Last Call: Wet Your Whistleblowers

Budweiser Anheuser-Busch
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"I guess you could call them wet your whistleblowers"

- James T. Forkin, humorist

Below, consumers, claiming insider knowledge from former employees, file class action lawsuits alleging Budweiser brands are intentionally watered down and the alcohol content misstated

Market Musings With CNBC Market Master Robert Hum

Recap: Dow 115.96 ( 0.84%) at 13,900.13, S&P 9.09 ( 0.61%) at 1,496.94, Nasdaq 13.40 ( 0.43%) at 3,129.65

Unfazed by Bernanke and with an early boost from strong economic data, stocks rebound after Monday's sell-off; Dow recovers just over half of Monday's losses.

Dow far outperforms S&P 500 & Nasdaq much of the day as Home Depot provides spark after solid earnings beat. Home Depot contributes nearly 25% of Dow's gain today after jumping 5.7%, its best day in nearly 4 years.

Crude oil settles back below $93, its low of 2013, while gold pops back above $1600, a 2-week high during Bernanke's testimony.

Quick Hits

DreamWorks Animation to lay off 350 employees Papa John's restating 2009-12 financials Hagel receives enough votes to be confirmed as Defense Secretary First Solar beats, revs. miss, outlook very conservative earnings beat ests. revs. Inline S&P - no impact on Italy credit rating after election results.

The Word on the Street

Americans Call Sequester a 'Bad Idea': NBC/WSJ Poll/CNBC: "Americans want to cut federal spending but believe by a lopsided margin that the looming budget sequester is a poor way to do that, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. By 52 percent to 21 percent, the public calls the sequester a "bad idea" rather than a good one, the poll shows. Nor do Americans feel good about the way President Barack Obama and Congress are dealing with each other on the issue; by 51 percent to 16 percent, they say budget negotiations so far make them less confident about the economy. That doesn't mean Americans don't favor spending reductions: A 53-percent majority backs either the sequester or an alternative calling for more cuts."

Buckle Up: More Volatility Ahead for Stock Market/CNBC: "Bigger gyrations could be more the norm for stocks in the next couple of weeks as investors watch fiscal and political developments in Washington and Europe. Stocks rose Tuesday, but were also volatile, with the S&P 500 trading between 1485 and 1498. The S&P ended the day up 9 at 1496, and the Dow was up 115 at 13,900, after plunging 216 points Monday. The Nasdaq was up 13 at 3129. Tuesday's gains came on the back of positive earnings news from Home Depot and stronger housing data, contrasting with Monday's steep decline on worries about the unclear outcome of the Italian election. The market volatility comes after several weeks of quiet trading where there were few days with big market moves. "We've gone from the 'too far, too fast' that paralyzed investors on the bullish and the bearish side. Now we've reinvigorated them. Both players are back in the game," said Art Hogan of Lazard Capital Markets. The S&P lost 1.8 percent Monday, its biggest one-day drop since November. Hogan said the shorts have returned. "At 1540 in the S&P, you're too afraid to put a short on, but if it breaks 1500 you put it on with both hands because you see that support level broken."

Boeing Engineering Union to Drop Pension Demand/Reuters: "Boeing's engineering union has decided to drop its demand that its labor contract include a pension for new workers, a move that could hasten a deal as the two sides resume bargaining on Wednesday."

Reports of Boeing 787 test flights "completely inaccurate": FAA/Reuters: "The Federal Aviation Administration said it is not close to approving test flights of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner with a proposed fix for the plane's troubled batteries, denying news reports that such tests could start as early as next week. "Reports that we are close to allowing 787 test flights are completely inaccurate," spokeswoman Laura Brown said on Tuesday in an email to Reuters. Boeing declined to comment.

Best Buy takeover attempt by founder in jeopardy: sources/Reuters: "Best Buy Co Inc founder Richard Schulze's effort to take the company private is in trouble after attempts to secure financing faltered while an alternative strategy to line up minority investors may not pan out either, five sources familiar with the matter said. No longer pursuing a full takeover bid for the troubled electronics retailer, Schulze has focused discussions in recent weeks on a potential deal in which private equity firms would buy a non-controlling stake, the sources, who declined to be named because the discussions are private, said.

Variety dropping daily publication and paywall/AP: "Variety, the venerable trade paper that has covered Hollywood for more than a century, is dropping its daily print edition and replacing it with a weekly publication starting next month. The publication also will have a new management structure featuring three editors-in-chief and will remove the paywall that was put up on its website three years ago. "It was an interesting experiment that didn't work. We look forward to welcoming back longtime Variety readers when the paywall drops March 1," said Jay Penske, the chairman and CEO of Variety's parent company. Variety's last daily print edition will be published March 18. A Tuesday-only publication will debut March 26 and will be augmented throughout the year by several special editions reporting on the industry's many awards shows and other topics of interest to Hollywood movers and shakers."

