***Economic data*** - (CA) Canada July Int'l Securities Transactions: C$8.0Be est v C$5.4B prior - (CA) Canada July Wholesale Sales M/M: 0.1%e v -0.3% prior - (US) Sept NAHB Housing Market Index: 14.0e v 13.0 prior
- Volume is low and anticipation is high this morning as investors position themselves ahead of tomorrow's FOMC rate decision. Equity markets are getting bid up on the back of more M&A announcements and technical factors. The S&P500 is testing above its highs from mid June and early August as traders zero in on the market's ability to hold 1130-1133. While most analysts see low odds that the Fed will actually launch some form of QE2 in tomorrow's announcement, the language certainly could hint at the prospect of large scale asset purchases resuming in the final months of the year. Gold is just off all-time highs as traders hedge their bets, with December gold above $1,280. Note that crude is rolling from the Oct to the Nov contract, with the latter trading just short of $76. Treasury prices are little changed from Friday with the US 10-year yield up 1 basis point just below 2.75%.
- In earnings, Discover Financial is up 3% after widely beating consensus earnings estimates and meeting revenue expectations. Note that after declining noticeably over the last several quarters, Discover's loan loss provisions were flat with last quarter's amount. Homebuilder Lennar crushed expectations, thanks in part to higher margins and tax benefits. Shares of LEN are up nearly 7% on the news, while most of the major homebuilders are up more than 3%.
- Merger news continues unabated this morning. After months of unconfirmed talk, L-1 Identity Solutions said it was being acquired by French conglomerate Safran for $12/share in cash, for a total deal worth $1.6B in total. This is around a 24% premium to Friday's close. Safran plans to combine L-1's biometric and enterprise access businesses with its existing US security business, Morpho, for a unit with around â‚¬1.4B in sales. IBM picked up enterprise data analysis firm Netezza for $27/share, in a deal valued at $1.7B. Note that big blue has made numerous acquisitions in the data analysis area over the last several years and has called the business a key growth area. Private equity firm Hellman & Friedman is acquiring internet media company Internet Brands for $13.35/shr in cash, valuing the firm at $640M.
- Currency trading has been relatively subdued in the European and early New York sessions as dealers await tomorrow's FOMC decision as well as debt auctions in Greece, Spain, Ireland and Hungary. These peripheral European nations are scheduled to sell approximately $4B in relatively short-term debt. As US traders were arriving at their desks earlier this morning, a rash of sovereign jitters sent EUR/USD below the 1.3050 level. Fitch warned that Greece is barely holding on to an investment grade rating (recall that Moody's and S&P have already downgraded the nation's debt to junk), although Fitch said it is not planning any ratings moves until the end of October. Sterling was a little lower on somewhat unfavorable August money supply data, with GBP/USD trading as low as 1.5560. Note also that AUD/USD remains near two-year highs above 0.9450 following hawkish comments from the RBA.
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