Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stocks Slightly Lower into Final Hour on Rising Energy Prices, Profit-Taking, Eurozone Debt Angst, Japan Concerns

Broad Market Tone:

  • Advance/Decline Line: Slightly Higher
  • Sector Performance: Mixed
  • Volume: Below Average
  • Market Leading Stocks: Performing In Line
Equity Investor Angst:
  • VIX 17.45 -1.47%
  • ISE Sentiment Index 151.0 +58.95%
  • Total Put/Call .79 +6.76%
  • NYSE Arms 1.42 +95.41%
Credit Investor Angst:
  • North American Investment Grade CDS Index 95.50 -.44%
  • European Financial Sector CDS Index 96.08 -2.18%
  • Western Europe Sovereign Debt CDS Index 169.25 bps +.99%
  • Emerging Market CDS Index 205.23 -.61%
  • 2-Year Swap Spread 17.0 unch.
  • TED Spread 22.0 +1 bp
Economic Gauges:
  • 3-Month T-Bill Yield .09% unch.
  • Yield Curve 267.0 +2 bps
  • China Import Iron Ore Spot $172.40/Metric Tonne +1.11%
  • Citi US Economic Surprise Index +42.90 -1.5 points
  • 10-Year TIPS Spread 2.49% +4 bps
Overseas Futures:
  • Nikkei Futures: Indicating -20 open in Japan
  • DAX Futures: Indicating +41 open in Germany
  • Slightly Higher: On gains in my Biotech and Medical longs
  • Disclosed Trades: None
  • Market Exposure: 100% Net Long
BOTTOM LINE: Today's overall market action is mildly bullish as the S&P 500 consolidates recent gains, despite rising Mideast unrest, rising energy prices, emerging market inflation fears, eurozone debt angst and Japan concerns. On the positive side, Road & Rail, REIT, Biotech, Networking, Paper, Ag and Defense shares are especially strong, rising .75%+. The Transportation Index is making a new multi-year high today. (IYR) has traded well throughout the day again. Small-caps are also outperforming again. Lumber is rising +1.34% and Copper is gaining +.47%. The Saudi sovereign cds is falling -2.24% to 119.55 bps and the US sovereign cds is declining -1.49% to 42.19 bps. The 10-year yield is stable, rising +2 bps to 3.45%. On the negative side, Airline and Semi shares are under mild pressure, falling more than .75%. (XLF) has undperformed throughout the day. Oil is rising +2.35% and the UBS-Bloomberg Spot Ag Index is gaining +2.17%. The US price for a gallon of gas is up +.02 today to $3.61/gallon. It is up .49/gallon in 44 days. The Spain sovereign cds is jumping +6.79% to 233.50 bps, the Japan sovereign cds is rising +2.62% to 99.63 bps and the Ireland sovereign cds is climbing +2.86% to 640.17 bps. Despite Goldman Sachs moving Chinese stocks to Overweight last night, the Shanghai Composite fell for the third day in a row, declining -.94%, and finished near session lows. Gains in european equities and tomorrow's jobs report could spur further stock gains tomorrow. I expect US stocks to trade mixed-to-higher into the close from current levels on short-covering, more economic optimism, window-dressing and buyout speculation.

