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Tuesday July 29, 2008 - 17:02:04 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Dow +124 S&P +13 NASDAQ +45

- Indices are posting early gains with the Dow and S&P each up 1% and the NASDAQ up closer to 2% - thanks to an improved consumer confidence reading and enthusiasm for Merrill Lynch's plan to purge bad debt and raise more capital. Lower commodity prices are once again providing a boost as well with Sep crude falling 2.5% below $122 for the first time in almost 3 months. The DJ Transportation average is up more than 2% helped by a smooth takeoff in the airlines. Merrill announced last night that it would sell off more than $30B in toxic assets at a steep loss in an attempt to purge the bank's balance sheet of lingering mortgage- related problems. It is selling the assets, which had been carried at $11B at the end of Q2, to Lone Star Funds for $6.7B. Merrill also said that it would sell $8.5B worth of stock, priced at $22.50/share, a level that was briefly tested right after the open before buoying around $23 and change, down 4.5% from yesterday's close. The bank expects to record a Q3 pre-tax write-down of $5.7B due to the transactions. Reaction to the move came overnight: Oppenheimer's Whitney revises her view of MER's full-year EPS to -$10.50 from -$8.30, Credit Suisse revises the firm's 2008 loss estimate to -$12.70 from -$7.00, while a Wachovia analyst said MER's stock price can see “the light at the end of the tunnel.” S&P said Merrill's rating remains unaffected by the actions. MER was down as much as 7% in early trading, before recovering somewhat, to 3% below yesterday's close. Bond insurer SCA+90% and XL-10% have been cleaning up some financial fallout of their own; yesterday SCA said it would commute guarantees it sold to Merrill and pay the bank $500M, while XL plans to sell $2.5B in new stock and securities, and grant SCA 8M shares and $1.7B in cash to extract itself from its obligations to the bond insurer. New York State Insurance Dept's Dinallo commented that he believes Merrill is the first major lender to agree to commute CDS agreements with a distressed bond holder. Bond insurers MBI+5% and ABK+15% are strong on the SCA news. The other major financials hesitated initially on the news out of MER, SCA and XL, but by mid morning were seen gaining ground: LEH+4%, GS+3% and JPM+2%.

- In earnings news, Steel names are surging after US Steel stomped the Street, beating earnings and revenue targets by wide margins. The firms CEO noted in the press release "The significant increases in results for all three reportable segments resulted primarily from substantial price increases, which outpaced increases in raw materials costs. Shipments for all segments were also at record levels for the quarter.” MT+6% and STLD+5% are rising on the news, while AKS+14% is even stronger after Long Bow up its rating to a buy (from a neutral). Earnings winners include AG+14% after surpassing estimates and guiding higher, ELNK+13% after beating EPS estimates and SAH+13% after narrowly beating expectations. In addition, CNQR+18% jumped up to 25% from the open after American Express bought a 13% stake in the firm. Loosers include HLIT-20% after missing EPS estimates and TRID-26% after slashing its guidance for the coming quarter and year.

- Bond prices have been modestly lower throughout the session as money has flowed from their relative safety to the equity markets. The 10-year yield after testing 4% yesterday has bounced back towards 4.07%.

- The dollar rallied to its best levels during the
New York morning as lower commodity prices aided the greenback. Dealers attributed the soft commodity tone to the interest rate hike at the Indian Central Bank. This was the bank's third rate increase in the last two months and dealers are suggesting it could curb the Indian economy in coming quarters, hinting that any economic slowdown would be a positive factor in keeping upward momentum in commodities. The EUR/USD cross is back at its post-April G7 pivot of 1.5630, while GBP/USD is below 1.9810. The JPY remains softer against the dollar, while it is holding its own against the majors. Earlier chatter of large Uridashi and Toushin issuances this week amounting to $7B have helped offset any yen strength. The USD/JPY cross is at 108.15, up 70 pips in the session.

- The commodity related pairs were modestly lower as oil and gold hovered near session lows. USD/CAD is up 50 pips at 1.0270 with USD buy stops said to be in play above the 1.0330 area (June highs). The AUD/USD cross is approaching the 0.95 level, off 60+ pips since the start of Asian trading.


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