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Wednesday October 15, 2008 - 16:03:15 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:29am
US Market Update Dow -382 S&P -48 NASDAQ -62

- The focus appears to have turned decisively from rescue to recession this morning as indices head south again and the VIX climbs back above 60. Crude is well below yesterday's levels, trading under $75, while the three-month USD LIBOR fixing did show some slight improvement but remains stubbornly elevated. Gold is firmer with the Dec contact moving back towards $850 as stock selling accelerated late in the NY morning. Soft economic data is only reinforcing investors' concerns: the advanced September retail sales reading was down nearly twice the expected figure, while New York's Empire Manufacturing number was down more than twice estimates, making the worst reading since the index began in 2001. Investors sold off JP Morgan, Wells Fargo and State Street before the open despite the firms' better-than expected quarterly results. JPM reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss, but investors focused on the grim outlook for the firm. CEO Dimon said that it is reasonable to expect reduced earnings over the next few quarters, while the CFO noted that quarterly losses in home equity could rise to as much as $725-800M from the Q3 loss of $663M. If the prime Libor stays where it is, Dimon said the credit card business could loose $100B a month. At WFC earnings came in above estimates while revenue lagged somewhat, but attention turned to quarterly metrics that showed trouble brewing at the bank, with rising net charge offs, non-performing loans and assets, and much higher provisions for credit losses. On the conference call, the CFO said the bank might issue $20B in securities to offset losses from the Wachovia acquisition. In any case the bank expects the Wachovia deal to close in Q4. STT-10% is down despite beating EPS and revenue estimates and sustaining its level of ROE. Citigroup fell 7% before the open and has sustained this level in early trading, thanks in part to cautious coverage in the WSJ's Heard on the Street column. The article notes that despite the government's big stake, the bank still looks vulnerable and losses could remain high for several quarters. Other financial names have lost considerable altitude from yesterday's gains, with MS-12%, GS-4% and BAC-4%. As crude falls, the airlines soar: investors disregarded Delta's quarterly loss to focus on the opportunities in the sector as a whole posed by falling crude. Airlines have sustained impressive gains over the last week or so, with name up 4-8% today alone. KO+5% has beat Pepsi this time around, with third-quarter results stronger than analysts had assumed, thanks in part to a strong FX benefit. Interestingly, Coke's CFO said that the commercial paper market continues to function and he has seen no material change in commercial paper spreads versus benchmark rates. Solar names are under pressure on fears from the overall economic slowdown. While TSL rose 4% before the bell after they cranked up their outlook for the coming quarter (and reaffirmed its full-year forecast), investors dumped the stock in early trading along with other solar names FSLR-6% and SPWR-8% on fears of the deepening economic slowdown.

- Risk aversion has returned in force today with European and North American equities exhibiting steep losses. In currencies the attention is turning to emerging market currencies as the wrath of the global credit crisis reverberates further and further beyond the United States. As noted in our earlier update, equity markets are sobering up from Monday's bailout euphoria as reality sets in and economic growth outlook looks weak for some time to come. The ECB announced that it would expand collateral rules and additional USD liquidity operations via FX swaps. Dealers are noting that the Fed is no longer the exclusive provider of funds as a result. Dealer chatter regarding hedge fund liquidations and margin calls continue to weigh on the overall trading sentiment and provide fuel for further declines.

- The bond market is morphing to a different personality as the long end softens up and the shorter end narrows. The 10-year note yield has moved out to its highest levels in 2-months back above 4.05% and the long bond yield has regained a foothold above 4.25%. The 2-year yield Is actually lower keeping below the 1.75% level. The battle in government bond markets is now focusing on safe-haven status and potential creditworthiness given the increased outflows from the bank bailouts. The Libor fixing rates remain elevated but stabilizing, with the three-month USD Libor easing by 9 bps to 4.55% while the Ted Spread came in at 421bps compared to Tuesday's level of 449bps. Bond markets continue to foresee a more aggressive rate policy going forward as the weak data fueled gains in Fed fund futures. The Nov contract is now pricing in as much as a 40% chance the Fed cuts another 50 basis points, up from roughly 12% pre-data. Commodity currencies are mixed as AUD/USD steady at 0.6950 but USD/CAD is weaker by 100 pips as it tests above the 1.1750 level.

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