Today's Headlines

  • U.S. Jobless Claims Fall, Consumer Confidence Improves. Fewer Americans filed claims for jobless benefits last week and consumer confidence stabilized, a sign the world’s largest economy is weathering the jump in commodity prices heading into the second quarter. The number of applications for unemployment insurance payments fell by 6,000 to 388,000 in the week ended March 26, a one-month low, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to minus 46.9 last week from a seven-month low of minus 48.9. Business activity expanded in March at close to the fastest pace in two decades, a report from members of a Chicago purchasing managers group also showed, indicating strengthening sales in the U.S. and overseas are helping manufacturers like United Technologies Corp. (UTX) The group’s employment measure climbed to the highest level since 1983, and its index of order backlogs increased to a 37- year high. A report tomorrow is projected to show the February pickup in payrolls was sustained this month.
  • Sentiment Near August Low Means Stock Gains: Technical Analysis. The rebound in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index isn’t over because when pessimism about the market was this high in August, equities rose in five of the next six months, said Bay Crest Partners LLC. The benchmark index for U.S. equities slipped as low as 1,249.05 on March 16 amid concern rising energy costs will hurt global economic growth and Japan’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake may tip the world’s third-biggest economy into recession. The next day, the weekly survey from the American Association of Individual Investors showed the ratio of bulls to bears fell to 0.71, the lowest since Aug. 26, Bloomberg data shows. Christian Bendixen, director of technical research at Bay Crest, said the increase in pessimism may reverse and help the S&P 500 climb to 1,425, or 7.3 percent above yesterday’s close of 1,328.26. The bearish sentiment on Aug. 26 coincided with a bottom for the S&P 500. The benchmark rose in five out of the following six months, rallying 28 percent to a 32-month high on Feb. 18. Since its 2011 low on March 16, the S&P 500 has climbed 6.3 percent.
  • Oil Advances, Heads for Third Quarterly Increase, on Libyan Supply Concern. Oil rose the most in two weeks in New York and was poised for its third quarterly gain amid concern that the Libyan conflict will prolong production cuts. Prices advanced as much as 2.4 percent after troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi retook control of the oil port of Ras Lanuf and were shelling Brega, another energy hub to the east. Futures traded as high as $106.77 a barrel, poised to test a 30-month high of $106.95 reached in intraday trading March 7. “Events in the Middle East, particularly the fighting that continues to be going on in Libya, are providing support for the market,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. “We’re ranging just below our two-and-a-half-year highs, and the market seems to be searching for a catalyst to continue the rally.” Crude for May delivery climbed $2.09, or 2 percent, to $106.36 a barrel at 12:29 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures have increased 16 percent from January through March, the strongest first-quarter gain since 2005. Brent oil for May settlement on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange rose $2.14, or 1.9 percent, to $117.27 a barrel. Prices are up 24 percent this quarter.
  • Corn, Soybeans Surge as Supplies Ebb, Heightening Food-Inflation Concerns. Corn rose the most allowed by the Chicago Board of Trade as concerns mounted that food-price inflation will accelerate after the latest U.S. government forecasts on supplies and acreage. Soybeans and wheat also jumped. U.S. corn stockpiles at the beginning of March dropped to 6.52 billion bushels, the lowest for the date since 2007, the Department of Agriculture said today. Last month, the prices of corn, soybean, wheat and rice climbed to the highest since 2008, when surging food costs spurred riots from Haiti to Egypt. Today, cattle rose to a record for a second straight day, and cotton jumped. “What’s unique about 2011, unlike 2008, is that corn and soybeans are equally tight, cotton is tight and wheat isn’t comfortable either,” said Hussein Allidina, the head of commodity research at Morgan Stanley in New York. “The takeaway is that prices are not high enough to ration demand.”
  • World's Biggest Shipping Lines Are Still Taking Cargoes to Tokyo Bay Ports. The world’s biggest oil-tanker firms, dry bulk carriers and container lines are servicing Japanese ports, judging there to be no threat to vessels or crew from radiation leaking from a crippled nuclear plant.
  • Facebook is Tool for Trial Lawyers Scouring Juror Profiles to Unearth Bias. Facebook, Twitter Inc. and other services have become a major resource for both prosecutors and defense attorneys, letting them glean more insight than they can get from jury questionnaires, said Joseph Rice, chief executive officer of Jury Research Institute in Alamo, California. “Social media has given us an incredible tool, because it’s something jurors voluntarily engage in, and they post information about their activities or affiliations or hobbies,” Rice said. That reveals “their life experience or attitude that may have an impact on how they view the facts of the case.”
  • Spanish Cajas Block Four-Way Merger in Obstacle to Bank Industry Overhaul. Three Spanish savings banks rejected a plan to merge into the nation’s third-largest caja, forcing Caja de Ahorros del Mediterraneo (CAM) to seek a state bailout.
  • Portugal Misses 2010 Deficit Target, Raising Chances of European Bailout. Portugal reported a budget deficit of 8.6 percent of gross domestic product last year, missing a government target of 7.3 percent and causing a jump in borrowing costs that increases the risk of a bailout. The revisions won’t affect the government’s goal for a 4.6 percent shortfall in 2011, the national statistics agency said today in an e-mailed statement. The agency also revised the 2009 budget gap to 10 percent from 9.3 percent, after European Union accounting changes prompted Portugal to add more than 2 billion euros ($2.8 billion) to the 2010 deficit. The yields on the country’s two, five and 10-year bonds rose to euro-era records.
  • Fed Releases Discount-Window Loan Records Under Order. The Federal Reserve released thousands of pages of secret loan documents under court order, almost three years after Bloomberg LP first requested details of the central bank’s unprecedented support to banks during the financial crisis. The records reveal for the first time the names of financial institutions that borrowed directly from the central bank through the so-called discount window. The Fed provided the documents after the U.S. Supreme Court this month rejected a banking industry group’s attempt to shield them from public view. “This is an enormous breakthrough in the public interest,” said Walker Todd, a former Cleveland Fed attorney who has written research on the Fed lending facility.
  • U.S. Government Pensions Gain 5.5% as Stock Market Rises. U.S. state and local government pension-fund assets rose in value by 5.5 percent in the last three months of 2010 as stock market gains helped recoup losses incurred since the financial crisis. The assets of the hundred largest government employee retirement systems grew by $138 billion to $2.64 trillion by the end of 2010 from three months earlier, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today.
  • Buffett Misses Chance to Show Moral Courage: Alice Schroeder. What were they thinking? How could Warren Buffett excuse David Sokol’s trading in stock while Sokol was pitching the company to Lubrizol Corp. (LZ)Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A) as an acquisition candidate? Buffett and Sokol both say that nothing “unlawful” was going on (Sokol even went so far as to tell CNBC he did nothing inappropriate). Their explanation is that, because a deal with Lubrizol hadn’t actually been struck and wasn’t likely when Sokol bought his shares, it was all right for Sokol to profit from his knowledge of a possible deal. On Wall Street, we call this kind of trading front-running, and everybody knows that it is wrong.

