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Tuesday March 3, 2009 - 16:35:29 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:27am EST/04:27pm GMT

US Market Update

Dow -27 S&P -4.3 NASDAQ -2.9

- Equity markets seem to be reprising their performance from yesterday, with all three major US indices relinquishing any early gains before the European close and heading straight down. The January pending US home sales reading was -7.7%, twice the expected decline. Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke continues to testify before Congress, already having said that any economic recovery depends on the government's ability to stabilize weak financial markets. The VIX volatility index remains over 50 while gold prices continue to retreat aggressively inducing speculation of forced liquidation. Treasury prices continue to rally on the back of weak stock markets erasing early losses. The 10-year yields is back below 3.9%.

- The Fed and the Obama administration provided more details on the TALF just before the open of trade. According to a joint Fed/Treasury statement, TALF lending will begin on March 25th and run through December 2009. The New York Fed will lend up to $200B secured by certain AAA-rated securities back by newly and recently originated auto loans, credit card loans, student loans and SBA-guaranteed small business loans. Just before the announcement, CNBC's Liseman said the TALF could grow to become the Fed's largest emergency loan program. The Wall Street Journal reported overnight that the Obama administration is mulling the creation of multiple investment funds to buy toxic assets, including separate funds capitalized by both government and private funds and run by private investment managers. The private managers would run the funds and have the power to decide what assets to buy and what prices to pay. Other reports noted that the TALF may be expanded to buy up toxic loans.

- Leading financial stocks started off on the right foot, making considerable gains on all the qualitative easing news. But deteriorating equity indices and plenty of pessimism from Bernanke is helping erode these gains. In addition, GE fell dramatically in early trading, with shares hitting levels last seen in the early 1990s. Yesterday the WSJ highlighted GE Capital's exposure to Eastern Europe, noting that could have much more than $26B (as disclosed in 2008) committed to the region. After the bell Stern Agee said it doesn't expect GE's dividend cut to help boost liquidity at the company. Elsewhere among the financials, Russia offered Bank of New York a $800M settlement deal in exchange for dropping its $22B suit against the bank over allegations of illegal imports from back in the 1990s.

- Another round of dreadful monthly sales results are expected from the automakers later today. But in contrast to all the industry pessimism, two auto retailing companies reported strikingly positive results before the open. Car parts retailer AutoZone beat earnings and revenue targets by solid margins, and reported healthy +6% same-store sales results. Used car seller America's Car-Mart beat earnings estimates on an ex items basis and reported a big y/y increase in unit sales. Shares of both AZO and CRMT are up 10% in early trading. Shares of Trina Solar spiked up nearly 8% in early action before trading off a bit, after the company beat Q4 revenue targets. TravelCenters of America reported positive Q4 earnings compared to expectations for a big loss, but missed revenues in a big way. Trading in shares of TA has been volatile.

- Equity trading continues to drive the currency market in today's session. The greenback rebounded from earlier lows in European trading to move back toward opening levels from Asia. Risk aversion was heightened by the January pending US home sales reading. In his testimony, the Fed's Bernanke said policy makers might need to expand aid to the banking system and take other aggressive measures even at the cost of rising fiscal deficits. The IMF commented that all major advance economies were in recession and that emerging and that developing countries were slowing abruptly. As noted earlier today, dealer chatter continues to circulate regarding a 1.2500 to 1.3000 option barrier with expiration set for next week. Dealers are noting that the inability of EUR/USD to break below the 1.25 on Sunday during the Wellington open cemented this option viewpoint.

- The CAD weakened considerably following the expected 50bps interest rate cut by the Bank of Canada. USD/CAD was moving back towards the 1.30 area for fresh 3-month highs. The British Pound retested the 1.4000 level for a second straight session and again found some momentum to hold above the level.


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