*** ECONOMIC DATA *** - (CL) Chile Dec Trade Balance: $1.6B v $1.5Be - (UK) BOE Interest Rate Decision: Held interest rates steady at 0.50% and maintained Asset Purchase Target at Â£200B; as expected - (US) Initial Jobless Claims: 435K v 440Ke; Continuing Claims: 4.802M v 4.98Me - (CA) Canada Dec Ivey Purchasing Managers Index: 48.4 v 52.0e - (MX) Mexico Dec Consumer Prices M/M: 0.4% v 0.5%e; Y/Y: 3.6% v 3.7%e; CPI Core M/M: 0.5% v 0.5%e - (US) Weekly Natural Gas Inventories: -153 bcf v -150 to -155 bcf estimated range
- Weekly jobless claim figures did not stray far from expectations, but continue to hold onto improving trends only heightening anticipation for tomorrow's December non-farm payrolls data. US indices fell a bit before the open and continued their slide in the first 30 minutes of trading, before bouncing back above opening levels. A laggard today has been technology stocks led by semis, while financial and homebuilding names have outperformed. Legg Mason's Bill Miller bettered Blackrock honco Bob Doll's bullish call on US equities from yesterday, predicting that US markets could rise 20% in 2010 given they are underestimating the speed of US recovery. "The fall in industrial output has far exceeded the drop in demand, the shortfall having been made up from inventories," said Miller, who also said US 2010 GDP could go as high as 8%. Note that selected bank stocks have held up well in early trading on this rhetoric. Front month crude is more or less flat on the day, remaining just above the $83 handle. Copper is off the one-year highs seen during yesterday's session, trading around $3.40. US Treasury prices opened lower but have since pared losses, particularly at the long end. The 10-year yield has drifted back towards 3.8% after ticking above 3.85%.
- Gamestop fell nearly 20% in the first hour of trade after cutting its Q4 and full-year guidance and slashing its same-store sales outlook. The firm noted that hardware sales declined 8% due to recent console price cuts and a decline in unit sales on a year-over-year basis. Game makers TTWO, ATVI and ERTS are down a few percent a piece on the news. A raft of mid and small cap names offered pre-earnings season guidance as well.
- Lennar's very strong Q4 earnings report is pulling the entire homebuilder sector higher this morning. Lennar was well ahead of revenue expectations, while earnings benefitted strongly from various one-time tax items, and gross margins were up somewhat on a sequential basis. The company's CEO noted that continued stabilization in housing is helping the business. Shares of LEN are up nearly 10%, with gains of 7-4% among other major homebuilders. Shaw Group beat top- and bottom-line expectations, with SHAW up 10%. Apparel name Christopher & Banks is down 12% after missing on earnings and reporting dismal same-store sales.
- December same-store sales showed a big reversal from November's disappointing comps, with more than a few positive surprises. Mid- and high-end department store names showed strong improvement over November, with most major names beating analysts' projects, a few by very wide margins. Saks was +9.9% v +2.8%e. Among apparel names American Eagle, Aeropostale, Children's Place and Zumiez crushed analysts' expectations. The latter two firms demonstrated surprising improvements, with comps that moved into the black and exceeded targets and (after months of negative disappointments). Discount apparel name TJX reported double the expected gain in comps. The Limited slipped back into negative same-store sales, well off the firm's moderately positive November showing. No improvement was seen at industry laggards Abercrombie & Fitch or Hot Topic. Broadlines Costco and Target were a bit ahead of expectations, while BJs barely missed the Street's estimates. But despite all the good news, gains among retail stocks were subdued in premarket trading, and many names that opened in the black were in negative territory within the first 30 minutes of trade as markets turn over. TJX is an exception, with the stock still up 4% in mid morning trade. SHLD is up 14% on much improved quarterly and yearly earning guidance.
- In currencies, the greenback consolidated earlier gains during the New York morning. Vague rumors circulated that S&P might raise Turkey's sovereign ratings, prompting some position to square ahead of the European close. Traders continue to sharpen their focus on US non-farm payrolls, with some betting the index can muster its first positive reading in two years. The dollar is near key technical levels versus the major pairs and could be poised for some additional momentum if the timeline of the Fed exit measures becomes clearer.
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