Wall Street Journal:
  • Saudi's New Super Light Crude Blend to Hit Market in April - Source. The newly produced blend of super light crude by Saudi Arabia won't become available until early April, despite speculation that the oil has already been purchased in the Mediterranean, someone familiar with the matter told Dow Jones Newswires on Thursday.
  • Handicapping the Economic Recovery by Alan S. Blinder. Japan, Europe, oil and the deficit all pose problems. But chances are growth will continue.
  • Record Volume of Junk Bonds Sold This Quarter, At $113.8B - Dealogic. Companies sold almost $115 billion of speculative-grade debt globally this quarter, making it the busiest three-month stretch for corporate issuers since 1995, according to data provider Dealogic.
  • Few Banks Seek Funds for Small Businesses. The Obama administration announced with much fanfare last fall that it would set aside $30 billion for a program to revive small-business lending. But only 7% of banks have participated in it. About 526 community banks have requested $7.6 billion in funds from the program, which is available to the nation's nearly 7,700 lenders that have less than $10 billion in assets. That is far short of the amount allocated by the Treasury Department. The program, the centerpiece of September's Small Business Jobs Act, included enticements such as low interest rates to encourage banks to get money into the hands of small-business owners. But relatively few community banks, which had until March 31 to apply for the program, signed up. Earlier this week, the Treasury Department extended Thursday's deadline to May 16. The extra time mightn't be enough to win the banks over. Many say they have plenty of capital but little demand from small businesses. Banks have also long complained that increased scrutiny from regulators has made it difficult to underwrite risky small-business loans. A government program, especially one with strings attached, isn't the solution, they say.
  • Irish Banks Need $33.9 Billion. Four of Ireland's most important banks could need up to a total of €24 billion ($33.9 billion) in new capital to stay viable, the Irish Central Bank said Thursday.
Business Insider:
  • Apple(AAPL) and Partners to Meet iPad 2 Demand Amid Earthquake Effects. A series of new reports indicate that Apple and its suppliers are working hard to ensure a steady flow of iPad 2 units to the market amid strong demand and continuing effects from the Japanese earthquake earlier this month. According to DigiTimes, Apple has agreed to absorb additional part costs brought about by the earthquake in exchange for assurances that suppliers will continue providing "smooth shipments" of the needed components.
Kansas City Star:
  • Kansas City Fed Regional Manufacturing Activity Increases, Employment Inches Higher, Survey Says. Manufacturing activity in the Federal Reserve's Tenth District "accelerated rapidly" in March, hitting a record high for the second straight month, according to a survey released this morning. The survey, which covers a seven-state area including Kansas and western Missouri, also noted that the manufacturing employment index edged higher this month from February to a new record. The report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City saw growth in most year-over-year factory indexes, such as order backlog and shipments.
The Daily Beast:
  • Al Qaeda's Libya Pilgrimage. As debate rages in Washington over whether to arm anti-Gaddafi rebels, an exclusive report by The Daily Beast indicates al Qaeda forces are gearing up to join the rebels and seize power in Libya.
Rasmussen Reports:
USA Today:
Sky News:
Kyodo News:
  • Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant must be decommissioned, citing Kazuo Shii, head of the nation's Communist Party.

