Darden Tanks, Christmas Comes Early, and a New Microsoft Office: Afternoon Buzzers

Stock futures are once again up on Tuesday afternoon. The markets will be waiting for news out of a scheduled fiscal cliff meeting between Republican and Democratic leaders and a delegation of state governors.

At 8:45 AM: S&P: +0.14%, Nasdaq: +0.10%, Dow: +0.02%.

Here’s what’s buzzing in the Afternoon:

Shares of Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) were off as much as 10.39 percent today after the company announced adjusted second-quarter profit estimates. The operator of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and LongHorn Steakhouse expects diluted net earnings per share of up to $0.26, a far cry from the $0.46 per share the company was expected to earn according to a FactSet survey.

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Christmas Comes Early: With fiscal cliff negotiations in full swing and the Obama administration pushing for higher dividend tax rates, Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) has joined companies like Costco (NASDAQ:COST) in issuing a special dividend before the end of the year. Oracle is reportedly accelerating up to $800 million in next year’s dividends to be paid this month.

Head to Head: At the end of November, Chicago-based high-frequency trader Getco LLC officially offered a bid to buy Knight Capital Group (NYSE:KCG) for about $1 billion in cash and stock, or about $3.50 per share. Getco’s bid countered an offer from Virtu Financial LLC — a cash takeover of Knight Capital for $3 per share. Now, just about a week later, Cerberus Capital Management LP is reportedly in talks to join Virtu’s offer, setting the stage for a bidding showdown.

A New Face Behind an Old Game: For the second time in as many months News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS)(NASDAQ:NWSA) is reportedly gearing up to buy a regional sports television channel. News Corp. has its eyes on SportsTime Ohio, a channel owned by the Cleveland Indians. Sources told Reuters that the deal is worth about $230 million. The news comes two weeks after News Corp. announced its intention to acquire a 49 percent stake in the YES Network, which broadcasts Yankees and Brooklyn Nets games.

An Upgrade to Corner Office? In the midst of less-than-encouraging Windows 8 and Surface sales, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has launched Office 2013 for businesses still within the fold of the brand. The new office is touch- and cloud-friendly, and won’t be available at retailers until the first quarter of 2013. Engadget has a review.

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