- Equity indices opened higher this morning for the first time all week, extending yesterday's late rally on expectations and then confirmation of JP Morgan's strong quarterly earnings. In addition, the morning saw the IPO of Rosetta Stone, for the best opening in quite some time. But things have soured fast as traders dump equities in the face of housing headwinds and two major (but somewhat expected) bankruptcies. March housing starts and building permits were lower than expected, while RealtyTrac's March foreclosures index showed a 17% jump over Feb levels and a 46% y/y increase, cooling hopes for signs of improvement in housing. General Growth Properties, the nation's second-largest mall operator, finally declared bankruptcy after debt holders tired of constant pleading for more time to refinance the company's billions in debt, while major newsprint supplier AbitibiBowater has declared Chapter 11 after failing to get financing support for restructuring.
- JP Morgan's results have not been a huge factor for the tier-one financials this morning, given the big moves seen over the last several weeks. The name was up more than 3% at the open and has since fallen to around even, with other leading banks performing similarly. Wells Fargo is an exception here, as it apparently has more exposure than others to AbitibiBowater; shares of WFC fell as much as 4%. Some notable data points from JPM's quarterly report include big jumps in ROE & ROA (5.00% v 1.00% q/q and 0.42% v 0.13% q/q, respectively) and a big turn around in investment banking net revenues ($8.3B v -$302M q/q). CEO Dimon said the firm could pay back its TARP funding tomorrow, but said he is waiting for guidance from the Treasury on repayment, noting that the program has become a "scarlet letter" for banks. In addition, he insisted that the firm has no need to raise any more capital at the moment.
- Manufacturers reported largely positive results mixed with cautionary notes. Illinois Tool Works exceeded earnings expectations on an ex items basis but offered disappointing guidance, warning that it has limited visibility. Revenues in its major segments declined anywhere from 15 to 32% y/y. Briggs & Stratton missed EPS and revenue targets and slashed its full-year guidance. Genuine Parts beat on the bottom line and missed on revenue. Paint maker Sherwin-Williams came in well ahead of expectations on earnings but missed on revenue, and reaffirmed its full year outlook. Shares of ITW, GPC and SHW are both up 8% or so, while BGG is down 9%.
- Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone maker, came in short of expectations, noting that shipments were -17.6% q/q and -19.3% y/y. The company sees industry volumes around 255M units in the first quarter of 2009 (-16% q/q, -14% y/y), and expects them to remain about the same next quarter or up a bit, and still sees 2009 industry volumes -10% y/y. Nevertheless, the company's ADRs are up 10% in early trading, pulling selected mobile phone names along with it, with RIMM up as much as 4%.
- Southwest Airlines was the second major airline to report this season, showing a substantial quarterly loss thanks to fuel hedging losses. Shares of LUV are down more than 12%, with the other major airlines also in the red. Notably American has held up nicely, around even, after beating the street yesterday. Two trucking stocks, Landstar System and USA Truck, reported. Both missed top and bottom line estimates and lamented the stated of the industry. USA Truck's CEO said the quarter presented the most challenging operating environment that he has ever seen, characterized by a severe contraction in freight volumes and and big inventory reductions at both manufacturers and retailers.
- In currencies, the greenback saw its gains from the European morning erode in early New York trading. Cross-related buying in the EUR/GBP pair helped EUR/USD recover from 1.3130 session lows. Dealers attributed the softer USD and JPY tones to the Chinese announcement of its intention to introduce a series of measures to encourage investment and continuously adjust stimulus policies to meet economic needs. Overall the dealers were noting that the price action was not really looking like a directional-trading day, calling the US data released during the morning a mixed bag.
- In other currency news, USD/CAD was testing three-month lows, dipping below the 1.20 handle. Softer precious metals and steady oil pared earlier gains. South Africa's president warned that the country's current account deficit is the biggest weakness for its economy and that financing this deficit is a major concern. Fitch commented on Eastern Europe and that it could downgrade almost half of the 21 Emerging European countries and commented that the Baltic region faced a 'savage' economic adjustment. And the IMF reiterated its position that a coordinated global effort was needed to deal with recession and aggressive monetary and fiscal policies were necessary to support short-term demand.
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