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Thursday February 26, 2009 - 16:41:37 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Dow +80 S&P +8 NASDAQ +8

- 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 operations.

- 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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