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Pisani: Greece Faces German Discipline

We have an accord, just don't ask us what it is: the EC president declared that "there is an accord" on Greece; this will be discussed next week by the European Union finance ministers. The Germans have dropped all sorts of hints that there will be a price to pay. The German chancellor said, "Greece won't be left along, but there are rules and these rules must be adhered to."

A pass for February? Get ready for economists to discount lousy economic news, due to the snow storms. And this time they may have a point: Joe LoVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, notes that the big storm happened during the employment survey week — a lot of people who planned on starting work on Monday didn't.

Jobless claims better than expected, bucking the trend of the last several weeks.

Elsewhere:

1) Mining giant Rio Tinto up 3 percent pre-open, reported full year underlying earnings above expectations.

"We have witnessed a substantial reovery in the pricing of most of our key commodities over the past twelve months," CEO Jan du Plessis said, and that "the factors that drove price recovery in 2009 will continue through 2010."

"We still believe that we are experiencing a secular uplift in demand for commodities," du Plessis said, noting in particular strong demand in China and India.

Of particular note: a) record iron ore prices, b) significant increases in copper and gold production, and c) the aluminum business is profitable again thanks to price gains and production cutbacks.

2) AutoNation reported better-than-expected earnings ($0.29 vs. $0.27 consensus) as sales improved. New vehicle sales of U.S. brands rose 6 percent while luxury car sales (Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus) rose 8 percent.

The country's biggest auto dealer forecasts 11.5 million vehicle sales across the industry this year, up from 10.4 million in 2009.

3) Group 1 Automotive saw its Q4 earnings a penny short of estimates. Sales were slightly higher the Street's forecasts, with new vehicle sales rising 0.6 percent and used car sales increasing 6.2 percent. The auto dealer also had its first gain in same-store sales in 3 years.

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