- Better-than-expected earnings from Alcoa, encouraging Sep same-store sales figures and improving weekly jobs data are all helping equity indices rally. With earnings season now under way, commentators are waiting to see whether corporate America can follow up last quarter's earnings gains with revenue growth. Weekly initial jobless claims came in lower than expected, sinking to their smallest figure since January, while continuing claims fell very close to the 5M handle. Commentators continue to warn that the continuing jobs figures are being impacted by workers exhausting unemployment payments. Front-month crude is up nearly $2, to trade around $71.50. Treasury prices remain stubbornly firm with the long end outperforming heading into this afternoon's 30-year reopening which has sent the yield below 4%.
- Alcoa managed to rack up a profit (ex items) in its Q3, crushing analysts' expectations for another loss. Executives were upbeat about the quarter, noting that they are seeing signs that Alcoa's markets are stabilizing and consumption is set to grow in the second half of the year. Nevertheless, revenue was merely in line and better earnings beat expectations due to cost and expense reductions. PepsiCo was in line with the Street in its Q3 report, and reaffirmed its 2009 guidance. Ominously, PepsiCo's CEO warned that he expects an "age of thrift" has descended on markets and will last through 2010, echoing similar comments from Wal-Mart's chairman last week. Marriott came in slightly ahead of estimates, thanks to improvements in revenue per available room (REVPAR), which the company said should improve further next quarter.
- Sales data out this morning is showing a big turnaround for retailers in Septermber, fueling hopes for the holiday season. Comps from apparel names The Limited (+1% v -3%e), American Eagle (flat v -4%e) and TJX (+7% v +4%e) were much higher than expected. Teen mall chain Aeropostale held up its excellent comps for yet another month, while higher end competitor Abercrombie saw another month of dismal negative comps. Shares of AEO and ANF are up 6% or so, while LTD and TJX are around even. Costco pulled its same-store sales numbers out of negative territory for the first time since last fall, while Target and BJs saw incremental progress towards positive comps, but are still in the red. COST and TGT are around even, while BJ is down 4%. Department stores did universally better than expected, with Nordstrom and Dillards trouncing estimates. Despite this, y/y sales comps at nearly all the leading department stores remain in the red. Kohls is the big exception, with the name beating estimates by a wide margin (5.5% v 0.1%e).
- In currencies, the greenback composed itself in New York trading after rising risk appetite in the Asian session and early European morning put it on the defensive. Both the BoE and ECB maintained their interest rates at current levels, in line with expectations. EUR/USD initially maintained a steady tone around the 1.4770 area after Trichet reiterated yet again his steady line that interest rates are appropriate, adding that the Euro Zone labor market might deteriorate less than originally expected. Dealers were especially keen to see whether Trichet would fine-tune his currency views from before the G7 summit last week. The market seemed disappointed with his tepid remarks, including boilerplate comments that excessive FX volatility is not wanted. Trichet also welcomed the recent strong dollar statements from US officials, calling them "extremely important," and warned that he would never comment on FX intervention, pledging to act rather than talk on the topic.
- EUD/USD briefly tested 1.48 before technical exhaustion seemed to envelop the upward momentum in commodities and currencies. EUR/USD tested the 1.4730 level as the NY morning wore on but holding onto small gains established from the Asian open. Commodities retreated from their earlier highs in sympathy with the dollar's slight improvement. The 88 level in USD/JPY continues to be on dealers' radar with earlier chatter circulating that the Japanese Post Office was bidding for dollars ahead of the figure. There could be some significant USD sell stops if that level is breeched and there is no sign of Kampo.
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