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Thursday September 18, 2008 - 17:32:59 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Dow +20 S&P +1 NASDAQ - 3

- Equity markets are attempting to regain some composure as evident by a higher open in
New York. Both the DJIA and Nasdaq bounced back and forth between +0.5% and +2.0%. Indicies were giving back gains in mid morning trading testing the flat line however, as the situation remains tenuous. During the European session, the Fed attempted to unblock funding markets and reduce the cost of financing by announcing it would undertake a coordinated liquidity operation with major central banks, authorizing $180B in currency swaps with the ECB, BoE, BoJ, BoC and the Swiss National Bank. In addition, they also accepted another massive $50B overnight repo. Oil and commodities are showing early strength, with WTI crude rising just short of $100/bbl in early trading and gold up another 2% in early trading. Crude has since drifted back into negative territory and is currently testing overnight lows below $96. As in the prior three days, traders are sharply focused on the financials, especially Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs which continue to see sellers weighing on their share prices.

- Rumors and speculation have been swirling around Morgan Stanley as markets wait to see whether the investment bank will sell itself and who the lucky suitor might be; MS's stock price had declined by nearly 50% as of yesterday afternoon, before ticking up slightly into the close. After the close, CNBC's David Faber broke news that MS was holding talks with Chinese bank CITIC and HSBC, noting that the Fed has been actively encouraging the Chinese to buy US financial institutions. After this story came out, CITIC excutives told the Wall Street Journal that they were unaware of any talks with MS; "We are checking the news with our parent (Citic Group)," said one official. Very early this morning, another CITIC executive denies the media speculation, saying CITIC is not holding any talks with MS, while HSBC reportedly said it was not interested in MS. Before the open Morgan Stanley CEO Mack told CNBC that he is committed to keeping the company independent. The New York Times published a story today that Mack called Citi CEO Pandit to discuss a potential merger, telling Pandit "We need a merger partner or we're not going to make it." Citigroup officially denied any such comments had been made. More unconfirmed reports circulated mid-morning that merger talks with Wachovia had reached a more formal stage. Also note that the New York Times reported yesterday that MS had expressed interest in buying Wachovia, noting that any talks were merely preliminary. After opening down 10% and then jumping into positive territory, MS's stock was trading down 7% around even mid morning. Fellow investment banking survivor Goldman Sachs is down 4%.

- - Some of the other financials had seen modest strength this morning after three days of panicky declines in their share prices. JP Morgan, Citi and Wells Fargo were up around 5%, but the names were falling again mid morning. Rumors were also going around that WFC was looking to buy WaMu or Wachovia, but the bank declined to comment on the reports. WaMu is up more than 15% after a Merrill Lynch analyst said the firm could fetch $2-3/shr in any takeover deal. Wachovia is up more than 10%. In a sign of things to come,
Dubai's sovereign wealth fund said they are not interested in buying more distressed US bank assets, although they are planning to start a fund of funds for US equities.

- The SEC promulgated new rules to crack down on short selling yesterday; the rules go in to effect today. Asset managers with more than $100M under management must now make daily disclosures of short positions, effective today. The SEC also said they are considering changes to other rules. Pension funds have already started going after short sellers, with reports last night indicating that the
California state teachers' pension fund CalSTRS will to stop lending GS and MS shares for shorting.

- Bonds opened lower as the stabilization in stocks convinced trades to take on some risk and unwind some of the flight to safety trades that have been so prevalent. The curve had been substantially flatter early in the session with money coming out of the short end, but as the stock rally as lost steam bond prices have rallied. Fed funds has been trading about 100 basis points above the target rate throughout the session while the Nov fed fund future is now pricing in a 40% chance the Fed cuts rates 50 basis points.

- In currencies, the greenback has rebounded from lows seen in the European morning. Dealers continue to debate the impact of the central bank liquidity operation amid concerns over the elevated levels of various swap rates. The three-month USD Libor fixing hit 3.20%, versus Wednesday's 3.06% fixing. US commercial paper outstanding declined by $52.1B versus the prior week's increase of $11.1B. Fed funds continue to trade well above its 2.0% target level. The Fed added $55B in its repo operation, with dealers noting that the submitted bids heighten the demand of USD in the current environment. Various funding desks commented that the liquidity injection by various central banks was impacting only overnight lending rates. The ECB and SNB operations have only offered o/n funds thus term rates remain at elevated levels. Also the Tom/Next lending (T/N) remained expensive. EUR/USD back below the 1.4370 area after testing 1.4540 prior to the NY open. The Russian equity market situation remains a thorn and dealers noted that Eastern European banks had a 'good appetite for USD.

- European fixed-income hovered in the lower third of their respective trading range as equity markets reacted positively to the central banks commitment to preserving liquidity. - Dec Bunds -17 ticks at 115.15 and Dec Gilts -22 ticks at 112.32. Euro Stoxx 50 +0.7% at 3,041; FTSE 100 Index +0. 5% at 4,943; CAC 40 Index +1.0% at 4,039 and DAX +0.9% at 5, 91


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