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Thursday October 16, 2008 - 16:39:11 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:31am
US Market Update

Dow -300 S&P -32 NASDAQ -41

- Equity markets are still desperately searching for something positive to hold onto as the painful process of pricing in recession goes on. Following a brief rally after the opening bell, indices quickly turned south again, jolting the VIX to fresh record highs above 80. The morning's economic data is weighing heavily on markets, deepening fears about the inevitability of a deep and painful recession. The Fed's September industrial production reading came in much lower than expected, making for the largest decline since 1974. The October Philly Fed index was three times lower than the projected figure, with the new orders and employment components a dramatic illustration of trouble ahead. The slowdown is really taking its toll on energy markets. Following weekly inventory data Nov crude dropped below $70 to a 13-month low, prompting OPEC to move up its extraordinary meeting to Oct 24 from Nov 17. Reformulated gasoline is down more than twice as much. Similar themes continue to play out in the industrial metals with Dec copper down another 6%, re-approaching $2, while Jan platinum has moved below $900, off close to 12%. Citigroup reported its fourth consecutive quarterly loss, with earnings results coming in more or less in line with expectations and revenue nearly $3B lower than analysts expected. The bank noted that declining revenues were mainly driven by write-downs in securities and banking operations, the North America cards unit and a $612B ARS write-down. In a sign of things to come, Citi's CFO said that credit card losses could "move beyond historical peaks." Weakness in WFC-7% can be partly attributed to a skeptical article in the Wall Street Journal today, which took a critical look at the bank's loan-loss reserves. The article questioned why WFC is not doing more to strengthen its cushion against loan losses. The rest of the major financials are underwater this morning thanks to falling markets. UBS and CS have lost any gains made in US markets thanks to the lifeline from the Swiss National Bank. Several second-tier financial services firms got smacked by the financial crisis in earnings reports today. CIT-14% surprised investors with a massive unexpected loss, driven by a $455M pre-tax write-down at its vendor finance unit. The CEO noted that the outlook has darkened for the near future. PNC-4% missed on estimates in a less dramatic fashion, thanks to a big jump in non-performing assets, rising charge-offs and falling returns on equity. Note that fallen giant MER reported what are likely its last quarterly results today, with the CEO noting that the organization continues to reduce exposures and deleverage prior to closing the BAC deal. Several consumer-oriented names provided insight into the slowdown in quarterly reports. WGO-25% disclosed a loss that was twice the expected amount due to a sharp decline in motor home deliveries, noting that dealers are cutting inventories and orders. Earnings at HSY+4% were below estimates on falling margins and commodity costs. In other news, CEGE-75% is in hot water after canceling its second GVAX Phase III trial in as many months. In view of the termination of the trials, the firm is shutting down further development of GVAX program, laying off 75% of its workforce and exploring strategic alternatives.

- Fixed-income and currency markets are mimicking the heightened volatility and wide trading ranges seen in equities this morning. In any case, calm seems to be slowly returning to the Libor fixings as the three-month USD Libor came in five bps below Wednesday's fixing at 4.50%. As the economic data slammed equity investors, risk aversion made further gains magnifying the effects of yesterday's weak Beige Book. Overall markets are expressing disappointment that the G7 central banks failed to initiate another round of coordinated rate cuts in the New York morning. The overall theme in FX is mixed as the CHF firms in the wake of Swiss National Bank "rescue" of UBS, while JPY trading has been choppy in a wide range as risk aversion and risk appetite take turns in the drivers seat among related pairs. The EUR/USD has maintained a 200-pip range from the Asian open and is currently in the middle of this range at 1.3400.

- In fixed income, the European yield curve steepened through the session and the spread between the German two-year and ten-year continued to widen to 117bps from 109 earlier in the session for multi-year highs. US yields have moved lower as money once again makes its way out of stocks and into the relative safety of government debt. The 2-year yields has moved back towards 1.5% and the Nov fed fund future is now pricing in better than a 50% chance we see the Fed cut rates by 50 basis points. Dec Bunds +20 ticks at 114.17 and Dec Gilts -20 ticks at 109.74.

Euro Stoxx 50 index -4.3% at 2,465; FTSE 100 Index -4.3% at 3,905; CAC 40 Index -5.3% at 3,201 and DAX Index -3.4% at 4,696.

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