- Equity prices are surging higher to begin the week, with the three leading US
indices making strong gains in the wake of much stronger than expected homes
sales and construction spending data. The March Pending Homes Sales index rose
3.2%, making for two straight months of advances after it hit a record low in
January. March Construction Spending grew slightly after five straight months
of decline. Front-month NYMEX crude has sustained the big run-up seen on
Friday, with prices just shy of $54. Treasury prices are slightly lower as
yields begin the week finding traction above key levels for both 10 and 30-year
paper. The calendar is full with 3 auctions scheduled this week as well as
continued coupon purchases from the NY Fed.
- More stress test related rumors made the rounds this weekend, with the
financial press reporting that Bank of America and Citigroup will raise around
$10B a piece in response to the test results. Bank of America denied the
reports this morning, although its denial seemed somewhat revealing, as it
noted that it has not "been given a final number by the Federal
Reserve." In a certain light that could mean the bank will need to raise
some amount of capital. Not a word has been heard from Citi in response to the
reports. Warren Buffet has been making comments about selected banks this
morning, complementing BoA for its "very good" deposit collection
system and saying that he expects to own Wells Fargo in five or ten years.
Share of the tier-1 banks are strong, led by WFC+9%.
- In earnings, Sprint surprised investors with a small quarterly profit,
against expectations for a slight loss, although the company also announced its
biggest ever quarterly net loss of wireless customers. Sprint warned that an
increasing number of customers may choose pre-paid services like the company's
Boost Mobile product, rather than post-paid monthly wireless bills. Sprint lost
a net 1.25M postpaid customers in the quarter, with executives blaming the
economic pressure in its business segment for some of these losses. Cosmetics
maker Estee Lauder also surprised markets, earning nearly three times the
expected amount in its Q3, although its guidance was a bit more pessimistic. While
executives note they are beginning to see economic improvements in the US,
they expect current trends to hold through the rest of 2009. Earnings from
foodservice giant Sysco and Tyson Foods were more or less in line, while the
companies' revenue performance lagged expectations.
- In M&A action, Liberty Media is planning to split off its Liberty
Entertainment unit and combine it with DirectTV. The unit controls assets such
as the Game Show Network, FUN Technologies and three regional sports networks;
the new company will be called DirecTV Group. Existing DTV holders will receive
one share of DirecTV Class A stock for each share they already own. Holders of
Liberty Entertainment shares will receive 1.1111 shares of DirecTV Class A for
each share Liberty Entertainment. Pepsi Bottling Group rejected PepsiCo's
$29.50/share acquisition proposal, calling deal "grossly inadequate."
- Currency price action was whippy in the New York
session as thin conditions, lots of data and various speakers prompted a certain
amount of volatility. Initially, the dollar started the New
York morning on a firm footing after the ECB's Weber
commented that any recovery in Germany
would not arrive until the second half of 2010. These remarks followed the EU
Commission's downward revisions of 2009 & 2010 GDP forecasts for the entire
union as well as the smaller Euro Zone. However, continued improvements in
economic data from emerging market countries helped risk appetite take the
upper hand, with improving PMI data in Europe and Asia
aiding the cause of risk (China
and India PMI data moved above 50, suggesting growth). In addition, Brazil's
April trade balance beat expectations with exports rising more than expected.
Commodities were firmer across the board in both metals and energy and the CAD
and AUD pairs reflected this strength. EUR/USD tested the 1.3211 level in early
New York trading before moving
back towards its Asian session highs of 1.3347. USD/CAD was set for its first
daily close below its 200-day moving average in almost 12 months, around 1.1770.
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