- Equity futures rallied ahead of the NYSE open but have been trending lower in
the early goinog. Equity markets feel eerily quiet despite triple witching and
the S&P rebalance on the close. Evidently investors are still digesting and
debating the Fed's decision to undertake quantitative easing, with pundits and
traders alike expressing concern about inflationary implications down the road.
Equities have most certainly encountered some resistance while Treasury yields
have stabilized and have begun backing up. The 10-year yield has held 2.5% and
retraced some 10 basis points. The Greenback is bouncing as foreign currency
profit takers emerge following the roughly 5% declines in USD post FOMC.
Commodity markets are seeing very small profit taking following large moves up
as well. May crude remains above $50 near $52 while Gold is holding $955.
- The financial sector bonus brouhaha shows little sings of abating. The media
reported yesterday evening that the Senate bill for taxing bonuses at certain
firms that have received TARP funds would take back 70%, versus the 90%
proposed by the House yesterday afternoon, while other reports indicated that
the House is now working on legislation to ban bonuses outright at firms
accepting TARP funds. The anti-bonus drum beat has picked up in Europe too,
where UK PM Brown, French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel have
all made noises about enacting similar measures against finance industry
bonuses as those being considered in the US. CNBC reported last night that the
Obama Administration is moving quickly to draft legislation that would allow
the government to take more control over major financial institutions such as
AIG or Citigroup. Note that overnight the FT reported that Bank of America executives were directly involved in
the markdowns that led to Merrill's gigantic Q4 loss. BoA officials were
scheduled to hand over the details related to bonuses paid by Merrill tonight
after a judge denied its request to have the information kept confidential.
- Citi is the only major bank stock in the black in early trading, up 4% after Mexico confirmed that it would not force
the company to sell its Banamex unit due to the big US government stake. Most of the other
leading financials are down 2-6%, with BAC headed for -10%. The ratings
agencies may be getting a substantial windfall from TALF, according to the Wall
Street Journal. Given the agencies' pricing structures, the initial $200B
portion of bonds issued under the TALF could translate into $80-240M in profits
for the agencies, a figure that could rise to $400M to $1B if the TALF funding
fills out to $1T.
- Smartphone underdog PALM+7% is ripping in the early going despite reporting a
worse-than-expected losses in Q3 yesterday. The CFO said Q4 would also be
tough, but expressed hope regarding the upcoming Pre phone - which investors
expect to be something of a blockbuster. Troubled TKTM-6% is not so lucky,
missing its earnings targets by a wide margin. In auto industry news, Fiat
responded to comments out of Chrysler on Wednesday, flatly denying the US automaker's assertion that Fiat
would assume around one third of its debt to the US government as part of their alliance
deal. A Daimler executive discussed the overall industry this morning, noting
that the US might spearhead a market recovery
among major truck markets, thanks to its economic stimulus programs. And UBS
analysts upgraded Ford to a buy with a $5 price target, noting that it should
gain market share from its distressed competitors; Ford's stock is up 9% in
- In currencies, the greenback recovered from its soft tone in early European
trading. The yen was broadly softer as the New York session commenced. Trader chatter
indicated that BIS has been an aggressive buyer of USD against JPY today, with
USD/JPY holding above its historical pivot point of 95.00 after testing its
100-day moving average of 93.50 on Thursday, while EUR/JPY moved back above the
130 handle. Dealers are noting that some key moving averages are about to cross
over, which could add to USD/JPY's upside momentum. Dealers warn that there is
lingering risk of JPY repatriation ahead of the end of the Japanese fiscal year
on March 31.
- European officials offered a full morning of confusing and somewhat
contradictory comments about a potential ECB bailout fund all morning long.
Everything got started when an unnamed German lawmaker insisted that the ECB
had a rescue fund that could be deployed in 24 hours to aid any member that was
at risk of going bankrupt. Multiple Euro Zone political leaders denied they had
ever heard of any such fund, while the EU's Juncker commented that it was a bad
idea for the ECB to create bailout funds, since there are no rules for bailout
in the EU treaty. The ECB's Weber reiterated the view that the ECB would make
use of room to move on rates and could offer longer-term loans in refi
operations. He also took the opportunity to warn that recent data does not
indicate a recovery in the short term.
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