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Wednesday October 22, 2008 - 16:40:27 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:56am
US Market Update
Dow -300 S&P -32 NASDAQ -35

- Equity, currency and commodity markets remain volatile this morning as traders continue to focus on weakening corporate earnings results, as well as the breadth, intensity and duration of the ongoing economic slowdown. The three-month USD LIBOR fixing fell another 30 bps to 3.54%, bringing the cost of credit closer to normalcy. Crude and gold are extending losses, with the sell-off fueled by continued concerns regarding defaults on overpriced commodity contracts. The White House announced that it would convene a "world financial summit" in Washington in mid November, while the Fed raised the rate it pays on bank reserves by 40 bps to boost trading at rates closer to the FOMC target rate. Regardless, fed fund futures continue to price in a FOMC that is more likely to cut rates another 50 basis points next week. The Nov contract is not pricing in roughly 80% odds of a 1% fed funds rate.

- The worse the overall economic news becomes, the further oil falls. WTI crude is making 14-month lows well below the $70 handle this morning, trading around $68 or $4 off yesterday's close. OPEC will discuss the carnage at its upcoming meeting in Vienna on Friday. The news is dimming the decent earnings reports from ConocoPhillips and oil services firm Baker Hughes. While the super spike certainly helped COP-8% stomp the Street's earnings predictions in the quarter, investors are focusing on the firm's considerably lower-than-expected revenue figure. On the earnings conference call, a COP executive said that future quarterly profits should be "dramatically lower." Other oil majors XOM, BP, CVX and VLO are down 6-8%. Meanwhile BHI-14% is getting hit even harder, after reporting in line with expectations, while the OIH trades around 8%. Commodity concerns can also be seen in the continued decline of copper. December copper is not getting a foothold well below $2 which no trades at $1.89. Grain futures are seeing declines in Chicago of 3-5% across the board as well.

- Four Dow components (AT&T, Boeing, Merck and McDonalds) reported quarterly results this morning; the stock of all four is under heavy pressure in early trading. T-7% came in slightly behind estimates, while its wireless, wire line and broadband metrics showed business at the telecom giant holding steady. BA-6% also came in just behind analyst estimates and cancelled its guidance for the foreseeable future due to the ongoing machinists' strike. Note that the company's earnings are down one third y/y, which management attributes directly to the effects of the strike. MRK-4% reported results more or less in line with the Street, narrowed its full-year view and announced a restructuring program that would cut 7,200 jobs over the next four years. On its conference call, MRK's executives insisted that the firm would maintain its dividend. MCD-1% came in well ahead of the analysts and offered a sunny earnings outlook. Major defense contractors Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics reported mixed earnings this morning. While EPS was a bit stronger than expected, GD saw revenues were much lower than analysts had hoped; its shares are trading around even mid morning. NOC +2.5% beat both earnings and revenue projects and raising its full-year guidance by a bit.

- In other equity news, the FDA advised MRK and DVAX-60% yesterday that risks likely outweigh the benefits in their clinical trials of Heplisav and no longer favors continuing the testing. Multiple analysts cut DVAX to neutral from outperform overnight in response. The board of CREL-12% has ended preliminary discussions regarding a merger with unnamed partners. DTG+60% after updating on its liquidity levels, noting that it expects to end Q3 with cash balance in excess of $200M versus $80M back in June. It also said that it anticipates closing Q3 with a profit after three quarters of losses.

- Emerging markets have moved to the center of currency traders' radar this morning. Central and Eastern Europe is emerging as an area of major concern, with dealers anxiously mulling the Hungarian Central Bank's unscheduled 300bps rate hike and the Russian Central Bank slashing its 2009 reserve growth figure to -$4.0B versus a $21.2B increase not so long ago. The Russians sold nearly $4.5B today to support the RUB. The ruble's currency basket is currently a ratio of 55% dollars to 45% euros, leading some dealers to speculate that any reweighing of the basket will also result in euro sales, although it remains unclear when the sales would happen, if at all.

- Recession fears have definitively gone global, with shrinking guidance figures from corporations driving down equity indices in a negative feedback loop. European pairs are falling in relation to the JPY. Dealers are noting flows away from Japanese funds and banks repatriating funds to support weak domestic equity markets. One hedge fund manger noted that these JPY-related flows have been rippling around the globe in recent trading sessions, whereas previously the flows had originated from Australia via the AUD/JPY crisis. Now the momentum is from the Europe via the EUR and GBP. The EUR/USD cross continues to consolidate after making 20-month lows of 1.2740 in Asia, while the EUR/JPY is off 300 pips around the 127 area as the New York morning draws to a close. Elsewhere in Asia, chatter is circulating about counter-party risk on cash Chinese commodity contracts. The recent volatility in currencies suggests that more scenarios like the FX losses at Citic Pacific are looming out there, waiting to strike.

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