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Wednesday May 27, 2009 - 15:57:45 GMT
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Forex Blog - US Market Update

Today 11:50am EST/03:50pm GMT

US Market Update

Dow -16 S&P +1 NASDAQ +13

- US equities are trading sideways this morning as another mixed batch of housing data and plenty of caution around the financials keeps things subdued. This morning's April existing home sales data offered a different take on housing to yesterday's cloudy S&P/CS home price index. According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of existing homes were up 2.9% m/m, although there is grist for pessimistic mills in the data as well, with unsold homes up 9% from March levels, with 10.9 months of supply in the pipeline. NAR's Chief Economist said most sales are in lower price ranges, with activity just beginning to pick up in the mid-price range and high-end sales still sluggish. Front-month NYMEX crude is off its overnight highs above $63, trading mid morning around $62.50.

- Treasury prices remain lower ahead of this afternoon's 5-year note auction. Yesterday's 2-year results were quite strong but yields still pushed higher as trepidation remains ahead of the longer dated paper set for auction the rest of this week and next. The 10-year yield has moved above 3.5% sending the benchmark spread above 260 basis points. Equity, bond and even currency traders are noting that spread is rapidly approaching the all time highs above 274 basis points made back in 2003.

- At a Sanford Bernstein conference this morning, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon addressed emerging concerns about commercial real estate losses, calling commercial real estate "a shoe that's dropped" and warning that losses from this area are increasing. He also said JPM was done building credit card loan loss reserves and said the firms investment banking business is doing well. Bank of America has updated investors on its capital raising program, noting that it has placed $26B under its $33.9B plan, including the conversion of $5.9B of preferred shares into around 436M shares of common stock.

- The FDIC discussed the performance of US banks in the first quarter of 2009. Profits in the quarter were buoyed by revenues at a few larger firms, but overall the credit picture remained grim as the number of banks on the brink continued to rise and consumers and businesses increasingly fell behind on their loans. Net profit at US banks was $7.6B for the quarter was down y/y but much improved from the $36.9B loss in the final quarter of 2008. FDIC's Bair said that asset quality remains a major concern, troubled tier-1 loans continue to accumulate and costs associated with these impaired assets are weighing heavily on banks.

- GM confirmed that its exchange offers to bondholders for $27.2B debt have fallen flat. Yesterday there were reports that a paltry low single-digit percentage of bond holders accepted the auto maker's to convert the debt to a total 10% ownership stake in a reorganized GM. The company needed a 90% exchange rate to consummate the deal. Overnight the WSJ reported that secured lenders may get full recovery on their $6B in loans under a proposed bankruptcy plan, with the Treasury likely injecting $50B in financing to back a GM workout. Across the pond, the German government has paused the process of selling Opel, calling offers from Fiat and Magna insufficient while also saying that a bid for Opel from China's Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings was under consideration.

- In earnings, shares of Take-Two are on a tear, up 12% in early trading after the company reported in line with Q2 expectations and reaffirmed its full-year EPS outlook. Note that TTWO guided a huge loss next quarter and also trimmed its 2009 revenue forecast. Retail names in a broad range of businesses have reported this morning. Office supplies retailer Staples met estimates, and warned that it would not provide specific sales and earnings guidance for 2009 due to the ongoing slump. Car parts name AutoZone outperformed top and bottom line estimates and increased its quarterly same-store sales. Bookseller Borders Group reported half the expected loss. Apparel names American Eagle and Ralph Lauren did notably well, with shares of both names up 5% or so. AEO met Q1 estimates and guided in line, while RL reported twice the expected earnings and beat revenue targets as well. Executives from both firms were upbeat on conference calls, with AEO's CEO saying the slump from last fall has leveled off, while RL's CEO said that sales in the second half of the year would be dominated by promotional activities. Jewelry retailer Zales offered dismal results, missing estimates across the board, with shares of ZLC down 18%.

- In currencies, various cross currents were in play during the New York session, as central banker trend, economic data and bond auctions results battled it out to dictate the overall momentum. The USD price action was mixed by the end of the New York morning ended. Earlier the USD had fallen off its best levels on dealer chatter that the US might pursue a weak dollar policy to support manufacturing. EUR/USD probed the 1.40 area before retreating back below 1.3900. ECB member Provopoulos warned that the financial crisis was still unfolding and the US existing home sales failed to provide hard data that the worst was over, given that total supply rose to 10.2 months from 9.6 last month. Other players had a lot to say about the dollar as well: PIMCO's El-Erian said no other currency could replace the USD as world reserve currency but warned that various holders might diversify their basket of holdings, while the Russian Central Bank deputy chairman reiterated the bank had not discussed plans to change the compositions of the dollar/euro basket (currently 55% USD and 45% EUR). The GBP maintained its firm tone it garnered in both the Asian and European sessions. The EUR/GBP cross moved below the 0.87 level for the first time in three months.


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