- Corporate earnings and housing data continue to buoy equity volatility in the
early going. The major US indices are bouncing in and out of negative
territory as selling pressures seem to be mounnting. Investors are looking for
a theme to hold on to. The NAR's Existing Home Sales index fell 3% over last
month's levels, below expectations. NAR's President indicated that first-time
buyers are driving the market. Front-month NYMEX crude made a run for $50
earlier this morning, but is a bit off its highs around $49 in mid day trading.
- The US benchmark 10-year yield continues to bump its head
just below 3%, trading at the highest level in more than a month. The US
Treasury announced $101B in new 2-, 5-, and 7-year supply to be auctioned of
next week, exceeding many analyst forecasts.
- FDIC's Bair hopes to have an initial plan for selling legacy assets in place
by June, noting that her agency has the potential to become the "resolution
authority" for systemically risky companies. Wells Fargo is strong this
morning +8% despite warnings from "Heard on the Street" that it may
need more capital than competitors, given the conspicuous absence of any
statement of intent to repay $25B in TARP loans in its Q1 report. The article
highlighted the bank's lower-grade loan portfolios eroding its "relatively
thin capital base." And there has been a flurry of gossipy commentary over
BoA's Ken Lewis, who told the WSJ that Ben Bernanke pressured him to "keep
quiet" on loan losses at Merril Lynch, a claim that was predictably denied
by the Fed.
- Another batch of tier-2 and regional banks have reported earnings yesterday
and today. Quarterly losses at major regionals SunTrust Banks and Fifth Third Bancorp
were smaller than expected, but neither bank is out of the woods as of yet,
with ROE and ROA still weak and non-performing loans still rising. STI was up
as much as 6% early on, but has dropped to around even mid morning. Share of
FITB are up 10%. PNC Financial did very well, crushing analyst estimates. But
like the former two firms, PNC is still facing rising non-performing loans and
credit deterioration. PNC is up 8%. The situation at deeply troubled CIT looks
to be worsening, with a quarterly loss three times the expected amount. CIT
also suspended it dividend, sending shares of CIT down 6%.
- Shares of tech darlings Apple and eBay are up 10% and 4%, respectively, after
the firms offered strong quarterly results yesterday evening, with both firms
beating Wall Street's targets by healthy margins. Apple's guidance for next
quarter fell notably short of expectations, however, and the CFO warned that
investors shouldn't count on the high gross margins seen in the past. iPhone
shipments were up 123% y/y, but were only just in line with analyst estimates,
disappointing some commentators. AAPL benefited from plenty of price target and
analyst ratings hikes overnight, with the exception of Collins Stewart, which
cut the name to neutral from a buy. EMC reported in line with the Street. EMC's
CEO said global IT spending is at or near a bottom and expects things to
improve in the second half of the year. Chip maker Xilinx came in ahead of
estimates and guided strongly for next quarter.
- Shipping giant UPS offered lots of pessimism this morning after missing
expectations and guiding lower for next quarter. Considered a major bellwether,
the company believes the recovery in the US might begin late this year, but more likely not
until 2010. Other consumer-facing names have had a better Q1, with fast-food
king YUM! Brands ahead on the bottom line and in line on the top, with
same-store sales remaining just in positive territory. The company forecasts Q2
to be its most challenging quarter and the low point of its year, but still
plans to expand in China with over $1B new capital investment over three years.
Hotelier Marriot and cruise line Royal Caribbean did substantially better than
expected, and managed to at least not cut guidance.
- Mid-cap steel makers Nucor and Reliance Steel reported weaker-than-expected
earnings and revenue in the first quarter. Reliance's CEO said that business
remains difficult across all products, with no geographic region that is
significantly better or worse than any other. Nucor's mill utilization rate
fell to 45%. Steel Dynamics did better, cutting its expected loss in half. The
company expects Q2 results to improve, with a "small profit" possible
- In currency trading, EUR/USD has consolidated earlier gains but failed to
advance above the 1.3070 pivot point. Note that the Belgium Business Confidence
index fell more than expected this morning; the data is usually seen as an good
indicator of German IFO data, which is expected to be released on Friday. The
Bank of Canada failed to make any specific commitments on quantitative easing
(QE) after cutting its interest rates to 0.25% earlier this week. However, the
BoE did set up a framework in which QE could be implemented. The CAD was
broadly firmer following the remarks, with USD/CAD at 1.2250, down 150 pips in
the aftermath of the BoC comments.
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