- US equity markets are trending to the downside this morning as investors err on the side of caution in the wake of the confidence data, although other news has been generally positive. The September Consumer Confidence data has caught markets off guard, as the reading declined over August levels and came in much lower than expected. Various analysts pointed out that the reading was a stark contrast to last week's stronger-than-expected University of Michigan consumer figure. The July S&P/Case-Shiller home price index racked up its third consecutive monthly gain, while the composite showed that y/y declines have slowed in all 20 cities for the sixth straight month. Fed Governor Fisher commented that the US house market is bottoming but remains on life support, warning that housing needs the Fed to exit its support before it can return to full health. Front-month crude is in a holding pattern between $66.50 and $67 this morning, while gold has slipped a bit to $991. Investors are also keeping an eye on US Treasury yields. Prices remain firmer with better performance seen at the long end curve narrowing spreads. The long bond is approaching 4% for the first time since March while the benchmark spread is back below 230 basis points.
- The FDIC has approved proposals that banks should pre-pay their insurance fees three years in advance, in an effort to raise $45B to pad the corporation's deposit insurance fund, warning that the fund could be in the red by the end of the month without the infusion. FDIC Chairwoman Bair said banks need to "step up" and tap their ample resources to help protect their industry. FDIC staff added that they do not see asset problems in the US banking system abating in the near term. In other financial sector news, China's CIC sovereign wealth fund said it would invest $2B in distressed asset funds in the US, including funds managed by Goldman Sachs and Oaktree Capital. Shares of CIT shot up more than 16% on a report in the NY Post that investor John Paulson was mulling a CIT/IndyMac merger, also noting that it was one of several plans being discussed. Sources involved later denied the report, sending CIT down to 13%.
- Walgreen beat top and bottom line estimates in its Q4 report this morning, sending shares of WAG up more than 10%. Competitors CVS and RAD were both up 4% as well on the news. In other equity news, pre-earnings guidance from two firms are shaking up newspaper and steel stocks. Gannett pre-announced Q3 results: EPS blew out analysts' expectations, while revenue was distinctly sub par. Note that earnings still beat estimates after taking account of special charges for restructuring. Investors like the results, despite the absence of strength in sales and the well-known travails of the newspaper industry. Shares of GCI are up 16%, while other print media names are catching a bid as well, with thinly-traded WPO up 4% and NYT is up 9%. MNI is up 8%, well off its best levels. Reliance Steel's guidance also soundly beat the Street by a wide margin, although comments from the company were less bullish, with the company warning it has not seen any meaningful improvement in demand, although average shipping volumes per day have improved slightly from lows in July. Shares of RS are up 3%, while industry ETF SLX and competitor STLD were both up 2% before trading off again. Note that comments from the China State Council, which approves plans to curb overcapacity in cement, steel, flat glass and aluminum industries (confirming proposals launched back in late August.
- In currencies, New York trading saw plenty of data and comments that spurred choppy price action in numerous pairs. Sterling soared over a big figure as New York desks were coming in following the release of the CBI data, as the move corresponded with comments leaking out from an emergency meeting between the BoE and economists. There was some speculation that the BoE could lower its deposit rate in a manner similar to Sweden. However, it seems more likely that the BoE was rather airing its displeasure with the market interpretation of Governor King's comments on the pound last week. GBP/USD probed the 1.60 neighborhood before consolidating its session gains. The greenback was firmer against the other majors on renewed risk aversion concerns aided by the weaker-than-expected US consumer confidence data. The Fed's Fisher said any reversal in policy by the Fed could be equal in speed as that seen in its easing actions of 2007/08 period.
- The Russian Central Bank's First Deputy Chairman once again shared his opinion on the reserve currency issue, reiterating Russia's desire to diversify away from the dollar. This time around, the Russians mentioned that the CAD and AUD pairs could be added to its reserves. USD/CAD briefly dipped below 1.0800 on the comment but retested the 1.09 area as the NY morning wore on.
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