- The DIA and S&P500 are picking up right where they left off last week,
with the two indices gaining for the sixth straight session. The NASDAQ is
experiencing some relative weakness spending much of the morning in the red.
Traders are ignoring the dismal Empire Manufacturing data, which came in at its
lowest level since series began back in 2001. GE is catalyst, taking a leg up
after UBS pulled its short-term sell rating on the stock. Barclays has
sustained the momentum for the major financials after management indicated
business continues to perform well. Front-month crude is dissipating some of
the gains made in anticipation of this past weekend's OPEC meeting in Vienna
(the group announced no further cuts). Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was
interviewed by CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday night, in an unusual move that he
said was prompted by the extraordinary economic circumstances. Bernanke said
the recession will most likely end in 2009 with recovery following in 2010,
insisting that he believes the US
has averted a depression.
- US Treasury prices are moving lower pushing the long bond yield to its
highest levels In more than 2-months. UK
government bond yields have also ticked higher after the latest reverse auction
results from the Bank of England. The 10-year GILT is back towards 3%.
- The banking stocks are continuing to fuel overall equity gains, with Citi and
Bank of America again paving the way, with shares of both companies up more
than 10% in early trading. Shares of other major US
banks are up by more modest amounts, with WFC+4%, JPM+3% and MS+1%. The Fed's
Bernanke has helped sustain last week's strong upside momentum after telling
CBS's 60 Minutes that all the large US
banks are solvent and insisting that none of them will fail. Bernanke also said
that he has seen improvement in banks thanks to the efforts made by the Fed,
and said the first sign of recovery would be the ability of big banks to raise
private equity. The FASB is also helping financial stocks; this morning it
proposed to let companies exercise more judgment in applying mark-to-market
accounting rules. The board will vote on the proposals on April 2, with the
objective to finalize the rules for Q1 financial reports. In other finance
news, Discover Financial Services received a sizable $1.2B capital injection
from the US Treasury's capital program on Friday. Shares of DFS were up 4% in
early trading but are back around even mid morning. Also note that last night
AIG disclosed counterparties to its CDS, GIA and securities lending
- Leading tech names are weighing on the Nasdaq this morning as the problems of
the real economy continue to frighten tech investors. Overnight BofA/Merrill
Lynch cut the firm's 2009 PC unit growth forecast to -10% from -6.0% prior.
Shares of Microsoft, Apple, Intel and HP fell around 1% in early trading,
although most of these are well off their worst levels. Cisco is outlining its
strategy for making a strategic move out of nuts and bolts router hardware and
putting more emphasis on its blade server line, in a shot across the bow of
server leader HP.
- In currencies, traders are continuing to focus on the price action in
equities. The USD and JPY were on the defensive for early part of the New
York session. EUR/USD tested 1.3070 before retracing
while GBP/USD tested 1.4229. Dealers were noting that profit taking was a major
factor as the London closed
approached. The weaker US
industrial production data was seen as a catalyst to remove some of the risk
appetite exhibited during the European morning. Net foreign purchases of US
assets declined $148.9B in January but both China
and Japan added
to their US Treasury holdings. China's
holding of US Treasuries rose by $12.2B to $739.6B while Japan
holdings rose by $8.8B to $634.8B.
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