***Economic Data*** - (CA) Canada Nov Retail Sales M/M: -0.3% v -0.2%e; Less Autos M/M: 0.0% v 0.5%e - (BE) Belgium Jan Business Confidence -7.0 v -7.2e - (MX) Mexico Dec Preliminary Trade Balance: -$248M v -$644.5Me - (MX) Mexico Dec Unemployment Rate: 4.8% v 5.0%e
- The aftershocks from President Obama's bank regulation scheme continued to rattle markets this morning, with leading indices falling as much as 1% a piece in the first hour of trade before rebounding sharply. Goldman and Morgan continue to be hit the hardest as traders take more profits. There has already been a vast amount of commentary and speculation about the impact of the new regulations, with the nearly universal conclusion that it bodes ill for financial names, especially the largest banks. Meredith Whitney said that she believes the proposals will pass. White House Advisor Austan Goolsbee reiterated that the new regs "are not Glass Stiegel" and are not punitive measures. With the temperature rising on the Hill, people are even beginning to wonder whether Fed Chairman Bernanke will be confirmed before the end of his current term, which runs out at the end of January. Volumes are behind what has been seen in recent sessions with no US data on today's calendar. March crude traded as low as $74.50 while Gold dipped below $1086 briefly testing its 100-day MA. Treasury prices have not really found a direction but are consolidating the gains made over the last week. The long bond yield is hovering just above 4.5% while the benchmark remains near 3.6%.
- Dow components General Electric and Mcdonalds reported strong quarterly results this morning. GE is up 4% this morning on its solid results. The conglomerate refrained from offering 2010 guidance, however, saying only that profits would be roughly flat, and also said the worst is over at GE Capital. Mcdonalds is up 2%. The fast food giant racked up positive December and Q4 comps across all regions and predicted modest sales growth in 2010.
- Dow component American Express's results are more problematic, and shares of AXP are down 5% and headed lower in mid morning trading. AmEx saw a significant drop off in ROE, but provisions were cut in half, reflecting improved credit quality. Executives warned that depressed real estate and high unemployment will continue to present problems. Fellow credit card name Capital One is down 10%, despite strong bottom-line outperformance. COF's net charge-offs were flat and delinquencies were up a bit q/q, and then warned on the conference call that the Q1 charge-off rate may be 11% (v 9.58% q/q). Visa and MasterCard are down a few percent in sympathy.
- Google was only slightly ahead of the consensus view, although GOOG is down 4% this morning. On the conference call, executives said Google was committed to the Chinese market, seeming to contradict its position earlier this week that it might withdraw from China. AMD is off nearly 12% and falling further despite its smaller than expected quarterly loss after the company warned that revenue would fall next quarter. Western Digital is down 6% despite crushing expectations, growing its margins and guiding above par for next quarter.
- In other earnings, regional banks SunTrust and BB&T are down 3-4% a piece. STI's losses are moderating but the bank missed on the top line and continued to rack up negative ROE and ROA. BBT looks healthier, beating top- and bottom-line expectations and cutting credit loss provisions steeply. Johnson Controls is up 4% but off its best levels after crushing top- and bottom-line expectations. Harley Davidson is down 7% thanks to twice the expected quarterly loss and disclosing significant charges from its restructuring process.
- The dollar and the yen continue to benefit from risk aversion flows, with a trifecta of excuses providing momentum. Emerging market nations getting serious about exit strategies, heightened political wrangling over US domestic policy (Fed Chairman Bernanke's re-appointment, healthcare reform and the banking tax) and European peripheral bond concerns have steadily starved risk appetite this week. The US Labor Dept provided more color on the Dec non-farm payroll data realized earlier this month noting that 39 states endured job losses. Weaker retail sales data out of the UK and Canada explain continued uneven growth in industrial economies. Sterling remains soft thanks to weak UK data, losing a big figure against the greenback and 60+ pips against the euro. EUR/CHF continues to linger at levels last seen before the SNB enacted its weak CHF policy. The SNB's Hildebrand once again reiterated that the central bank would guard against excessive CHF appreciation.
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