- Equity buyers pulled equity indices up from pre-market declines leading to a modest rally in the first hour of trading. Indices have held onto and even built on gains despite weekly initial and continuing jobless claims numbers that were higher than expected, and back month totals being revised higher. Markets are also keeping a leery eye on Congressional grilling of Fed Chairman Bernanke, as representatives strive to dig up dirt on negotiations that preceded the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch merger. Note that PIMCO 's El Erian agreed with Warren Buffet's statements from yesterday that there are no signs of green shoots in the economy. On the bright side, the April RPX Composite housing market report rose by 1.2%, for the first such increase since the composite peaked in June 2007. Home prices increased on a month-over-month basis in 18 of the 25 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) covered by the report. Front-month crude continues to edge back toward the $70 handle. Note also that gold is rocking today after advice from a senior Chinese government researcher that China buy gold given expected declines in the USD.
- Treasury prices are moving higher but still remain below levels seen ahead of yesterday's FOMC statement. The 10-year yield is hovering around 3.65% while the benchmark spread is holding above 250 basis points. The curve was a bit flatter heading into yesterdays Fed statement. Focus will again be paid to this afternoon's final auction for the week when the US Treasury sells $27B in 7-year notes.
- Better-than-expected results from homebuilder Lennar and Bed, Bath and Beyond are adding to the positive tone this morning. Lennar's quarterly loss was a fraction of the expected amount (ex write-offs and tax deferrals), thanks to impressive sequential gains in new home orders and deliveries. Executives citied more confident homebuyers, lower home prices, low interest rates and government stimulus programs for their improved business. BBBY beat top- and bottom-line expectations in its Q1. Nike was more or less in line with the Street, although the company's quarterly sales were flat and future orders are headed in the wrong direction.
- Two notable firms updated their guidance for the coming quarter, providing a positive glimpse of their respective sectors. Rental car firm Hertz's earnings outlook for its Q2 is an order of magnitude better than analysts' expectations, while its outlook for rentals is for a slower rate of decline than last quarter. Hertz's CEO said car rental demand in both the US and Europe has stabilized and said there are more summer peak reservations than expected. PC component manufacturer Seagate raised its revenue outlook for next quarter by a modest amount on better-than-expected demand and favorable pricing. Shares of STX are down 2%, while HTZ is up 9%.
- Food manufacturers ConAgra and McCormick are both under pressure this morning after reporting quarterly results and guiding for the year in line with expectations. Apparently commentators feel that brand-name packaged foods are under pressure from private-label, store brand products. Shares of CAG are down 6% in the session.
- In currencies, the greenback faced choppy price action during the New York session, although it did benefit from minor risk aversion flows on another steady weekly jobless claims reading. The Swiss Franc continued to be the main focus as speculation continued about the SNB's intentions in weakening its currency. There was chatter of a large bid in the 1.0980 area, although USD/CHF has struggled to maintain a foothold above the 1.10 handle in the session. The pair was grinding lower during the morning towards 1.0970 to test the resolve of any potential intervention. CAD started the NY morning on a soft tone, hitting a one-month low against the USD at 1.1638 but managed to retrace as Aug crude and spot gold maintained positive readings.
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