- Equity indices opened under a cloud this morning after consumer spending made
its sixth straight monthly decline and total 2008 consumer spending was seen
rising a mere 3.6%, the smallest annual gain since 1961. After the bell the
slightly better-than-expected January ISM data helped equities rally, pushing
the Nasdaq into positive territory and helping the DJIA and S&P500 off
their worst levels. Partisan warfare over the stimulus package is heating up
ahead of Senate debate of the Obama administration's bill. Commodities futures
are down slightly, with front-month crude down $0.50 at $41.15 after holding
the $40 mark ahead of the open for floor trade. Gold has seen some profit
taking after it was unable to push above the important technical level of $930.
Treasury prices are the beneficiary of soft equity trade. The 10-year has
traded up about half point for much of the session with its yield dipping below
- US government
officials continue talking about a bad bank plan despite media chatter on
Friday that any bad bank plan was dead. An administration official told CNN
over the weekend that work on a plan was continuing, while an Office of the
Comptroller of the Currency official noted the main obstacle was determining
how to value toxic assets. The WSJ looked at who would benefit from the bad
bank plan, noting that some banks could be forced to recognize large losses
from selling assets at prices below valuations on their balance sheets. On the
other hand, other banks who were more conservative in their asset valuations
could recognize windfall gains from the plan if the government prices exceed
their own valuations, noting that Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs could
benefit from the plan. Major banks opened in the red but have been making a run
for positive territory in mid morning trading.
- In earnings news, healthcare names are having a good morning thanks to
Humana. HUM is up 5% after opening down 3% or so; the health insurance firm beat
revenue estimates and reaffirmed its 2009 forecast, although missed on the
bottom line by a bit. Foodservice giant and restaurant bellwether Sysco had a
solid quarter. On its conference call, executives said that the slowdown isn't
hurting restaurants as much as predicted as of yet, although closures are
happening. Mattel dropped 15% after missing estimates, reiterating the oft
heard formula this earnings season of spending cuts and balance sheet defense.
Rockwell cut its 2009 guidance and missed consensus targets, sending the stock
down 20% before the bell before retracing somewhat early on.
- In currencies there was a slow reversal of price movement seen in the Asian
and European sessions as USD and JPY gains eroded. The GBP/USD cross took back
the 1.42 level after testing 1.4050 while the EUR/USD probed toward the
mid-1.28 neighborhood after testing 1.2707. EUR/JPY closed out the New
York morning at 115.40 after probing 113.10 in early Europe.
As risk aversion settled down, European equities moved off their worst levels.
EU Commissioner Almunia said the UK
might join the EMU, noting that there was a good chance the Nordic countries
could join as well. In addition, he said there was zero chance that any country
would leave Euro Zone. A European trade union official accused the ECB of
keeping the euro too strong, putting EU monetary policy behind the curve. The
official noted that public anger was rising.
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