China Goes Shopping and General Motors Reports—5 Things to Know Today

First 2013 Cadillac ATS Rolls Off Assembly Line In Lansing
LANSING, MI, - JULY 26: General Motors' workers assemble a 2013 Cadillac ATS on the assembly line at the General Motors Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant July 26, 2012 in Lansing, Michigan. The first 2013 Cadillac ATS available for retail sale rolled off the assembly line today at the plant. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Photograph by Bill Pugliano — Getty Images

Hello friends and Fortune readers.

Wall Street stock futures are up slightly this morning, shaking off a bad day yesterday as well as weakness in Asian and European markets. Oil prices, which had been down during trading in Asia, recovered after Russia said it was open to talking with OPEC about cutting output. At around 6:30 a.m. ET, West Texas crude was up more than 2%, to $30.55.

Today’s must-read story is by Fortune’s Geoff Colvin on why the Iowa caucus results represent a significant shift in political power to the masses.

Here’s what else you need to know.

1. China goes shopping

China made its boldest overseas takeover move yet when state-owned ChemChina agreed a $43 billion bid for Swiss seeds and pesticides group Syngenta (SYT) on Wednesday. It would be the largest ever foreign purchase by a Chinese firm, and it marks a setback for U.S. firm Monsanto (MON), which tried (and failed) to buy Syngenta last year.

2. General Motors reports.

General Motors (GM) reveals its fourth-quarter and full-year results before the market opens today. The automaker is expected to post earnings of $1.21 a share on sales of $38.07 billion, according to FactSet estimates. U.S. auto sales hit record levels last year, which likely helped boost GM’s overall sales. Analysts will be listening carefully to see if the company’s sales may have peaked in the U.S.–a blow to GM’s already lagging stock.

3. And Merck & Co.

The drugmaker–not to be confused with Europe-based Merck, a name confusion that’s brought the two into court recently–is expected to report slightly lower fourth-quarter sales today. Merck & Co. (MRK) was likely hurt by a strong dollar and falling sales of its blockbuster Remicade arthritis treatment. Analysts will be paying close attention to sales of its Keytruda drug, an immuno-oncology treatment that has been battling for dominance against Bristol-Myers Squibb’s (BMY) similar Opdivo medicine.

4. And Comcast.

The largest U.S. cable operator reports its fourth-quarter results before the market open today. Analysts expect the company to report earnings per share of 82 cents on sales of $18.8 billion, according to FactSet estimates. Comcast (CMCSA) has benefited from customer growth in its high-speed Internet business, even as it battles to keep customers who are cutting the cord in favor of online streaming services.

Also reporting today: Metlife (MET), Yum! Brands (YUM), and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

4. U.S. employment update.

ADP releases its National Employment Report today ahead of the Labor Department’s estimates on Friday. Private employers are likely to have added 195,000 jobs last month, building on a strong December jobs report.

Also out today: U.S. services sector index, which likely expanded at the same rate in January as a month prior.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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