- US equity indices are more or less flat, at the same level where they settled after Tuesday's morning slide. The August ISM non-manufacturing index climbed a bit above the July reading and exceeded expectations slightly, although it remains below the key 50 handle. Initial and continuing jobless claims were a bit higher than expected. Note that the new orders sub index rose to 49.9, just on the cusp of growth. Front-month NYMEX crude tested $69 earlier in the morning before settling back toward the $68 handle. Natural gas spot prices pushed out to fresh seven-year lows. Gold Bugs continue to multiply as the Dec contract gains another 1% to trade towards $990. Treasury prices are lower but yields are having a tough time making any real headway. The 10-year is down roughly a quarter point with the yield back above 3.3%
- August same-store sales results showed incremental improvement over last month's figures, with many retailers further curbing y/y declines and beating estimates. Apparel names Gap and Limited Brands cut their comp declines in half compared to July levels, American Eagle improved their comp declines significantly over July levels, and discount clothing names TJX and Ross Stores grew their positive y/y comps further. Broadlines Costco, Target and BJ crept much closer to positive comps and all three crushed beaten-down estimates. Department store names did noticeably worse than other retailers, with only Kohl's sustaining positive SSS results (although they were essentially flat with July levels). Dillard's, JC Penny, Macy's and Sak's had steeper sales declines than expected.
- In currency trading, the greenback initially probed key technical levels as the New York session commenced and spot gold crept closer to a pivotal medium-term resistance point of $990/oz. The dollar stabilized following comments from ECB Chief Trichet, who warned that the road to recovery in the Euro Zone will remain "bumpy and uneven," hinting there would be no rush to unwind fiscal stimulus. These comments echoed numerous statements from central bankers in recent weeks, particularly Chinese officials. The ECB stated that it would sustain accommodative monetary policy in the near term, and there was no mention of exit strategies. It decided to keep the rate for the upcoming second 12-month refi rate unchanged at 1%. The ECB did note the recent improvement in economic data and its staff projections have been revised to reflect this optimism (the projections noted economic outlook was more broadly balanced). It revised 2009 Euro Zone GDP upward to -3.8% to -4.4% from -4.1% to -5.1% prior. It also tweaked its 2010 GDP view upwards to -0.5% to +0.9%, compared -1.0% to +0.4% prior. The ECB staff reiterated their view that inflation would turn positive by end 2009.
- Dollar price action took queues from the sovereign ratings situation. Portugal's 10-year spread widened against German Bunds to +72 bps after Fitch lowered its view on the country. The Greek 10-year spread widened by almost 10bps to +144bps against Bunds on Greek election jitters and fixed income supply concerns. S&P released a report that estimated August US speculative-graded default rate was 10.2%.
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