US equity indices opened lower and remain under pressure thanks to this
morning's employment data, which was substantially worse than expected.
The November unemployment rate was 6.7%, more or less in line with
expectations, but the November non-farm payrolls number was a real
shocker, indicating 533K job losses in the month, the steepest decline
since December 1974. Service industries, including retailers,
restaurants, banks and insurers, lost 370K jobs, accounting for the
bulk of the payrolls decline. The Detroit Three executives are back on
the Hill for another round of begging and pleading. Generally the major
themes remain the same with overall risk aversion sending stocks and
commodities lower while helping the dollar, yen and Treasuries. The
long bond continues to outperform resulting in more flattening of the
curve. Jan crude is just a few dollars away from the $40 mark while
front-month copper slid through the much-watched $1.50 level and is now
- In equity news, Hartford Financial is
providing about the only glint of sunshine in a gloomy market, after
raising its 2008 outlook at the company's investor day presentation.
The higher guidance reflects the firm's Q4 reserve releases in property
and casualty operations. HIG's CEO noted that the property and casualty
business is positioned to deliver strong results through next year.
Other news continues to be bleak. The Wall Street Journal reported
overnight that Boeing may delay its 787 Dreamliner model by at least
another six months, with initial deliveries likely pushed back to the
summer of 2010, two years after the jet was originally scheduled to
enter service. Mid-cap packaging manufacturer Sonoco Products cut its
fourth quarter and full year guidance and said it would close 15 plants
overseas and lay off 700 employees thanks to big declines in industrial
markets. Discount retailer Big Lots kept up with consensus estimates in
its quarterly report, but unlike other discounters saw a slight decline
in same-store sales in the quarter, guiding further same-store sales
declines in the coming quarter and slashing its full-year outlook.
Marking the end of an era, Merrill's shareholders approved the merger
with Bank of America this morning. In a wistful look back at better
times, former CEO Smith told CNBC that mismanagement at Merrill began
back in 2003.
- In currencies, the EUR/USD pair
continues to maintain a 1.24-1.29 range despite the payroll data. The
fear of a full-blown global recession initially had equity markets and
commodities plunge before stabilizing a short while later. The risk
aversion theme aided the USD and JPY related pairs. USD aided by weaker
energy and metals on continued demand destruction in commodities. The
break of 92.60 in USD/JPY is prompting a possible test of a cache of
option barriers rumored to be at the 90.00 level. The pound continues
to exhibit multi-year lows against its respective pairs, with EUR/GBP
hitting fresh all-time highs of 0.8720 while the GBP/JPY cross tested
briefly below the 133.30 area. The USD/CNY pair saw the CNY weaken by
0.7% to 6.8810 area during the week for its largest loss since
revaluation. The Russian Central bank depreciated its currency for
fourth time in a month. Russia widened its ruble trading band by 30
kopecks in both directions. USD/RUB is at its best level in three years
at the 28.1205 level. USD/CAD is probing the 1.30 area for five-week
highs after its worse-than-expected job reports for November.
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