- US indices opened weaker this morning, weighed down by the confirmation of
large job cuts at Citigroup, a gloomy outlook from the Philly Fed and soft
Empire manufacturing data. Traders are fretting over the Philly Fed survey in
particular, as it indicates a Q4 GDP figure of -2.9%, well below its prior view
of +0.7%. The survey noted that the US
recession began last April and was expected to last about 14 months. The dark
outlook has also kept the pressure on Treasury yields, with the 10-year note
future rallying half a point sending the cash yield back below 3.7%.
Front-month NYMEX crude traded up towards $59 after reports that a Saudi oil
tanker was hijacked off Somalia,
but has since drifted back into negative territory. Adding to the uncertainty
this morning, Senate Democrats plan to introduce legislation today to direct
part of the TARP to help prop up the Big Three automakers.
- Citigroup fulfilled expectations for big job cuts at its company-wide town
hall meeting this morning, while rumors are circulating that the board is
discussing a plan to break the group into several companies. Reports on Friday
and over the weekend anticipating cuts of around 10,000 jobs, while just ahead
of the meeting CNBC's Charlie Gasparino bid this figure up to around 50,000
jobs, or 14% of the banking giant's global workforce. In the event, CEO Pandit
said that the bank's near-term headcount target is about 300K, down from 352K
employees on Sept 30. Pandit reiterated the usual boilerplate, noting that
"revenues are strong, the underlying business remains solid" and that
Citi has a "very strong capital position." Rival Goldman Sachs's
seven top executives, including the CEO, pledged to give up their bonuses for
2008. In the meantime, a Sanford Bernstein analyst lowers his FY08 EPS target
for Goldman to $8.92 from $11.65. CIT launched its exchange offers for notes
and equity units in connection with its application to become a bank holding
company. Citgroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America are all
trading down 5-6%.
- Retail powerhouses Lowe's and Target released their third-quarter results
before the open. LOW came in ahead of earnings and revenue estimates, and
guided earnings for the full year in line with consensus. Lowe's CEO expects
pressure on the home improvement retailing sector to continue into 2009,
although he believes that housing turnover seems to be bottoming. TGT met
consensus EPS targets, missed revenue estimates by a hair and suspended its
stock buyback program. The company's credit card profitability fell 83% to $35M
v $202M y/y, due to a decline in overall portfolio performance, reduced
investment in the portfolio, and a decrease in interest rates. LOW+9% is
surging while TGT is well off its best levels in negative territory. In other
equity news, price targets for smartphone rivals AAPL and RIMM were both cut at
Barclays, while Merrill cut its FY09 and FY10 earnings estimates for AAPL on
declining Mac and iPod sales growth. Las Vegas Sands said that it believes it
has resolved the â€śsubstantial doubt about its ability to run as going concernâ€ť
via its recent $2.1B capital raise.
- It appears that European governments are looking to aid the struggling auto
manufacturing industry, including GM, after the White House stressed again that
it opposes drawing funds from TARP for US automakers. A German government
spokesperson said that Germany
would do "everything in its power" to aid GM's European subsidiary
Opel. The German state of Hesse raised its OPEL
guarantee to â‚¬500M. Automakers with operations in the UK
said they would ask the government for assistance. Back in the USA,
the president of the UAW said the auto industry cannot survive at current sales
levels and warned that the bankruptcy of one automaker could bring down others.
Speaking of bankruptcy, the New York Times reported overnight that it believes
foreign automakers would pick up the slack if a US car maker goes into
bankruptcy, noting that if one or more of Detroit's Big Three declared Chapter
11 it would put a huge initial dent in American manufacturing but in time
foreign car companies would pick up the slack by stepping up production at
plants in the US. All this comes after Nikkei reported that it expects Japanese
domestic car production to decline for the first time since 2003 and Toyota
told a local Japanese paper that it is set to announce 2009 production cuts of
- The greenback was weaker against the European pairs on a combination of
recent-profit taking and higher crude prices. GBP/USD rose over 350+ pips as
dealers noted good interest from far eastern names from the start of the
European session. GBP/JPY is firmer by 400+ pips above 145.00. EUR/GBP
surrendered its all-time highs of 0.8660 from last week to move back toward the
0.84 handle. The profit-taking theme was reinforced
after ECB's hawk Weber noted that Euro Zone CPI provided leeway for monetary
policy easing and added that he did not rule out further interest rate cuts.
Other ECB members reiterated that view today, but noted the final decision
would not be made until after the receipt of the new ECB staff
projection figures. Commodity related currencies firmed up on higher energy
- Euro Stoxx 50 -3.5% at 2,371; FTSE 100 Index -2.3% at 4,134; CAC 40 Inex
-3.1% at 3,190 and DAX Index -3.4% at 4,546.
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