- 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
â€ścreative dealâ€ť 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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