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Forex Blog - European Market Update: U.K. February claimant count shocks markets; GBP currency broadly weaker on potential IMF downward revision of its GDP

Today 06:14am EST/10:14am GMT

European Market Update: U.K. February claimant count shocks markets; GBP currency broadly weaker on potential IMF downward revision of its GDP


- (SP) Spain Jan Retail Sales: -6.2% v -6.1% prior; Adj Retail Sales Y/Y: -5.4% v -4.5%e

- (SZ) Jan Retail Sales Y/Y: 1.2% v 3.6% prior

- 5:00 (IT) Italian Jan Industrial Production M/M: -0.2% v -2.5%e; Y/Y: -16.7% v -16.6%e; NSA: -21.9% v -15.3%e

- (UK) Feb Claimant Count Rate: 4.3% v 4.0%e; Jobless Claims Change: 138.4K v 84.8Ke (largest rise on record)

- (UK) Jan Avg Earnings inc Bonus 3M/Y: %1.8 v 3.0%e; Ex bonus: 3.5% v 3.5%e

- (UK) ILO Unemployment Rate 3M/Y: 6.5% v 6.5%e

- (UK) Jan Manufacturing Unit Wage Cost 3M/Y: 8.1% v 6.6% prior

- (UK) Bank of England Minutes: Voted 9-0 to cut interest rates by 50bps to 0.50% and enact Quantitative easing.

(SA) South African Jan Retail Sales Y/Y: +1.7% v -2.0%e

- (IT) Italian Jan Current Account: € v €5.752B prior


- Equities: Unicredit [UCG.IT] reported its Q4 Net profit at €505M, this figure was ahead of the expected €351M, Op profit at€1.9B, also ahead of the expected €1.52B and Rev at €5.26B (interest income), slightly below the €5.84B expected. The bank confirmed that it would pay its final dividend in 13 new shares for 36 common shares. UniCredit reported its FY08 Net at €4.01B *Note: Firm had stated that it would report ahead of the €3.78B expectation line. Bank stated that it will not pay bonuses to top executives in 2008 and that it has seen continued positive performance in its commercial banking operations. UniCredit will seek up to €4B from Italy bank bailout plan and reiterated that Austrian unit will seek funds for capital raise from Austrian govt. Bank is the process of reorganizing business units, CEE unit to report directly to Chief Executive. It states operations in CEE were very good in 2008 and that 15% of assets outside of Italy are in 'low quality' countries while 45% are in 'good quality.' UniCreidt is continuing to monitor activities in Ukraine very closely and will cut approx 2,000 positions in CEE region (approx 1.1% of workforce). Bank has joined consensus call that it has seen a good start to operations in 2009, will report trading gains in Q1 2009 and that all units have contributed positive gains in Jan-Feb. ||Royal Bank of Scotland [RBS.UK] Chairman stated that the Bank has benefitted from "buoyant" corporate banking - FT interview. These comments now mean that RBS joins HSBC, Barclays, UBS, DB and C in stating that 2009 has started out on positive footing. Chairman stated bank has seen rise in businesses regarding corporate debt offerings and equity underwriting. Article noted that improvements in business operations may be offset by continued deterioration in banks balance sheet. ||BG Group [BG.UK] noted that its offer for Pure Energy is only offer open to shareholders. Currently BG Group has a relevant interest in 36% of Pure shares. Royal Dutch Shell, which has an interest in 11% of Pure, announced on March 3 that it intends to accept BG Group''s Offer for Pure, in the absence of a superior offer. BG Group''s conditional offer price of A$8.25 is final, in the absence of a superior. ||Old Mutual [OML.UK] is closing its US Life offshore unit to new business with immediate effect. OMB management team has been focused on rebuilding the business by writing specialist investment products which would meet its customers' needs as long as this could be done within the Group's agreed risk appetite. Management has now concluded that it is unlikely OMB will be able to launch products that meet these risk requirements successfully and provide a satisfactory return on capital. || SIG Materials [SHI.UK] reported its FY08 Net at £6.3M compared to £85.3Me (unclear if comp) and Revenue of £3.1B compared to the £3.04B expected. Further, SIG proposed a share placement to raise £341.3M. SIG stated that cold weather and snow effected operations but remains confident that market position will be strengthened. The firm reported restructuring costs of £22.2M in 2008 and that it would be cutting FY09 CAPEX by 50% y/y. For the share placement, SIG will issue 455M new shares prices at 75P/share (29% premium to Tuesdays close price of 105P). ||French Connection [FCCN.UK] reported its FY08 Adj pretax loss at £5.5M compared to the loss £2.4M expected and revenues of £248M compared to the £236M expected. The retailer puts final dividend at 1.7P v 5P y/y (1.70Pe) and stated that its preliminary results are in line with market expectations. Firm stated that it expected to sees 2009 as being another difficult deal. ||For Rio Tinto [RIO.UK], reportedly Australian Senate decides to establish inquiry into foreign investment approval process. Move is largely expected as Senate debates the legality of planned $19.5B Chinalco investment into Rio Tinto. ||Bowleven [BLVN.UK] has received a possible cash offer at 150P/share. Firms board confirmed that possible cash offer has been made. Price represents at 127% premium over close price of 41P. ||

