Thursday, February 18, 2010

Morning Note...

Futures are 50bps lower this morning on mixed earnings news and negative-leaning economic data that indicates potential inflationary pressures.  The producer price index (PPI) spiked higher month-over-month, to +1.4% from a revised 0.4% prior reading.  The expectation was +0.8%.  Year-over-year prices also ticked slightly higher, to +4.6% vs. the +4.4% expectation.  Further, Initial Jobless Claims for the week ending February 13th unexpectedly rose to 473k vs. the prior 442k.  The expectation was 438k.  Continuing claims came in at 4.563M vs. the 4.5M expectation.  In corporate news, Wal-Mart is trading slightly lower on cautious forward sales guidance despite posting an earnings beat.  HPQ also beat but issued upside guidance.  AMAT also issued upside guidance as it reported in-line earnings.  Earnings in the energy sector failed to impress, however, as PDE, NBL, and WMB fell short of earnings expectations.  Note that DELL, BUCY, CBS, FSLR, and INTU – among others – are due to report after the bell today.  DowJones reports that U.S. regulators plan to open a formal investigation into TM’s Corolla defects.  Overseas, the U.K. reported its first January deficit since 1993 and Daimler posted an unexpected Q4 loss and cut its dividend.  Looking ahead, the Philly Fed and Leading Economic Indicators are due at 10am. 

Aside from the economic data, news is generally light… Markets remain in an interesting “no man’s land” range, as the S&P is down 4.4% from a 15-month high on January 19th but up 63% from the March 2009 12-year lows.  For the moment, the broad market appears to be treading water, seeking some sort of guidance after having successfully navigated beyond (we hope…) Euro recession fears (Greece, Spain, and Portugal’s widening deficits), USD strength (largely due to EUR weakness), Chinese monetary tightening (increased reserve requirements), and largely positive U.S. Q4 earnings.  Like the trials of Odysseus, however, danger lurks around every corner, and where we go from here is anybody’s guess…

Given that backdrop, it is worth noting that Dennis Gartman, of The Gartman Letter, continues to pound the table on concerns that the Greek situation will ultimately topple the entire EU structure:
“Simply put, if you are the Reserve Bank of India, or the People’s Bank of China, or the Reserve Bank of Russia and you have been buying EURs over the past five or six years as you tried to diversify your reserves away from the US dollar and now you find the nations whose currency you have been diversifying into is in danger of breaking apart, what would you do? Would you hold on and hope that what you are watching happen right before your eyes stops and that your worst nightmare does not come to fruition? Or would you begin a hasty exit from as much as you can before the door is slammed shut entirely and you are left holding a rather large and very uncomfortable bag? Our guess is that you use any minor bounces into which to sell. You’ve really no choice. You might hope you have a choice. You pray you have a  choice, but you fear that your choices are few and modest… and so you saw the “bounce” in the EUR as an opportunity to get less long of it and you issued the order to your minions on the trading desk to Sell... and sell what you can. Am I clear?

For the gold bugs, an interesting story crossed the tape just before yesterday’s close:

IMF to Start Open-Market Sales of its Gold Reserves ‘Shortly’:  2010-02-17 21:30:00.4 GMT
Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The International Monetary Fund, which set out in September to sell about 13 percent of its gold reserves, said it will “shortly” expand sales to the open market after central banks bought 212 metric tons in private deals. “In accordance with the priority of avoiding disruption of the gold market, the on-market sales will be conducted in a phased manner over time,” the Washington-based IMF said in an e-mailed statement today. The institution has 191.3 tons left to sell after purchases by the central banks of India, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.

WEFA ups AEO.  PIPR ups VMI.  JEFF ups WINN.  BofA/MLCO ups NUE, PCU, RCI.  BERN ups DT.  PIPR cuts ANDE.  UBSS cuts AU.  KBWI cuts TGH.  NTAP cut at Canaccord.  VMW initiated Buy at UBSS.  CTXS initiated Neutral at UBS.  AAP lower on earnings.  ABB higher on earnings.  ADI beats by 5c.  AMAT reports in-line.  APC announces discovery off Mozambique.  BWP announces secondary.  GGC reported better-than-expected.  JACK misses by 2c. NTAP beats by 2c.  NVDA beats by 3c.  LVS lower on earnings.  HRL beats by 14c.  HPQ beats by 4c.  PCLN beats by 31c.  TEX misses on revs and guides lower.  WCG reports lower. 

Asia mixed overnight.  Europe also mixed.  USD +13bps.  Gold -72bps.  Oil -22bps. 

S&P 500 PreMarket (last/% change prior close/volume): 
NVIDIA CORP                 16.81    -5.77%  657564
TEREX CORP                  19.10    -5.3 %  10020
WILLIAMS COS INC        21.50    -3.97%  60932
NOBLE ENERGY INC         74.00    -3.19%  3650
APACHE CORP                100.68  -2.79%  6582
GOODYEAR TIRE            14.25    +2.52% 81690
AUTOZONE INC              162.11  -2.12%  1150
ANADARKO PETROLE      70.20    +2.02% 49990
WINDSTREAM CORP       10.30    -2.0 %  9690

Today’s Trivia:  The first U.S. census was conducted in 1790…what was the tally?

Yesterday's Answer:  Thaasophobia is the fear of boredom or idleness.

Best Quotes:  “Obama-Dalai Lama Meet Shows U.S., China Stay Rivals 2010-02-18 11:09:29.512 GMT
     Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama goes into today’s meeting with the Dalai Lama on notice that it will anger China’s leadership and add tension to an already strained relationship.
     That isn’t likely to fray economic ties secured by $366 billion of mutual trade and $755 billion in Chinese-held U.S.
Treasury bills, according to analysts.
     And the path to a more constructive overall relationship may lie in both sides dropping any pretense at friendship and acknowledging they are competitors as much as partners, said Yan Xuetong, director of the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
     “If China and the U.S. identified each other as rivals I don’t think they would be disappointed with each other,” Yan said. “Both sides pretend to be friends. Actually, they are not.”
     Relations have suffered recently as the U.S. announced a planned $6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan, Google Inc. threatened to exit China on the grounds that user e-mail accounts were being hacked and China taxed American chicken imports after the U.S. imposed tariffs on Chinese tires. The two countries also have differed on steps to halt global warming and nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran.
     China’s Foreign Ministry on Feb. 4 rejected Obama’s call to strengthen the Chinese currency, saying that “accusations and pressure will not help solve the issue.”

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