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Tuesday March 10, 2009 - 15:30:00 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:25am EST/03:25pm GMT

US Market Update

Dow +249 S&P +29 NASDAQ +60

- US equity indices are enjoying the strongest rally since late January, driven by positive comments from Citigroup and a general rebound in financial stocks around the globe. Front-month crude continues to strengthen towards $50 ahead of this weekend's OPEC meeting, where another output cut potentially remains on the table. Spot gold dipped below $900 for the first time in nearly a month. The better risk appetite has taken a bite out of Treasury prices. The 2-year yield has climbed back above 1% ahead of this afternoons $34B 3-year note auction results.

- Financials are rocking this morning after weeks and in some cases months without much inspiring news. All the enthusiasm was touched off by Citi CEO Vikram Pandit, who told the bank's employees in an internal memo that Citi was profitable in the first two months of 2009. Later a filing from Citi disclosed that January and February revenues were $19B, making the bank profitable and representing its best quarter since Q3 2007. Unsurprisingly, Pandit “remains disappointed with the movements in share price.” Note that yesterday the WSJ reported that Bank of America CEO Lewis has been talking up BoA to differentiate the bank from Citi. Lewis has repeatedly insisted that Bank of America needs no more government money, while suggesting that Citi probably will. Shares of both Citi and BoA were up 25% in early trading, while other major banks were up 10-15%.

- But today's rally aside, multiple other headlines bode ill for the financials. Earlier today reports circulated that the SEC will not suspend mark-to-market accounting (note that on 3/12 the House Financial Sevices subcommittee will hold hearings with the SEC and FASB on mark-to-market accounting). In his speech this morning, Ben Bernanke strongly endorsed the principle of mark-to-market accounting while also noting he believes current conditions may distort marking to market. Meanwhile the newly-independent analyst Meredith Whitney warned that credit cards will be the next credit crunch, insisting that credit card lines will be cut materially, reducing consumer outlook and spending. Whitney boosted her prior estimates of the amount credit-card lines will be cut in 2009 to more than $2T and $2.7T by the end of 2010. Also note that overnight the FDIC's Bair said emerging plans to remove troubled assets from banks could force some firms to record large losses.

- Just a few days after President Obama said the defense sector is #1 on his wasteful spending to-do list, Morgan Stanley took a swipe at the industry, cutting the US defense and aerospace sector to cautious from in-line. Meanwhile defense giant and Dow component United Technologies cut its 2009 forecast and announced plans to lay off 4% of its workforce. UTX's CEO said the move would protect profitability and “position the company for resumed earnings growth in 2010.” These developments aren't dampening the rally for UTX, which is up 6% in early trading, while other defense names are underperforming markets. In other earnings news, Avnet cut its Q3 forecast, Kroger reported Q4 in line with all expectations and JA Solar missed Q4 earnings estimates by a country mile.

- In currencies, EUR/USD has rallied above the 1.28 level and above last Friday's post-US payrolls high. The cross has managed to shrug off dovish interest rate comments from ultra-hawk ECB member Weber, who noted that the Euro Zone economy could still shrink in early 2010 and rates could move below the current level of 1.50%. Note that Weber also insisted that 1% was about the lower limit for ECB rates, although this barrier was not set in stone. Some potential central bank action on the Eastern European front added to the risk environment. Ukraine reportedly warned numerous banks against selling Hryvnia below the official bank rate. Dealers were also noting that the Hungarian Central Bank said it would sell euros from EU funds to stem further losses on the Forint.

- In other currency news, Canadian Finance Minister Flaherty noted the upcoming jobs data set for release on Friday was not likely to be good number. However, the CAD was firmer throughout most of the morning, helped by energy and basic commodity momentum. There were some signs of stabilization in China after it noted its Feb auto sales encountered their first advance in four months.


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