Dow -80 S&P -7.8 NASDAQ -11 - Markets sold off this morning on equity softness in Asia and Europe, where weak data and another Japanese stimulus package spooked investors. The greenback strengthened after a Moody's report cast a shadow on the Aaa ratings of the US and the UK adding to investors jitters. Front-month NYMEX crude continues to slip lower, extending a now week-long losing streak. The contract is down a buck, below the $73 handle. Government bond prices have found bids on both sides of the Atlantic as investors move some money out of stocks. The US 10-year yield is back below 3.4% ahead of the first of three auctions this week which kicks off with 3-year coupons this afternoon.
- Meredith Whitney offered another round of dark prognostications on CNBC this morning. According to Whitney, underlying corporate earnings power will lag in the beginning of 2010 due to very weak consumer demand, which is being hampered by a lack of access to credit. Mortgage rates should rise meaningfully, said Whitney, who continues to expect spiking credit losses at banks. Recall that back in mid November she warned that banks still face $2.7T in credit line cuts. Wells Fargo's CEO said the bank wants to pay down TARP as soon as possible. The WSJ writes that state insurance regulators have approved $11B capital relief measures that allow more liberal accounting of certain taxes.
- Although earnings season is still a month off, pre announcements and profit warnings are picking up. FedEx increased its earnings guidance for its Q2 yesterday after the close, citing improved volumes, especially in overseas markets. FDX is up 2%. 3M reaffirmed its 2009 outlook and guided 2010 earnings largely in line with expectations. Note that 3M's revenue guidance was a bit above consensus. MMM is down 1.5%. Monsanto reaffirmed its 2010 earnings outlook for at least the fifth time, while its Q1 forecast was for a small loss (analysts expect breakeven results). MON is around unchanged. Semi name Xilinx guided its Q3 revenue well above consensus on broad-based strength across all its markets.
- In earnings, the largest supermarket chain in the US, Kroger, missed earnings expectations and met revenue targets. The firm also cut its 2009 guidance. Executives warned that current conditions will extend at least through the first half of 2010. Tax specialist HR Block's quarterly loss was slightly smaller than expected. Spirits name Brown Forman beat top- and bottom-line expectations and raised its 2010 earnings forecast. AutoZone was largely in line with the Street's expectations.
- Green Mountain Coffee has outbid rival Peet's for Diedrich Coffee, after Peet's decided not to top GMCR's $35/shr cash bid. GreenMountain has paid Peet's a $8M termination fee. Shares of PEET rose as much as 7% in the early going before trading off somewhat, while GMCR is up 5%. DDRX is down 1%. GMCR now has to settle regulators' anti-trust worries.
- In currency trading, sovereign debt concerns remain on the front burner, re-enforcing risk aversion sentiment that developed after Moody's warned the US and UK might lose their Aaa ratings. As the New York session commenced, Fitch downgraded Greece's sovereign debt one notch to BBB+. The Greek finance minister replied that Greece was committed to reducing deficit and dismissed the Fitch downgrade as lacking in credibility. The dollar managed to shrug off sovereign concerns and firmed against European counterparts; given that German October industrial production unexpectedly slumped, reflecting the ECB's repeated warnings about a bumpy economic recovery. EUR-USD tripped sell-stops at 1.4750 after an alleged option barrier failed to hold. Sterling was off its worst levels against the major pairs. GBP/USD tested its quarterly pivot point of 1.6250 and tried to regain a foothold over the 1.63 handle after the Nov NIESR GDP estimate registered its first positive reading since March 2008. The yen benefited from the initial risk aversion sentiment but USD/JPY holding above the pivotal 88.00 level.
- The Bank of Canada maintained its target for the overnight rate at 0.25% (as expected) and retained its commitment to keep the target overnight rate at 0.25% until the end of Q2 2010. The BOC also reiterated that a strong CAD currency could act as a significant further drag on its growth.
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