- US equity markets are extending a correction begun in Friday's session, with the leading US indices down 2% or so in the early going, USD and JPY strong, and front-month crude below $66 for the first time this month, while natural gas is testing seven-year lows. Note that after closing just above 1,000 on Friday, the S&P500 opened below 990 and remains below the key level of 1,000. Government bonds on both sides of the Atlantic are seeing risk aversion bids after Chinese stock markets slid nearly 6% overnight. The US 10-year yield is back below 3.5%. Investors are disregarding the August Empire Manufacturing survey, which showed a striking uptick in factory orders in the Northeast and turned positive for the first time since April 2008. There was some verbal support for the ongoing equity rally, with the CEO of NYSE Euronext saying he is more confident in US stock market rally than he was in April. Goldman Sachs' Abby Cohen reiterated her cheerleading, saying that she expects US GDP growth of up to 3% in coming quarters.
- Hedge funds disclosed quarterly holdings on Friday after the close, prompting a few notable moves this morning. Lone Pine Capital cashed out of its 31M stake in Las Vegas Sands, with the name off 9% from the news. Pershing Square flushed stakes in Wendy's, Yum and Visa - shares of WEN initially reacted very negatively to the news, dropping nearly 5% just after the open, although they have recovered somewhat. Becton, Dickinson is up a few percent after Berkshire Hathaway disclosed a new 1.2M share position in the medical technology company. Berkshire cut takes in health insurance names Wellpoint and UnitedHealth. Bill Miller's Legg Mason Capital Management raised its stake in Bank of America but reduced stakes in other financials.
- In other equity news, managed care names are up four or five percent on news out over the weekend that the Obama administration is backing away from a public option as part of the US healthcare reform. Lowe's quarterly report was full of doom and gloom. The home improvement name missed top- and bottom-line estimates, and also guided below par for the coming quarter as well as the full year. Executives warned that consumers remain reluctant to take on discretionary projects until signs of economic improvement are more evident. Shares of LOW are down 10%, and rival Home Depot is down 5% in sympathy (HD reports tomorrow morning). Major credit card issuers disclosed July master trust data, with net charge offs seen declining slightly or holding more or less steady across the board.
- In currencies, the greenback consolidated its overnight gains as the New York morning progressed. Less was heard of the risk aversion song following Empire manufacturing data, although the retracement has been limited as both the USD and JPY have maintained their strength against the major European and commodity-related currencies. The continued weakness in Chinese equities and the fifth largest US bank failure have been cited for the fresh spat of risk aversion. The Fed extended its TALF program but said they did not expect to add any further types of collateral eligible for the facility. The June TIC flow data showed that China dumped just over $25.1B in Treasuries, while other foreign buyers picked up $90.7B in net US long term assets.
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