Dow -35 S&P -7.5 NASDAQ -19 ***Economic Data*** - (US) Dec NFIB Small Business Optimism: 88.0 v 88.3 prior - (US) ICSC/GS Weekly Chain Store Sales w/e Jan 9th: -3.0% w/w; +1.7% y/y - (CA) Canada Nov Intl Merchandise Trade: -C$0.3B v C$0.5Be - (CA) Canada Nov New Housing price index M/M: 0.4% v 0.3%e - (US) Nov Trade Balance: -$36.4B v -$34.6Be - (US) Redbook Retail Sales for the week ending Jan 9th: +1.4% y/y; MTD -1.0% v Dec - (US) Jan IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism: v 46.8 prior - 10:00 (MX) Mexico Nov Industrial Production Y/Y: % v -3.7%e v -5.2% prior - - (MX) Mexico Oct Gross Fixed Investment: % v -11.1%e v -11.6% prior
- Equity indices took a dip this morning as investors expressed their disappointment with Alcoa's weak earnings report and the Chinese Central Bank's decision to raise reserve requirements for banks. The DJIA was nearly back to positive territory within the first hour of trade, while the S&P500 and Nasdaq remain down about 0.5% a piece. Commentators discussed the move by China, along with higher yields seen at recent auctions could signal the beginning of a tightening cycle. This, plus fresh FDIC plans for limiting banking compensation, sent leading US financial names down 2% in early trading. Front-month crude has broken out of the range where it traded over the last several days, down a buck around $81.40. Other commodities are weak with Mar copper down close to 2% after testing $3.50 yesterday. Treasury prices are getting a very nice bid pushing yields back below some key levels particularly at the long end of the curve. The 30-year is sub 3.65% while the 10-year remains below 3.75%.
- Alcoa missed earnings targets, and that was before hefty one-time restructuring charges. Revenue was well ahead of expectations, although investors are evidently shaken by selected sequential declines in various income segments (with the notable exception of flat-rolled products). On the conference call, executives were upbeat, noting that the aluminum market would grow 10% in 2010. Shares of AA are down 8%, while competitor CENX is down 7%; ADRs of mining giants VALE and RTP are both off 2% on the news. In other earnings, KB Home crushed analysts' expectations and reported its first quarterly profits in nearly three years, but the gloomy mood in markets has analysts zeroing in on the firm's disappointing sequential decline in new orders and backlog. Note that similar declines were seen at Beezer Homes last week. KBH was down as much as 7% before recovering a bit, with other leading homebuilders down 2-3% in sympathy. Supermarket name Supervalu is up nearly 8% on very strong earnings and FY10 guidance.
- The pre-announcements keep rolling in: Hartford Insurance guided nearly twice the expected EPS figure for its Q4, including a big after-tax gain. Shares of HIG rose more than 8% on the news, before trading off a bit, other major health insurance names were up 1-2% as well. Note that Molina Healthcare offered a grim guidance call for its Q4, citing H1N1 and trouble in state budgets, sending shares of MOH down 8%. Tiffany hiked its 2010 guidance a bit this morning, noting that its holiday sales were up 17% y/y. Shoe retailer DSW raised its 2009 outlook and guided comps for the year higher. Discount retailer Big Lots guided ahead of expectations for its Q4. Shares of TIF are in the red despite the positive call, while DSW and BIG are both up incrementally. - MetroPCS was initially up 2% after launching new service plans and a fresh line-up of phones. But the name fell as low as -6% as investors concentrated on the big y/y declines in net additions and listened to management on a conference call discussing the new less-expensive plans. The company said it will work to maintain its position as the lowest-cost leader in the space. Shares of LEAP Wireless were down 6% as well.
- In currencies, choppy price action continued to dog the greenback during the New York session. The dollar retraced from initial strength following China's increase in its reserve requirements. A PBoC official commented that it had not altered its monetary policy away from the moderately loose footing that has been in place since November 2008. It did say quantitative tools were being used to fine tune operations. The worsening US trade balance for Nov was viewed as a positive factor as the rising imports and exports components are considered generally constructive for the budding economic recovery. Nonetheless, the greenback is finding hard to garner bullish momentum: USD/JPY moved below the 91.20 for fresh 2010 lows, with dealers noting of more USD sell-stop orders below the 90.70 area.
- Yet another act in the Greek debt tragedy is causing EUR/CHF to test 10-month lows near 1.4730. Greece's prime minister vowed to unveil a stability pact in the next couple of days which would have radical changes and bring the country's debt-to-GDP ratio under the Maastrict criteria of 3% within three years.
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