A Patent Showdown and Open Season on Credit-Rating Agencies: Morning Buzzers

The U.S. markets were reserved on Friday morning, even though positive data out of China had the European markets in the green at mid-day. Chinese exports surged 28.8 percent year over year in January, while imports climbed 25 percent for the period.

Futures at 8:50 a.m.: DJIA: -0.03%, S&P 500: +0.03%, NASDAQ: +0.24%.

Here’s what’s buzzing on Friday morning:snowmageddon

Winter Storm Nemo, a blizzard of “historic size,” is slated to pretty much shut down the Northeast starting on Friday and heading through the weekend. Already top airlines are cancelling flights and officials are urging residents to stay off streets. With public transportation in New York City, Boston, and everywhere in between shutting down in advance of the storm, many businesses will be calling an early Friday. Nearly 3,000 flights have already been cancelled.

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Apparently it’s open season on credit-rating agencies, as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reportedly opens an investigation into Standard & Poor’s (NYSE:MHP), Moody’s (NYSE:MCO), and Fitch Ratings. Schneiderman will be investigating whether or not the agencies complied with agreements made in 2008 to make certain reforms. If not, he may open a case for fraud or misconduct.

LinkedInLinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) smashed expectations with its fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 results, reported after the bell on Thursday. Shares were up over 10 percent in the pre-market, spurred by 81 percent revenue growth, 66 percent profit growth, and 15 million new accounts in the fourth quarter. Guidance for 2013 was inline with expectations, and the strong results prompted a swift upgrade to “Buy” from analysts at Citigroup.

McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) faced some selling pressure in the pre-market after reporting that comparable-store sales declined 1.9 percent in January. This was led by a sharp decrease of 9.5 percent in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East, and Africa unit and a 2.1 percent drop in the European unit. However, comparable-store sales grew 0.9 percent in the U.S. segment, somewhat mitigating the global decline.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is forming an unlikely alliance with JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) and Yelp (NYSE:YELP) ahead of a Friday hearing in a special appeals court. The hearing is aimed at trying to answer one question that has become not just important, but critical to the current tech economy. That is: when does a piece of software become patentable? Over 5,600 patent infringement lawsuits were filed last year, with 12 percent of them filed by just 10 companies over software, highlighting the issues that so-called patent trolls can cause.

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