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Friday November 7, 2008 - 17:26:16 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:44am
US Market Update

Dow +143 S&P +14 NASDAQ +25

- Indices are recovering from the sell-off of the last two days, with traders shrugging off the unemployment data as already baked in. The Commerce Department reported an unemployment rate of 6.5% before the open, marking the highest rate of joblessness since 1994. The non-farm and manufacturing payrolls readings were worse than expected, with the backmonth figures revised downward significantly. Front-month crude is holding steady around $61, while commodities up slightly.

- Ford and GM have released grim third-quarter results. GM's loss was twice the expected figure, while its global market share has slid further to 13%, down -0.7% y/y. Ominously the company noted that "Even if it implements various planned restructuring actions, its estimated liquidity for the rest of the year will approach the minimum amount necessary to operate." In a sort of ransom note to the Federal government, GM said "Looking into the first two quarters of 2009, the company's estimated liquidity will fall significantly short of that amount unless economic and automotive industry conditions significantly improve." Specific liquidity figures were promised for later this afternoon. Yesterday after the close Ford disclosed a larger-than-expected loss, although revenue came in well ahead of estimates. At this point the company's credit reserves are just as important as its earnings figures: Ford said it has available credit lines totalling $10.7B and overall liquidity of $29.6B. The CFO said that he is "comfortable" with this level of liquidity and does not expect to draw on available credit lines. The company also said it would eliminate 10% of global salaried jobs, with the cuts coming via buyouts for 2,600 workers, bringing total 2008 hourly staff reductions to around 7,000 so far. It also pledged to eliminate merit pay increases for North America salaried employees in 2009.

- Dow component Disney is showing the strain of the crisis, reporting earnings below expectations. Disney's CEO warned that bookings at parks have fallen off "considerably" in the past month, and are down just under 10% y/y. Funny enough Carnival Cruise Lines said much the same thing one week ago, noting that "bookings have slowed considerably." Sprint surprised with a sizable loss and a big y/y drop in subscribers. In addition, the company's revenue per user in the wireless segment fell significantly, a bad sign given the importance of the business for Sprint. The CEO said that stabilizing revenue will be a main focus moving forward. Engineering giant Fluor beat analysts' expectations in EPS and guidance for FY08 and FY09. Utility major Mirant spiked 10% this morning before dropping to around even after reporting a huge quarterly gain thanks to a jump in the value of their hedges and reversals of unrealized losses recorded in prior periods. Edison International came in well behind estimates on the top and bottom lines, but reaffirmed its full-year guidance, helping the name reverse an early -2% loss and head well into positive territory mid morning. GT Solar blew out estimates, although there was a note of caution as the firm lowered the bottom end of its guidance for the full year. In other renewable energy news, BP said it was canceling its planned wind farms in the UK, to focus on renewable spending in the United States

- The pressure on troubled gaming giant Las Vegas Sands is only getting worse. The name lost more than a quarter of its value yesterday and is down another 10% this morning on worries over its projects in Asia. Last night CEO Adelson said LVS and the Singapore government are committed to completing their Marina Bay Sands casino project. Its Singapore financier DBS reassured that there has been no indication of default its loan to LVS for the company. Last night the South China Morning Post wrote that LVS may have to suspend construction of a new $3.3B casino hotel project in Macau, citing a source at LVS auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers. The paper noted that LVS is in danger of defaulting on debt and breaching debt ratio covenants.

- Speculation about Yahoo! has heated up in the wake of Google walking away from its search deal with the company. Last night Microsoft CEO Balmer insisted that he is still not interested in buying YHOO, that no talks are taking place and that he is not interested in further talks with the company. This morning CNBC's David Faber reported that his sources were saying that there is still a possibility of a more limited Google-Yahoo seach deal even though the more expansive deal from earlier this year is off the table. In a related story, the Wall Street Journal wrote that Microsoft is working hard to take a deal with Verizon Wireless away from Google, noting that MSFT has offered Verizon a "sweeter" deal to put its search engine and advertising on Verizon phones. Back in August reports circulated that Verizon and Google were close to a mobile search. YHOO is down 15% mid morning. In other tech news, QCOM reported earning in line with expectations but guided lower for the quarter and the year. QCOM's CEO said that Customers and partners are telling the company that demand is dropping.

- JP Morgan updated investors on some of the less positive sections of its balance sheet this morning. The firm said it estimates its subprime losses around $375-425M in early 2009, and that merger costs stemming from the WaMu merger were around $600M. In a passage hidden away in the filing, the company noted that "among potential risks factors" it may not “realize any benefits from Bear Stearns and WaMu purchases.” In addition, it noted that its low-quality Level 3 assets had risen to $1.3B or 6% of total assets. In a move that could affect several leading financial firms, hedge fund Citadel Investment Group (AUM of $16B) has been asked by various banks to come up with additional collateral to cover its losses, according to the Wall Street Journal. The article notes that Citadel's lenders include Goldman, Deutsche Bank and Merrill. The rumor mill is cranking up ahead of Goldman's quarterly report next month. Yesterday CNBC's Charlie Gasparino said that GS may disclose its first quarterly loss since becoming public company. This morning there was chatter that GS could go private. In mergers news, LandAmerica agreed to merge with Fidelity National Financial. Under the terms of the deal, LFG shareholders will receive 0.993 shares of FNF common stock for each share of LFG common stock. The transaction has been structured to reduce the combined debt of LFG and FNF by approximately $250M prior to the closing of the merger agreement.

- In currencies, the greenback was mixed in US trading following the October non-farm payroll report. As noted during the European session, the dollar price action has been more dependent on equity movements as higher stocks usually suggest a weak USD and JPY. A Goldman Sachs analyst lowered the firm's near-term GDP forecast for US, with Q4 GDP now seen at -3.5% and at Q109 GDP at -2.0%. Goldman noted that the US unemployment rate could climb to 8.5% by the end 2009. In addition, Goldman is predicting another 50bps FOMC interest rate cut by the end 2008. EUR/USD is hugging the 1.28 area, up 120 pips since the Asian session as equities benefit from the continued perception of lower interest rates in the pipeline. USD/CAD is below 1.17, aided by the improved October Canadian employment report and a degree of steadiness in the commodities this session despite the global recession concerns.

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