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Tuesday December 16, 2008 - 16:56:05 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:32am

US Market Update

Dow +120 S&P +16 NASDAQ +34.5

- US equity markets have managed to post some gains ahead of this afternoon's FOMC meeting, but volume remains lackluster. The Fed is expected to cut by at least 50 basis points and that continues to be reflected in the fed fund futures market with 75 not out of the question. Hawkish OPEC rhetoric continued this morning, with a consensus seeming to emerge that the organization will announce cuts of around 1.5-2.0M bpd at tomorrow's meeting, with strong support from Russia. Traders pushed front-month crude up more than $1.50 above $46 in early trading, but the contract has backed off into negative territory heading towards mid-day. The morning's housing starts and building permits data showed further demand destruction ripping through housing, although the data has been positive for homebuilders, with the XHB gaining as much as 4%. Better buying continues to be seen at the long end of the US curve pushing the long bond yield safely below 3%.

- Goldman Sachs announced is first quarterly loss ever as a publicly traded company this morning, missing analysts already dismal earnings estimates by around 20% and shocking investors with a very large negative revenue figure of -$1.58B. But the news doesn't seem to be hurting the stock, with shares of GS making fresh highs +6%. The firm's assets under management fell by an astonishing $90B, more than 10% of the total; asset management revenues fell 19% y/y. Goldman's CFO put his best spin on things on the conference call, noting that Goldman remains “cautious” on its near-term outlook and expects to boost its US bank deposits to $50-100B within a year. Moody's cut Goldman's senior debt rating from high to medium grade, impacting $175B of the firm's debt, thanks to issues involved in the firm's conversion to a bank holding company. Elsewhere in the financials, Bank of America is in the red after being resumed with an underperform rating at Friedman Billings. According to FBR's Paul Miller, the bank's stock price could fall to as low as $9/shr.

- Best Buy is having an excellent morning in spite of the toxic consumer environment and the slowing economy, with shares up around 15% in early trading. The electronics retailer reported quarterly earnings and revenue ahead of consensus estimates this morning and reaffirmed its very broad 2009 EPS guidance range. BBY's CEO made it clear that the firm only expects things to get worse, but emphasized that Best Buy is making all the right moves to prepare for the storm, including CAPEX spending cuts of up to 50% next year. In other equity news, auto parts manufacturer Johnson Controls withdrew its 2009 guidance due to the turmoil in the global auto industry, cut 2009 production estimates and cut its CAPEX investments for 2009. Mexican cement giant CEMEX guided quarterly profit slightly lower, noting that US cement volumes were down about 25% y/y, with ready-mix and aggregate volumes down even more. The chairman of Berkshire Hathaway's MidAmerican said the firm would not launch a counter offer for CEG's nuclear unit, seeming to end its $26.50/shr cash merger offer for CEG, leaving French energy giant EDF the only bidder for the nuclear business. If CEG terminates the agreement with MidAmerican, Berkshire stands to receive $593M in cash, a 9.9% stake in CEG and $1B of senior notes, which pay interest equal to 14%.

- Analyst actions are really moving selected equities, with BIDU+8% after Goldman raised the name to a buy with a price target of $145. Merrill raised potash names POT+8%, MOS+11% and TRA+13% to buy. Merrill made positive comments on fertilizers industry before the open. AAPL is under water again this morning after another in a line of analysts cut the name. AAPL shares were cut to outperform from buy at Calyon and also cut to outperform from buy at a boutique firm.

- The greenback is maintaining a softer tone going into the Fed interest rate announcement due later today. Some technical factors continue to stymie the downside momentum in the dollar for the time being, with dealers noting the 1.3760 area as a 38.2% retracement level of the EUR's all-time highs made back in July to the 1.2330 Oct 27 low. Overall dealers are really zooming in on the concept of quantitative easing and its implications for currencies. If the Fed pursues quantitative easing, dealers are assuming it will be a USD because it tends to depress bond yields. Japan is the only historic example we have on hand, although it remains unimaginable that the US economy could be brought down to that level.

- European officials aired opposing views at the central bank and political levels. A German deputy economy minister said Germany's economy could contract by up to 3% in 2009 if the slump continues, while German Economy Minister Gloss denied that the ministry sees such an extreme forecast. The ECB's Trichet stated that there were limits to rate cuts and that rates can't be allowed to fall too low, while the ECB's Bonello noted that economic activity has weakened since Dec 4th and technically there is more room to cut rates, including quantitative easing.

- Hawkish OPEC production cut chatter from Iran, Venezuela and other delegates helped to keep crude futures in the upper quarter portion of the session trading range with up to 2M BPD cuts sought. Saudi Oil Min only expressed that the results of Wednesday's OPEC meeting would be net benefit for all and commented that 2M BPD in cuts could be expected. The commodity related currencies of CAD, AUD and NZD were firmer thanks to oil. USD/CAD trades at 1.2285, with CAD stronger by 65 pips from its opening levels encountered in Asia.


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