- US equities opened lower for the third consecutive session this morning as caution ahead of earnings season keeps things subdued and volume remains very thin. Note that earnings season officially begins with Alcoa's second-quarter report after the close tomorrow. Front-month NYMEX crude has extended its slide, down $1 on the session to around $63. Treasury prices opened marginally lower in Chicago but have rallied back toward unchanged. The US benchmark yield is back at 3.5% while the 3-year offer 1.44% ahead of this afternoon's auction results.
- Healthcare stocks, particularly HMOs and hospitals, have been strong this morning as chatter circulates that Senate Democrats and the White House are moving closer to a deal on healthcare reform. The WSJ reported that the White House Chief of Staff reiterated the Administration is willing to be flexible on reform as long as the deal gets done. Senator Grassley did question the timing of any healthcare bill, cautioning that a Senate vote may not come before the August recess, but he still expect the legislation to pass this year.
- Discover Financial is down more than 10% this morning after announcing yesterday that it would offer $500M in common stock (9.8% of market cap) and reaffirmed that it would report a 8.5-9% managed net charge off rate for Q3. KeyCorp is up 4% after Keefe Bruyette raised the name to Outperform and the bank launched an offer to exchange $1.74B of preferred securities held by its various trusts for up to 158.5M shares of common stock (about 31.5% of shares outstanding). Note also that the American Bankers Association said that Q1 consumer loan delinquency rate hit 3.23%, for the highest reading on record. Late payments on home equity borrowings were 3.52% in Q1. The ABA said the effects of soaring US unemployment and an uncertain economic picture is driving delinquencies on credit card debt to all-time highs as a record number of consumers fell behind on their bills.
- Currency trading exhibited a reversal in price action from European moves during the New York session. The EUR/USD pair probed back above the 1.40 level aided by a comment from German Finance Minister Steinbrueck, who commented that interest rate hikes would be needed to mop up liquidity in Europe. Although he did not mention any timeframe for the moves, EUR/USD tested 1.4050 where it did encounter some decent euro sell orders to quell the upside momentum. The reserve currency issue remains on the front burner ahead of the G8 summit, impacting EUR/USD. Dealers have noted that Middle-Eastern names have been aggressively playing the recent range in the pair. The American Bankers Assoc (ABA) survey data was also a factor.
- As the morning wore on the risk aversion theme resurfaced, helping the USD and JPY off their session lows as the commodity and equities revered thei intial gains. USD/JPY moved back below the 95.00 level as some chatter circulated that the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) was on the offer in the pair. The EUR/CHF cross also getting attention as it drifted lower towards the 1.5150 level as dealers debated if any additional SNB currency intervention would prove effective as the market seems long the pair already. A move back toward 1.5000 could occur as weak market longs have been flushed out.
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