Bear Radar

Style Underperformer:

  • Large-Cap Value (-.07%)
Sector Underperformers:
  • 1) Airlines -.92% 2) Semis -.85% 3) Gaming -.75%
Stocks Falling on Unusual Volume:
Stocks With Unusual Put Option Activity:
  • 1) NBR 2) TSLA 3) EWW 4) NBG 5) AONE
Stocks With Most Negative News Mentions:
  • 1) RSH 2) QGEN 3) GE 4) LZ 5) GM

Bull Radar

Style Outperformer:

  • Large-Cap Growth (+.06%)
Sector Outperformers:
  • 1) Coal +1.43% 2) Agriculture +1.21% 3) Road & Rail +.90%
Stocks Rising on Unusual Volume:
Stocks With Unusual Call Option Activity:
  • 1) TROW 2) ASML 3) BBBY 4) ITW 5) M
Stocks With Most Positive News Mentions:
  • 1) NETL 2) ALK 3) CAVM 4) VRTX 5) XRAY

Thursday Watch

Evening Headlines

  • Libyan Forces Gain on Rebels as Qaddafi's Foreign Minister Defects to U.K. Troops loyal to Muammar Qaddafi forced Libyan rebels to retreat as the U.S. and U.K. said they would consider arming opposition forces and Libya’s foreign minister resigned and flew to London. Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa quit Qaddafi’s government, according to a statement from the U.K. foreign office. “He traveled here under his own free will. He has told us that he is resigning his post,” the statement said. The rebels, after advancing toward Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, withdrew in the face of artillery and rocket attacks as pro-Qaddafi forces retook control of the oil port of Ras Lanuf. The BBC and New York Times, citing reporters near the Libyan front line, said yesterday rebels were streaming away from Brega and heading northeast, back toward Ajdabiya. U.S. President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron have said they wouldn’t rule out sending arms to opposition forces. The U.S. is looking “very closely” at whether to give more assistance to opposition groups in Libya, though no decision has been made, White House press secretary Jay Carney said yesterday at a briefing.
  • Oil Heads for Third Quarterly Gain as Libya Disruptions Counter U.S. Glut. Oil rose, heading for a third quarterly gain in New York, as concern the Libyan conflict will prolong production cuts countered signs of rising supplies in the U.S., the world’s largest crude consumer. Prices advanced as much as 0.5 percent today after troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi forced rebels to retreat as the U.S. and U.K. said they would consider arming opposition forces. Crude stockpiles climbed to a record last week at the delivery point for U.S. futures and fuel consumption fell, according to an Energy Department report yesterday. “Investors are torn between the inventory levels in the U.S. and event risk in the Middle East,” said Jonathan Barratt, managing director of Commodity Broking Services Pty in Sydney. “Inventory levels are continuing to build and demand continues to fall, which suggest to me that the market has ample supply.” Crude for May delivery advanced as much as 50 cents to $104.77 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was at $104.67 at 10:55 a.m. Singapore time. Yesterday, the contract fell 52 cents to settle at $104.27. Futures have increased 15 percent between January and March, the strongest first quarter since 2005.
  • Japan Weighs Entombing Nuclear Plant on Reaction Risk. Japan is considering pouring concrete into its crippled Fukushima atomic plant as the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency warned that a potential uncontrolled chain reaction could cause further radiation leaks.
  • Sokol Resigns From Berkshire(BRK/A) After Investing in Takeover Target. David Sokol, once a candidate to succeed Warren Buffett as the head of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), resigned after helping to negotiate the acquisition of a company whose shares he had purchased. Sokol, 54, bought about 96,000 Lubrizol Corp. (LZ) shares before recommending the company as a takeover target, Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman and chief executive officer, said today in a statement. Buffett said he didn’t ask for the resignation and that Sokol’s stock purchases were legal. “What Sokol did was, the only word that comes to mind, shabby, and I am shocked he did it,” Jeff Matthews, author of “Pilgrimage to Warren Buffett’s Omaha” and founder of hedge fund Ram Partners LP, said in an e-mail. “Buffett says it wasn’t illegal, but it is not how you do deals, and especially not how you do them at Berkshire.” Sokol bought 96,060 Lubrizol shares on Jan. 5, 6 and 7, less than two weeks before recommending the company as a Berkshire acquisition, Buffett said today. In their first discussion about Lubrizol, Sokol mentioned he was a shareholder, Buffett said in the statement. “It was a passing remark and I did not ask him about the date of his purchase or the extent of his holdings,” Buffett said.
