- Equity indices are surging as investors react with enthusiasm to reports the
US is preparing to launch a "bad bank" plan and the hopeful passage
of the Obama Administration's stimulus plan as well as positioning ahead of
today's FOMC statement. Financials are particularly strong led by California
bank Wells Fargo, which has rallied some 25% following Q4 results. Treasury
prices are fairly tame as markets digest yesterday's rally following the 2-year
auction results. The 10-year yield remains above 2.5% while the long bond has
drifted back to 3.25%. All eyes will be on this afternoon's FOMC statement to
see if they provide any more color on the possibility of directly buying
Treasury securities as part of their relief program.
- Bad Bank is apparently the word of the day, with major market players
bandying about opinions and ideas over emerging plans to create institutions in
the US and Europe that would soak up toxic assets. Yesterday Senator Dodd said
the Obama Administration is mulling a "bad bank" program, while a
White House advisor said this morning that getting bad assets out of banks
would help. Yesterday after the close CNBC reported that a "bad bank"
plan might be announced as soon as next week, under the auspices of FDIC
Chairman Bair. Geroge Soros later told the network he might invest in a bad
bank, but cautioned the model might not represent the best approach to fixing
the financial sector. The IMF's Strauss-Kahn weighed in, noting that he is in
favor of a "bad bank" plan.
- Financial names are surging on all the "bad bank" talk. Wells Fargo
is leading the pack after beating consensus estimates (ex items) in its fourth
quarter earnings report. Investors seem to be ignoring the bank's big revenue
miss. WFC executives are upbeat, noting that they are seeing good loan growth
in the middle-market commercial segment and assuring that the integration of
Wachovia is on track. Citigroup is also making big gains, rising 20% before the
bell and sustaining these gains mid morning. Reports circulated last night that
Mizuho Financial might consider purchasing Citi's Japanese brokerage and asset
management units, while this morning Singapore
disclosed a 5.3% passive stake. Morgan Stanley, Goldman and JP Morgan are all
up around 8%. Investment management name Legg Mason is not participating in all
the joy, with shares down more than 10% on a bigger-than-expected loss and a
significant miss on revenues. Health insurance name Wellpoint is up 5% after more
or less meeting consensus estimates in its Q4 earnings report.
- Three Dow components are making notable moves in early trading. GE jumped 4%
in early trading, extending the gains in the name seen since last Friday's
losses post earnings; yesterday Moody's put GE's ratings on review for possible
downgrade, given uncertainties surrounding the firm's finance arm. Boeing is up
2% despite missing targets, a result the firm blamed in part on the machinists'
strike; the company reaffirmed its schedule for the 787 Dreamliner's first
flight and initial deliveries and said it would cut 6% of its workforce,
encouraging investors. AT&T is off 3% after very narrowly missing analysts'
- In other news, Yahoo is up 7% after coming in ahead of earnings estimates.
Note that on the conference call, Yahoo's new CEO said she did not join up to
sell the company, noting that all the chatter of new talks with Microsoft
"come from nowhere." defense conglomerate General Dynamics is up
around 7% after beating bottom-line estimates and guiding 2009 slightly above
par. In the energy sector, ConocoPhillips exceeded the consensus earnings and
revenue targets. Baker Hughes also beat the Street, but warned that 2009
outlook is deteriorating. BHI rocketed 9% in early trading. Building materials
manufacturer USG fell off a cliff in early trading before recovering to around
-2% on a weak earnings report. Media name McClatchy plunged to -10% after
suspending its dividend.
- In currencies, the risk appetite that materialized in early European trading
remains intact, although several noticeable cracks have emerged. The IMF raised
its overall loss estimates from US toxic assets to $2.2T from the $1.4T call it
made back in October and revised its 2009 global GDP estimate to +0.5% from
+2.2%. Soros's bad caution hasn't helped either. Sterling
firmed up and tested its best levels following Soros's comments that he was
selling GBP below 1.40, citing "risk and reward" considerations. As
the New York morning wore on, USD
recouped its earlier losses. Dealers expressed some concerns over the pace of
recent ruble weakening against the newly established RUB41 ceiling. Less than a
week after the Russian Central Bank raised the upper limit for RUB, the
currency had used about half of its scope range. Dealers believe the Russian
Central Bank may resume its former mini devaluation policy, implying more USD
demand ahead. Also note that the ECB's Trichet said widening sovereign bond
spreads (ie Greek, Irish and Spanish 10-yr notes to Bunds) inside the Euro Zone
would not pose a risk to the future of the EMU.
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