- After selling off quite aggressively before the bell, US equity indices made
a run into positive territory in early trading this morning. Equities seemed to
have stabilize and risk aversion diminished after Merck announced a $41B merger
with Schering-Plough, and hopes are high that a deal can be reached in the
down-to-the wire negotiations continuing between Dow and Rohm and Haas.
Front-month crude has pushed through its 50-day EMA for the first time since
last July to trade as high as $48. Natural gas continues to head the other way
making a fresh 6-year low below $3.85. Various OPEC officials discussed more
output cuts early today (note OPEC meets March 15th), with Secretary General El
Badri mentioning a 800K bpd cut, OPEC President Vasconcelos conceding that cuts
may be needed (he had previously been opposed to more cuts) and the Kuwaiti Oil
Minister talking about a potential 1M bpd cut. Treasury prices and gold sold
off after the open of floor trade aided by the early rebound in equity prices.
- Schering-Plough said it has agreed to the reverse merger with Merck at
$23.61/shr in cash and stock. The companies will combine under the name Merck,
and will be led by Merck CEO Richard T. Clark. Upon closing, Merck shareholders
will own 68% of the combined organization, with SGP shareholders holding the
balance. Merck anticipates that the transaction will be modestly accretive in
the year following the deal and significantly accretive thereafter. Merck also
took the opportunity to reaffirms its 2009 guidance. S&P put SGP's A-
credit rating on watch positive after the deal was announced and affirmed
Merck's AA- ratings.
- In other M&A news, Dow Chemical and Rohm and Haas are holding last-minute
negotiations to hammer out a merger deal in an attempt to head off the mother
of all breach of contract suits. Before the open CNBC's David Faber reported
that his sources were saying a deal is near. Last night Dow said the talks were
going quite well, admitting that its $78/share all-cash offer is not the right
deal. This morning Dow and Rohn jointly delayed initiation legal action until
this afternoon in anticipation of reaching a final deal.
- Warren Buffett's appearance on CNBC has not been all doom and gloom. Buffett
seemed cautiously optimistic about toxic assets held by banks, which he said
have very good potential for rich returns if their current valuation is based
on mark to market. "I'd rather buy a bank's toxic assets than their good assets,
if they are marked to market, since they're so cheap," he said. Buffett
also noted that he still favors mark-to-market accounting, even if he doesn't
agree with it in all cases, and feels that restoring the uptick rule is a good
- In currencies, the greenback saw pre-New York
safe-haven gains erode, although there was also a positive undercurrent against
the European pairs throughout the morning. The USD's upward momentum was
whittled away as front-month oil futures rose. The ECB's Trichet shared his
thoughts this morning, noting that economic positives have not been fully
priced in while also conceding that uncertainty remained high. Trichet noted
that although the global economy is still slowing, he believes it is
approaching a time when the economy might start to rebound, citing improving
corporate bond markets have. Sterling
exhibited broad-based weakness as concernd lingered about its banking sector.
GBP/USD tested the 1.3750 level while EUR/GBP moved back above 0.9150. USD/CAD
rose to 1.3064, its highest level since Aug 2004 following the
weaker-than-expected February Canadian housing starts.
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