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Monday March 30, 2009 - 15:41:01 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:22am EST/03:22pm GMT

US Market Update

Dow -249 S&P -25 NASDAQ -51

- Equities across the board are stumbling this morning led by profit taking in the financials and fresh headlines for the auto sector. Over the weekend the Obama administration forced a CEO change at GM and, has given both GM and Chrysler one last chance to announce a plan that meets the government's requirements for continued federal monies. Many see the government's latest move as an indication that some form of bankruptcy for the lion's share of the US car industry is closer than ever. The major US indices have lost more than 3.5% by mid morning, and remain at or near their worst levels. NYMEX crude is hovering around $50, down nearly $2.20.

- Risk averse trades are sending money into government bonds. Prices have moved off their best levels following the results of the Feds reverse auction at the long end of the curve. The Fed bought close to $2.5B in longer dated maturities as opposed to the nearly $4B that some analysts had forecasted. The long bond yield is holding close to 3.6% up about 5 basis points from pre-auction result levels.

- The Obama Administration gave failing marks to the restructuring plans from General Motors and Chrysler on Sunday; shares of GM fell as much as 34% just after the open before perking up a bit. Shares of Ford are off 7% or so in sympathy. The White House has pledged to provide GM with aid for 60 days while it tries to come up with a better plan, while giving financial aid to Chrysler for 30 days so it can wrap up a partnership deal with Fiat. GM CEO Rick Wagoner will resign as a condition for receiving further aid, replaced on an interim basis by COO Fritz Henderson. In his statement to the WSJ, Wagoner said “On Friday I was in Washington for a meeting with administration officials. In the course of that meeting, they requested that I step aside as CEO of GM, and so I have.” GM has made no further comment to the media on the issue, although Wagoner said he fully supports Henderson, calling the move an “ideal choice.” An S&P analyst said the risk of bankruptcy for GM, Ford and Chrysler remains as high as ever. Shares of auto parts suppliers were lower this morning across the board, with American Axle down 18% early on.

- Leading financial stocks are down significantly this morning, with Citi and Bank of America down around 11% each in the early going. Note that yesterday morning Treasury Sec Geithner told "Meet the Press" that there was $135B of funding left in the TARP program, also saying that it would be a mistake to think that banks will earn their way out of the crisis. Earlier in the session, China Construction Bank President Zhang said that selling the bank's BoA stake down to 10% (from around 17%) would be appropriate.

- In other equity news, Manitowoc withdrew its previous FY09 guidance and said it would not issue a forecast for the year, and guided Q1 earnings 50% below current estimates of $0.21e (implying less than $0.10/shr). MTW is around its worst levels at -35%. Arena Pharma's Phase III Lorcaserin obesity trial met their primary efficacy and safety endpoints, but overall weight loss was much less than had been expected. Shares of ARNA were down more than 30% early on, recovering to around -20% mid morning.

- In currencies risk aversion continued into the New York morning as renewed concerns over Eastern Europe magnified the shockwaves from the US auto situation. Note that S&P cut Hungary's sovereign long-term rating one notch from BBB to BBB- (the lowest level of investment grade) with a negative outlook, citing the ongoing deterioration in economic and fiscal indicators in the country. The EUR/USD has moved lower, probing the 1.3130 area, which was where the pair was dealing prior to the Fed's big quantitative easing move nearly two weeks ago. Futher compounding euro weakness is Spain's announcement over the weekend of the country's first major bank rescue in 16 years. Dealers noted that the bank nationalized today is one 45 state banks, begging the question “how many others are out there waiting?”. Dealer chatter is circulating that Spanish banks have €500B in outstanding MBS, with roughly 60% owned by foreigners and Germany's share comprising around 20%.

- The ECB's Trichet discussed the European economic outlook this morning, noting that it has continued to deteriorate since January and that he expects interest rates to remain below 2% for some time (2009 and 2010). Trichet also noted that demand would be very weak in 2009 but reiterated his view that a gradual recovery should take place in 2010. A French official commented that the upcoming G20 summit in London would not address reserve currency issues. The official added that he USD should not weaken "too much" and called the Chinese SDR proposal for replacement of USD as reserve currency a possibly good long-term strategy.



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