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J.C. Penney OKs 'poison pill'

The department store giant's board adopted a shareholder rights plan that would make it more expensive for activist investor William Ackman to buy more shares and vote for a slate of competing directors. J.C. Penney (NYSE: - ) is giving holders a warrant for a preferred share that would carry the same value and voting power of a common share, exercisable when an investor like Ackman boosts his stake. Shares fell 1.7% to 33.30.

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BP steps up image rebuild by linking pay to safety

LONDON (Reuters) – BP (BP.L) Chief Executive Bob Dudley has stepped up his battle to rebuild the troubled oil giant's reputation, declaring safety is so core to the group that it would be the sole measure for staff bonuses in the last quarter of this year.

Dudley needs to restore investor confidence in the oil group following its Gulf of Mexico oil spill and other disasters in recent years, and to fend off threats to BP's ability to operate in the United States.

Some U.S. lawmakers have argued the oil spill, a refinery blast in 2005, and Alaskan oil spills in 2006, reflect a corporate culture that encouraged managers to put profits before safety.

Dudley disputes this claim and to emphasize BP's commitment to safety he told staff in an email, seen by Reuters, that:

"The sole criterion for performance reward for our operating businesses in the fourth quarter of 2010 will be performance in safety, compliance, silent running and operational risk management."

"We are taking this step in order to be absolutely clear that safety, compliance and operational risk management is BP's number one priority, well ahead of all other priorities," he added in the email which was sent on Monday.

A BP spokesman confirmed the email's contents.

Last month, ahead of his official October 1 start date, Dudley said he was reviewing BP's system of incentives, to ensure that employees never to feel pressured or tempted to sacrifice safety for other goals.

The spokesman said this review would be concluded early next year and that the fourth-quarter bonus move was aimed at instilling a stronger safety culture in BP as soon as possible. He denied it was a publicity stunt.

Rival Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSa.L) has long linked staff bonuses to safety, while Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) is famous in the industry for insisting upon compliance.

Some U.S. leaders and commentators have called for BP to be barred from drilling in the country in future. With 40 percent of its assets located in the U.S., such a move could cripple the company.

Analysts said that in addition to reassuring investors that another disaster was not around the corner, Dudley's prime task was to preserve BP's U.S. position.

BP shares traded down 0.2 percent at 431.5 pence at 0753 GMT, against a 0.4 percent drop in the STOXX Europe 600 Oil and Gas index (.SXEP).

(Reporting by Tom Bergin, by Louise Heavens)


Futures dip ahead of earnings

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The stock index futures slipped on Monday ahead of a busy day for corporate earnings as the U.S. dollar bounced from a 10-month low against a basket of currencies.

All eyes were on earnings reports, including ones from International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Apple Inc (AAPL.O).

Investors will stay focused on financial shares on worries over the potential exposure of major banks to foreclosure losses. Concerns over the effects of a major probe into foreclosure practices dragged the sector lower last week.

"Banks have been reluctant to comment too much on this, and certainly an earnings report would be a good time to address it," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in New York. "Citi statements will be extrapolated to Bank of America and others in a similar position."

The U.S. dollar index (.DXY) rose 0.4 percent as investors trimmed bearish bets against the greenback on uncertainties over how much money the U.S. Federal Reserve will print in its latest effort to boost the economic recovery.

Two top Fed officials argued over the weekend for further aggressive action by the central bank, with one saying the economy needs "much more" help and the other pointing to Japan's painful lessons.

S&P 500 futures dipped 4.1 points and were slightly below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 44 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures shed 4 points.

European stocks, weighed early Monday by mining shares, turned positive, lifted by banks. Oil fell toward one-week lows as gains in the greenback prompted investors to halt their charge into commodities.

The Fed is to release industrial production and capacity utilization data for September at 9:15 a.m. EDT (1315 GMT), and the National Association of Home Builders issues its October housing market index at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT)

Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 0.2 percent rise in production and a reading of 74.8 percent for capacity utilization. In August, production was up 0.2 percent and capacity utilization was 74.7 percent. A reading of 14 is expected on the NAHB index, up from 13 in September.

BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) and Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) ditched plans for a big iron-ore joint venture in what's seen as a victory for steelmakers, and could prompt both companies to step up competing expansion plans.

Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) look set to drift further apart as the U.S. carmaker plans to wind down its stake in the Japanese firm. That would make it easier for Mazda to make decisions, but it may need a new partner down the line.

Northeast Utilities (NU.N) will buy peer NSTAR (NST.N) in a $4.2 billion all-stock deal to create one of the largest U.S. utilities, the companies said.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)