***Economic Data*** - (IR) Ireland Q4 GDP Q/Q: -2.3% v -0.1% prior; Y/Y: -5.1% v -7.1% prior - (BR) Brazil Mar FGV Consumer Confidence: 112.3 v 111.0 prior - (BR) Brazil Central Bank (COPOM) Monetary Policy Meeting minutes from Mar 17th (left rate unchanged): Reached consensus to raise rates at next policy meeting - (BR) Brazil Feb Unemployment Rate: 7.4% v 7.6%e - (CZ) Czech Central Bank leaves Repo Rate unchanged at 1.00%; as expected - (US) Initial Jobless Claims: 442K v 450Ke; Continuing Claims: 4.648M v 4.562Me - (SA) South Africa Central bank (SARB) unexpectedly cuts its interest rates by 50bps to 6.50% in a unanimous decision - (US) EIA Natural gas Inventories: +11 bcf vs. +5 to +10 bcf estimated range
- Positive weekly claims data, strong corporate news and the Dubai rescue plan all sent equities higher in premarket trading and investors have continued to show a propensity for risk as the morning has progressed. Note that the four-week moving average for the initial weekly claims are at six-month lows. The Greece situation seems more opaque than ever, and traders await some sort of statement outlining a plan for propping up the HellenicRepublic's finances either later today, or perhaps tomorrow. Fed Chairman Bernanke is testifying on the Hill this morning, although there has been little new in his rhetoric so far it remains clear and they are highly unlikely to get pulled off their current course. Banks stocks are subsequently leading the charge in today's equity markets. China's surprising trade deficit remains in the background this morning after several officials there resisted the call to let the Yuan appreciate. A SocGen analyst even went as far as to say a trade deficit could actually spur a devaluation of the Yuan. Note that earlier this morning permabull Roubini opined that there is a 50/50 chance China will be labeled a currency manipulator in the Treasury's semi-annual report on currency due out on April 15th. Front-month oil is up a bit on the day, while natural gas broke below the $4 handle for first time in nearly six months. Bond markets remain a point of concern after yesterday's disappointing 5-year auction results sent Treasury yields towards their highest levels of the year. The US 10-year benchmark yield is finding some resistance at 3.85% ahead of this afternoon's 7-year note auction.
- Mobile handset chip name Qualcomm is up 8% or so after raising its guidance for next quarter by a bit. Qualcomm's CEO said both the licensing and chipset businesses are projecting higher revenues. Competitor Broadcom is up 2% in sympathy. Note that on Tuesday, smartphone maker HTC said its earnings in the coming quarter would exceed expectations on robust demand for phones. Linux software firm Red Hat beat expectations in its Q4 report, on strong growth in subscription revenue. Nevertheless, shares of RHT are down more than 6% in the early going.
- ConAgra was right in line with the Street in its Q3 report and reaffirmed its full year view. Shares of CAG are down 4% in mid morning trade. Best Buy was modestly ahead of expectations and offered very strong initial FY11 guidance. Fast food name CKE Restaurants is up after crushing earnings expectations. Retailer Bakers Footwear is up more than 100% on impressive y/y results and positive comments on the company's prospects for its ongoing turnaround strategy. In addition, Bakers disclosed that lenders have dropped covenants from certain loan agreements. LuLulemon also crushed expectations, sending shares of the athletic wear maker up more than 10%.
- FX trading in the New York morning has been all about interest rates. USD/JPY moved above the 92.50 level and is testing a three-year downtrend resistance line as yield spreads continued to improve the dollar's appeal. Dealers noted that a poor showing in yesterday's 5-year debt sale has heightened anxiety about the 7-year auction later today. Traders were saying that activity in the 20-year bond ultra-short instrument tripled yesterday. The European pairs saw their earlier strength dissipate as the NY morning wore on. Emerging markets central bank rate decisions were center stage. The South African Central Bank surprised the market with a 50bps rate cut in its key rates while the Czech Central bank commented that its next move could be a cut as well after keeping its repo rate steady today. However, Brazil Central bank stated that it has reached a consensus to raise rates at its next policy meeting.
***Looking Ahead*** - Ongoing EU Summit - 11:00 (MX) Mexico Feb Unemployment Rate: % v 5.7%e v 5.9% prior - 12:00 (CO) Colombia Q4 GDP Y/Y: 1.7%e v -0.2% prior - 13:00 (US) US Tsy to sell $32B in 7-year Notes - 13:30 US Tsy Sec Geithner - 14:30 (EU) ECB's Gonzalez-Paramo
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