- Traders are latching onto scraps of good news wherever they can find them
this morning, be that of speculation for an additional Chinese stimulus plan, a
unscheduled rate cut in India or glimmers of hope in what remains generally
dismal economic data. The three leading US
equity indices opened above yesterday's wretched closing levels and have even
managed rise a bit after a downward feint. The Treasury provided the markets
with some much needed details regarding the mortgage modification plan and
hopes remain high more details regarding TARP are on the way. The ADP
Employment number came in much lower than expected at -697K, for its lowest
reading on record, setting things up for very negative employment data on
Friday. On the other hand, the February Challenger jobs number showed
improvements over the January reading, while the ISM Non-Manufacturing data was
in line, with the employment component better than the prior reading, offering
optimists a few more slivers of hope. Front-month crude is rocketing after
reports circulated that China may use its fiscal reserves to buy oil
(diversifying away from US Treasuries). Note that Chinese PM Wen is scheduled
to address China's
legislative body on Thursday, with expectations running high that he will
outline details for the stimulus plan - copper and other metals are hitting
multi-month highs in anticipation of the latter.
- Shares in leading financial names made substantial gains before the open,
with Bank of America gaining 10% and Citi rising 6% in the pre market. Most of
these stocks were giving up their gains in early trading, however. GE continues
to drop like a stone, dipping below $6.00/shr mid morning briefly, hitting
levels last seen in 1991. GE denied rumors that it was mulling a capital raise
in the near term. PIMCO's Bill Gross told CNBC that he believes the sell-off
involves the market pricing in a downgrade of GE's AAA ratings, a cut that
would force institutional holders including sovereign wealth funds to limit
their exposure to the firm - but Gross also insisted that GE is no AIG. US
Bancorp sank from pre-market gains to -5% after slashing its dividend. Note
that overnight the FDIC's Bair said her deposit insurance fund could be
depleted if the agency does not impose additional fees on the banking industry,
noting that a large number of bank failures may occur through 2010. Recall that
in late February the FDIC raised is fees on banks and approved a one-time
special assessment fee.
- Discount retail giants Costco and BJ's Wholesale reported before the open.
Costco missed earnings estimates for the first time in years and reported a 3%
y/y decline in same-store sales. Results were hit by continued weakness in
non-foods sales and related margins. BJ's beat earnings targets and kept
quarterly same-store sales in positive territory. On the conference call, a
BJ's executive warned that the company is observing deflation in pricing of
certain food products. Fellow discounter Big Lots beat quarterly earnings
estimates and beat the Street in its quarterly and annual earnings forecast.
Shares of COST were around even mid morning, while BJ rose 8% and BIG was up
- The greenback was on the defensive through most of the New
York morning thanks to the potential for China
to start investing fiscal reserves in oil at the expense of US Treasuries as
well as the ADP employment report. The Indian Central Bank unexpectedly cut key
rates ahead of the planned April 21st policy meeting, representing the bank's
fifth interest rate cut since October 2008. The cut followed the release of India's
Q4 GDP data on February 27; the 5.3% reading was the lowest since December 2002
and below market expectations. As the morning progressed some risk aversion
crept back in as GE slumped. The JPY was broadly lower from the get go of Asian
trading as the USD/JPY pair tested 99.50 before rumored Japanese exporters
offers layered to 100.20 area and capped upside momentum.
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