- US equity indices are sustaining solid gains this morning, taken higher by
rallying financial stocks. With a better picture of the Treasury's stress
testing in hand and the intitial details of Obama's budget leaking out, both
seem to be providing confidence in the banks and helping investors ignore the
dismal economic data. The Commerce Department reported the sixth straight
monthly decline in durables goods orders, continuing jobless claims broke above
the 5M level for all-time high reading and January new home sales sagged to
fresh record lows, with the median sale price slumping 10% m/m. Details of the
Obama administration's 2010 budget leaked out earlier this morning, indicating
that the White House sees a budget deficit of up to $1.75T, or 12.3% of GDP.
- Gold markets are losing ground with the return of risk appetite by investors
around the globe. April gold traded off as much as $30 approaching $930 once
again. Treasury prices are lower as well as the market tries to digest the
magnitude the Obama Administration's budget proposal and looks past the
disturbing durable goods and housing figures. The 10-year yield has climbed
back to 3% while the benchmark spread has widened back to 190 basis points. The
energy complex is rallying for the second straight session led by RBOB + 7.5%.
WTI crude is testing $45 for the first time in nearly a month.
- Financial stocks are making solid gains this morning after the Treasury
finally laid out concrete details regarding bank stress testing yesterday
afternoon. Yesterday after the close, Treasury Secretary Geithner told NPR that
more government backstops would be helpful for banks even as they look to raise
private capital, as required under the Treasury's emerging financial stability
plans. Geithner also echoed the host of administration and Congressional
officials who have asserted that nationalization of banks is unnecessary. In a
research note published overnight, Citigroup indicated that it believes the
stress testing plan will be positive for US banks, although it cautioned that
the final targets for bank capital levels remain unclear. In separate news,
Citi is getting closer to a deal with the Feds, with a final announcement
expected as soon as today.
- Managed care names CVH, AET, UNH, CI and HUM are getting hit as details about
the Obama administration's budget leak out. Current budget proposals indicate
significant changes in the government's role in health care, including cuts to
private Medicare Advantage plans.
- General Motors reported a giant $9.6B quarterly loss this morning, amounting
to -$9.65 per share, well above analysts' expectations for -$7.40. Revenue was
$30.8B, nearly $5B less than expected. For the full year, GM said it lost
$30.9B, which admittedly is less than last year's $43.3B loss. The wounded
automaker anticipates receiving a "going concern" opinion from its
auditors in its 2008 10-K. At the very end of its earnings press release, GM
briefly noted that it requires funding from the US Treasury to continue
- In other earnings news, Fluor is up nearly 10% after blowing out EPS and
revenue estimates. Cablevision fell to -5% after the open before bouncing up +5%
along with markets. CVC missed on earnings in a big way, while revenue was in
line with expectations. Sears holding is sustaining an 8% gain in early trading
after earnings, while Limited Brands is well off early losses but still down 3%
or so. Supermarket chain Safeway missed earnings and revenue slightly, while
reaffirmed its 2009 forecast. Investors are not reassured, however, and are
dumping the stock, which is down more than 10%. Utility Integrys Energy has
fallen off a big cliff after missing the consensus view by a mile thanks to big
losses on derivatives, with shares down more than 20%.
- In currencies, the greenback was mixed in the New York session but off its worst levels against the
European pairs. EUR/USD once again tried to break the 1.28 level before
succumbing to selling pressures. Sterling was firmer, with dealers attributing gains on
month-end activity but added that weak economic fundamentals coupled with the
protracted resolution of the banking sector's problems continue to weigh on prices.
The yen maintained its soft tone on both technical and fundamental factors.
USD/JPY was approaching the mid 98 handle as the New York morning progressed.
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