- US equity
indices are giving up much of yesterday's gains in early trading as markets
digest President Obama's expansive economic vision and continued dismal data
points. Existing home sales hit lows not seen since 1997 and inventories ticked
higher on a sequential basis. Treasury yields are ticking higher despite the
stock weakness sending the 2-year back above 1% ahead of today's $32B 5-year
auction results. Front-month gold pared early losses to trade back towards
$975, while WTI crude is holding above $40 post weekly DOE inventory figures.
- Financial names are under pressure from the broader index declines in early
trading, despite the emerging consensus that outright nationalization is off
the table for now. Note that yesterday the Fed's Fisher said he was
uncomfortable with bank nationalization and House Speaker Pelosi said the US
may need to buy transitional stakes in some banks that would not wipe out
shareholders. Earlier this morning PIMCO's McCulley insisted that Citi would
get support from Washington if
stress tests showed it needs it because the firm is too big to fail. The Wall
Street Journal wrote that Wells Fargo may need to cut its dividend to save
costs, noting that bank's ratios "look anything but bulletproof" in
the face of rising credit losses and the uncertain outlook.
- Monoline insurer Ambak followed up competitor Radian Group's big quarterly
loss with an even bigger loss of its own thanks to changes in fair value accounting
of assets. ABK reported earnings of -$8.14 per share; analysts had expected
-$0.18. On the conference call, ABK's CEO said there is little or no assurance
that TARP funds will be forthcoming for the monolines, but also noted ABK does
not need public funding. S&P published a report discussing the impact of
loan modifications on mortgage insurers, noting that current plans could reduce
mortgage insurers' loss costs. According to the report, one mortgage insurer
estimated that loan modifications in Q3 last year resulted in savings of 14% of
its incurred losses. ABK is giving up yesterday's gains, down 5%, while RDN is
down a whopping 18%.
- In earnings, TJX Companies followed up on yesterday's mostly solid Q4 retail
earnings reports, beating the consensus earnings view and coming in even on
revenues. Tween Brands missed in a big way, reporting a sizable loss in
contrast to analysts' estimates for a $0.44 gain. TWB also missed revenue
targets and reported a 23% decline in same-store sales. Shares of TWB are down
more than 40%, while TJX is up about 3% in early trading. Food names Del Monte
and J.M. Smucker both beat earnings estimates and missed revenue targets in
third-quarter reports but offered diverging forecasts for 2009. DLM raised its
view for the year, while SJM cut guidance. Shares of DLM are up 13% in early
trading, while SJM is down about 7%. In other equity news, Agrium launched a
hostile takeover bid for CF Industries at $72/shr in cash and stock, valuing
the company at $3.6B. Agrium expects the transaction to be accretive to
earnings and cash flow in 2010 and significantly accretive on both measures in
subsequent years. CF is up 15% on the news, while AGU is down 7% or so.
- In currencies, risk aversion returned during the New York session after
S&P downgraded Ukraine's currency rating below junk status and the US
exiting home sales reading hit levels last seen more than a decade ago. In
addition, Moody's published a report highlighting the potential for rising
delinquencies and defaults among consumer loan ABS in the final quarter of 2008
in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa).
- EUR/USD was probing session lows around the 1.2730 level after testing 1.2900
earlier in the European session. GBP/USD is around 1.4290 after testing 1.46
earlier today. GBP/USD was softer by 250 pips from its opening Asian levels
thanks to downside momentum sparked by softer GDP data that came out ahead of
the New York morning. Sterling also being weighed down by the pending
announcement on the details of the UK Asset Protection Scheme. Dealers are
noting that the potential liability of British taxpayers has reached Â£1.3
trillion since the start of the credit crunch, which one trader noted is
equivalent to almost the entire annual output of the British economy. Needless
to say, this sort of arithmetic is causing concern among investors.
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