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Friday September 19, 2008 - 16:57:10 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Dow 392 S&P +48 NASDAQ +71

- Equity markets around the world continue to snap back after more than 10B shares traded on the NYSE yesterday. Stocks surged late in yesterday's session following initial reports that government officials were considering an all inclusive RTC like approach to dealing with the crisis in US financial markets. Confidence was further bolstered by an announcement this morning that the government will create a $50B exchange stabilization fund to in effect guarantee publicly traded money market holdings. While a more concrete outline of the government's mortgage bailout plan is not expected until this weekend, the fact that the Treasury, Fed, Congress and the administration have committed to a plan that could be on the order of more than $500B has kept a strong bid in stocks. The SEC ban on shorting financial stocks has provided further support to the ailing sector, while the Fed's announcement that it would buy GSE debt from primary dealers is also doing its bit. The S&P December future contract was locked "limit up" at +65.00 points ahead of floor open at 1,268.20. Multiple Dow components made double-digit percentage jumps before the open.

- The financials have been highly volatile in both the pre-market and after the bell. Names that had taken a severe pounding over the course of the week surged before the open, with Morgan Stanley up more than 50%, Goldman Sachs up over 35% and Washington Mutual up more than 61%; MS+20%, GS+20% and WM+40% are off their best levels mid morning. Other major financials are also coming off their best levels; the XLF opened +30% and is trading around +20% mid morning. Both Morgan Stanley and RBC raised the sector to overweight before the open. After the close ABK and MBI were placed on review for a possible downgrade at Moody's; both names are trading -5% or so.

- Morgan Stanley told CNBC this morning that the government plan is a game changer for the firm, noting that it still prefers to remain independent. Yesterday reports circulated that Morgan Stanley had begun formal merger talks with Wachovia, looking to pull off a “creative deal” with the bank. The range of options under consideration includes a full merger or a large minority investment meant to restore confidence to the MS. Overnight HSBC took itself out of the running for MS, noting it is not interested in buying the firm. Analysts have commented on the ailing investment bank's condition. A Merrill analyst said the chances of a deal between Wachovia and Morgan Stanley are rising. Goldman has made positive comments, reiterating the firm's "conviction buy" status, noting that MS has ample liquidity and does not need emergency funding.

- Washington Mutual's attempt to sell itself continues, with the Financial Times reporting that five banks are doing due diligence on the firm. FY says WaMu's books are being evaluated by Citi, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, HSBC and Santander, although as of yesterday the paper claimed that the auction hasn't attracted any concrete bids. Lead advisor Goldman Sachs said WaMu may have to evaluate other options. The WSJ later wrote that Citi is mulling a bid, while JP Morgan is biding its time. Other reports said Bank of America is considering a bid for the firm.

- Following through on repeated threats, the SEC officially banned short selling of shares in financial stocks early this morning. The ban is in effect for 10 trading days and covers 799 companies, including banks, insurance companies and securities firms; the SEC has reserved the right to extend the ban for another 20 days. The SEC said it felt forced to take the emergency action in order to protect the integrity and quality of the securities market and strengthen investor confidence.

- The shot of confidence markets received from the series of government announcements this morning is clearly showing up in credit markets. Prices are reeling and the curve is much flatter as the flight to quality trades that dominated much of the week begin to unwind. The 2-year yield is up more than 25% to 2.17% while the 10-year is back above 3.75%. TED and Libor/OIS spreads have come in noticeably but remain near historic levels. Fed fund futures have come off as well. The Nov contract is currently pricing in less than a 50% chance the Fed cuts rates at the next FOMC meeting, where as that contract saw a 40% chance for a 50 basis point cut yesterday.

- In currencies, dealers are noting a winding theme of risk aversion in the wake of the financial bailout plan and Fed's intention to buy GSE debt from primary dealers. Overall the dollar's tone has been mixed as it firms against the JPY, with the USD retreating into negative territory against the European pairs. Overall the broadly higher equity markets are keeping the EUR/JPY above its 200-week moving average. The USD is reflecting the commodity price action more than the liquidity measures.

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