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Microsoft Late to the Smart Phone Party; Middle Eastern Markets and Oil Prices Get a Jolt… from Israel; Citigroup Minimizes Alternative Asset Holdings to $2.5 Billion

Microsoft Late to the Smart Phone Party (YahooFinance)

In a $7.2- billion deal, Microsoft is acquiring Nokia’s cellphone business. Microsoft is paying 3.79 billion Finnish marks for the business components and 1.65 billion marks for Nokia’s patents. In addition to finally giving the software giant a hardware component in the mobile phone business — a la rivals Samsung and Apple — the deal will also place a couple of key executives on Microsoft’s roster, providing new candidates for outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer’s position. In a joint statement, the two companies said, “Microsoft aims to accelerate the growth of its share and profit in mobile devices through faster innovation, increased synergies, and unified branding and marketing.” Investors aim to accelerate portfolio performance through the deal.

Middle Eastern Markets and Oil Prices Get a Jolt… from Israel (Bloomberg)

Investors in Middle East-related stocks and oil were made a little bit more uneasy this morning as Israel tested its missile defense systems by firing two rockets into the Mediterranean Sea. The test was seen as a message to Iran — Syria’s main ally in the region — that the country is prepared should the Syrian situation escalate farther than a limited U.S. response. President Obama will meet later today with the leaders of both houses of Congress and ranking members of the military, foreign affairs and intelligence communities to swing favor to his side to attack Syrian chemical weapons-delivering systems. Should the drama in the region escalate, oil prices, as well as share prices, could become extremely volatile.  Investors should keep a close watch as the situation develops.

Citigroup Minimizes Alternative Asset Holdings to $2.5 Billion (YahooFinance)

New regulations that limit a bank’s ability to hold “alternative” investments have led Citigroup, Inc. to shed more than $6 billion in private-equity and hedge-fund assets over the last month. As recently as February 2012, Citigroup held more than $18.6 billion in such investments. But in order to comply with the so-called “Volker rule,” no bank is allowed to hold more than 3 percent of its tier one capital in investments such as these, that it doesn’t manage. These latest deals leave Citi with just one fund, the $2.5 billion North American private-equity fund Metalmark Capital. Investors who’ve counted on Citi for these alternative investments now need to look elsewhere for appreciation.

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