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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