  • Pimco's Gross Says the U.S. 'Out-Greeking the Greeks' on Fiscal Policies. Bill Gross, who runs the world’s biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co., said Treasuries “have little value” because of the growing U.S. debt burden. The amounts the U.S. owes on its bonds, combined with obligations for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid total about $75 trillion, Gross said in his monthly investment outlook, published on the Pimco website. The U.S. will experience inflation, currency devaluation and low-to-negative interest rates relative to consumer-price gains if it doesn’t reform its entitlement programs, Gross said in the report. Gross “has been selling Treasuries because they have little value within the context of a $75 trillion total debt burden,” he said. “This country appears to have an off- balance-sheet, unrecorded debt burden of close to 500 percent of GDP. We are out-Greeking the Greeks.”
  • Fed's Stimulus Exit May Not Wait for Global Turmoil to Pass, Bullard Says. The Federal Reserve may need to begin an exit from record levels of monetary accommodation even amid global uncertainties in Japan and the Middle East, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said. “The process of normalizing policy, even once it begins, will still leave unprecedented policy accommodation on the table,” Bullard said at a London dinner hosted by UBS AG, Switzerland’s biggest bank. Fed policy makers “may not be willing or able to wait until all global uncertainties are resolved to begin normalizing policy.”
  • Dendreon's(DNDN) Prostate Cancer Drug Supported for Coverage by Medicare. Dendreon Corp. (DNDN)’s prostate cancer drug Provenge should be covered by the U.S. government for use in older men, regulators said. The $93,000 treatment regimen is “reasonable and necessary” for men with advanced, castrate-resistant prostate tumors who have minimal or no symptoms of the disease, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said today. The proposal matches the approved prescribing information and suggests that doctors may even expand use in some cases, said Michael Yee, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in San Francisco.
  • Gold Heads for Longest Quarterly Winning Streak Since 1979 on Haven Demand. Gold headed for a 10th straight quarterly rise, the longest in three decades, as turmoil in the Middle East, fighting in Libya and Japan’s nuclear crisis increased demand for an investment haven. Bullion for immediate delivery traded little changed at $1,424.88 an ounce at 1:10 p.m. in Melbourne, taking the quarterly gain to 0.3 percent. The June-delivery contract in New York was also little changed at $1,425.40, heading for a 0.3 percent quarterly rise. “There is a lot of uncertainty around the globe in terms of political events,” David Lennox, a Sydney-based resource analyst at Fat Prophets, said by phone today. Fighting could escalate in Libya, while there is uncertainty surrounding Bahrain and the nuclear crisis in Japan, he said.
  • ICBC Forecasts Credit Expansion to Slow After Posting 28% Profit Increase. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (1398) Ltd., the world’s largest lender by market value, said credit may grow at the slowest pace in three years as Chinese banks heed a government call to restrain loans.
Wall Street Journal:
Business Insider:
  • Obama Deployed CIA Agents To Libya To Aid and Supply Rebels Weeks Ago. More details are coming out about Obama's secret orders, including a "decline to comment" out of the White House. CIA operatives have been working in Libya along with MI6 agents and other spies to gather information for use in airstrikes. They are also finding out details about the rebels who may come to power after Qaddafi.
  • California's Credit Rating Hinges On Cash Management. California's credit rating will likely depend on how the state handles its cash, rather than on any overall financial improvement, Standard & Poor's said today.
  • Fed Rejects AIG's(AIG) $15.7 Billion Bid For Maiden Lane Securities. American International Group was willing to take a $15.7 billion pile of the toxic mortgage-backed securities it unloaded on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York during the crisis of 2008, but on Wednesday the Fed gave the insurer a stiff arm and said it will sell the portfolio piece by piece.
CNN Money:
  • JPMorgan's(JPM) Dimon: No Mortgage Writedowns. The head of JPMorgan Chase said Wednesday that banks would not consider writing down mortgages for homeowners who can't make payments, an idea at the center of talks aimed at fixing the mortgage mess. "Principal writedown for people who couldn't pay their mortgages? Yeah, that's off the table," JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) CEO Jamie Dimon said when asked about the idea after an appearance before a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum in Washington.
