- US equity indices made modest gains before and after the NYSE bell as traders
were a bit encouraged that an increase in the Jan PPI reading could alleviate
some of the recent deflationary concerns. Traders quickly attributed much of
the price increases to energy and seasonal factors and turned their focus to
the subsequent weekly jobless claims and February Philly Fed data. The weekly
continuing jobless claims came in just shy of 5 million, for yet another
all-time record high reading, while the employment component of the Philly Fed
Index registered its second consecutive record low. This discouraging data
comes after yesterday's FOMC minutes revised the Fed's projected 2009
unemployment rate down to 8.5-8.8% from the prior 7.1-7.6% range. An increase
in general risk appetite spurred the early gains in stocks despite continued
weakness in some of the largest US Banks, but the indices drifted back into the
red after the Philly Fed data. European banks set a positive early tone as
several of the largest institutions rallied after their earnings reports failed
to spook the markets.
- Treasury prices have declined modestly on continued supply concerns and
unwinds of flight to safety trades. The benchmark yield is back above 2.8% and
the long bond has regained 3.6%. The US Treasury announced $94B in fresh 2, 5,
and 7-year note supply. Energy markets have reversed early losses post weekly
inventory data with April WTI inching back towards $40 a barrel. March copper
is up better than 3% just below $1.50.
- Dow component Hewlett-Packard's Q1 earnings were in line with the Street,
although its revenues lagged estimates by nearly 10%. The computer and IT
services giant's forecast for next quarter was also below expectations, while
the CFO warned that the company expects more inventory reductions to deal with
ever slowing demand. Shares of HPQ are down 8%, off their worst levels. The
Wall Street Journal highlighted the continuing slowdown in tech and the overall
economy today, reporting that Apple retail unit sales fell by 6% in January.
Sprint Nextel reported a slightly smaller loss than expected but missed revenue
targets. The company sounded upbeat in the press release on its conference
call, noting that it expects total subscriber losses to ease in 2009, although
the CEO warned Sprint â€śhasn't turned the corner yet.â€ť Investors are snapping up
shares of Sprint, sending it up more than 25% in early trading before
retrenching a bit.
- CVS beat the Street by a hair, reporting strong segment sales data for the
quarter. On the conference call, CVS's CEO was blunt, noting that the company
is â€śimmuneâ€ť to the recession. Markets seem to agree, with shares of CVS up
nearly 8% before the bell. Speaking of recession-proof, Spam manufacturer
Hormel beat earnings estimates and reiterated its 2009 forecast. Shares of HRL
are rising, up more than 8% mid morning.
- Mid-cap steel companies Reliance Steel and Gerdau Ameristeel offered varying
earnings reports this morning. RS blew out consensus earnings and revenue
targets, noting that it has not seen any meaningful change in business activity
levels so far in 2009. It also noted that pricing for most of its products
appears to be at or near the bottom. GNA surprised investors with a substantial
loss versus expectations of a positive earnings gain. The company noted that
during the first nine months of the year it delivered EBITDA of $1.5B, while in
the last quarter of the year, EBITDA decreased to $19.4M. GNA has bounced in
and then out of positive territory, while RS is rocketing up 20% mid morning.
- In currencies, demand for dollars and gold has abated in the session as some
pressures recently seen in Eastern European have eased a bit. There is
speculation that the EU will devise a plan to help Eastern European countries
to stave off the fallout from the global economic crisis. EUR/USD took out buy
stops above the 1.2730 level in the aftermath of the weak US
data. The EUR/USD pair moved back below the 1.27 level ahead of the European
equity close as chatter that German Chancellor Merkel and EU's Barroso were
working out an Eastern European bailout strategy. Dealers noted that a lot hope
and emphasis was being place into the result of this meeting, potentially setting
things up for a big disappointment. USD/JPY hit one-month highs above the 94.40
level as the economic situation in Japan
continues to disappoint. EUR/GBP has moved off session lows of 0.8770 to test
0.8870 on chatter of a large FX fix on the London
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