*** ECONOMIC DATA *** - (CL) Chile Nov Economic Activity Y/Y: 3.1% v 2.2%e - (US) ICSC/GS Weekly Chain Store Sales w/e Jan 2nd: +1.5% w/w; +2.5% y/y - (CA) Canada Nov Industrial Product Price M/M: 1.0% v 0.5%e; Raw material Price Index M/M: 2.2% v 1.1%e - (US) Redbook Retail Sales for the week ending Jan 2nd: +1.6% y/y; MTD -4.6% v Nov - (US) Nov Factory Orders: 1.1% v 0.5%e - (US) Nov Pending Home Sales M/M: -16.0% v -2.0%e ; Y/Y: 19.3% v 28.6% prior
- After opening flat this morning markets slipped briefly before and after the weak November pending home sales data, which was the biggest sequential decline in the index since 2001. The NAR's chief economist warned that it would be early spring at the least before any notable gains were seen in sales activity from the recently extended and expanded tax credit. But the downtick proved to be merely a hiccup, as traders responded well to the November factory orders data and push indices higher in mid-morning trading. Front-month crude is flat on the day, sustaining the contract's big gains over recent days to remain within reach of 2 month highs. US Treasury prices are bid, which has pushed the benchmark yield back below 3.8%.
- Kraft altered the terms of its offer for Cadbury this morning, in what may be a final push ahead of a looming UK regulatory deadline of January 15th to close the deal. Kraft said it has sold off its North American frozen pizza unit to Nestle (which confirmed it would not pursue Cadbury) for $3.7B in cash, and plans to use the proceeds to offer Cadbury holders a bigger share of cash in its standing offer. In a related development, Kraft's largest holder Berkshire Hathaway voted against Kraft's proposal to issue 370M shares to help in the Cadbury takeover, noting that stock is too "expensive" an option for the deal.
- Airlines are making impressive gains this morning on strong December metrics from United and Continental. Both firms disclosed big m/m and y/y gains in key load factor and revenue passenger mile performance measures. Shares of CAL are up 10%, while UAUA is up 7%. Other leading airline stocks are up 6-7% on the data. Note also the Mesa Air filed for Chapter 11 protection this morning.
- Analyst actions at Goldman Sachs before the open have boosted Tenet Healthcare and Radioshack. THC was added to Goldman's Conviction Buy list, and the stock is up more than 10%. RSH was raised to Buy from Neutral and added to Goldman's Americas Buy List, sending the stock up nearly 8%. Visa is off 1.5% or so after RBC cut the name to Outperform from Top Pick, as well as an article in the NY Times this morning that takes a very skeptical look at the company's pricing policies. MasterCard is off more than 1% in sympathy. Note that competitors DFS and AXP are both well into positive territory and heading higher this morning.
- In currency trading, the greenback is making constructive gains against the European pairs and maintaining a softer tone against the yen. Overall potential M&A flows continue to reverberate in European currencies, particularly among pound-related pairs. Sterling maintained a softer tone after Berkshire said it would not back Kraft's share issue. The USD/JPY pair continues to trade mainly on interest rate differentials. Dealers continue to watch the relationship between the US and JGB 2-year yield: the US 2-year yield have move broadly lower after testing 1.18% on Monday to probe the 1.0% area. The pair's inability to break through the downtrend line established last March also shaking out some model-type funds, which were long the dollar over the latter part of December.
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