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Wednesday December 17, 2008 - 17:22:39 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:44am

US Market Update

Dow -88 S&P -10 NASDAQ -16.5

- The strength seen in equity markets post Fed announcement has dissipated as companies continue to lower their outlook for profits and production heading into 2009. Morgan Stanley reported expectedly lousy results while names like Honda Motors, Xilinx, Newell and Schnitzer Steel are just the latest to cut guidance. Treasury yields continue to make new historic lows across the curve as the momentum from yesterday's FOMC statement builds. Along those lines the greenback continues to take a pounding which has pushed the euro above 1.43 and the USD/JPY below 88 for fresh 13-year lows. Feb gold traded at two-month highs above $880 after the spot price broke above its 200-day moving average around $260.

- Oil trade has been front and center this morning, with weekly inventory data pushing prices to new lows before OPEC confirmed a January cut of more than 2M barrels a day. The OPEC announcement injected some volatility into the market as it was announced as a cut of 4.2M bpd from September. Initially prices moved higher but by the time members confirmed the new cuts amounted to 2.2M bpd prices were moving lower once again. Jan crude is now making new session lows approaching $40 after the OPEC president announced non-OPEC nations have not agreed to any complimentary production cuts.

- Morgan Stanley reported its first loss since last December, at -$2.24 versus expectations for a $0.34 loss, but the stock has managed to move into the green. Revenue was less than half the expected figure. Assets under management fell 28% y/y, while ROE was not disclosed at all in the press release. Morgan said it has cut leverage from 32.6x to 11.4x and confirmed it is launching a retail banking group, as expected. Morgan's CFO said that construction of a retail bank business will be fueled by the brokerage network, confirming it holds $42B in deposits and seeks to expand deposits to 50% of funding needs within three years. Multiple analysts cut their earnings estimates on Goldman Sachs overnight, including Oppenheimer's Meredith Whitney, Morgan Stanley, and Sanford Bernstein. The Wall Street Journal reported that government regulators are increasing their oversight of Citi's strategy, including advising executive against making certain acquisitions. Last night CIT Group launched a sizable $250M common stock offering, amounting to 18.9% of the firm's market cap, as the final installment of its efforts to build enough capital to become a bank holding company.

- In other equity news, Big Food is doing well despite the slowdown, with both General Mills and ConAgra Foods beating consensus estimates handily. The CEO of General Mills did warn that the firm does see slower sales in the second half of 2009. The ADRs of Satyam Computer have jumped more than a third after the Indian IT giant canceled its acquisition of Maytas Infra LTD and Maytas Infra, "in deference to the views expressed by many investors.” Apple is down around 7% after a pre-market downgrade as well as its announcement that CEO Steve Jobs would not give the keynote speech at next month's MacWorld conference. Newell Rubbermaid slashed its guidance by more than two thirds for all the usual reasons, noting that it is positioning the company for a prolonged downturn. NWL is down more than 20%

- In currencies, several themes emerged during the session, but year-end liquidity issues continue to be the overall driver of the price action. Dealers are noting that thin liquidity are prevailing as the end of the year approaches. The greenback has sustained its soft tone against most major pairs, with the dollar taking the brunt of the Fed's policy move yesterday. Dealers are noting that markets tend to punish the currencies of aggressive proactive central banks and reward those of the “stodgy, disciplined” variety (e.g. the ECB). In this way markets seem to be using the thin trading conditions to test the resolve of central bankers.

- The German Government advisors (aka the wisemen) called on the ECB to cut rates "significantly,” insisting that the ECB intervene in currency markets if EUR/USD hits the $1.50 level again. The wisemen called the euro's appreciation a problem for the German economy. Nonetheless EUR/USD probed above its 100-week moving average of 1.4250 during the New York morning and proceeded to trade above the 1.44 handle, up over 300 pips from its opening levels in Asia and 1000 pips for the week thus far. The euro's firm tone was not only limited to the dollar. EUR/GBP again tested fresh all-time highs near the 0.93 area, while EUR/JPY firmed by more than 80 pips to probe toward the neighborhood of 126.00.

- In other currency news, the Swiss Franc (CHF) was broadly firmer in the session, with GBP/CHF testing below the 1.6730 level for multi-decade lows in this pair, while USD/CHF tested the 1.0750 area before snapping back towards 1.0850 ahead of the European close. USD/JPY hit fresh 13-year lows at 87.10. The market had been wary of intervention, though with nothing either verbally or physically has seen from the Japan's Ministry of Finance. The Russian Ruble exhibited continued weakness, with dealers suggesting that the current price movements are showing the RUB undergoing the biggest devaluation of the seven or so seen in the last month and a half. The usual pattern had been for a 1%, or roughly 30 Kopeck, depreciation within the basket trading band, but dealers are noting that today's RUB move appears to be a 40 Kopeck move.



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