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Monday April 20, 2009 - 15:49:11 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:34am EST/03:34pm GMT

US Market Update

Dow -222 S&P -27 NASDAQ -54

- Observers are wondering whether the financials-driven rally has hit a wall this morning as equity markets sink despite Bank of America's impressive Q1 earnings performance. Various commentators have offered cautious comments this morning, with Fed Chairman Bernanke noting that the global economy is still facing usual turbulence and the Obama Administration's Larry Summers saying that "substantial risks" remain in the economic recovery process. In a sign of extreme skittishness, dodgy dealer chatter circulating before the bell saying that an unknown blog had obtained published results of the stress tests actually prompted a rebuttal from the Treasury. A Treasury spokesperson said the results of the testing aren't in yet, even though the integrity of this blog source was severely doubtful. Concern over the global outlook weighed on NYMEX crude, with the front-month contract down nearly $4/barrel, around $46.

- Treasury prices are rallying on risk aversion bids pushing the 10-year yield back below 2.85%. GILT prices surged following the BOE's latest reverse auction results which showed a paltry bid-to-cover ratio of 1.83 times. Two-year swap spreads in the US moved out to their widest level in a month while EuroDollar futures were also under some pressure early as concerns swirled ahead of the stress test details scheduled for release on Friday.

- Bank of America improved on the performances from competitors JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Citi last week, reporting Q1 earnings that were an order of magnitude better than expected and blowing out revenue targets by nearly $9B. But analysts are focusing on other aspects of the bank's performance, such as its hefty $13.4B provision for credit losses, rising net charge offs and a big gain in non-performing assets. And on the conference call CEO Lewis was hardly positive, noting that credit is bad and credit conditions are expected to get worse. Lewis warned the bank's reserves will keep building over next few quarters, an expensive choice in the short term that will pay long term results. Note that overnight Citi confirmed it is closing bidding for its Nikko Cordial unit today, with bids in from Mitsubishi, Mizuhi and SMFG. Teh sale of Nikko Cordial includes part of Nikko Citigroup, but Nikko Asset Management is not part of the transaction. Overnight the WSJ reported that lending from top US banks has continued to decline, with February loan and refinancing activity from the largest TARP recipients down around 23% from October levels. Shares of Citi and BoA are down 14% in early trading.

It's been a big morning for M&A, with a couple of headline deals moving markets. Oracle surprised observers (and likely blindsided IBM) by offering $9.50/shr in cash for Sun Microsystems in a deal valued at $7.4B. Oracle expects the acquisition to be accretive in the first full year after closing; both boards have unanimously approved the transaction and the deal is anticipated to close this summer. The pharma tie-up dance continued, with GlaxoSmithKline buying the privately-held Stiefel Labs for $3.6B in cash, debt and other payouts. Siefel, which is partially owned by the Blackstone Group, had been reportedly pursued by several other major drug companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Novartis. The biggest deal of the day is a family affair, with PepsiCo offering to buy up its bottling partners Pepsi Bottling Group and PepsiAmericas, for $29.50/shr and $23.27/shr, respectively. The two deals, which would give PepsiCo control of 80% of its North American distribution volume, are worth a total of around $9B. Also note that Chesapeake Utilities signed an all-stock deal to pick up Florida Public Utilities for $12.20/shr.

- In other earnings news, PepsiCo beat Q1 earnings estimates and reaffirmed its full-year forecast. The company noted that carbonated drink sales improved on a sequential basis and expects operating profits to improve in the second half of 2009. Oil services major Halliburton offer solid Q1 performance, a bit ahead on the bottom line and a bit behind the Street on revenue. Executives warned it remains unclear when the continuing decline in industry activity will bottom out. Toymaker Hasbro was also in line with EPS estimates and a bit behind on revenue, but noted that it is on track to grow both in the rest of the year.

- In currency trading, risk aversion came on strong in the New York session as the USD and JPY firmed against their respective majors, with the EUR/USD finally breaking through the 1.2950 support level seen earlier today to test below 1.29. The EUR/JPY cross was off over two big figures at 127.00, while GBP/JPY was off 400 pips at 142.80 by the mid-New York morning. The risk aversion theme was set in motion by a interview with IMF Director Strauss-Kahn published in German newspaper Handelsblatt. Strauss-Kahn said the global growth forecast due from the IMF later this week would be worse than the 0.5% contraction seen in the prior report. The dealer chatter regarding the spurious bank stress test blog posting didn't help either. USD/CAD was around 1.2360 as a result of lower energy prices. AUD/USD is hovering above the 0.70 area. Note that GBP continued to be hampered by its upcoming budget release on Wednesday; GBP/USD is around 1.45.

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