***Economic Data*** - (EU) ECB maintained the Main Refi Rate at 1.00%; As Expected - (US) Q2 Final Nonfarm Productivity: -1.8% v -1.9%e; Unit Labor Costs: 1.1% v 1.2%e - (US) Initial Jobless Claims: 472K v 475K; Continuing Claims: 4.456M v 4.440Me - (SI) Singapore Aug Purchasing Managers Index: 49.4 v 51.3e; Electronics Sector Index: 50.6 v 52.8e - (US) July Factory Orders: 0.1% v 0.2%e - (US) July Pending Home Sales M/M: +5.2% v -1.0%e; Y/Y: -20.1% v -20.3% prior - 10:30 (US) Weekly EIA Natural Gas Inventories: +54 bcf vs. +50 TO +55 bcf estimated range
- More less bad US data is sustaining the optimistic tone in global markets this morning. The NASDAQ is leading the way in equities as M&A activity remains robust. Same-store sales were largely positive. The weekly claims data were essentially flat with last week's reading, which seems to count as a positive factor these days, while the July pending homes sales numbers were much better than expected, contrasting sharply with the July new and existing home sales data points out last week. Note that the four-week moving average in claims may have improved for the first time in five weeks, but remains stubbornly high (only a hair below last week's MA, which was the highest level since last December). Fed Chairman Bernanke is testifying before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Committee this morning, discussing the events of Fall 2008. Bernanke noted that the Fed is well on the way to designing a test for "too big to fail" institutions. Note that December gold remains elevated, just below the two-week highs seen in yesterday's session at $1,253.
- Oil service names have led a bit a retreat it late NY morning trade after reports of another Gulf of Mexico rig explosion surfaced. The Vermillion 380 rig is owned by Mariner Energy which has seen sharp declines on the initial reports along with Apache and other members of the OSX.
- Dell and HP traded a final salvo in their pursuit of 3Par. Dell had until yesterday to top HP's latest raise in its offer for 3Par, and as of the close of business on Wednesday no new offer had been announced. Then this morning, 3Par stated that Dell had in fact raised its offer to $32/shr, which HP subsequently beat with a $33/shr offer. There have been reports that Dell has declined to raise its bid again. After some confusion yesterday, Burger King said that it had an offer from private equity firm 3G Capital (yesterday various media sources erroneously cited "3i Group" as interested in the fast food company). 3G will acquire the firm for $24/shr, in a deal valued at $4B. Avis Budget sweetened its bid for Dollar Thirfty this morning, raising it to $40.75/shr from $39.25/shr prior. Note that earlier in August DTG's board said Avis's proposal had "problematic" issues although it saw it as superior to Hertz's offer.
- August retail sales data was surprisingly strong, with most major retailers showing solid growth in sales over last August and beating consensus estimates. But much like recent month, better retail comps continue to come from steep, aggressive discounting and very favorable comparisons to last August, when sales were extraordinarily weak. Limited Brands is a real standout in the apparel sector, racking up double-digit comps for a second month in a row, while former sales powerhouse Aeropostale disappointed again, after a very weak July SSS reading. Outside of apparel, Costco is a real standout, with much better than expected comps (both its competitors, BJs and Target, missed expectations). Retail ETF RTH is up an impressive 4% in early trading this morning.
- The ECB maintained interest rates and stated that it would continue with its full allotment refi operations through the end of 2010, as expected. ECB Staff projections raised the bank's 2010 and 2011 GDP growth forecast and slightly tweaked its inflation expectations 0.1% higher, although they remain well within the ECB's comfort range. EUR/USD has been holding within its recent 24-hour range, with 1.2850 again providing resistance. The market seems content to wait until the US non-farm payroll tomorrow before pushing any big moves in the pair. USD/JPY moved off the 84.00 level following the better US pending home sales data. The Japanese press is reporting that the BoJ might consider further easing steps should the highly unfavorable JPY trend continue. Meanwhile, commentators said intervention by the SNB was likely over, although further action could not be totally ruled out.
***Looking Ahead*** - (US) Treasury to sell 10-Year TIPS Reopening - (CH) China Aug Non-manufacturing PMI: No est v 60.1 prior
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