to its Japanese customers.

AstraZeneca arthritis pill gets mixed results. AstraZeneca’s (AZN) rheumatoid arthritis pill Fostamatinib met only one of its two main targets in a Phase III study in what is a further blow to the company as it seeks to overcome the impact of a patent cliff. While Fostamatinib brought about improvement in a test assessing signs and symptoms of the disease, the drug failed to do so as measured by X-ray. Still, expectations were low given disappointing results in earlier trials.

GM to meet Merkel. General Motors (GM) executives will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next week, presumably to discuss the automaker’s efforts to restructure labor deals in Germany. The company is mulling the closure of an Opel plant in the west of the country after its latest offer to reduce staffing was rejected.

Education stocks on watch after ratings moves from Compass Point. For-profit education stocks could see some volatility today after an attempt by Compass Point to sort things out in the beat-up sector. The firm initiated sell ratings on Apollo Group (APOL) and Corinithian Colleges (COCO), while ITT Educational Services (ESI) was rated at Neutral and DeVry (DV) a Buy.

AB InBev closes in on DOJ deal over Modelo. AB InBev (BUD) is reportedly close to agreeing to a settlement with the Department of Justice that would persuade the DOJ to approve the company’s $20.1B bid to take full control of Modelo, with an announcement set to be made next week. The sides have until Tuesday to update a federal judge on their progress but might request a short extension.

MF Global trustee slams Corzine and co. Louis Freeh, the bankruptcy trustee for MF Global’s (MFGLQ.PK) parent company, has blasted Jon Corzine and other senior executives for the "negligent conduct" that led to the firm’s collapse. In a report, Freeh also criticized the men for their "risky business strategy" and for "the company’s inadequate systems." However, Freeh didn’t use the word criminal, nor did he focus on the disappearance of customer money.

Top Economic & Other News
BOJ’s Kuroda brushes off asset-bubble concerns. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has played down fears that his turbo-charged monetary easing policy will cause an asset bubble. "I don’t think there’s a bond or stock market bubble now and I don’t see one emerging any time soon. But we will be vigilant of the risk," Kuroda said. Tokyo stocks enjoyed another bumper day, although the yen has firmed up against the dollar and was +0.3% at the time of writing.

Obama looks to show he’s willing to compromise over budget. President Obama will reportedly offer cuts in Social Security and Medicare in a budget that he is due to propose on Wednesday next week as he attempts to demonstrate that he is prepared to compromise with Republicans. Obama will also offer to use "chained CPI" to limit the cost-of-living increases to the programs. The president, though, still wants tax increases for the rich, as well as infrastructure investment.

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Today’s Markets:
In Asia, Japan +1.6% to 12834. Hong Kong -2.7% to 21727. China closed. India -0.3% to 18450.
In Europe, at midday, London -1.4%. Paris -1.9%. Frankfurt -1.7%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow -0.5%. S&P -0.5%. Nasdaq -0.6%. Crude -0.4% to $92.90. Gold +0.1% to $1554.10.

Today’s economic calendar:
8:30 Nonfarm Payrolls
8:30 International Trade
3:00 PM Consumer Credit

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