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Monday August 4, 2008 - 16:46:42 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Dow -25 S&P -6.7 NASDAQ -16.7

- Markets are starting the week on a downbeat note, with the DJIA and Nasdaq loosing 0.5% a piece in early trading despite accelerated weakness in commodity markets. Crude's continued decline (despite a serious storm in the
Gulf of Mexico), to three- month lows testing the $120 figure, is helping equities come off session lows. Natural gas is at 6-month lows while front month copper and platinum are also making multi-month lows. There was some nervousness early this morning after HSBC reported a big hit to its 1H profit from $14B worth of US home loans gone bad. HSBC's CEO noted that the bank will focus on consumer loans and cards in US moving forward. Then Oppenheimer's Meredith Whitney appeared on CNBC, reiterating her cautious outlook for the housing market and the likely spill-over effects for the credit markets and financial stocks. The major banks are nearly all down 3-4%, with the notable exception of Morgan Stanley, which is trading around even. The FRE- 5% and FNM-4.5% seesaw is headed to the downside this morning, on the heels of a WSJ report that the GSEs are boosting the fees they pay to loan servicing companies for mortgage workouts. Metals and miners are weak today as commodities trade lower. Steel names ZEUS, NUE and X are down about 2%, while AKS-3%, and STLD-4.5%. Miners RIO-4%, PCU-3% and FCX-4.5% are falling steadily. Troubled homebuilder WCI-50% announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to restructure its $1.8B worth of debt, leading the firm's CEO to resign. Homebuilders are under some pressure: HOV- 5%, PHM-3.5%, TOL-2% and XHB -2%. Strong EPS and revenue numbers and an improved outlook from HUM+5.5% are helping healthcare names CI+4%, AET+3.5% and UNH+4% tick higher. Humana CEO McCallister said that the Medicare prescription issue is "playing out better than expected"; earlier in the year, the company noted it was absorbing higher-than-expected claims in its Medicare prescription plans. MOT+10% is getting a nice bump as names Sanjay Jha as co-CEO, putting him in charge of its mobile devices business, which the company is planning to spin off later this year. Biotech ELN+11% is rebounding from last week's sell-off, precipitated by its trouble with Tysabri. Some earnings movers include RAIL-25% and LDL-17% after missing EPS estimates, while SMP-15% after missing earnings and revenue. On the M&A front, SMTK+44% is surging as Cypress makes a $2.60/shr offer for the fabless semiconductor company. PSPT+25% is up as a unit of India's Essar Group offers $12.25/shr for the outsourcing company, which missed on earnings before the open today.

- In currencies, one dealer best described the price action on Monday as clearly lacking in conviction. Firmer euro crosses seem to be the underlying driver in the session, helping to squeeze on EUR/USD higher. The dollar has been unable to find any catalyst to help it break out of key technical resistance levels that came so close to being breeched on Friday among the major pairs. For the most part dealers continue to focus on the upcoming interest rate decisions in the
US and Europe later this week. The consensus is that the ECB, BoE and FOMC will leave rates alone, but there's always the chance of a surprise move. Dealers continue to watch the EUR/USD one-year up-trend line at the 1.5520 level, which held during Friday's session. The USD/CHF pair continues to sustain momentum above the 1.05 level. The EUR/USD has been trending above the 1.56 level as commodities markets remain choppy as Eduardo tears through the Gulf of Mexico, the back-and-forth on Iran continues and refinery mishaps keep the market nervous about potential supply disruptions. The USD/CAD continued to probe towards the 1.03 pivot point area, while dealers continue to note USD buy stops are building above the 1.0330 area.


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