- The week-long build-up to this morning's jobs data reprised the uncertainty
and speculation seen last month, when traders faced similarly difficult
unemployment numbers. In the event, the non-farm payrolls reading was in line
with expectations, while the manufacturing payrolls data was better than
expected yet prior revised lower. The unemployment rate hit 8.1%, slightly more
than expected, but still higher than any time since December 1983. US equity
indices spiked up after the open but then sank rapidly into negative territory
by mid morning. Front-month crude is around even, trading off after plenty of
pessimistic comments out of Europe.
- Financial stocks rose and fell with the indices this morning. One exception
has been Wells Fargo, which was up more than 10% but off its best levels after
the bank cut its dividend and provided an update on Wachovia before the open.
WFC noted the merger remains on track to achieve multi-billion dollar annual
savings. The bank also noted that mortgage originations for the first two
months of 2009 alone were $59B while applications were almost twice that
figure, exceeding originations in Q4 of 2008. In other bank merger news, Bank
of America noted that it prodigal partner Merrill Lynch has uncovered
"hundreds of millions of dollars" in irregularities in its 2008
currency and derivative trading. Also note that overnight the House approved a
"cram down" measure that would allow bankruptcy judges to alter
mortgages. The Senate will take up the measure shortly.
- In other equity news, the WSJ reported that top executives at GM are opening
up to the idea of a quick bankruptcy and reorganization financed by the Federal
government. This comes after GM's auditors confirmed that they have significant
doubts about the automaker's ability to continue as a going concern. In the
past, GM has estimated that a bankruptcy funding could reach as much as
$80-100B. Merrill Lynch/BoA cut its price target on GM to $0.01 on the news.
Note that the Obama Administration's auto task force is meeting today with
Treasury Sec Geithner to weigh the future of the US
auto industry. In other equities; shares of Aeterna Zentaris spiked +60% before
trading off a bit after the company said it would receive a $30M upfront
payment from Sanofi for signing a development deal for its prostate drug
Cetrorelix. Aeterna is entitled to receive up to $135M more for hitting
milestones. Shares of Ann Taylor are down nearly 30% after the company reported
a loss twice as great as expected and quarterly same-store sales -24%. Note
that Macy's is up nearly 10% after yesterday's retail sell off and two
overnight ratings upgrades.
- In currencies the largest monthly decline in US nonfarms payroll data since
late 1949 helped the EUR/USD test its key hourly level of 1.2730. Fitch placed
Ireland's "AAA" sovereign ratings on watch negative to reflect the
sharp declines in tax receipts in January and February, negatively affecting
government revenues. Fitch later stated that the chance of an Irish default was
remote. ECB member Bini Smaghi warned against cutting interest rates too far
but added he did not object to cutting rates as low as zero "if the
underlying conditions in the economy justify it." The EU's Juncker called
the economic crisis "absolutely catastrophic" and added that Euro
Zone economic activity would get worse in the second half of 2009. The USD
however, remained within its recent price range against the European pairs.
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