- It remains grim out there this morning, with US
equity indices making fresh multi-month lows. The Dow slipped to nearly just
100 points above the Nov intra-day low. Traders are dumping stocks and headed
for safe havens in the face of the imminent arrival of part two of the US auto
industry bailout, fresh currency fears swirling in Eastern Europe and a highly
negative February Empire Manufacturing number that only serves to remind
everyone how much the real economy has deteriorated. The imminent signing of a
stimulus bill and the failure of the G7 say anything meaningful over the
weekend are failing to serve as any much needed catalysts. March crude is off
nearly $2.50 around $34.70 and EUR/USD is hitting two-month lows, while spot
gold keeps climbing towards $1000. The US
benchmark yield is come off more than 20 basis points from Friday while the
long bond is testing 3.5% once again.
- GM and Chrysler are in the hot seat this morning thanks to today's deadline
for the firms to submit their restructuring plans to the federal government.
Negotiations between the UAW and both companies, as well as Ford (which has
said it will not take government funds), have been hot and heavy. Press reports
from yesterday indicated that the talks were focusing on cutting retiree health
care costs. Interestingly the Detroit Free Press reported that a potential Ford
deal with the UAW may be used as a framework for any eventual Chrysler or GM
deals. The New York Times quoted an administration official as saying that
President Obama was reserving for himself any decision on the viability of GM
and Chrysler and that the administration had not ruled out government-backed
bankruptcy plans. In other auto industry news, Daimler is the latest automaker
to miss analyst estimates in its quarterly results, reporting an unexpected
loss of â‚¬1.53B and cutting its 2008 dividend. GM has plunged 16%, while
Daimler's ADR shares and Ford are both down 7% in early trading.
- Dow component Wal-Mart reported solid fourth-quarter earnings this morning,
coming in a bit ahead of the consensus EPS view. The company's forecasted
earnings ranges for the coming quarter and full year were tilted a bit below
par, however. On the conference call, WMT's CEO said the company's financial
position remains strong, to the point where it will continue making strategic
acquisitions. Generic drugs giant Teva beat earnings estimates as well,
although revenues were slightly below the consensus view. Teva also raised its
dividend and offered a strong earnings forecast for 2009. Shares of WMT are up
nearly 3% mid morning, while shares of TEVA are up more than 4%. Medical device
firm Medtronic missed top- and bottom-line estimates and narrowed its 2009
outlook; investors are shrugging off the lackluster quarterly results and
sending shares of MDT up nearly 8%. Oil services firm Transocean's Q4 results
were a hair under consensus estimates; share of RIG are down 4% but off their
- In currencies, safe haven flows continue to be the main driver this morning
as concern over the exposure of European bank to their Eastern compatriots. The
failure of G7 over the weekend to flesh out its rhetoric with concrete details
has compounded the risk aversion mood. USD, CHF and gold have re-establishing
their safe-haven status over the last 48 hours. EUR/USD is printing new
two-month lows beneath the 1.2580 level. The pair is also under some technical
pressure if 1.2730 cannot be regained and held, with 1.2300 the first measured
move target. In Eastern Europe, Polish PM Tusk commented
would very likely to intervene and sell euros when PLN reaches 5 to EUR.
However, currency dealers are noting that history teaches specifying a â€śline in
the sandâ€ť level is like waving a red flag in front of a charging bull. EUR/PLN
was at 4.92 at the time of writing. Other Eastern European currencies,
including the Czech Krona (CZK) and Hungarian Forint (HUF), are under threat as
well. As is well known at this point, Russia
remain under stress and could add to any potential domino effect. The
carry-related trend has been a factor in this region as Switzerland had become
the world's second biggest source of carry-trade credit after Japan with more
than 80% of all new mortgages in Hungary are in Swiss Francs (CHF), with a
similar pattern emerging in Poland, Croatia and Romania.
- In other currency news, USD/JPY was holding above the 92 level. Dealers noted
good interest in USD calls featuring short expiration dates with 2-week strike
prices up to 94 interest building for 100 strike within a three-month time
period. USD/CAD is holding above the 1.2550 resistance level and testing the
1.2670 area. Weaker energy prices are offsetting firmer metals for sentiment in
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