***Economic Events*** - (HU) Hungary Central Bank cuts the Base Rate to 5.75% from the 6.00%; in line with expectations - (US) Jan Chicago National Activity Index: +0.2 v -0.19e; First positive reading since July 2007 - (MX) Mexico Q4 GDP Y/Y: -2.3% v -2.8%e - (US) Feb Dallas Fed Manufacturing Activity: -0.1 v 10.0%e - (IS) Israel Central Bank left its Base Rate unchanged at 1.25% level; as expected
- Early US stock trading has been pretty directionless with the indices opening higher and dropping into the red. Trading seems to be tentative ahead of another action packed week. Washington DC remains a focal point, with President Obama's new effort to force through healthcare legislation, featuring a televised summit with Republican legislators scheduled for Thursday on the issue, and both Treasury Sec Geithner and Fed Chairman Bernanke due to testify on the Hill on overhauling US financial industry regulations. Treasury prices are little changed ahead of the initial 30-year TIPS auction scheduled for this afternoon, only to be followed by coupon auctions during the next three sessions. Crude prices have backed off a shade after regaining $80.
- President Obama launched a fresh effort to save healthcare reform from the rubbish bin this morning. The Administration is prodding Congress to use "budget reconciliation" (which only requires a 50 vote majority to pass the Senate) to complete the overhaul effort. His proposals include notable changes and additions to the various bills that passed the House and Senate last year. Obama's plans do not include a public option, instead taking up the health insurance exchanges to stoke competition, and would limit increases on health premiums. It also increase fees on drug makers, raises the threshold for taxing more expensive "Cadillac" plans, and provides various tax cuts and tax credits. Large health insurance names are up on the news, while certain pharma and medical device names have traded off on the news.
- In earnings, home improvement name Lowes came in modestly ahead of consensus estimates and authorized a new $5B stock buyback program. Lowes executives said that while the demand outlook may be improving, the company continues to plan conservatively. Shares of rival HD firm are up one percent or so, LOW is around even. Campbell Soup was in line with expectations and reiterates its full year view. Energy sales firm Constellation had mixed results, beating earnings targets but missing revenue expectations. The firm's full-year view was soft. CEG is up 2%.
- Last night Schlumberger confirmed widespread media speculation and announced it would buy Smith International in an all-stock deal valued at more than $11B. Both companies have agreed to the deal, and see the deal closing in late 2010. Schlumberger expects the deal to be accretive to earnings in 2012. The deal is expected further consolidate Schlumberger's position as the leader in the oil-services industry, giving Schlumberger revenue double that of its nearest rival, Halliburton. Commentators expect the deal to raise at least some anti-trust concerns. Shares of SII are up 6%, while SLB is down 6%.
- A dearth of economic news saw the currency price action sway in tune with equity prices. The USD and JPY pairs maintained a firmer tone against most major pairs as European and US equity markets drifted into negative territory. EUR/USD was just below the 1.3600 level while USD/JPY approached the lower portion of the 91 neighborhood. EUR/USD buy stops building above the 1.3670 level appear vulnerable in the event the market decides to test the short-term sentiment.
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