- US equity indices are mimicking yesterday's session, dropping sharply from the open in the first hour and then slowly marching back towards the unchanged mark. With yet another dismal month of same-store sales, mixed quarterly reports and a mildly better-than-expected weekly claims report, no clear theme is driving trading, although volumes much higher than usual. The FTC published new rules for oil trading today, threatening fines of up to $1M a day against violators who offer misleading reports in an attempt to manipulate markets. Front-month NYMEX crude is down more than a buck to trade just below $71 and natural gas prices moving back below $4 after a larger than expected build in stockpiles. Bond prices are marginally higher after opening lower with extra attention being paid to Europe after the BOE extending and expanded their quantitative easing program. The 10-year yield is just below 3.75% nearly matching that of the 10-year GILT.
- AIG has absolutely astonished markets over the last 24 hours, doubling in value on little news besides the recent choice of a new CEO and earnings scheduled for Friday morning. Yesterday the stock jumped to $22 from $14; the name shot up again before the open today, to top $28. AIG's rise has pulled the major US financial names along with it, with tier-one banks making robust gains yesterday and this morning. In other financial sector news, Prudential repeated the very strong earnings performance from Q1 in Q2, beating estimates and raising its 2009 forecast. Allstate, which has been hit harder than many insurers by losses on mortgage-related securities, missed earnings estimates by half but beat revenue targets. Both ALL and PRU are underperforming.
- Cisco offered solid results that were more or less in line with the Street. The company's CEO has been verbose, on both the company's conference call and in the media, noting that Cisco's Q4 was a tipping point and the firm's business is looking to improve moving forward. Consumer-oriented names Sirius XM, DIRECTV and Metro PCS offered lackluster quarterly results, with SIRI's loss in line with expectations and PCS's earnings half the expected amount. Customer churn was up at all three companies, while SIRI and PCS managed to significantly boost their net customer additions. DTV is around even, SIRI is down 6% and PCS has fallen 25% in early trading.
- Restaurant names Wendy's and Brinker both missed earnings and revenue expectations. Investors are dumping EAT, which is down 12%, while WEN still appears appetizing to some. Casual dining name DRI is down 4% on the Brinker news. Media firms Thompson Reuters and News Corp offered decent quarterly results. Warner Music Group's loss was much bigger than expected, with FX having a significant impact on earnings. Murphy Oil stomped top- and bottom-line estimates, although MUR is down 4% on the day.
- No real signs of economic improvement are coming from the July same-store sales data, although some moderation is seen in the y/y declines at certain companies. Comps at broadlines BJ's, Costco and Target all declined more than expected. After improving somewhat in June, high end department stores Macy's and Saks swung back to bigger than expected declines; Kohl's was the only department store name to show y/y growth (beating estimates). Apparel companies were as dismal as ever, although comps from The Limited and Zumiez were notably better than expected (but still down sharply y/y). Apparel segment darling Aeropostale missed SSS estimates, although it is among the few clothing retailers to show growth. TJX was a rare bright spot, with sales growth beating expectations.
- In currencies, the greenback gained mid morning in the New York session after the FTC announced new rules for oil trading. Also note that softer equity price action has also been a contributing factor. The ECB left its key interest rate unchanged at 1.00% this morning, as expected. During the press conference, ECB Chief Trichet addressed the economic, inflation and aspects of the decision. JPY-related currency pairs reacted the most to his talk, as dealers noted that Trichet's overall tone on the economy sounded quite optimistic. However, EUR/USD's inability to sustain any move above the 1.44 area contributed to a mild bout of profit-taking ahead of the US payroll report on Friday. The soft tone in August crude gave the hunt for euro sell stops momentum, trailing the recent trend. The BoE surprised the market by increasing its quantitative easing program, and GBP/USD made fresh post-lows of 1.6790, down from over the 1.7000 area just ahead of the increase of QE bond purchases program. Commodity currencies were softer on lower energy prices, with USD/CAD up 50 pips at 1.0750 area and AUD/USD drifting back below the 0.84 level.
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