- Investors seem to be shrugging off the indecision seen through most of the
week and bidding up equity markets with strength this morning. With more
clarity on the bank stress tests due later this afternoon and
higher-than-expected March New Home Sales, there are some reasons for optimism.
And while home sales returned to a sequential downtrend after February's
uptick, investors are focusing on the data showing falling inventory levels in
the report. Crude moved through the $51 barrier for the first time all week
earlier in the session. Note that overnight OPEC Secretary General El-Badri
said he is not expecting new production cuts in May, noting that OPEC needs
full compliance with past cuts before new ones are instituted. In addition the
Kuwaiti Oil min affirmed preference for oil in the $50-$70/bbl range.
- Ford surprised everybody this morning, reporting higher than expected
revenues and a much smaller loss than projected, and nearly cut its cash burn
in half in the quarter. Shares of Ford jumped 20% before the bell, trading off
to around +15% by mid morning. The company reiterated that it won't need US
government aid to get through the year, and said it is on track with its plan
to break even in 2011. Ford also optimistically insisted that it does not
expect to be hurt by potential GM or Chrysler bankruptcy, but also warned that
the health of the supply base is critical. Bankruptcy is looking increasingly
unavoidable for Chrysler, whether the company manages a deal with Fiat or not.
Overnight the WSJ reported that Chrysler could file for bankruptcy as early as
next week, while this morning the Canadian finance minister said liquidation is
a possibility. And as GM's negotiations with bondholders and labor drag on,
there have been press reports that a new debt-for-equity offer (composed almost
entirely of equity) could come on Monday.
- The Treasury is due to disclose its assumptions for stress testing to the 19
banks undergoing testing this afternoon at 2pmEST. FDIC Chairwoman Bair said
that some banks will need to encourage preferred shareholders to switch to
common shares/equity, and reiterated that the administration won't likely have
to ask for more TARP funding. Most of the leading US banks opened marginally higher this
morning. AmEx offered stellar first-quarter results although revenues were
light. The company cautioned that while it did see some recent improvement in
early delinquency rates, overall credit indicators reflected rising
unemployment levels and the broad-scale weakness in the economy with card
members across most units reducing spending y/y.
- Mid-cap industrials Honeywell, 3M and Xerox reported at or a bit below
expectations and cut full-year forecasts, offering quarterly performance that trailed
large-cap competitors. Honeywell noted on the conference call that it is not
counting on any big macro improvements in 2009 although it does see the rate of
economic decline stabilizing. 3M was a bit light on the top and bottom lines,
noting that it expects two more quarters of economic decline and warned it
would not return to 2007 levels of business until 2011. Oil services giant
Schlumberger exceeded estimates by a hair, noting that the company does not see
any significant recovery in North American gas drilling before 2010
- Shares of Microsoft are up 8% after lackluster quarterly results yesterday
evening. Note that on the conference call, Microsoft's CFO said that the
economy is the most challenging in the company's 30-year history, saying there
were no signs of a bottom in the quarter and that next quarter would remain
difficult, with shipments of PCs (ex netbooks) expected to be weak. These
comments echo the pessimism heard from the likes of TXN and IBM earlier in the
week. Consumer-facing Nasdaq components Amazon and Netflix offered positive
quarterly results, beating earnings expectations. Both companies offer cautious
forecasts for the next quarter, however. AMZN was up 6% and NFLX was off its
worst levels around -4% mid day.
- In currencies, the greenback maintained a soft tone ahead of the G7 finance
minister meeting this weekend in WashingtonDC, with concerns of Chinese FX reserve
diversification weighing on the USD sentiment. ECB's Nowotny commented that the
US economic measures were starting to take
effect, maybe faster than European efforts. EUR/USD rose toward 1.33 in New
York trading, while GBP/USD rebounded after Moody's said the UK's AAA sovereign
were stable and not under review. Dealers are noting good continental European
names (particularly German banks) buying GBP aggressively from 1.4630 to
1.4680. The pair proceeded to test 1.4750 by mid-NY morning. The CAD continued
its firm tone that emerged yesterday, with USD/CAD moved towards the 1.2100
after gaining technical momentum below the 1.2230 level seen in the aftermath
of the BoC monetary report on Thursday.
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