Friday, January 8, 2010

Morning Note...

Futures -40bps this morning as the much-anticipated Official December Change in Nonfarm Payrolls was announced to be a surprise -85k vs. the 0k expectation and the +30-40k “whispers.”  The Unemployment Rate remains unchanged at 10%.  On the positive side, the November release was revised upward to +4k vs. the -11k release, which marks the first positive tick in two years.  (Note than European unemployment is now ticking at 10% as well, despite huge social programs aimed at stemming job loss.)  Futures had been hovering around unchanged ahead of the announcement and took a quick 50bp dip lower, and have since stabilized.  Perhaps the only reason we’re not seeing a larger sell off is the idea that weak jobs data ensures that the near-zero interest rate environment is not under threat, as many market pundits have begun to speculate.  (Note that bond prices jumped higher on the jobs release, driving yields lower – thus the markets are biased toward low rates… and they are even yapping about “do we need more stimulus?” on tv…)  In corporate news, UPS to cut 1800 jobs but guides Q4 higher.  APOL is trading lower on earnings and a Dept. of Education citation of “six findings and one concern” regarding the companies financial aid policies.  Wholesale Inventories data due at 10am.  Obama set to comment on the economy at 2:40pm today.  According to NPR, gasoline prices are up over 20% on average in just over one month – something that bears watching as it relates to consumer discretionary spending… Looking ahead, earnings season kicks off next week with traditional “first-announcer” AA on Monday.  Note than investors are looking for more top line improvement (i.e. growth), given that recent earnings have been driven by cost-cutting and cost-cutting alone…

Interesting “warning” in yesterday’s joint advisory from the Fed, FDIC, NCUA, OCC, OTS, and FFIEC:  “The financial regulators are issuing this advisory to remind institutions of supervisory expectations regarding sound practices for managing interest rate risk (IRR). In the current environment of historically low short-term interest rates, it is important for institutions to have robust processes for measuring and, where necessary, mitigating their exposure to potential increases in interest rates.”   BTIG’s Mike O’Rourke wryly notes, “The regulators provided guidance noting that stress testing parallel shifts in the yield curve of +-200 basis points was not sufficient, and that institutions should test +-300-400 basis points across different tenors of the yield curve to identify interest rate risk.  Although Chairman Bernanke spent the weekend denying the Fed’s responsibility in the housing bubble, this is the second step of not repeating those mistakes that the Fed believes it did not make.”

DAN initiated Buy at GSCO.  JPHQ ups ADS, URS.  CITI ups AGU.  APOL trading lower on earnings.  AZZ misses by 6c.  GSCO cuts BAS, HGSI, STX, ATO, CAM, IPXL, M, MYL, TEN, ZMH.  UBSS ups BCS, DB.  BKC to replace MPS in S&P400.  CMG upped at MSCO.  GSCO ups HAL, NBR, VE.  BARD ups HMA, MEI.  GSCO ups JCP.  LWSN lower on earnings.  NUHC higher on earnings.  Canaccord ups SCHN.  OPCO ups ESV.  BCAP cuts ARO, TJX.  DBAB cuts FCN, MWV.  JPHQ cuts ACV, CL, KO.  OPCO cuts ARO, EXC, ROST, TJX.  BCAP ups LTD.  BCAP cuts GPN. 

Europe slightly lower.  Asia higher overnight.  USD -50bps.  Gold +35bps.  Oil -60bps. 

Brightpoint News: 

Brightpoint PreMarket (yest close/premkt/% change/volume):

S&P 500 PreMarket (last/% change prior close/volume): 
APOLLO GROUP-A           59.82    -6.44%  179317
UNITED PARCEL-B          59.88    +4.3 %  305177
FREDDIE MAC                1.45      -3.33%  598312
EXPEDIA INC                  23.67    -3.27%  200
PAYCHEX INC                 30.66    -2.79%  3900
VORNADO RLTY TST      68.33    -2.77%  800
GENWORTH FINANCI      13.03    -2.76%  7314
TJX COS INC                  38.00    -2.71%  15290
WEATHERFORD INTL      19.17    -2.54%  9403
MACY'S INC                   17.05    -2.52%  16975

Today’s Trivia:  Where and when was 9-1-1 first started?  (For sports fans, this question is more timely than you might think at first pass…)

Yesterday's Answer:  The Blue Nile and the White Nile converge near Khartoum, Sudan

Best Quotes: “Question: What has become of the American nation? Conceived with the vision of liberty and justice for all, we have descended in the clutches of corporate and other special interests to a second world state defined by K Street instead of Independence Square. Our government doesn’t work anymore, or perhaps more accurately, when it does, it works for special interests and not the American people. Washington consistently stoops to legislate 10,000-page perversions of healthcare, regulatory reform, defense, and budgetary mandates overflowing with earmarks that serve a monied minority as opposed to an all-too-silent majority. You don’t have to be Don Quixote to believe that legislators – and Presidents – often do not work for the benefit of their constituents: A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reported that over 65% of Americans trust their government to do the right thing “only some of the time” and a stunning 19% said “never.” What most politicians apparently are working for is to perpetuate their power – first via district gerrymandering, and then second by around-the-clock campaigning financed by special interest groups. If, by chance, they’re ever voted out of office, they have a home just down the street – at K Street – with six-figure incomes as a starting wage.

What amazes me most of all is that politicians can be bought so cheaply. Public records show that combined labor, insurance, big pharma and related corporate interests spent just under $500 million last year on healthcare lobbying (not much of which went to politicians) for what is likely to be a $50-100 billion annual return. The fact is that American citizens have never been as divorced from their representatives – and if that description fits the Democratic Congress now in control – then it applies to Republicans as well – past and present. So you watch Fox, or is it MSNBC? O’Reilly or Olbermann? It doesn’t matter. You’re just being conned into rooting for a team that basically runs the same plays called by lookalike coaches on different sidelines. A “ballot box” pox on all their houses – Senators, Representatives and Presidents alike. There has been no change, there will be no change, until we the American people decide to publicly finance all national and local elections and ban the writing of even a $1 check for our favorite candidates. Undemocratic? Hardly. Get on the internet, use Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter to campaign for your choice. That’s the new democracy. When special interests, even singular citizens write a check, it represents a perversion of democracy not the exercise of the First Amendment. Any chance that any of this will happen? Not one ghost of a chance. Forward Don Quixote, the windmills are in sight.

Distressed as I am about the state of American democracy, a rational money manager cannot afford to get mad or “just get even” when it comes to investing clients’ money. Still, like pilots politely advertise at the end of most flights, “We know you have a choice of airlines and we thank you for flying ‘United’.” Global investment managers likewise have a choice of sovereign credits and risk assets where stable inflation and fiscal conservatism are available. If 2008 was the year of financial crisis and 2009 the year of healing via monetary and fiscal stimulus packages, then 2010 appears likely to be the year of “exit strategies,” during which investors should consider economic fundamentals and asset markets that will soon be priced in a world less dominated by the government sector. If, in 2009, PIMCO recommended shaking hands with the government, we now ponder “which” government, and caution that the days of carefree check writing leading to debt issuance without limit or interest rate consequences may be numbered for all countries.” 

--Bill Gross, PIMCO

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