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Thursday April 17, 2008 - 11:23:53 GMT
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European Market Update: Euro-Zone Trade Balance Surprises to the Upside

European Market Update: Euro-Zone Trade Balance Surprises to the Upside

· *** ECONOMIC DATA ***

· SZ Feb Adjusted Real Retail Sales Y/Y: 3.3% v 1. 6%e

· EU Feb Trade Balance: €800M v -€3.5Be || Prior revised from - €10.7B to -€11.0B

· EU Feb Trade Balance sa: €2.1B v -€2.1Be || Prior revised from -€2.0B to -€1.0B

· SZ Apr ZEW Expectations: -71.4 v -60.0e

· *** SPEAKERS/COMMENTS ***

· ECB April Monthly Report: Economic fundamentals are sound || Sees protracted temporary period of high inflation || Market tensions may last longer than initially expected || Sees upside risks in the medium-term || Uncertainty is unusually high || Maintaining price stability is the ECB's primary goal || Current rates will help to achieve the ECB's inflation goal

· German Economic Institutes lower 2008 GDP outlook to 1.8% from 2.2% || See shocks from Euro currency, oil and food prices and sub-prime fallout || German economic indicators still at high levels || Sees 'high risk' that inflation will drive wage demands || Assumes ECB will hold rates at 4.00% in 2008 || Assumes EUR/USD averaging $1.58 through 2009

· *** FIXED INCOME/FX/COMMODITIES/ERRATUM ***

· In equity news American Campus Communities (ACC) announced after the close a 4.5M shares secondary offering representing 16.7% of shares outstanding. Ulticom (ULCM) said in a filing overnight that it is mulling strategic alternatives, including sale of company. ViroPharma (VPHM) and Wyeth (WYE) announced overnight the discontinuation of HCV-796 development. The companies cited the previously announced safety issue that emerged in the ongoing Phase 2 trial in patients with hepatitis C. ViroPharma also announced that ViroPharma and Wyeth do not expect to continue to collaborate on future development of hepatitis C treatment candidates. Expro International [EXR.UK] agreed to be acquired by a Candover Investment-led consortium for 1,435p/share in cash representing an 8.5% premium to yesterday's closing price. The total value of the deal is £1.61B. Roche [ROG.SZ] Reported first-quarter revenues of CHF10.8B overnight, below estimates of CHF11.2Be. Munich Re's [MUV2.GE] CEO guided the company's FY08 net in line with analyst estimates, but noted that first quarter results would not be as good as they were in 2007.

· Looking at the newspapers, according to the Times RWE [RWE.GE] and Vattenfall may partner to bid for British Energy [BGY.UK]. Recall that on 4/9the Financial Times reported that RWE has made an indicative all-cash offer for British Energy worth close to 700p/share. The Wall Street Journal wrote overnight that Freddie Mac (FRE) is set to unveil an agreement with 3 major mortgage lenders aimed at making more funds available for large home loans. The agreement is reportedly with Wells Fargo (WFC), JP Morgan (JPM) and Citigroup (C) The Guardian wrote overnight that Orange Orange plans to bid for Tiscali [TIS.IT] According to an article in Seuddeutsche Zeitung Volkswagen (VOW.GE) supervisory board chairman Piech foresees a good chance of acquiring and successfully integrating the Italian motorcycle maker Ducati. In an interview with L'Hebdo UBS's [UBSN.SZ] CEO Marcel Rohner said that UBS will not need another capital injection, adding that circulating projections about pending job cuts are exaggerated.

· In energy news overnight the Financial Times wrote overnight that
Nigeria is at risk of losing 1/3 of its oil output by 2015. According to the article Nigeria needs to find ways to raise investment in joint ventures. The article cites an internal report by President Adua's energy adviser. According to the Ministry of Land and Resources, China added 1.21B tons of oil reserves in 2007. On the whole, the well that is energy news seems to have dried up for the time being, while crude continues to push higher.

· In new supply overnight the Agence France Trésor sold €1.095B in 4.00% September 2009 BTANs with an average yield of 3.94% and a bid-to-cover of 5.17x. The AFT also sold €1.56B in 2.50% July 2010 BTAN with an average yield of 3. 78%% and a bid-to-cover of 3.26x, as well as €2.075B in 3.75% January 2013 BTAN with an average yield of 3.97% and a bid-to-cover of 2.48x. Over in the
UK the DMO sold £2.25Bin 4.50% December 2042 gilts with a bid-to-cover of 1.69x, and a yield tail of 0.9bps. In price action, according to source reports, the Belgian Agence de la Dette prices the 4.00% 2014 issue at re- offer 87.872. Elsewhere, Moodys announced that 20 downgraded Washington Mutual (WM) tranches are on review for possible cuts due to higher foreseen delinquency rates. According to wire reports overnight Moodys downgraded some of Morgan Stanley sub-prime RMBS. The Wall Street Journal has a positive piece on inflation-linked savings bonds, which points out that, due to the March CPI report, the new annualized inflation adjustment on inflation-linked bonds is 4.83%, the second highest adjustment since these types of bonds were introduced in 1998. According to the article the yields on inflation-linked savings bonds are likely to rise to over 5% from the current 4.28%.Results from General Electric's (GE) bond auction showed that the company raised an aggregate of $8.5B in 5-year, 10-year, and 30-year bonds in its biggest bond sale since 2002. According to an article in Diario de Noticias, the Portuguese government plans to cut its economic growth forecast to 1.7%-1.8% from the existing forecast of 2.0%. The article did not cite any sources. The group of four German economic institutes cuts its 2008 GDP outlook to 1.8% from 2.2%, and forecasted 2009 growth at 1.4% assuming ECB rates at 4.00% until the end of 2009.

· On the data front, the Brazilian central bank raised interested rates by 50bps to 11.75% in a unanimous vote during Asian trading. The overall market consensus was for a 25bps rate hike. The rate hike is the first in nearly three years, and was executed in an attempt to help “contain inflation” according to the central bank. In its April monthly report, the ECB reiterated most of its recent rhetoric, noting that economic fundamentals remain sound. The ECB reiterated that they see a protracted temporary period of high inflation, and added that upside risks are seen in the medium-term. Finally, the ECB reiterated once again that it's primary goal is maintaining price stability. The Euro-Zone trade balance for the month of February exceeded estimates by a wide margin on both a normal and a seasonally adjusted basis. Exports to the
US were flat from January's reading.

· In currencies the EUR/USD eked out a fresh all-time high of 1.5983 but basically consolidated its recent gains throughout the European session as oil and gold maintain their firm tone. Dealers note that good two-way transaction flow continuing at the 1.5970/90 level. Dealers also note that Euro buy stops orders building above the 1. 6030-area. The JPY maintained a soft tone following the
US, Japanese equity rallies as EUR/JPY broke above the 162 area. Dealers have noted that a decent quantity of USD/JPY 102 option strikes expire on Friday.

· Looking ahead, earnings season is beginning to kick in with heavy earnings flows before the open and after the close. Of note this morning will be Baxter International (BAX), the Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK), Continental Airlines (CAL), Harley-Davidson (HOG), Southwest Airlines (LUV), Marriott International (MAR), Merrill Lynch (MER), Pfizer (PFE), Supervalu (SVU), and of course United Technologies (UTX). Data is light in the
US today, with initial jobless claims and continuing claims due at 8:30 ET, followed by March leading indicators, and the April Philadelphia Fed index at 10:00 ET. There are a series of Fed speakers peppered here and about today, including Kohn, Prescott, Fisher, and Lacker.

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