For Kingfisher [KGF.UK] Chairman Peter Jackson to retire on June 3rd, to be succeeded by Daniel Bernard. John Nelson has been named new deputy chairman. ||

Duerr [DUE.GE] reported its 2008 Net at €33.7M, ahead of the expected €35M and Revenues at €1.60B, which was in line with the €1.60B expected. Duerr noted that it plans an additional 250 job cuts by end of Q1(approx 4%). Firm sees 2009 sales and earnings moderately declining and a recovery in order volume during Q2 2009. Duerr continues to plan cost cuts while seeing firm as being well prepared for economic conditions. Firm stated that Credit lines are fixed until 2011 and proposed a dividend of €0.70.share v €0.40/share y/y. Duerr put its FY08 cashflow at €30.9M and net debt at end of FY08 €34.4M. ||Lanxess [LXS.GE] reported its Q4 at a Net loss of €41M which was in line with the loss €42.3M expected, EBIT at a loss of €46M, which was below the loss of €23.3M expected and Rev at €1.46B, also below the expected €1.55B. Lanxess noted that Q1 Adj EBITDA will not improve q/q and it cut its dividend to €0.50 from €1.00 prior. Firm stated dividend cut reflects the general lack of important sales markets. Lanxess has begun cost cutting program aiming to reduce €250M in costs during next 2 years. ||Phoenix Solar [PS4.GE] reported its FY08 EBIT at €34M, in line with the expected €34M and Rev of €402M, which was ahead of the €392M expected. Firm guided its FY09 EBIT at €31M v €29M expected and FY09 Rev at €520M v €499M expected. Phoenix Solar put its year end FY08 Backlog €112M. ||Wacker chemical [WCH.GE] reported its FY08 Net income at €438M, below the €466M expected and revenues of €4.30B, in line with the €4.29B expected. Wacker guided 2009 Rev and EBITDA down y/y citing global recession; current analysts estimates are €3.85Be and €795.0Me respectively. Wacker will pay final dividend of €1.80/share v €2.50 estimate and continues to prepare for global slowdown in 2009. Firm noted that reliable forecasts for FY09 are not possible yet expects to see positive gains from cuts in material and energy costs. Wacker has secured new three-year credit lines this year, totaling around €200M. ||Stora Enso [STERV.FH] issued a profit warning; sees Q1 operating results below Q4. Firm sees market demand to remain weak for H1 and see its Capex cut to €500M. ||BMW [BMW.GE] CEO & CFO stated that firm cannot make reliable guidance for FY09 as it is a 'transition year', they do not expect to reach FY08 retail sales level this year . BMW reaffirmed FY2012 profitability targets; aims 26% return on capital employed in 2012. Car maker expects to 'clearly' exceed €4B cost cut target for 2012. Current priorities are liquidity, free cash flow, working capital, and to preserve independence of group. BMW expects world economy to pick up in 2010 and expects worldwide automarkets to contract by 10-20% this year; expects US used car market to stabilize and improve. Firm noted leasing remains a fundamental tool, lease market has changed following several competitors abandoning business. BMW will continue cutting non-mgmt employee salaries by around 10%, senior executive salaries by around 33%, exec board member salaries by 40% and will cut FY09 total capex to less than €4B. Group cannot completely rule out residual value risk in FY09. Carmaker cut its Q4 production by 96K cars, inventory below Q3 level but sees group sales volumes picking up pace from 2010 onwards. Stated that FY08 credit loss rate rose to 0.59% from 0.46%. BMW reiterated the belief that state support for auto makers distorts market. ||

