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Thursday May 14, 2009 - 15:32:49 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 10:57am EST/02:57pm GMT

US Market Update

Dow +23 S&P +3.8 NASDAQ +14

- Equity indices opened a bit higher this morning despite the absence of improvement in weekly jobless claims. Analysts estimate that auto layoffs (some temporary) were a big factor in higher-than-expected initial claims number, accounting for 27K of the 637K initial claims figure, which was in line when auto-related dismissals were factored out. Note that the continuing claims data hit their highest level on record once again. The Labor Department's PPI reading said prices rose at a brisk pace in April after March's decline, driven by a surge in food costs. Front-month NYMEX crude is well below $58 after the IEA cut its world oil demand forecast for the ninth consecutive month in its monthly report today.

- Treasury prices were higher again ahead of the open of pit trade in
Chicago, but have since slipped into the red. Yields are only marginally higher ahead of the third and final NY Fed coupon purchase of the week. The benchmark yield is back above 3.1% while the long bond is approaching 4.1%. There was a noticeable jump in interbank lending rates overnight with the US 3-month LIBOR surging 5 basis points to 0.85% to match the yield of the 2-year Treasury note. It is worth noting though, that it did not translate into an upward move in the TED spread.

- Yesterday afternoon the Treasury and CFTC outlined their plan to regulate over-the-counter derivative trading. The plan would set capital, reporting and margin requirements, as well as position limits on certain instruments, with the Treasury handing most oversight to the CFTC. Under the plan, the CFTC would establish an "audit trail" for the derivatives and have "clear unimpeded authority to police fraud, market manipulation and other market abuses" involving derivatives. Shares of CME have run up 20% over recent days on speculation the company would be a direct beneficiary of the move, with CME+5% after the bell today, while ICE is up 4%.

- Wal-Mart's first-quarter results are apparently not having a big impact today, with shares of WMT down a hair in early trading. The worlds biggest retailer met earnings expectations and came in a bit under revenue estimates, and guided in line for next quarter. The company noted that the stronger USD reduced reported revenue by a considerable amount.
Same-store sales grew by a healthy 3%. On the conference call, WMT's CEO said he is optimistic about the long term and realistic about the short term. Kohl's reported more or less in line with expectations and upped its full-year forecast a touch. Whole Foods' earnings outperformed analysts expectations, but same-store sales are still falling.

- Power transmission engineering name URS is up 8% after beating earnings expectations by a wide margin. Oil and gas services firm WSP jumped 20% before the bell before losing ground in early trading, to around +14%, after the firm significantly outperformed Wall Street's expectations. Shares of autoparts giant Lear have been all over the map, dropping 14% before the open, climbing quickly to +10% after the bell and then diving back deep into negative territory. The company's loss was much bigger than expected, thanks to restructuring costs and big sales declines. The tone of the conference call was grim, with the CEO insisting that Lear wants to restructure outside of bankruptcy.

- In currency trading, risk appetite reappeared following the weekly claims data. The USD saw its earlier gains against the European pairs erode, but maintained its recent overall weekly range for the most part. EUR/USD was holding around the 1.36 area and GBP/USD hugging the 1.51 neighborhood. The USD/JPY pair continues to gather some technical momentum below the 96.30/50 head & shoulders neckline on the charts that has developed since early Feb. Currently the 100-day moving average providing support at the 95.10 level. The Japanese press reported that the government would likely upgrade its economic assessment in May. If true, this would be the first upgrade in three years. Dealers are noting that any upgrade would be attributed to signs exports and production are bottoming out. Overall trading has been quiet, but some rumors of bank defaults did circulate. Dealers noting that a small Russian bank did in fact default but it had few repercussions on price action.


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