- Investors seem to have lost their appetite for panic selling, at least
temporarily this morning, after watching the DJIA fall to levels last seen in
1997 yesterday. All three leading US equity indices are sustaining modest gains
in volatile early trading, despite the lowest February Consumer Confidence
reading on record and data reminding everyone home prices continue to decline
at the fastest pace ever. Testifying before the Senate, Fed Chairman Bernanke
warned that recovery will only begin next year if the banks are stabilized, and
will take two or three years to work out at that. Treasury prices have seen
some bids throughout the session helped by the continued dismal economic data.
The curve has seen some steepening across the curve with the long bond yield
sliding drifting towards 3.4%. The 2-year remains near unchanged ahead of this
afternoon's $40B auction results. Gold is seen some profit takers step in with
the firmer equity market, trading off more than $25 to the mid $960's.
- Financial stocks rallied in the pre-market and after the bell on news that
the government close to taking a bigger stake in Citigroup and may restructure
and expand its loans to AIG. Even JP Morgan ticked up a bit after cutting its
dividend by 87%. But for Citi and JP Morgan, the rally was not built to last,
with shares of the two stock back around even mid morning. Morgan Stanley,
Goldman and Wells Fargo remain up 6-7%. Overnight the WSJ said that the government
and AIG have been discussing the loan changes since December and plan to
announce them by Monday, when the company is expected to report earnings. With
Citi, various online news outlets rehashed reported that a key executive was
seen visiting the White House yesterday. In any case, the government is
expected to announce shortly that it will convert its preferred stake to common
stock in Citi. The WSJ noted that the outlook for Citi depends on how the
government converts its preferred stake, noting that if it wants to put Citi's
TCE concerns to rest once and for all it will be forced to own more than half
of Citi or pay a hefty premium for the shares. Credit insurer Radian Group
offered disastrous fourth quarter results, including more than twice the expected
loss and puny revenues.
- Multiple retailers reported results yesterday and this morning. The only
apparent common theme among the retailers is that fourth quarter results are
less bad than they could be given the state of the consumer. Macy's came in a
bit ahead of the Street while Target was a bit behind estimates, while both
reported mid single digit same-store sales declines in the quarter. Macy's
reaffirmed its 2009 earnings forecast. Target only stated that earning in the
next two quarters would be well below last year's levels. Upscale retailer
Nordstrom managed to do well in Q4, reporting results just a hair ahead of
estimates and guiding 2009 in line. The company's same-store sales fell by more
than 15% in the quarter, and it expects them to fall much further in 2009. Home
Depot reported a bit ahead of the consensus earnings view, but guided 2009
below expectations. Office Depot and Radio Shack stand out from the group. HD
surprising investors with an unexpectedly large loss and a big miss on revenues,
while RSH missed EPS estimates by a wide margin.
- In currencies, non-USD related flows were the primary drivers of price action
in a session riddled by soft economic data and sovereign debt rating concerns.
The greenback was mixed among the major pairs but rebounded off its worst
levels following the US
consumer confidence data. S&P was busy with Eastern Europe
this morning, cutting Latvia's
sovereign credit rating and putting Lithuania
ratings on negative watch. S&P noted that the resilience of Eastern
European economies seem to be crumbling under the weight of high foreign
currency debt and the looming reprioritization of lending among foreign banks.
French President Sarkozy fanned the flames when he said the Eastern European banking
situation would most likely get worse. The Swedish Kroner was broadly weaker in
the New York session, hit by
fallout from the Baltic states. The yen maintained a
soft tone, testing its 100-day moving average in the EUR/JPY pair for the first
time since August 2007. Trading desks and analysts are now dreaming up lots of
reasons for a weaker JPY, ranging from fundaments and valuation, to technical
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