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Monday April 6, 2015 - 05:20:58 GMT
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| | Email Weekly Market Update: Iran Deals, Payrolls Bomb - Source

The first quarter of 2015 came to an end this week, with Europe and Asia equities up big, while the S&P500 underperformed and the DJIA posted a losing quarter for the first time in two years. There were some green shoots in European and Chinese data. China's March PMI data showed manufacturing returned to expansion after two months of contraction, while Euro Zone manufacturing registered its 21st straight month of growth. But Friday's US payrolls data disappointed, posting the worst gain in over a year, and sending treasury yields and the dollar lower. The Iran talks were extended past the Tuesday deadline, allowing negotiators to arrive at a preliminary agreement that hopes to curtail Tehran's nuclear ambitions. For the week, the DJIA rose 0.3%, the S&P500 gained 0.3% and the Nasdaq slipped 0.1%.Though most Western markets were closed for Good Friday, the US Labor Department remained open on the religious holiday and released a hair raising jobs report. March Nonfarm payrolls came in at a +126K versus the +245K estimate and February was revised down by over 30K, taking the Q1 average monthly gain down to +197K (vs. +324K in Q4). Similar to last year's slow start, the weak numbers were largely blamed on poor weather conditions. In illiquid holiday trading, the dollar sank after the jobs reports. After remaining in a fairly tight range through early Friday, the greenback slid about 1% to one-week lows against other major currencies, rising to above 1.10 against the euro and dropping below 119 yen. The 10-year treasury yield approached a two month low around 1.82% after the payrolls number.The Iran nuclear talks went into double overtime, with the P5+1 negotiators extending talks through Thursday after missing the deadline to reach a preliminary deal on Tuesday. The additional 48 hours of talks yielded a framework agreement that, if fully implemented, will curtail Iran's nuclear activities for up to 25 years. In the draft document, Iran agreed to remove or dilute 95% of its enriched uranium stockpiles, and to confine its centrifuge operations to one location, moves that purportedly would extend Iran's "break out" period for developing a nuclear weapon to more than 12 months. In return, the EU and US agreed to lift all financial and economic sanctions once IAEA inspectors confirm Iran's compliance. The preliminary deal starts the clock on a more detailed final round of talks with a June 30th deadline. Elsewhere in the tumultuous Middle East, the Saudi-led coalition continued bombing Yemen even as Houthi rebels consolidated their grasp on most of the country and began taking the key port city of Aden, the last big holdout of government forces. Saudi ground forces gathered on the Yemen border have not entered the country yet. The weekly inventory reports whipped crude prices around again. API crude inventories registered their third consecutive build, while the DOE report notched its 12th straight build in inventories. However, the gain seen in the DOE report more or less met expectations for the first time in weeks, with no big overshoot, lending some strength to prices on Wednesday. WTI managed to stay in the high $40's and Brent in the mid-$50's all week. Crude didn't lose much ground even as a nuclear deal started to shape up, as the prospects of Iranian oil flooding the market were tempered by comments from Secretary of State Kerry that it may take Tehran as much as a year reach compliance with the agreement.The launch of ECB QE and euro weakness helped boost European equities in Q1: the DAX index gained 22% in the quarter, its best performance since the second quarter of 2003, while the EuroSTOXX gained 16%. EUR/USD was down 11%, while the ICE dollar index gained 9% in the first quarter, its best performance since 2008, and pushed out to a 12-year high. Asian indices did very well too: the Shanghai Composite gained 16% while the Nikkei advanced more than 10%. The S&P 500 eked out a slight quarterly gain, its ninth in a row, while the DJIA turned negative for the quarter after taking a 200-point hit on the final day of the month. Tech stocks and small caps outperformed, with the Nasdaq up 3.5% in the quarter and the Russell 2000 up 4%. The 10-year UST yield fell nearly 24 basis points, from 2.173% to 1.937%.Yet another round of funding talks between Greece and its European partners ended inconclusively on Tuesday. Greece submitted a list of proposed reforms, including an extra 4.7-6.1B in revenues and more concessions, but EU officials said they did not expect a deal before the next scheduled meeting of euro zone finance ministers, in Riga on April 24th. There were concerns that Greece might defer payment of a 450M IMF loan that is due on April 9th, which would constitute a big breach of Greece's commitments, but EU officials said the country would be able to make the payments. The ECB released minutes from last month's meeting, although there was little earthshaking in the document. The notes suggest policymakers still worry that risks to the economic outlook remain to the downside, with national representatives somewhat skeptical of the ECB's raised growth forecasts for 2016 and 2017. Central bank representatives cited worries about Greece and wider geopolitical problems in the Middle East and Ukraine as possible problems for the outlook.Fiat Chrysler recorded its 60th straight month of US sales gains in March while Ford, Nissan and General Motors saw sales contract. Toyota's sales gained a strong 4.9% y/y in the month, while GM was down 2%, Nissan dropped 2.7% and Ford fell 3.4%. Given the bad weather, analysts had projected that overall sales volume would fall for the first time in more than a year.In M&A news, UnitedHeath struck a deal to acquire pharmacy benefit manager Catamaran Corporation for $61.50/share in cash, for a total deal valued at $12.8 billion. Teva entered a deal to acquire orphan drug developer Auspex for $101/share in cash, valuing the firm around $3.2 billion. Simon Property Group ended its hostile bid for Macerich after the deadline passed on its best and final offer of $95.50/share. Shares of Macerich fell hard, but recovered some ground on Thursday after reports emerged that activist investor Jonathan Litt was upset with Macerich's tactics in dealing with the offer and that in response he has nominated four director candidates. Shares of Lorillard and Reynolds were volatile on reports that the FTC was discussing possible remedies to be required for the proposed merger of the two tobacco firms to close. Recall the two entered a stock-and-cash deal valued around $27 billion last July.The Shanghai Composite rose for the 4th consecutive week, gaining another 4% and reaching a new 7-year high above 3,850. Property sector names continued their strong performance early in the week after the PBoC decision to lower down-payments on 2nd mortgages from 60% to 40% and to do away with the "business tax" on transactions of homes purchased for over 2 years. Chinese markets were also helped by PBoC governor Zhou commenting that the central bank is increasingly focused on deflation, raising expectations for a steady increase in monetary easing in the pipeline. March PMIs released later in the week were mixed. The official manufacturing PMI figure returned to expansion after two months of contraction, but the rebound was largely attributed to seasonal post-holiday demand. The Non-manufacturing PMI slipped to 53.7 from 53.9. Both reports expressed concern over the slowdown in demand for labor, potentially raising a political issue for leadership in Beijing down the line.The Nikkei225 was little changed for the week, consolidating an otherwise impressive month of March above the 19,000 level - although a powerful reversal is to be expected after Friday's Yen rally following the lackluster US jobs report. Japan's quarterly Tankan survey offered few signs of building momentum. The flat assessment of large manufacturing was somewhat worrisome, considering that it is the sector of the economy that prompted the most optimism from the BOJ in recent months, while the CapEx portion of the report showed its first decline in 2 years. The outlook for inflation among companies as surveyed by the BOJ also fell short of the official 2% inflation target several years forward. - Source


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