- US equity indices opened down 1.5-2.0% and have maintained their downbeat
trend in early trading, with the exception of the Nasdaq, which has come off
its worst levels thanks to strength in shares of Google and AMD. Growth
concerns continue to abound following preliminary UK Q4 GDP figures that
suggested the biggest quarterly drop since 1980, and a Bank of Japan monthly
economic report outlining a "significantly deteriorating" economy.
The Sterling pound moved to fresh all-time lows against
the Yen and 24 year lows against the Greenback. Gold has benefited from safe
haven flows despite a firmer Dollar with the spot market up $30 at $887.
Treasury yields continue to push higher, as at least for now, it seems some
kind of bottom has been put in as focus has shifted to the large supply coming
to market next week and continued concerns surrounding US China economic ties.
- General Electric, the US
economy's 800 lb gorilla, missed analysts' revenue estimates in its fourth
quarter report this morning. Earnings more or less met consensus views,
although its worth noting that GE's earnings have fallen 47% y/y. For 2009 GE
said revenue would be flat at best and down 5% at worst. In an appearance on
CNBC and on the conference call, CEO Jeff Immelt strenuously insisted that GE's
dividend is secure, and promised that the company would maintain both its AAA
rating as well as the dividend. Immelt also noted that the credit environment
remains very difficult, warning that "deflation is out there."
Schlumberger, the world's largest oil services firm, missed analysts' Q4
targets by just a hair. The company warned that falling oil and gas prices is
leading to substantial reductions in exploration and production expenditures
and that at current prices, many resources are not economic to develop. SLB is
up more than 5%. Among other industrial names, Japanese construction equipment
manufacturer Kamatsu offered a profit warning over night, send shares of
competitors DE and CAT and DE down 3-4% in early trading.
- Search giant Google beat top and bottom line estimates in its Q4 results
yesterday evening. Google's CEO said that the company's business remains
healthy despite the difficult economic climate. Shares of GOOG are up 5% in
early trading; note that multiple analysts adjusted their price targets for the
firm overnight, both up and down. AMD's quarterly loss was bigger than
expected, while revenues fell short of consensus estimates. Xerox also missed
both earnings and revenue estimates, guiding next-quarter earnings below par.
The firm noted that yen strength negatively impacted results. Shares of AMD
were down 4% in early trading before popping up to +4%, while XRX is off its
worst levels around -14%. Note that shares of stem cell research firm Geron are
up 35% after receiving FDA clearance to start the first ever human trial of an
embryonic stem cell-based therapy.
- In other earnings news, Capital one surprised investors with a giant
$1.59/shr loss versus expectations for a profit. Revenues were more than 25%
below the consensus view, loan loss provisions jumped by nearly doubled
sequentially, while delinquencies and charge-offs are still rising. COF's CEO
told investors on the conference call that the company's economic outlook has
deteriorated. Shares of COF plunged nearly 24% after the bell, before
recovering to around -13%; competitors Visa, MasterCard and American Express
are down around 3-5%. Harley Davidson's Q4 revenues were in line, although
earnings fell well short of expectations, and EPS guidance for the year also
fell short. HOG also said it would lay off about 11% of its workforce. HOG fell
18% after the bell and recovered to around -12% in mid morning trade.
- The greenback has retraced from earlier moves seen in the European session.
The upcoming Chinese New Year holiday is causing some squaring of short-term
positions that favored the USD and JPY pairs earlier today. The EUR/USD rose
above the 1.2850 level as NYSE trading commenced. GBP/USD recovered from fresh
24-year lows of 1.3505 to retest above 1.3700. Interestingly the USD and spot
gold relationship seemed to have decoupled from its usual relationship as the
USD strengthened against the European and emerging market currencies while spot
gold tested $880/oz. USD usually has an inverted price relationship with gold;
this change may reflect the erosion in faith among central bankers and
government officials in averting a deepening the global recession.
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