- US equity indices have see-sawed this morning as skittish investors continue
talk about S&P's shot across the bow of Britain's AAA sovereign rating. In
the premarket investors kept up the buying seen late in yesterday's session,
with trade yo-yoing into and then out of negative territory in the first hour.
PIMCO's El-Erian summed up the mood on CNBC, noting that market participants
are concerned about the long-term sustainability of the Federal government's
balance sheet, in the light of the government's short term goals. Front-month
NYMEX crude is hovering around even for the session, at $61. Front month
natural gas tested $3.50, off more than $1 from the multi-month highs made less
than two weeks ago.
- The downside momentum in Treasury prices resumed following the open of pit
trade in Chicago. The sell off that
started yesterday just before
sent the 10-year yield above 3.4% for the first time since last November. The
benchmark spread continues to trade at the widest levels in more than 7 months moving
above 250 basis points.
- Investors have been eying the credit card reform bill working it way through
Congress over the last few weeks. Last night the Senate passed the legislation,
with its associated credit card "Bill of Rights"; the next step is a
conference committee to reconcile the bills, followed by the president's
virtually guaranteed signature. The WSJ's Heard on the Street wrote today that
the days of easy profits for credit card names are over, thanks to the
legislation and accounting rule changes that will force companies to bring
large amounts of off balance sheet loans back on the books. BofA/Merrill Lynch
are not so downbeat, as analysts at the firm raised their price targets on AXP,
COF and DFS (although they left the Underperform ratings on all three
untouched). In a related story, JP Morgan shifted a portion of its debt card
users to Visa from MasterCard, affecting more than half of MA's $59B portfolio
of debit card users. A MasterCard spokesperson insisted the move would not have
any material impact on revenue.
- Florida bank BankUnited was shut down by the OTS and handed over to the FDIC
last night, making for the largest bank failure of 2009 and the biggest hit to
the FDIC since IndyMac collapsed last fall. It has reopened as a newly
chartered savings bank, owned by an investor group including the Blackstone
Group, the Carlyle Group, Centerbridge Partners and WL Ross & Co.
- In earnings, apparel retailers Gap and Aeropostale reported in line with
estimates. Guidance from Aeropostale, which continues to dramatically
outperform other mall chains with positive double-digit same-store sales, was
well ahead of estimates for next quarter. Foot Locker had an impressive first
quarter, beating analyst estimates by a wide margin. FL and ARO rose 5% before
the open and rapidly gave up their gains after the bell, with FL plunging as
much as -10% before cutting its losses. Solar names LDK and Yingli both
reported much larger than expected losses, and Yingli missed revenue targets
significantly. Both firms have been hit hard by the crisis and the withdrawal
of various government subsidies for buying solar panels. Shares of YGE were up
5% at the open but rapidly sunk to -5% early on. LDK opened down 5% and is
presently around -15%. Shares of Salesforce.com are 10% despite a strong
quarterly performance, with investors evidently unhappy about weak guidance for
the coming quarter.
- In currencies, concern about the implications of a potential US
sovereign rating downgrade continued to weigh on dollar sentiment. Dealers are
saying that the size of next week's Treasury auction as well as the ratings
fears are putting any prospect of a near-term dollar recovery on ice. One
dealer noted that the recent equity-dollar correlation trend might drift toward
a stronger bond/dollar correlation. EUR/USD tested above 1.4000 level during
the session, a level last tested back on Jan 2nd.
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