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Tuesday February 17, 2009 - 17:08:25 GMT
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Forex Blog - U.S. Market Update

Today 11:23am

US Market Update

Dow -240 S&P -29 NASDAQ -52

- 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 €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 worst levels.

- 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 that Poland would very likely to intervene and sell euros when PLN reaches 5 to EUR. However, currency dealers are noting that history teaches specifying a “line in the sand” 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 and Ukraine 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 CAD-related pairs

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