Now Tesla Has To Explain Away Another Test Drive Debacle/Biz Insider: "On Monday, automotive resource site Edmunds Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds reported that the touchscreen in the Tesla Model S he was test driving had gone black. While the car was still drivable, Edmunds lost control of the radio, navigation and phone functions. Edmunds, who wrote a positive review of the Model S last September (and called the touchscreen the "star of the interior") described Monday's incident as a "meltdown." Today, he wrote that his day ended at a Los Angeles service center, where two technicians eventually got the screen running again: "When all was said and done, the service writer said that they wanted to replace the screen entirely, presumably as a precaution against any further problems. I told him I would bring it back the following day. On the drive home, the screen worked fine and I experienced no additional problems, but we're definitely bringing it back in to have the swap done. More on that later". A negative review of the Model S by John Broder at the New York Times earlier this month sparked a fight between the newspaper and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who called the article "fake" on Twitter. Now, less than a week after finally asking to "bury the hatchet" with the Times, Musk has a new potential public relations debacle to deal with. So far, Musk has not responded to Edmunds' problem via Twitter or his blog.

BlackBerry Wants to Send Money Over Messenger/All Things D: "Working with Indonesian bank PermataBank, BlackBerry today began piloting BBM Money, a service that allows BlackBerry users to transfer money to contacts over BBM. The company says sending cash from one user to another is as simple as chatting - with bank-grade security measures protecting the transactions. The pilot program is currently limited to BlackBerry 5, 6, and 7 devices, but BB10 devices will surely follow. And if all goes well in Indonesia - PermataBank expects a few hundred thousand users to try BBM Money in its first year - BlackBerry will extend it to other emerging markets, as well. It's worth noting that BlackBerry isn't pitching BBM Money as a killer app, but as a simple value-added proposition - something that might give the company's handsets an edge with consumers torn between a Z10 and an iPhone or Android device."

Cuba says cigar sales $416 million last year/AP: "Cuban cigar sales rose last year despite the ongoing economic crisis in some of the most important European markets including No. 1 buyer Spain, state-run tobacco company officials said Tuesday. Sales totaled $416 million in 2012, Habanos SA representatives told reporters at a smoky press conference held to kick off Cuba's Cigar Festival in a Havana convention center. That was up from $401 million the previous year."

Billionaire launches plans for Titanic replica/AP: "An Australian billionaire is getting ready to build a new version of the Titanic that could set sail in late 2016. Clive Palmer unveiled blueprints for the famously doomed ship's namesake Tuesday at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York. He said construction is scheduled to start soon in China. Palmer said 40,000 people have expressed interest in tickets for the maiden voyage, taking the original course from Southampton, England, to New York. He said people are inspired by his quest to replicate one of the most famous vessels in history."

More water, less buzz in Bud, Michelob beer/AP: "Beer lovers across the U.S. have accused Anheuser-Busch of watering down its Budweiser, Michelob and other brands, in class-action suits seeking millions in damages. The suits, filed in Pennsylvania, California and other states, claim consumers have been cheated out of the alcohol content stated on labels. Budweiser and Michelob each boast of being 5 percent alcohol, while some "light" versions are said to be just over 4 percent. The lawsuits are based on information from former employees at the company's 13 U.S. breweries, some in high-level plant positions, according to lead lawyer Josh Boxer of San Rafael, Calif."

Parties divided on Chick-fil-A, KFC/Politico: "...According to a Public Policy Polling survey released on Tuesday, food preferences - croissants versus donuts, Chick-fil-A versus Kentucky Fried Chicken - can break down party lines. For example, the poll found that given a choice of donuts, croissants or bagels, 34 percent of Democrats picked bagels and 32 percent chose croissants, while the bulk of Republicans - 35 percent -opted for donuts, followed by 34 percent for bagels. Support for vegetarians also fell along a partisan divide: Democrats view vegetarians favorably, 63-16 percent, while Republicans say the same only 38-30 percent. The divide was even starker for vegans: 48 percent of Democrats view vegans favorably while 22 percent do not; 31 percent of Republicans back vegans while another 41 percent view the animal product-abstainers unfavorably. Republicans also overwhelmingly favor Chick-fil-A when it comes to fast food chicken restaurants, with 48 percent of GOPers naming it their top chicken pick; Democrats opted for KFC, which got 39 percent of that group's vote. Common ground was found, however, in categories like pizza and soda. Pizza Hut was the top pizza pick for Democrats and Republicans alike, and Coke beat out Pepsi on both sides of the aisle. And 41 percent of both Democrats and Republicans view fast food favorably, while 50 percent from both parties do not."