In equity news overnight American Ecology (ECOL) announced a 20% increase to
its quarterly dividend, bringing the dividend up to $0.18/share. Bunge (BG)
announced an 11.8% increase to its quarterly dividend, bringing the dividend up
to $0.19/share. AtheroGenics' (AGIX) ARISE trial results published in the
Lancet show that the study missed its primary endpoint in diabetes. Expro
[EXR.UK] has received a ¬£1.7B or ¬£15.25/share cash bid from Halliburton. Recall
that on 5/18 the Telegraph wrote that Halliburton (HAL) may was mulling a ¬£1.8B
for the company. British Energy [BGY.UK] announced overnight that talks with Suez [SZE.FR] have ended.
¬∑In the newspapers the Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street section looked
at Lehman's (LEH) reliance on one-time gains overnight, noting that some
investors are questioning Lehman's earnings report from the prior quarter as
some are asking whether its profit was due to some one-time items. According to
Cinco Dias, Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras [CIN.SP] holder Grupo
Ferrovial [FER.SP] boosted its stake in the company from 65% to 68%. According
to a piece in FT Alphaville Friends Provident [FP.UK] In talks with bidders for
the sale of its 52% stake in F&C.
¬∑In energy news overnight ENI's (E) Indonesian unit announced that it has been
awarded exploration rights for a block in part of Indonesia's Kasuri oil area, while Cnooc (CEO) was
awarded exploration rights for the South East Palung Aru block. The Wall Street
Journal noted overnight that part of the recent rise in oil prices is due to
short covering by energy producers and others betting against a decline in
prices. The article said that some oil producers who entered into futures
contracts to sell oil are finding they locked in prices at as little as half of
what oil currently trades in the spot market. The article adds that some
speculators misjudged the top of the oil market. The Wall Street Journal wrote
overnight that some US lawmakers are looking to end bans on
domestic drilling. Oil drilling is not currently allowed on most of the waters
off of Florida's coast, the East coast and the West
Coast. In the Independent Jeremy Warner wrote that oil prices will eventually
decline, but not without considerable collateral damage. As the world economy
slows, Warner wrote, the best guess remains that oil and other commodity prices
will follow the usual cyclical pattern of eventually falling back to more
affordable levels. As energy and fuel bills rise, consumption is likely to
suffer across the board, threatening a return to the "stagflation" of
the 1970s. Even so, the West isn't as dependent on oil as it was back then and,
as I say, per capita consumption of energy in the developed world is already so
high that it can easily be reduced without causing undue hardship. The pain
caused in the developing world is, on the other hand, likely to be much more
extreme. Here there is little room for reduced energy consumption. As higher
energy and food prices eat into already squeezed family budgets, there is the
threat of serious economic and social dislocation. As with all bubbles, it is
impossible to know when prices will correct. The oil price could as easily go
to $200 a barrel before once more returning to earth. Yet return it certainly
will if it succeeds in pushing the global economy into recession.
¬∑In fixed income related news, according to the Financial Times, Pimco's Gross
has almost tripled his holdings of mortgage debt to more than 60% of his fund.
Gross said he has decided to invest more in mortgage debt due to the US government's implicit guarantee of
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The Financial Times noted overnight that UK banks
are moving away from lending to commercial property developers leading to
increased margin calls. The Telegraph wrote overnight that Economists continue
to doubt the strength of UK retail sales data, noting that some
economists believe that official data is providing a rosier picture than
reality. Some economists believe that official retail sales figures are failing
to capture the impact the credit crisis is having on the consumer. The Royal
Bank of Scotland updated its ECB rate forecast overnight
and now predicts that the ECB will hold rates in 2008, and cut rates in 2009.
¬∑On the speaker front, according to wires citing a newspaper article, the ECB's
Weber reiterated overnight that he sees no Leeway for an ECB rate cut. The
French budget minister said overnight that France is not immune from a US slowdown, adding that Euro FX movements
have calmed down. The EU's Almunia said overnight that he sees Euro-Zone
inflation levels around 3.0% in 2008. The ECB's Bonello said overnight that it
is important that wage demands do not lead to an inflation spiral, adding that
the ECB sees inflation rising in 2008, and closer to 2.0% in 2009.
¬∑On the data front the French consumer spending data for the month of April was
notably lower than expected with the y/y reading falling to its lowest level
since November of 1997 on the back of declines in both the cars, and the
textiles/leather components. Preliminary first-quarter GDP in the UK was in line with consensus expectations
at 0.4% q/q and 2.5% y/y. First quarter exports were 0.0%, below estimates of
1.0%, while imports were -0.6%, below estimates of 0.5%.
¬∑Looking ahead, things are pretty quiet ahead of the extended weekend. On the
data front April existing home sales data is due out at . There is no new supply scheduled in the
US today, nor are there any central bank
speakers scheduled. Furthermore, no notable earnings reports are due this
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