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Thursday May 7, 2009 - 15:34:44 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:21am EST/03:21pm GMT

US Market Update

Dow -91 S&P -9 NASDAQ -37

- Much like yesterday, equity indices made strong gains before the bell this morning and then traded off from the open before finding a floor. This afternoon will see the official public disclosure of the stress test results, although at this point most of the results have already leaked out in one form or another. Last night, Treasury Secretary Geithner told PBS that none of the banks being tested are at risk of insolvency, and insisted that the results to be "reassuring." Same-store sales showed some improvement among selected retailers, although commentators debate whether these count as green shoots or not. The weekly initial jobless claims were a bit lower than expected; together with Wednesday's ADP surprise, the claims data may indicate positive news in tomorrow's April payrolls reading. However, investors may be looking for "much better" rather than "less bad" from data at this point. Front-month NYMEX crude is extending the strong gains of the week, up another $1.20 in the $57 handle.

- US Treasuries continue to be at the mercy of the unwinding of previous flight to safety trades. Yesterday's strong 10-year note auction results on the back a Tuesday's decent auction have not sparked much enthusiasm surrounding demand's ability to absorb oncoming supply. Instead the benchmark yield has moved out to new 2009 highs at 3.25% as investors scramble to add risk to their portfolios. T-bill yields have also been inching higher while interbank lending rates steadily improve. The long bond is down nearly a full point yielding 4.14% ahead of this afternoon's $14B auction. Bund and Gilt futures are also lower despite the ECB's announced rate cut/new repo operations, and the BOE announcement that would be purchasing another £50B worth of assets under their QE mandate.

- General Motor coughed up a $6B quarterly loss this morning, which is at least a bit better than its $9B+ loss last quarter. But that is about the only good news for the crippled automaker, which burned through $10.2B in cash in the quarter and saw revenue fall 47% y/y. Keep in mind that the firm has already been given $15.4B in federal loans and recently asked for another $11.6B more. Bankruptcy is looking more and more likely, with the June 1st restructuring deadline around the corner, although on the conference call one exec insisted the company had to get "bankruptcy speculation behind it." GM's sorry results contrasts markedly with Ford, where CEO Mulally, who launched a major electric car initiative yesterday and said his company has sufficient resources to fund its own restructuring.

- Network hardware giant Cisco offered a solid quarterly report yesterday afternoon, with earnings and revenue slightly ahead of analysts' estimates. CEO Chambers noted that Cisco's customers are seeing stabilization in their businesses for the first time in many quarters, but also called the level of stabilization disappointing. Investors are not impressed with the results, with CSCO opening in the red and falling further in early trading. Symantec reported solid results, ex a $413M goodwill write down. The latter prompted a round of analyst ratings cuts, sending shares of SYMC down 16%, which with CSCO are dragging down the overall tech sector. Like competitor Time Warner Cable last week, Cablevision and DirectTV missed Q1 EPS estimates. But CVC opened higher and extended its gains in mid-morning trading after the company said it was mulling a spin-off of its Madison Square Garden business, with shares of CVC up 16%. Shares of DTV are in the red mid morning.

- In line with many other economic indicators, April same-store sales are showing a few green shoots of their own, with some retailers outperforming analysts estimates thanks to the warmer weather and glimmers of economic improvement. Wal-Mart led the pack, reporting April SSS of +5%, nearly twice estimates, with Costco reporting flat comps versus -6.5% estimates. Several mall chain apparel retailers also exceeded estimates (GPS -4% v -7.2%, AEO -5.0% v -7.6%e, ANF -22% v -26.5%e). However, commentators are noting that estimates were badly beaten down in the wake of all the pessimism in the first quarter, making it easy for some retailers to outperform. Luxury retailers still struggled with sharp sales drops. Shares of many retailers made gains before the open (ANF was up 12% at one point), but are generally loosing ground mid morning. Note that WMT will no longer report monthly same-store sales figures from now on; the firm plans to offer quarterly comps with earnings.

- Currency trading has hinged on European central bank decisions this morning, with dealers highly focused on more information about quantitative easing. The Bank of England left its key interest rate unchanged at 0.50%, as expected, and increased its quantitative easing spend to £100B from the £75B prior. The GBP saw significant weakness in the aftermath of the announcement, with GBP/USD falling from the 1.5170 level to test 1.5030 and EUR/GBP moving back above the 0.8800 key intra-day chart level. Over on the Continent the ECB lowered its refi rate by 25bps to 1.00%, as expected, and said it would begin purchases of euro-denominated covered bonds. EUR/USD tested lower toward the 1.3280 level following this initial round of QE, but bearish euro sentiment quickly eroded gains when the bank admitted the operation would only be €60B for now. This compares to the Fed's $300B QE spending and the BoE's £125B operation. On the press conference, ECB President Trichet stressed that the bank is "not embarking on a quantitative easing policy." After these comments the EUR/USD proceeded to test its 200-day moving average of 1.3466 before consolidated and EUR/GBP moved above the 0.8930 level. Also note that today's rotation into equities and out of bonds helped to weaken the JPY against its major pairs. The unexpected drop in US new jobless claims ahead of tomorrow's key non-farm payroll report helped increase in risk appetite.


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