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Hotel deals make a splash on Wall Street

IN THE NEWS TODAY

Starwood (HOT) signed off on an improved takeover bid from Marriott (MAR) worth $13.6 billion in cash and stock. The revised deal comes after China's Anbang last week topped Marriott's original offer. (CNBC)

Starwood also inked a deal to operate hotels in Cuba, becoming the first U.S. hotelier to do so since the 1959 revolution there. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro sit down for an historic meeting in Havana today. (Reuters & AP)

U.S. stock futures were higher this morning. Last week's rally propelled the Dow and S&P 500 into positive territory for the year. The Nasdaq remains nearly 4.25 percent lower this year. Markets are closed at the end of the week for Good Friday. (CNBC)

Inflation will likely accelerate in coming years and move higher toward the Fed's 2 percent target, Richmond Fed President Jeff Lacker said today at an international central banking conference in Paris. (Reuters)

Another suspect with alleged ties to the Paris terror attacks was named today by officials who urged the public to assist in the hunt. Last week, Salah Abdeslam — suspected plotter and aborted suicide attacker — was arrested. (NBC News)

A spring storm could dump up to a foot of snow on parts of New England this morning, but New York City and Long Island escaped with a lighter covering. (NBC News)

All the 2016 presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle, except for Sen. Bernie Sanders, plan to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference today in Washington, D.C. Tomorrow's nominating contests include Arizona and Utah. (Observer)

Facebook (FB) chief Mark Zuckerberg held a rare meeting with China's propaganda chief at a time when Chinese authorities are tightening control over their cyberspace. (AP)

U.S. business research provider IHS (IHS) has agreed to merge with London-based financial data provider Markit (MRKT) in a deal valued at more than $13 billion. (CNBC)

Valspar (VAL) is being purchased by rival paint-maker Sherwin-Williams (SHW) for $9.3 billion in cash. The deal represents a 35 percent premium to Valspar's closing price on Friday. (FT)

Apple (AAPL) is widely expected to unveil a new 4-inch iPhone, a new 9.7-inch iPad, new Apple Watch bands, and some software updates at an event today at its Cupertino, California, headquarters. (CNBC)

Twitter (TWTR) turns 10 years old today. The social media network began trading in November 2013. Hoping to right the ship, co-founder Jack Dorsey, also head of Square, took over as CEO Twitter last year. (CNBC)

Kindle users will lose Internet connectivity on their devices, if they don't install a crucial update before tomorrow. The update from Amazon (AMZN) applies to Kindles sold in 2012 and before. (CNBC)

BY THE NUMBERS

U.S. oil prices were lower this morning on concerns over a supply glut after the rig count among American producers rose for the first time since December after 12 weeks of reductions.

Gas prices surged nearly 25 cents in the past four weeks, according to the latest Lundberg survey. Regular-grade unleaded climbed to around $2.02 per gallon, along with recently rising oil prices.

China's Shanghai composite up 2.2 percent overnight. Japan's stock market was closed today for a holiday. Meanwhile, there's word China's central bank, confronted with a plunge in stock last year, asked the Fed for its "Black Monday" crash playbook. (CNBC & Reuters)

Today's lone U.S. economic report comes from the National Association of Realtors, which is out with existing home sales for February at 10 a.m. ET. Forecasts call for a 2.6 percent drop to an annual rate of 5.33 million units, following a 0.4 percent January increase.

In addition to Lacker, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart also gives a policy speech today in Savannah, Georgia at 12:40 p.m. ET. Neither Lockhart nor Lacker is a voting member of the central bank's policymaking panel this year.

STOCKS TO WATCH

WL Ross Holdings (WLRH) — a so-called "blank check" company by Wilbur Ross, set-up to make acquisitions — is buying chemical and plastics distributor Nexeo Solutions for $1.6 billion in cash and stock. The seller, private equity firm TPG, retains a 35 percent stake.

FedEx (FDX) could rise 15 to 20 percent over the next year, according to analysts quoted by Barron's. They said concerns over Amazon using its own delivery jets at the expense of FedEx and UPS (UPS) were likely overblown.

Staples (SPLS) plans to attempt to move its proposed takeover of Office Depot (ODP) forward in a Washington, DC court today. The Federal Trade Commission is suing to block the deal on antitrust grounds.

Alibaba (BABA) said transaction volume on its website hit three trillion yuan or more than $460 billion, with less than two weeks left in its fiscal year. That figure represents year-over-year growth of about 23 percent.


WATERCOOLER

Disney's (DIS) "Zootopia" continues to run wild over its rivals in its third weekend in theaters, stomping all over the launch of Lionsgate's (LFG) "Allegiant," the third film in the "Divergent" series. (AP)