Dow +150 S&P +18 NASDAQ +37.5 - US equity indices opened higher for a second consecutive morning today and gained steadily in early trading. Dollar weakness is feeding into the picture, as the greenback continues to absorb fallout from the UK Independent's sensational (and now mostly discredited) claims about major industrial and crude producing nations dumping the dollar for oil trading. Spot gold shot above its all-time highs of $1,032.40 before the open, to trade around $1,041 in mid-morning action. Australia became the first major nation to raise interest rates, as the RBA said it was time to begin withdrawing monetary stimulus ahead of the global economic recovery. Front-month crude is strong on all the optimism, with the contract trading just shy of $72 this morning. Treasury prices are a bit softer ahead of this afternoon's $39B 3-year note offering. The 10-year yield has returned to 3.25% while the long bond has climbed back above 4%.
- The regional banks are making steady gains hand in hand with everybody else, with the notable exception of Marshall Ilseley, which warned investors that its Q3 loss would be nearly twice the expected amount. MI's CEO said that while the firm is seeing some improvement in credit quality, it still assumes the recession will be a big factor for several more months. Shares of MI were up 6% on improving credit quality metrics included with the guidance call, but have fallen to around even in early trade.
- UBS has resumed coverage of the US life insurers sector, including coverage of AIG at Neutral. AIG, the day trader's delight, is up 4% on the news. HIG is up 6%, while other life insurers like MFC, AFL and PFG are up 4-5%. Note that overnight the Taiwan press wrote that AIG had chosen a $2.2B bid for its Taiwan unit, Nan Shan Life. In other financial sector news, overnight the WSJ reported that Goldman Sachs is continuing talks with CIT Group about revising the terms of its loan, including a smaller payment to Goldman if CIT filed for bankruptcy.
- Earnings at fertilizer name Mosaic fell short of expectations in its Q1 report, while revenue was more in line with the Street. The company's gross margin has improved markedly over last quarter's lows, although it remains well below last year's levels. Mosaic's potash production was -59% y/y in the quarter, as customers remain very cautious due to volatile agricultural prices for select products. On the conference call, executives said they believe potash demand is "on the brink of a recovery," while phosphate demand is already recovering. Shares of MOS are up 5% on the report, with other potash names up 2-3% as well. St. Jude Medical trimmed its Q3 outlook ahead of earnings season, citing a slowdown in hospitals stocking medical devices. STJ is down 10%, but off its worst levels, while MDT is down 2%. American Repographics, which provides construction firms with document management services, slashed its 2009 forecast, saying sales will be weaker in the back half of the year due to the "severely restrained" construction business. ARP is down nearly 20%.
- The greenback limped into the New York session, still suffering damage from the UK Independent's big front-page article on the demise of the dollar despite subsequent denials by numerous officials. Dealers noted the whole drama showed the continuing vulnerability of the dollar and its inability to sustain strength in this environment unless there was a fresh bout of risk aversion. The Australian overnight rate of 3.25% is above the US ten-year yield, highlighting the carry-trade implications of the dollar among the commodity-related and emerging market currencies. USD/CAD tested fresh one-year lows below 1.0570 following Canada's Sept Ivey Purchasing report and higher energy and metal prices. EUR/USD is maintaining a construction tone over 1.4700. Indian Central Banker Subbarao noted that no consensus on timing of policy exit but inflationary concerns suggested an earlier exit might be needed. Sterling became a casualty of market chatter that the Q3 UK GDP reading could be negatively impacted by almost 0.3% on the back of today's industrial production numbers. Its Sept GBP NIESR estimate came in flat with the back month revised lower. GBP/USD was around 1.5925 in mid morning US trade, 25 pips below its opening level in Asia.
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Mon 18 Dec
10:00 EZ- final HICP Tue 19 Dec
09:00 DE- IFO Survey
13:30 US- Housing Starts/Permits
13:30 US- Current Account Wed 20 Dec
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15:30 US- EIA Crude Thu 21 Dec
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POTENTIAL PRICE RISK: Medium Mon--10:00 GMT-- EZ- final November HICP. flash data are rarely changed.
POTENTIAL PRICE RISK: HIGH- Medium Tue --09:00 GMT-- DE- IFO Survey. Key report but usually not a market-mover
POTENTIAL PRICE RISK: HIGH- Medium- Tue --13:30 GMT-- US- Housing Starts and Permits. Leading indicators of activity
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