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Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 16:47:53 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:32am

US Market Update

Dow -133 S&P -13 NASDAQ -24

- 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 £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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