Dow -19 S&P -1.25 NASDAQ +3.5 - With the FOMC gathering in Washington, traders are again positioning ahead of tomorrow's decision in anticipation of any new details regarding an exit strategy. Equities slipped before the open this morning after data showed PPI up nearly twice the expected amount in November and the regional Empire Manufacturing survey off considerably, showing the slowest rate of growth in five months. Front-month crude has picked up a bit of momentum after a record eight straight days of steady decline. The contract is up a buck, testing over the $70 handle. Note that in its December report this morning, OPEC said quota compliance has fallen even lower, to around 58%. The greenback has found some bids as concerns about select European financial institutions continue to resonate in the wake of yesterday's news in Austria. The Euro broke below a key 1.4630 figure early in European trade and is consolidating down more than a big figure on the day with a 1.45 handle. The dollar is also getting a boost from rising yields in the US which has seen the benchmark rate retake 3.6%.
- Trading in shares of Wells Fargo opened 50 minutes late this morning after the bank said yesterday after the close that it would repay its entire $25B in government TARP funds. This morning Wells' CEO pledged that the bank would repay TARP in a "shareholder friendly way." Wells is selling $10.4B in common shares this morning at $25/shr, and also said it would sell $1.5B in assets to supplement TARP repayment. Shares of WFC are up nearly 3% on the news, while the rest of the leading financials are down 1-1.5% a piece. Note that a number of regional banking names have not disclosed any plans for repaying the TARP as of yet and are weak in early trading: shares of STI are down 4%, PNC is down 3.5% and FITB is down 3%.
- In other equity news, Best Buy beat bottom-line estimates and guided earnings above par for 2010 in its Q3 report this morning. On the conference call, executives said that store volumes and traffic levels have continued to stabilize. Nevertheless, shares of BBY are down 7%. Magellan Health Services raised its 2009 guidance somewhat and guided above par for 2010. MGLN is up 6%. Shares of computer component manufacturer Avnet are around even after the firm raised its Q2 forecast very slightly on improving sales. Pharma services firm AmerisourceBergen is up slightly after guiding above consensus for its Q1 and increasing its 2010 forecast. On an investor update call, CardioNet said its 2010 volumes would be up 40% and is exploring strategic alternatives. Chinese solar name JA Solar is up 10% after the firm raised its shipment estimates for the current quarter, 2009 and 2010 on surging demand, earning multiple analyst upgrades. TAN is up 2%.
- In currencies, the greenback started the New York session on a firm note as it built upon the risk aversion simmering throughout the European morning. The higher core PPI reading and a softer NY Empire State index helped the dollar to add to its gains. However, option related plays curbed the upward momentum as the EUR/USD failed to break below the 1.45 handle. The better US production data soothed over some of the risk aversion sentiment after the Nov data rose by its largest amount in three months and renewed hopes that the US recovery might be sustainable. Higher energy commodity and steady metal prices characterized the mid-morning action and ebbed away the euphoria in USD strength. .
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