***Economic data*** - (BR) Brazil Sept FGV Construction Costs M/M: 0.2% v 0.1%e - (HU) Hungary Central Bank maintained the Base Rate unchanged at 5.25% - (US) Aug Chicago Fed Nat Activity Index: -0.53 v 0.00 prior - (MX) Mexico July Global Economic Indicator: 5.1% v 6.8% prior - (US) Sept Dallas Fed Manufacturing Activity: -17.7% v -13.5% prior
- Trading is choppy and subdued this morning, with the leading US equity indices sliding along in negative territory. Note that the two regional Fed manufacturing surveys released this morning declined further from prior levels and missed expectations. Gold remains near all-time highs just below the key $1,300 level, while crude is a off the one-week highs at $77 seen earlier in the session. Two interesting comments were heard from key BRIC officials this morning. Overnight, China Vice Commerce Min Chan said China's September trade surplus in likely to fall below that of August; the US House is expected to vote on a bill designed to punish China for its currency policies on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Brazil Finance Minister Mantega warned that the world is engaged in an international currency war and blamed wealthy countries for artificially devaluing their currencies. Treasury yields are lower ahead of this week's coupon auctions that kick off this afternoon with $36B in 2-year notes. The 2-year yield is below 0.43% testing another all time low while the benchmark 10-year offers 2.54%.
- Two large deals and a raft of small acquisitions are in headlines this morning. Southwest Airlines landed AirTran for $1.4B in cash and stock, valuing the shares at a premium of 69% over Friday's closing price. Each share of AirTran stock will be exchanged for $3.75 in cash and 0.321 shares of Southwest stock. Including the existing AirTran debt and aircraft operating leases, the transaction value is approximately $3.4B. European consumer products giant Unilever will buy Alberto Culver for $3.7B in cash, implying a deal worth around $37.46/shr, or about a 19% premium to Friday's close. The acquisition makes Unilever the world's leading company in hair conditioning, the second largest in shampoo and the third largest in styling. Unilever sees the deal as immediately accretive. Note also that microcap firm Harvest Natural is up nearly 20% after retaining financial advisor to explore strategic alternatives. In other news, railcar manufacturer Greenbrier is up 12% after winning a huge order and offered very strong Q4 EPS guidance. LDK Solar is up 10% after entering a new financing agreement with China Development Bank.
- FX markets have been quiet during New York trading, with major crosses by and large sustaining earlier levels. Note that Moody's downgrade of Anglo Irish bank's unsecured senior bonds has had little impact on EUR/USD, with the pair pivoting around the 1.3460 level, spiking as high as 1.3500. Irish Finance Minister Lenihan continues to make efforts to take back his words last week, to the effect that there would be "pain ahead" for Anglo Irish Bank bondholders. This morning Lenihan told the BBC that Ireland will honor its obligations and Irish banks will honor their obligations. USD/JPY continues to test post-intervention lows with no sign of further moves out of the Japanese Ministry of Finance or the BoJ, but dealer speculation there has been covert support holding the pair above 84.
***Looking Ahead*** - (IS) Israel Central Bank Interest Rate Decision: Expected to maintain the Base Rate unchanged at 1.75%
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