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Monday March 2, 2009 - 16:39:12 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:10am EST/04:10pm GMT

US Market Update

Dow -188 S&P -21 NASDAQ -31

- March trading roared in like an angry bear this morning, with the DJIA opening below 7,000 for the first time since October 1997. Investors are focused on ailing banks as usual, after HSBC offered a grim Q4 report and AIG disclosed the biggest quarterly loss in US history and confirmed it once again returned to Uncle Sam with hat in hand. Note that over the weekend, Warren Buffet told investors that Berkshire Hathaway had its worst year ever in 2008 and warned that the economy would be in shambles throughout 2009. There were hints of sunshine on the data front, with the February ISM Manufacturing reading a bit better than expected and the January Personal Spending data showing the first rise in spending in the last seven months. But there are problems with the latter, as the 5% rise in January personal savings (largest increase since 1995) and the record annual rate (highest since records began back in 1959) is looking bad for consumption. Front-month crude is getting slammed, with the contract off almost $4 just above $40, and despite the stock market weakness gold prices are losing ground as well.

- Government bond prices are bid up as money finds its way to Treasuries and the like. The 10-year is up better than a half a point pushing the yield back below 3%. The yield on the ultra safe 3-month T-bill has slipped back to 0.25%, hovering right at its lowest levels in roughly a month. 

- Fallen insurance giant AIG said it lost $61.7B in the fourth quarter and confirmed earlier reports that the government would once again restructure its rescue package, handing the company another $30B in taxpayer funds to be used on an "as needed" basis and converting an existing $40B stake in preferred shares to common shares. This is the fourth revision of the government's bailout of the insurance company. AIG's CEO Liddy was at pains to insist that AIG does not need fresh cash right now and that its liquidity situation has stabilized. An unnamed US official said that the aid severs to continue stabilizing AIG and reducing the size of the company, which still poses a systemic risk. According to the official, taxpayers' exposure to AIG now amounts to $163B.

- Last night the New York Post reported that the Treasury is ready to accept warrants instead of common stock from banks in exchange for financial aid, presumably to keep banks from being “nationalized.” The Post adds that the move to accept warrants will play out next week as Treasury gets results from the first round of stress tests. Note that well-known analyst Robert Prechter predicted today that the US may see more bank failures than the FDIC has funds to cover, responding to news that the FDIC would raise fees and levy as special assessment to beef up its warchest. Bank of America and Wells Fargo are down 13% or so in early trading, while Goldman, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan are down around 5%.

- Satellite TV companies Dish and Echostar are having a tough morning, with shares of both down 9% in early trading. Dish Network reported more or less in line with consensus estimates, but there were some disturbing developments in the company's earnings press release, including a 100K q/q loss in net subscribers and an ugly warning about its $5B worth of outstanding debt, namely that more debt may be needed that would have a dilutive effect on equity capital and future earnings. Echostar's huge quarterly loss includes big impairments and losses on investments and other assets.

- In currencies, the greenback managed to consolidate gains against the major European pairs during the New York session. Traders concerns about Eastern Europe have only grown after the EU summit meeting this weekend failed to agree on any concerted support for the region. Dealers continue to wonder whether the pre Asian market lows in EUR/USD represent the sort of solid support that could last through the rest of the week and past US payroll data on Friday. Dealer chatter is noting decent option support putting a floor in place and renewed talk of big 1.2500 barriers. Euro momentum apparently lacks the impetus to make a significant test of the downside. Sterling is broadly weaker against it major pairs as it probed back toward the 1.40 level against the USD and 0.90 versus the euro. CAD hit fresh 2009 lows as it tested the 1.2880 level against the USD. Canada's Dec GDP contracted more than expected and commodity prices slumped during the NY morning on deepening global recession concerns.



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