- US equities are under a little pressure from dismal earnings out of US Steel, Deutsche Bank and Valero, as well as declining consumer confidence, with all three leading indices in negative territory. Another shot of positive housing data is raising hopes for stabilization in home prices, coming as it does on the heels of yesterday's increase in June new home sales yesterday. The May Case Shiller home price index logged a very small sequential increase, prompting commentators to trumpet that this is the index's first move upward since July 2006. Adding to the froth was a stronger than expected July Richmond Fed Manufacturing number, although the Commerce Department's July Consumer Confidence reading declined m/m and was weaker than expected. Front-month NYMEX crude is plummeting, wiping out three sessions worth of gains in early trading this morning. Gold prices are giving back 1.5% to trade below $940 for the first time in more than a week.
- Treasury prices are rebounding as a renewed bout of risk aversion works it why through US and European markets. The US 10-year note is up half a point in the cash market yielding 3.65%. The 2-year yield is unchanged holding above 1% in terms of yield ahead of this afternoon's $42B auction results.
- US Steel reported its second consecutive quarterly loss this morning, although the shortfall was smaller than analysts had projected. The company missed revenue targets. US Steel's CEO said there are signs destocking has ended in North American and Central European markets, although the firm's outlook remains opaque. Recall that mid-cap US steel names Nucor and Reliance both reported quarterly losses last week. Goldman Sachs is more optimistic about the sector, apparently, and raised the US Steel Industry to a buy from neutral overnight. It also offered a buy call on US Steel itself. US Steel opened down 4% and made a run for breakeven before heading back to the downside. Industry ETF SLX is down 2% in early trading.
- Office Depot's quarterly loss was almost twice the expected amount and the company's quarterly same-store sales were down 18%. Revenue was in line with expectations, however. On the conference call, ODP's CEO said he was "cautiously optimistic" that the economic decline has hit bottom. Retail names Supervalu and Group 1 Automotive both fared better in the quarter than ODP. Supermarket chain SVU reported in line and cut its full-year outlook, warning that it sees no near-term change in consumer spending patterns. Car and auto parts retailer GPI blew out earnings estimates and exceeded expectations in its full-year guidance, saying it believes that the automotive retail market has stabilized. Shares of ODP are down 15%, GPI is down 5% and SVU is up nearly 10%.
- Quarterly reports from Viacom and Interpublic Group shed some light on the media/advertising industry. Media conglomerate Viacom's earnings were in line, while revenue was well short of the consensus view. Domestic ad revenue was -6% and international advertising was -8%; in films, theatrical revenue was -27% and home entertainment was -29%. Advertising giant IPG missed top- and bottom-line targets, but executives struck a positive note on the conference call, saying the worst is behind the industry, which seems to be coming off a bottom.
- Other major earings included integrated oil name Valero, with a slightly smaller than expected loss and better-than-expected revenue. Health insurance firm Coventry Health was much better than Aetna's results yesterday, beating earnings and revenue targets and raising its 2009 forecast. Generic pharma name Teva offered solid results and reaffirmed its full-year guidance, noting that Barr integration is ahead of schedule. Shares of VLO are down 3%, TEVA is up 4% and CVH is up 10%.
- In currencies, the New York session saw the greenback hit the brakes and reverse earlier losses after hitting fresh eight-week lows above 1.4300. Overall dealers were noting that the urge to take profits was creeping into market sentiment after major option barriers were tested during the European morning, including 1.43 in EUR/USD and 1.0770 in USD/CAD. The failure of the USD/JPY cross to hold above its 21-day moving average was cited as a potential range breaker.
- More drama is emerging from the Baltic region, with chatter circulating among dealing desks that Latvia might have devalued its currency despite the recent agreement between it and the IMF for emergency funding. Dealers noted that despite the fact devaluation was not one of the IMF's conditions for the aid, Latvia might decide to devalue the Lat anyhow. The rumor hinged on sharp price movements in the EUR/SEK cross, which rallied 13 big figures from the European open, propelled by a market trying to find the news behind the move. But the overall market was caught massively short on EUR/SEK and USD/SEK as corporate buyers came in. Separately, the IMF noted that needs of emerging markets (ex China) could be in range of $1.3T to $2.0T over the next decade.
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