- Investors are stepping back from stocks this morning ahead of the end of the
first quarter of 2009, with the leading US equity indices erasing much of
yesterday's gains early on. The data has been mixed, with personal spending up
a hair in February, as expected, and personal income down ever so slightly. The
final March U of Michigan confidence survey was a bit ahead of expectations.
Front-month crude has taken a big hit, losing more than $2 this morning after
Petrologistics reported that OPEC members produced 1M bpd over quota in March.
Treasury prices are benefiting from the weaker equity market pushing the long bond
yield back towards 3.6%.
- The financials are down moderately in early trading, with Citi down 8% and
headed lower. The US ADR of Barclays is one big exception, trading up more than
10% on reports circulating that the bank has successfully passed the FSA's
stress test, although there is no official confirmation of this as of yet.
Other reports are noting that Barclays will wrap up the sale of its iShares
unit as early as next Monday. Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital are leading
suitors for the unit, with reports earlier in the week stating Goldman may have
bid around $6B. Note that both Goldman and Morgan Stanley were initiated at
Friedman Billings overnight, ahead of their upcoming quarterly earnings
- Shares of GM are up 12% in early trading after the FT reported the automaker
will not ask for additional aid in its viability plan next week, according to
people familiar with the plan. Note that this flatly contradicts statements by
Presidential auto advisor Steve Rattner, who said last Friday that both GM and
Chrysler will require need "considerably more" Federal aid.
"Like all management teams, GM and Chrylser tend to take more optimistic
view on their businesses," said Rattner last week. Labor negotiations
between the Detroit three and the
UAW are continuing. There have been reports for a while that bondholders are
holding up the process by refusing the government's terms on their share of
losses, while the UAW has said its retirees should not make any more
sacrifices. Last night the WSJ wrote that GM is unlikely to get concessions
from the UAW by the March 31st deadline. It cited people close to the process
as saying GM had negotiated "another agreement" that would let it cut
as many as 10,000 workers by October.
- In other equity news, there has been more sunny news out of the semi sector.
The chairman of Taiwan Semi said the industry is in better shape than it was a
month ago, noting chip industry revenues would fall less than 30% in 2009. In
addition, a Samsung executive said the market
will begin seeing spot shortages of memory chips as inventory is inadequate
already. Shares of MGM are down around 15% after the company hired bankruptcy
council for its troubled Las VegasCityCenter project. The company will
likely miss a debt payment later today, violating loan covenants and adding to
its considerable debt problems. KB Homes is up 5% after reporting a
smaller-than-expected Q1 loss. Selected metrics quoted by the homebuilder
showed some improvement, with net orders up and cancellations down on both a
q/q and y/y basis, while its margins have improved considerably.
- In currencies, the greenback surged against the European currencies during
the early New York morning, aided
by numerous factors. On the data front, the European Industrial Orders plunged
34%, the largest decline on record. In an address to the German parliament,
German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck said the euro was at risk if the EU's
Stability and Growth Pact, which governs the continent's rules on budget
deficits, was not taken seriously. The Swedish finance minister commented that
over 20 out of 27 EU states could break 3% limit under the pact in 2010.
Finally negative German state inflation data triggered a huge batch of
pre-placed euro sell orders as technical factors came into play below the
1.3480 and 1.3400 levels. Note that the 1.3000 one-month option out positions
that were placed with size earlier in the week.
- The Swiss Franc was softer throughout the European morning on chatter the
Swizerland's KOF leading indicators would be weaker than the consensus
forecast. Dealers were eyeing the 1.5180 level in EUR/CH, a level that was not
breached in the wake of the SNB currency intervention back on March 12th. The
softer European currencies were also seen in yen related-pairs, with the
EUR/JPY cross dropping below the 130 handle to test 129.30, the GBP/JPY dipping
to 139 before consolidating session losses. The JPY was off its best level as
dealer sought to place bets ahead of the Japanese fiscal year-end that a softer
JPY would emerge after the required repatriation process expires.
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