Investment News Briefs

With our investment news briefs, Money Morning provides investors with a quick overview of the most important investing news stories from all around the world.

China Ramps Up Oil Refining; Lowe's Tops Forecasts; Toshiba Raising $3 Billion in Stock Sale; AIG Fast-Tracking Asian Subsidiary IPO; Obama Sets First Pollution Limits on Cars; Homebuilder Confidence Highest in 8 Months; State Street Sells $1.5 Billion in Stock to Repay TARP Funds; Oil Spikes on Africa Violence, U.S. Refinery Fire

  • China will increase its annual oil refining volume by 18% over the next two years to meet expected long-term demand. China's State Council also said that it would boost stockpiles and encourage petro companies to merge operations, Bloomberg reported.
  • Lowe's Cos. Inc. (NYSE: LOW) reported an analyst-beating quarterly profit and raised its full-year forecast. The No. 2 home improvement retailer cited improving consumer confidence and signs the housing market may be bottoming, Reuters reported.
  • Toshiba Corp. has begun a $3 billion stock sale to raise capital after posting a record loss last year. Japan's biggest semiconductor maker plans to offer 870 million new shares priced at a 3% to 5% discount to the stock's closing price the day the sale ends, which may be as early as next week, Bloomberg reported.
  • Seeking to pay back government loans, American International Group Ltd. (NYSE: AIG) is speeding up plans to list its Asian subsidiary, American International Assurance Co. Ltd., through an initial public offering, Reuters reported. AIG hopes the IPO will raise more than $4 billion, a small number considering the insurer has racked up a $180 billion debt to the U.S. government.
  • President Barack Obama will announce today (Tuesday) a federal standard for greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles, the first nationwide limit on pollution scientists say is triggering global climate change.  The emissions limit will be coordinated with new national fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
  • U.S. homebuilders confidence rose in May to the highest level since September, providing further evidence that the housing slump that started in 2006 may be closer to a floor. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index of builder confidence rose to 16 from 14 the prior month, the Washington-based agency said yesterday (Monday), capping the first back-to-back gain since February 2008. A reading below 50 means most respondents view conditions as poor, Bloomberg reported.
  • State Street Corp (NYSE: STT), the Boston-based custodial bank and asset manager, said it plans to sell $1.5 billion of stock and will also sell notes to help repay government bailout funds. The bank said it took a $3.7 billion charge to move some assets onto its balance sheet at a loss, and will said it will use proceeds from the securities sales to help repay a $2 billion infusion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Reutersreported. 
  • Oil prices rose sharply yesterday (Monday), as violence in Africa's top crude exporter Nigeria and a fire at a key U.S. East Coast refinery revived concern about supplies.  U.S. crude for June jumped $1.98 to $58.32, while London Brent for July rose $2.51 to $58.49.  The gains came after Nigerian militants said they had blown up two oil and gas pipelines in the Niger Delta and would blockade waterways in the region in an effort to disrupt energy exports from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member, Reutersreported. 
  • An earnings surprise and a buy recommendation on a major U.S. bank sent U.S stocks skyward yesterday (Monday). The Dow Jones Industrial Average had its best day since April 9, zooming 235.44 points, or 2.85%, to close at 8,504.08 - as 29 of the 30 stocks that make up that closely watched blue-chip index rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index  recouped  more than half of last week's losses, advancing 26.83 points, or 3%, to close at 909.71. Home-improvement retailer The Lowe's Cos. (NYSE: LOW)  topped earnings estimates - sending its shares up more than 8% -- while one analyst recommended buying shares of Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), and set a $15 price target. BofA's shares closed yesterday at $11.72, up 9.84% each. The Nasdaq Composite Index surged 52.22 points, or 3.1%, to end the day at 1,732.36.