- US equity indices have seen both positive and negative territory before
noontime. Headwinds remain in place, as April housing starts and building
permits were both weaker than expected, hitting lows not seen since the series
began in 1959. Commentators are making the best of the news, noting that
slowing multi-family building starts were the culprits behind the declines,
while single-family starts rose slightly on a sequential basis. However, the
figures are hardly the sort of green shoots anyone is hoping for. Investors
should likely take note of comments from PIMCO's El-Erian, who called slower
growth the "new normal." In any case, the flood of debt and equity
secondary offerings continues, with companies from across the spectrum rushing
to market to raise capital. Front-month NYMEX crude nosed above $60 briefly
overnight, before trading off after the open of pit trading in NY. The June
contract comes off the board after the close today.
- Treasury prices have been trading lower through the morning pushing the US benchmark yield back towards 3.25%. Interbank
lending rates continue to come down with the US 3-month LIBOR fixing down at 0.75%.
- Stocks of the largest US banks are behaving variably after various press
reports that the US will let five or six big banks pay back TARP funds. Bank of America
and Citigroup have both made 4-5% gains early on, while most of the rest of the
tier-1 financials muddled around in the red before heading higher. Goldman, JP
Morgan and American Express are reportedly first in line to repay, according to
the FT, followed possibly by Morgan Stanley, State Street and US Bankcorp. At
the JP Morgan AGM this morning, CEO Dimon also said that the government would
authorize "some" TARP repayments within weeks. Note that yesterday
STT priced its equity offering and raised the total deal to $2B from $1.5B (to
repay TARP) at $39, and shares of the bank are still trading between $41-42
this morning. The New York Times took a look at the effect of early TARP
repayments and warrant repurchases on banks and taxpayers, noting that the
government holds warrants in 579 banks that could be worth $5 to $10B,
depending on market conditions. On a related note, FASB approved two rules
yesterday (FAS 140 and FIN 146) that could force financial firms to bring more
off balance sheet assets onto their books.
- Investors are digesting another cluster of retail earnings this morning. Home
Depot followed up on Lowe's earnings performance from yesterday, beating
earnings and revenue estimates by healthy margins, although its full-year
forecast was decidedly weaker than Lowe's, with its numbers below analysts'
estimates. On the conference call, an HD executive said there has been improvement
in comp transactions despite soft February sales. Shares of HD fell before and
after the open, to around -6% mid morning, while LOW was down 2%, near
yesterday's lows. Discount retailer TJX reported in line and reported mildly
positive quarterly same-store sales, while luxury retailer Saks trimmed its
quarterly loss to a figure that was much smaller than expected, although its
quarterly SSS remain dismal. American Apparel's loss was higher than expected.
Shares of SKS+23% are rocking this morning, while APP-19% are not. TJX is up a
- In tech, solar names Solarfun and JA Solar continue to be hit hard by the
recession, reporting quarterly losses. SOLF's loss was slightly better than
expected, while JASO lost three times the expected amount. Both firms expressed
nevousness about their outlook, noting that visibility is limited. JASO
withdrew its full-year earnings guidance, while JASO said its previously
planned capacity expansion is still on hold. Also note that Sprint said it
would launch sales of the Palm Pre smartphone on June 6th, at a price of $199
with a two-year contract. Shares of Sprint are around even, while PALM is off
its worst levels after losing nearly 10%.
- Currency trading hit some turbulence following the euphoric sentiment from
the European session. USD and JPY moved off their worst levels, with EUR/USD
back below the 1.36 level and USD/JPY back around 96.00 after testing 96.60
overnight. Several officials uttered cautious remarks despite the recent signs
of stabilization in the global economy, with the IMF's Berger noted that
emerging Europe growth would not return to pre-crisis levels. Commodities took
different paths during the New York session, with energy related and basic
metals retreating while the precious metals retained its luster. AUD and CAD
currencies held on to most of their session gains.
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