- Investors seem indecisive this morning as US equity indices initially traded
lower before lifting into positive territory. Gains are marginal at this point
as stocks seem unable to build momentum in either direction ahead of tomorrow's
important jobs figures. Constructive news like notable consolidation in tech is
being offset by weakness in retailers post May SSS results. Initial and
continuing jobless claims held little in the way of surprises, while decisions
out of the BoE and ECB to hold rates steady were as expected. Front-month crude
has bounced back toward the six-month highs well above $68 on plenty of
comments from OPEC Secretary General El-Badri. Other commodity markets are
recovering as well as sellers return in the Greenback. Grains are up 2-3%,
copper +2.75%, and gold up more than 1% nearing $980. Treasury prices are
slipping once again after the US Treasury announced another $65B in coupon
supply for next week. The US
benchmark spread at 273 basis points remains close to all time highs.
- The leading national banks are outperforming markets this morning on
incremental news from the Treasury on various bailout programs. Herb Allison,
who has been nominated to oversee the TARP program and replace Neil Kashkari,
told Congress in his confirmation testimony that more TARP repayments were
likely next week, raising hopes a big move could come out of the likes of JP
Morgan, Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs. In addition, there's been news from
PPIP. Last night the FDIC confirmed that it would not proceed with test sales
of toxic assets, although the Treasury stated this morning that it would be
pre-qualifying managers shortly for the Legacy Loans component of the PPIP,
indicating that the program will indeed be getting underway soon. Also note
that regional bank Fifth Third has been up as much as 7% in the early going
after successfully wrapping up its $1B capital raise.
- In other equity news, Intel said it would acquire Wind River Systems for
$11.50/shr in cash, in a deal valued around $884M. The deal is expected to
close this summer, with Wind River being integrated into
Intel's Software and Services Group. Commentators not that this transaction is
a game changer with broad implications for the tech sector. Wind
River makes software for mobile phones and in-car entertainment
systems, a growth area Intel covets given the stagnation in PC and server
markets. Shares of WIND are up 50% in early trading. Axsys entered a definitive
agreement to be acquired by General Dynamics at $54/share, in a deal valued at
$643M. Shares of AXYS are up 6%. Boeing and EADS are both up a bit after United
Airlines asked from bids from the two manufacturers for up to 150 new
airliners. Also note that the IATA said overnight that orders for the two firms
could fall by as much as 30% in 2010.
- May same-store sales were not pretty, with many retailers reporting steeper
declines than expected as consumers continue to hold back on spending. The
usual suspects did manage to sustain positive gains, with discount chains FRED
and ROST offering low single-digit gains, while teen-oriented mall chain ARO
notably outperformed estimates by a wide margin. Discount apparel retailer TJX
also managed to outperform expectations. Warehouse retailer COST slipped back
into negative comps after April's unchanged reading, while BJ continued its
slide into negative single-digit SSS. TGT also slipped back into negative
single digits, after April's strong positive comp. All the major apparel and
luxury retailers reported yet another month of abysmal negative sales. Note
that WMT has discontinued monthly same-store sales reports.
- In currencies, a flurry of rumors, data and central bank decisions made for a
highly volatile New York session
so far. Sterling was knocked around
by was the forefront of the rumors that Prime Minsiter Brown had resigned his
post due the growing expense account scandals. GBP/USD fell 300 pips to 1.6100
within 10 minutes of the emergence of the rumor around 8amEST; a government
spokesperson quickly squelched the rumor, prompting a mild GBP retracement to
1.6275. At about the same time as the UK PM rumors, dealers also noted that
several large banks executed lots of G10 currency trades at the same time, with
sources attributing the volatility to rumors that China's Chinalco would walk
away from a $19.5B investment deal with Rio Tinto, unwinding related hedges.
The BoE rate decision was not a big factor, with the bank leaving rates
unchanged, as expected. Note as well that the Bank of Canada left its rate
unchanged at 0.25%.
- The ECB also left their key interest rates unchanged, as expected. ECB Chief
Jean-Claude Trichet delivered the usual comments about staff
projections, reiterated that current interest rate level of 1% was appropriate
although not necessarily the lowest possible rate, and also noted that prior
rate cuts were still passing through to the economy. But what markets were
really waiting for were details about the ECB's covered bond purchase program.
Trichet said the ECB did not consider the cover bond program "quantitative
easing" and reiterated that the maximum amount would remain at â‚¬60B,
disappointing hopes for larger purchases. Interestingly, the ECB commented that
it appreciated comments from US officials on their desire to maintain a strong
dollar policy. The EUR/USD price action did encounter some swift changes within
a 100 corridor of 1.41 to 1.42 handle as Trichet explained the economic,
inflationary outlook and the cover-bond program. EUR/USD ended the NY morning
little changed from its opening levels from Asia. It
seems that dealers' overall assessment remains that the ECB is unwilling to
extend themselves as a source of economic aid should the green shoots turn
brown. Currency dealers continue to see key hourly support around the 1.4050/70
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