- Equity markets are giving up a small portion of yesterday's gains as doubt
creeps in ahead of Thursday's stress test disclosures. Rhetorical hedging out
of Fed Chairman Bernanke also seems to be a factor; Bernanke noted that he sees
a recovery coming in late 2009, but warned that even then growth would remain
below potential. Spot gold tested above the $915 level for one-week highs, with
dealers calling for more upside momentum if gains above the $930/oz level are
sustained. Front-month NYMEX crude is struggling to maintain the $54 handle but
still well within reach of 2009 highs. Treasury markets are quiet ahead of this
afternoon's 3-year not auction, with prices and yields little changed.
- Financial stocks are all over the map this morning in the wake of the Wall
Street Journal's front-page assertion that 10 out of 19 banks undergoing
government stress tests may need to raise capital. This news comes two days
before the results of the testing are due. Topping the WSJ's list of banks in
need of a bigger cushion are Bank of America, Citi, Wells Fargo and a handful
of regional banks. After the open this morning CNBC reported that banks would
have one month to come up with a plan for raising the needed capital (which
officials have said needs to come from private sources). Note that yesterday
afternoon S&P put BoA, Citi and Wells Fargo on Watch Negative, along with
ratings from a raft of other tier-1 and regional banks. S&P also warned
that Citi and BoA would likely need more capital. Oppenheimer is damming the
torpedoes this morning, choosing to upgrade Wells Fargo to outperform.
- In earnings, consumer-facing names continue to either meet or beat
expectations. Retail powerhouse CVS reported Q1 results more or less in line
with the Street, and said it was firm quarterly same-store sales growth as
well. CVS's 2009 forecast was up a hair over last quarter's outlook. On the
conference call, CVS's CEO said its retail business continues to perform at the
top of the industry, but warned it is "not entirely recession-proof."
Kraft Foods beat earnings estimates and miss a bit on the top line, but
reaffirmed its solid full-year outlook. Executives at KFT said they are
starting to see some signs of economic recovery but expect to continue seeing
weakness in Central and Eastern Europe. Molson Coors
destroyed earnings estimates, doubling its quarterly profit y/y, before the JV
arrangement with SABMiller.
- Two of the gaming world's biggest names, Wynn Resorts and MGM, are both up
substantially despite fairly weak earnings reports. Wynn slipped to a quarterly
loss due to softness in its big Macau play. MGM's
travails in the quarter are well known, although it chalked its quarterly loss
up to double digit declines in slots and table games, with total casino revenue
-16%. Occupancy was also "unusually soft" in the quarter. On the
conference call, MGM's CEO said the quarter was "quite brutal" in
Vegas, noting that he expects the convention business to be down 25% in 2009.
- Unlike its larger brethren last week, mid-cap healthcare are companies are
outperforming. Managed-care name Health Net beat analysts' expectations and
reaffirmed a 2009 forecast that was well above target. HealthSouth also beat
earnings expectations and guided to the high end of its 2009 range. Two big
pharma names were mixed, however. Drug distributor McKesson exceeded earnings
estimates (ex a $0.22 investment write down) although revenue was a bit behind.
Guidance for the full year also fell short of expectations. Generic drug power
Teva's earning were in line, while revenues fell short of expectations.
- In currencies, EUR/USD moved back to retest highs from Asia around 1.3420,
with risk appetite was behind the support for weaker USD and JPY, not to
mention strength in energy and metals. Sterling
continued to maintain a firm tone throughout the New York
session, initially helped by the better-than-expected PMI contraction data for
April. Additional GBP strength was attributed to a rumor circulating that UK
consumer confidence would hit 50 (the consensus expectation is for 43); the
data is scheduled to be released later today at 7pmET. GBP/USD tested above the
1.5160 level for the first time since early January, while EUR/GBP probed
closer towards the key technical level of 0.8800 as it printed 0.8846 in the
session. Take note also that the ECB's Nowotny cited "clear signs of
improvement" in Eastern Europe, saying that the
region would benefit from continued support from the IMF. CAD and AUD-related
pairs were firmer on steady to higher energy and metal prices.
- Economic data will really pick steam up as the week progresses, especially
with rate decisions on tap from the BoE and ECB on Thursday and key US
employment figures coming out in the Wednesday through Friday period. The
banking sector stress test results are expected to be made public on Thursday.
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