US equity indices opened lower this morning as the morning's ADP job
data spooked investors into taking profits after two days of strength.
The May ADP employment change registered a slightly bigger decline than
expected, while an extra 50K in job losses was added to the prior
month's data. Nevertheless, the data is still showing big improvements
over the 600K+ declines seen in the first three months of the year. Fed
Chairman Bernanke is testifying before Congress this morning, telling
legislators that the US cannot keep borrowing indefinitely to meet
spending needs and warning that tax rates must ultimately be "set at a
level sufficient to achieve an appropriate balance of spending and
revenues." Front-month crude is well off recent highs, down nearly $2
- Last night more details emerged
concerning the Fed's tweaking rules under which banks may repay TARP
funds. Among other things, JP Morgan, American Express and Morgan
Stanley were all specifically told to raise more capital in order to
pay back TARP, less than four weeks after they were told they had
enough to deal with a deeper economic slump. Goldman Sachs was not
asked to raise more capital since it had raised funds in April. There
have been reports that Citigroup is looking to amend common share
authorization up to 60B. Back in March there were various press
comments speculating that Citi would look to boost its share
authorization up to 40B to fulfill an exchange of preferred stock into
- Negative guidance calls from Aetna and
Valero have dragged down both names and their respective sectors in
early trading. Aetna cut its 2009 forecast to $3.55-3.70 from
$3.85-3.95 thanks to rising medical costs and falling Medicare revenue.
Wachovia and Credit Suisse cut their ratings on the name overnight. AET
is off its worst levels in early trading, but still down 8%. Other
managed care names were down on the news, with CVH, CI and HUM down 3%
or so today. Valero offered Q2 earnings guidance of -$0.50, which
compared very unfavorably with analysts' expectations for $0.74.
Valero's Q2 has been adversely affected by extended downtime at its
Delaware City and McKee refineries and by the continuation of weak sour
crude oil discounts and lower diesel margins. Shares VLO are down 16%.
Homebuilders Toll Brothers and Hovnanian are both heading in the same
direction in early trading despite their divergent second-quarter
results. TOL cut its quarterly loss to a bare minimum (ex write downs),
beating analysts' estimates by a wide margins. The firms new contracts
have nearly doubled, offering homes that some of the upswing seen in
certain housing data is aiding the company. Toll's CEO said it appears
some buyers are beginning to re-enter the new home market. Hovnanian's
loss was bigger than expected, and its metrics did not quite show the
improvements seen at Toll brothers. TOL is down 6% in the early going,
while HOV is -10%.
- Tech journal Digitimes reported
this morning that solar cell spot prices have fallen to $1.4/watt.
According to the article, Chinese and Taiwan polycrystalline
manufacturers were offering spot quotes of $1.4/W at last week's
Intersolar 2009 trade fair. Recent research suggests the average
industry manufacturing cost is around $1.8/watt. Solar names are giving
up the gains of recent days on the news, with leading solar ETF TAN -5%
on the news.
- In currencies, the greenback hit choppy
trading in the New York session but held its firmer position as the ADP
employment report prompted risk aversion and profit-taking ahead of the
ECB decision tomorrow and Friday's US non-farms payroll report. The USD
was wobbly as dealers debated the authenticity of a "joint statement"
issued by several Asian monetary authorities; some have noted that
reporters may have compiled the statement comments that were in fact
made separately. Later in the New York session the back-month revision
of the ADP numbers and the failed Latvia bond auctions prompted renewed
USD buying against the major European pairs, with the Swedish Kroner
especially weak given Swedish lending exposure to Latvia. This was
tempered by comments from Bernanke that Treasury yields are rising on
both deficit concerns as well as an improving economic prospects. The
inability of the USD/RUB pair to sustain any downward momentum below
the 30.50 level also aided the dollar, as the move cut the aggressive
appetite for euros at the Russian Central Bank in its quest to smooth
out its currency basket. The commodity currencies also retraced from
their recent trend helped by weaker energy and metal weakness.
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