- Speakers: BoJ's Shirakawa stated that there was limited room to purchase additional JGB's and there were no plans to alter JGB purchase rules. The BOJ head noted that JGB purchases were not aimed at controlling long term interest rates, but aimed at securing financial market stability. There were no plans to request government guarantees on subordinated bank debt purchases || ECB Trichet commented that 2009 will be “very difficult” during a radio interview. Trichet reiterated that 2010 could be a year of moderate recovery but it all depends on confidence returning to the markets. ECB has already taken a number of unconventional measures and has provided €600B in unconventional measures. The ECB was studying if additional measures were necessary || Bank of England Minutes: MPV voted 9-0 to cut interest rates by 50bps to 0.50% and enact Quantitative easing. At its march 5th meeting. The MPC saw a substantial risk remained of inflation undershoot and that the UK Housing activity remained subdued. The BOE members agreed UK needed new money in range of £50B to £100B; and that a small injection might show tool was ineffective. There were some signs that UK recession was on track to ease in 2009and noted that rising money supply will cause spending to rise ||India's Sen: Sees 2010 GDP in range of 5% to 7%. The export growth was seen slowing to a range of of 5% to 10% versus 17% to 20% seen in 2009. India might need more stimulus steps to revive its growth || RBA's Broadbent commented that he saw Australia less affected by world events but its recovery still depended on a 'global rebound'. He did note that more stimulus measures might be required || IMF Report: UK economy is expected to contract by 3.8% in 2009 and to decline by 0.2% in 2010

- In Currencies: USD saw some initial strength ahead of Europe as risk appetitive waned after its recent run. The World Bank lowered its Chinese GDP view for 2009 to 6.5% from 7.5% was resurrecting the risk aversion theme.

- The European morning was characterized by a broad base GBP weakness, which was attributed to talk that the IMF will revise UK growth forecast lower for both 2009 and 2010 periods. GBP weakness accelerated following the UK jobless claims change surged to 138.4K well above the 84.8K estimates and registered its highest level since records began back in 1971. Dealers noted that a wider measure of UK unemployment rose above the 2 million mark for the first time since 1997 in three months to January period, GBP/USD approached the 1.3840 level while EUR/GBP moved towards 0.9400 and GBP/JPY tested 136.60 before consolidating its session losses.

- the EUR/USD continued to consolidate in the 1.2930 to 1.3070 range experienced this week.

- In Energy: OPEC Sec Gen El-Badri reiterated the view that low oil prices discourage investment. || Saudi Oil Min Al-Naimi commented that he did not see need for further Saudi cuts to meet OPEC compliance and expected demand to rise as soon as economic growth picks up. He stated that despite the low oil prices no Saudi oil & gas projects have been delayed but Crude oil at $45/bbl makes it difficult for OPEC to add capacity. He agreed output cuts are 'more than adequate' to achieve market balance || Iran Oil Min: Oil at $40 per barrel will inhibit investment; many projects likely to be suspended || IMF's Lipsky commented that the decline in oil prices from last year's peak was a stimulus of approximately 1.5% of world GDP

*** NOTES ***

- Risk appetite diminishing this session as contracting GDP concerns simmer. World bank lowers China 2009 view. U.K. February claimant count shocked markets with its highed climb in unemployment since records began back in 1971. GBP currency broadly weaker on potential IMF downward revision of its GDP.Yet ECB's Trichet labels next year as a probable one for positive growth.

Protectionism chatter ahead of the April G20 summit has been citied as a theme that could derail global growth and this seemed to be weighing on equity sentiment: Chinese regulator blocked Coca Cola's bid for Huiyuan. This would have been the biggest foreign takeover of a Chinese company.

- IBM might bid for Sun Microsystems

- UAE Central Bank Gov noted that any lifting of USD peg has been ruled out since there are no alternative to the greenback.

-BOJ kept its interest rate steady at near zero percent, and announced plans to purchase additonal JGBs

- The question remains whether the Fed would announce its quantitative measures after its policy decision later today. Federal Open Market Committee is expected to leave interest rates on hold at zero to 0.2%, with focus centered on whether it will announce any additional measures to expand its credit easing policies.

- Looking Ahead: FOMC decision

- 7:00 (CZ) Czech Republic to sell 10y Bonds

- 7:00 (US) MBA Mortgage Applications w/e March 13th: No expectations v 11.3% prior

- 8:30 (CA) Canadian Jan Wholesale Sales M/M: -2.7% expected v -3.4% prior

- 8:30 (US) Feb CPI M/M: 0.3% expected v 0.3% prior; Y/Y: 0.0% expected v 0.0% prior; CPI NSA: 212.020 expected v 211.143 prior

- 8:30 (US) Feb CPI Ex Food & Energy M/M: 0.1% expected v 0.2% prior; Y/Y: 1.7% expected v 1.7% prior

- 14:15 (US) FOMC Interest Rate Decision


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