Dow +175 S&P +16 NASDAQ +44 - US equity markets made up all of yesterday's afternoon losses in the premarket this morning and headed even higher after the open on positive jobs data. The weekly jobless claims numbers hit their lowest levels since the very beginning of 2009, stoking optimism that Friday's nonfarm payrolls would also show marked progress on the jobs front. Selected improvements in same-store sales are helping as well, while Cisco is lighting up the Nasdaq on a strong Q1 report and an upbeat outlook. Front-month crude is subdued on the equity strength, trading just above the $80 handle.
- Shares of CVS are down more than 20% after the company said its pharmacy benefits management business may decline as much as 12% in 2010 (the firm refrained from offering any 2010 guidance on the call). CVS's Q3 results were largely in line with expectations, and it also authorized a brand new $2B stock buyback program. Prudential Financial beat profit estimates and raised its full-year profit guidance significantly, but missed revenue targets. PRU is down 3% or so. MGM returned to profitability in Q3 and told investors that Las Vegas is looking better than at any time since the crisis began. MGM is up 7%.
- Aetna, Cardinal Health and Cigna are up modestly this morning after all three firms exceeded expectations in quarterly earnings reports. Note that the entire health insurance sector was up significantly yesterday as investors speculated that the big Republican election wins could restrain healthcare reform. Note that Aetna trimmed its full-year guidance range, and warned that the uncertain employment situation in 2010 may constrain the business. Casualty insurer Allstate missed top- and bottom-line estimates, sending shares of ALL down 5%. Note that IMS Health is up 25% after receiving a $5.2B cash buyout offer from a private equity firm.
- Cisco Systems is leading the broader tech sector higher this morning after beating estimates and adding even more funding to the company's giant stock buyback program. "Building off what we saw as a clear tipping point in Q4, our Q1 results continued to reflect strong sequential growth trends that meet or exceed expectations during normal economic times," said Cisco CEO John Chambers. Mobile applications chipmaker Qualcomm missed Q4 expectations and guided below par for 2010 and next quarter, although investors are looking past these results and taking heart from a big contract renewal from Samsung. CSCO is up 4% in early trading, while QCOM is up 3%. Smaller chip names MCHP and SANM offered solid results as well - MCHP is up more than 5% while SANM is up a whopping 25% on outstanding guidance for next quarter.
- Despite the potential presented by attractive y/y comparisons thanks to the terrible state of retail last October, today's October same-store sales data was largely mixed, with little evidence for an across the board trend of recovering consumer spending. Apparel names TJX, Ross Stores and the Gap beat estimates and reported improvements over September comp sales levels. Aeropostale, which has consistently reported huge positive comps over the last year, surprised to the downside, missing estimates by a wide margin. American Eagle Outfitters and The Limited missed estimates and slipped back into negative y/y comps. Costco pushed further into the green in October after returning to positive comps back in September. Competitor BJ's disappointed at -1%, while Target's same store sales were more or less flat. High-end department stores Nordstrom and Saks both crushed consensus expectations with surprisingly strong comps. Mid-market department store Bon-ton also beat expectations. Dillard's and JC Penny fell further into the red, while Kohl's came up short of expectations but sustained positive comps.
- US economic data has whetted risk appetite this morning, and equity strength has thrown the greenback on to the defensive. Across the pond, the ECB and BoE both left key interest rates unchanged, as expected. The BoE added another Â£25B to its quantitative easing program, for fresh total of Â£200B. Sterling firmed up in the aftermath of the announcement, given most analysts were seeking a Â£50B increase. GBP/USD tested 1.6640 before consolidating in its post-decision range. ECB Chief Trichet said the ECB would begin mopping up extra liquidity soon, and largely reiterated the usual barrage of rhetoric about rates being appropriate, signs of economic recovery emerging in 2009 and slow recovery arriving in 2010. The dollar managed to recovery from session lows after Trichet's comment that a strong USD was in US's interest and reiterated the G7 position that excessive volatility was unwanted. Trichet did note that an orderly appreciation of emerging market currencies is a good way to correct global imbalances. In mid-morning
trade, some dealers wondered whether EUR/USD should have been higher after this morning's events.
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