- Investors are taking heart from the moderation in job losses seen in this morning's employment reports. The October ADP employment report showed slightly more job losses than expected, although the numbers declined by the smallest month-over-month loss since July 2008. The Challenger job report noted that that light can be seen at the end of the tunnel but cautioned US employment gains will not come as quickly as the job losses did. This afternoon's FOMC decision is looming large as commentators and investors alike continue to debate the prognosis for the developing exit strategy. PIMCO's Crescenzi said the Fed was unlikely to make any major changes in the policy statement, contradicting press commentary from last week that the Fed was considering softening its committment to keeping rates low "for an extended period." Front-month NYMEX crude is gaining ground, with the contract hitting fresh one-week highs above $80.50 in mid-morning trade helped by another all time high in gold, a rebounding Euro and a substantially larger than expected drawdown in crude inventories. Treasury prices are lower as the 10-year yield flirts with 3.5% post the quarterly refunding announcement.
- Financial names are gaining along with overall markets this morning, despite more skepticism from Meredith Whitney, who reiterated her long- term cautious view on the sector in a report this morning. Whitney also commented on the Fed's MBS program, saying that no matter how the FOMC handles the exit strategy, be it gradual or immediate, the effects will be expensive for mortgage securitization. In financial sector reports, Hartford Financial Services crushed Q3 estimates and guided FY09 earnings far above the consensus view. HIG opened up around 6%, but is around +3% in mid morning trading. Shares of mortgage insurers Radian and Ambac are surging (+15% and +40%, respectively) after the firms surprised to the upside.
- Major health insurance names are up 4-6% this morning in the wake of Tuesday's election results. Many commentators see the Republican gubernatorial wins in Virginia and New Jersey as a referendum against President Obama and the Congressional Democrats' healthcare plans. Wellcare is up 12% (but off its best levels) after a largely in line report.
- General Motors has been much in the headlines this morning after it confirmed rumors that it intends to retain its European unit, Opel. But many commentators have emphasized that high costs for restructuring Opel are the last thing the troubled firm needs, and more problems could emerge if the economy sours again or does not improve in 2010. GM's Finance arm GMAC disclosed that its quarterly loss doubled on a sequential basis in Q3, with credit losses more than doubling. Auto parts supplier TRW Automotive reported three times the expected earnings in its third quarter thanks largely to cost cutting.
- Among other earnings, Kraft beat bottom-line expectations and missed revenue targets. The company said it remains interested in Cadbury, but hedged things in saying on the conference call that it is "well positioned with or without the Cadbury. Shares of KFT are down 3% or so. Fertilizer manufacturer Agrium was largely in line with the Streets expectations, but guided a wide range below consensus due to the weak 2009 harvest. AGU is up very modestly. Quarterly losses at Pulte Homes grew in Q3, and the company said it has fallen out of compliance with certain credit covenants. Investors are bullish despite the awful results, sending PHM up 7%.
- Dollar sentiment still shows the greenback is seen as a carry trade funding currency. Media commentary continues to note that US Treasury officials are expressing no concerns about dollar weakness and seem to believe current trading is not a major concern for the US. EUR/USD bounced off its current uptrend line from its 2009 lows achieved in March during the US session. European dealers were saying there is chatter about good selling pressure in USD/CNY long-dated forwards ahead of President Obama's visit to China later this month. Dealers are again speculating that this could prompt a weaker dollar again other Asian pairs in coming months as well. USD/JPY price action was centered on an option expiration set for Friday, with chatter that 91 strike will act as a magnet. Sterling maintained a firm tone ahead of the BoE policy meeting on Thursday, with everyone waiting for the Quantitative Easing (QE) portion of the MPC statement. Some potential merger flows also aiding the pound after Kraft obtained $9B financing from bankers for a possible hostile bid for Cadbury.
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