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Wednesday March 11, 2009 - 16:04:25 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:34am EST/03:34pm GMT

US Market Update

Dow +20 S&P +4 NASDAQ +14

- Traders seem to be cautiously optimistic this morning, with the US indices extending yesterday's big rally with modest gains, although indices are off their best levels mid morning. Market participants continue to wonder how long a bear market rally can last, given the horrible underlying economic situation, with data out off Europe and Asia overnight reminding everyone of the severe state of the global economy. Front-month crude is back around $45 as OPEC officials continue their back-and-forth in the press over whether to cut or not to cut this weekend. Government bond prices remain lower as markets digest a historic reverse auction of GILTS in the UK and a 10-year reopening later this afternoon. The US benchmark yield is gaining some traction above 3% heading into the auction results.

- Financial stocks are reprising their big gains from yesterday, with Citi up 14%, BoA up 10%, and other major bank stocks up 4-6%. Credit card names are under pressure after Goldman Sachs cut American Express to Sell from Neutral. Shares of AXP are down 5%, while competitors Visa and Mastercard are down 2-3% in sympathy. Goldman analysts also released a report overnight noting that JP Morgan, Bank of New York and Morgan Stanley will likely be able to repay TARP funds over the course of 2009. Note that the IMF's Strauss Kahn said overnight that the US needs to clearly state exactly how it plans to help clean up bank balance sheets, as slow action on banks could jeopardize expected recovery in 2010. Shares of Ford are up 7% in early trading.

- Ford announced that it has reached a wage deal with the UAW, noting that the new arrangement is a key move in making the business competitive with foreign “transplant automakers.” Ford and the UAW have agreed to suspend COLA and various performance payments, overtime and bonuses, among other initiatives. According to Ford, the deal brings its average hourly wage rate to $55/hour in total, making them roughly competitive with foreign automakers with operations in the US. It expects to reach parity with foreign US manufacturers, at $48-$49/hr, in about two years.

- In other equity news, Staples missed earnings targets due to charges stemming from the Corporate Express takeover, and missed on the top line. On the conference call, a Staples executive warned that the company sees soft sales trends for all of 2009. Semi manufacturer National Semiconductor surprised with solid positive earnings in Q3, although the company also said it would cut 12% of its workforce. NSM fell 5% after the open before recovering somewhat. Solar manufacturer LDK reported a bigger than expected Q4 loss and guided below par. LDK was down 7% and headed lower mid morning. Consumer-oriented resort operator Vail blew out estimates and offered bullish guidance for the year, noting a big improvement in bookings over levels seen at the end of last year. Shares of MTN were up 10%, although off their best levels. Note also that OWW and PCLN are off 8% a piece after Expedia launched a special flight promotion that waives selected booking fees though 5/31.

- In currencies, the greenback saw its earlier gains erode during the New York session as risk appetite bubbled up in European equities and at the major US bourses. Dealers are noting that Moody's comments that Russia was “not yet on brink” of a ratings given the fact that it has the funds to pay existing debt obligations for up to 18 months helped offset the initial impact of the Chinese trade numbers. In addition, the IMF said it reached an understanding with Ukraine regarding its budget and is continuing discussions on releasing second tranche of loans. The EUR/USD briefly tested above the 1.28 area before corporate orders stemmed upside momentum and placed the pair back into its 1.2550-1.2800 consolidation range. CHF was mixed ahead of tomorrow's Swiss National Bank interest rate decision. The market is expecting another 25bps cut and remains on guard for any potential quantitative easing measures. Sterling recovered from earlier lows against the USD but remained on soft footing against both the JPY and EUR pairs. CAD was choppy throughout the session as it balanced its relationship between global recession concerns on commodity demand and the upcoming OPEC meeting in Vienna


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