***Economic Data*** - (US) MBA Mortgage Applications w/e Mar 5th: 0.5% v 14.6% prior - (IC) Iceland Feb Unemployment Rate: 9.3% v 9.0% prior - (BE) Belgium Q4 Final Q/Q: 0.3% v 0.3% prior; Y/Y: -0.8% v -0.8% prior - (US) Jan Wholesale Inventories: -0.2% v 0.2%e - (UK) NIESR GDP Estimate: 0.3% v 0.6% prior - (US) DoE Weekly Inventories: Crude: +1.4M v +1.8Me; Gasoline: -3.0M v +100Ke; Distillate: -2.2M v -1Me Utilization: 80.7% v 81.9%e
- Some late equity strength in Europe plus very strong gains among US bank stocks carried US indices higher this morning. The secondary US economic data was not particularly good, however. Volume in the NYSE has picked up again, after several sessions of below average participation, although the tech-heavy NASDAQ continues to lead trading in the US. April crude is up $1.40 briefly testing $83 a level not seen since the first few sessions of 2010. Treasury prices are under some pressure as money finds it way to stocks. Ahead of this afternoon's $21B 10-year note reopening the cash yield in the benchmark has slipped back towards 3.75%.
- Big banks are back in the headlines this morning as multiple rumors have boosted shares of Citi and AIG since yesterday afternoon. Shares of Citigroup are up more than 12% over since yesterday's open (+5% in the current session), while AIG were up a whopping 35% since yesterday's open at one point in early trading today. Yesterday the FT reported that regulators told US banks not to raise their dividends or buy back shares until political and economic uncertainty surrounding the banking industry eases; later the SEC denied these reports. Before the open, Rochdale's Dick Bove said yesterday's trading action saw demand for Citi prefered securities flowing into common stock (he also said Citi would post a loss in Q1 and Q2). There were reports that Citi its real estate investment unit to Apollo Management. CNBC's Faber attributed some recent strength in Citi and AIG to a possible short squeeze. Other leading US bank stocks are up around 2% on the day.
- Another bunch of retailers is moving on December quarter results this morning. American Eagle Outfitters is up 6% on slightly better than expected revenue and guidance for next quarter. Bon-Ton is up 12% on bullish 2010 guidance. J.Crew and Collective Brands are both down more than 4% despite better than expected results from both firms. Children's Place is unchanged on flat quarterly results and in line guidance. Cult microcap stocks A123 and AeroVironment are volatile in early trading. Lithium auto battery maker AONE's revenue was ahead of expectations, although its quarterly loss was a bit bigger than expected. AVAV was in line and lowered its 2010 guidance, although shares of the combat drone maker are up to +2% or so after opening at -8%. In M&A news, shares of Terra are up 2% or so after the firm said CF's most recent acquisition offer, at $47.40/shr, beats Yara's offer. This comes after months of calling CF's earlier offers inadequate.
- The yen was broadly softer during the New York morning as it finally fought off flows associated with the Japanese fiscal year end, in which exporters repatriate money back home. The US 3-month LIBOR rate continues to remain above the corresponding JPY Libor fixing since the move last week. There remains growing chatter that the BOJ might be leaning towards easing monetary policy further at its policy meeting next week. USD/JPY above the 90.70 level with the 93 level deemed as pivotal medium term. On a weekly note the last coordinated central bank move in this pair back in 1995 was performed under growing similar technical circumstances (move occurred at 95 back then after posting a 79.20 all-time low during that cycle.
***Looking Ahead*** - (US) US Treasury to sell $21B in 10-year Note reopening - (US) Feb Monthly Budget Statement: -$210.0Be v -$42.6B prior - (NZ) New Zealnad Central Bank (RBNZ) Interest Rate decision: Expectations for the Official Cash Rate to remain at 2.50%
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