Fox Business:
  • Feds Question BofA(BAC) Merrill on Rajaratnam Relationship. Federal investigators have questioned executives at Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch brokerage unit about the firm’s relationship with Galleon founder Raj Rajaratnam, who is accused of committing securities fraud by earning millions of dollars of illegal profits by trading on insider information, the FOX Business Network has learned.
Rasmussen Reports:
  • Daily Presidential Tracking Poll. The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 24% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -17 (see trends).
  • Budget Deal Close With $33 Billion in Cuts. Budget talks came to life Wednesday but not without tension between the White House and Senate Democrats, worried that the administration was too quick to agree to $33 billion in spending cuts to try to move Speaker John Boehner toward what remains a very uncertain deal. Vice President Joe Biden and White House Budget Director Jack Lew came to the Capitol in the evening for a meeting with the party leadership requested by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Democrats fear that unless the administration takes a stronger stand now, President Barack Obama will only be nibbled to death and be weaker when he faces the Republicans again this spring over the bigger fight of raising the debt ceiling.
Real Clear Politics:
  • Mideast Nonsense: Can We Start Being Honest? If there were an award for stating the obvious when it comes to the Middle East, it would go to the New York Times. On its front page last Friday, the newspaper ran a story headlined, "Islamist Group is Rising Force in New Egypt." What group would that be? Why, the Muslim Brotherhood, of course. We have been repeatedly assured by certain pundits and members of the Obama administration that the Brotherhood are a small minority with no major influence in Egypt. They further assure us that those Cairo protesters clamoring for "democracy" that led to the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak would be the ones to chart the country's future. Each time another myth is busted, the deniers of what is happening throughout the region simply create a new myth, one they desperately cling to against all evidence to the contrary.
Financial Times:
  • Euroclear SA's U.K. and Ireland chief executive officer Yannic Weber said the proposed merger between Deutsche Boerse AG and and NYSE Euronext(NYX) could inhibit competition for settlement services, citing remarks by Weber at a conference in London. The merger could also reinforce the "vertical silo" model, in which an exchange controls both trading of derivatives and post-trade services such as clearing and settlement, citing Weber.
Die Welt:
  • U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said Europe needs to overhaul economic structures and cut red tape or risk falling farther behind other regions in the world.
Economic Observer:
  • China plans to limit the number of automobiles in large cities with population of more than 10 million people during the five-year period from 2011 to 2015.
  • China ordered Monsanto Co.(MON) to stop producing and marketing of the two corn seeds in the country. It didn't give a reason for the halt.
Evening Recommendations
Think Equity:
  • Rated (WDC) Buy, target $42.
Night Trading
  • Asian equity indices are -.25% to +.50% on average.
  • Asia Ex-Japan Investment Grade CDS Index 106.50 -3.0 basis points.
  • Asia Pacific Sovereign CDS Index 125.50 unch.
  • S&P 500 futures -.06%.
  • NASDAQ 100 futures -.15%.
Morning Preview Links

Earnings of Note
  • (KMX)/.38
  • (RBN)/.48
  • (WOR)/.27
  • (RECN)/.07
  • (GPN)/.64
Economic Releases
8:30 am EST
  • Initial Jobless Claims for last week are estimated to fall to 380K versus 382K the prior week.
  • Continuing Claims are estimated to fall to 3705K versus 3721K prior.
9:45 am EST
  • The Chicago Purchasing Manager report for March is estimated to fall to 69.7 versus 71.2 in February.
10:00 am EST
  • Factory Orders for February are estimated to rise +.5% versus a +3.1% gain in January.
Upcoming Splits
  • (FTI) 2-for-1
Other Potential Market Movers
  • The Fed's Lacker speaking, Fed's Tarullo speaking, weekly EIA natural gas inventory report, weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, the NAPM-Milwaukee, (TRI) investor day and the (TX) investor day could also impact trading today.
BOTTOM LINE: Asian indices are mostly higher, boosted by commodity and financial shares in the region. I expect US stocks to open modestly lower and to rally into the afternoon, finishing mixed. The Portfolio is 100% net long heading into the day.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stocks Rising into Final Hour on Buyout Speculation, More Economic Optimism, Lower Energy Prices, Technical Buying

Broad Market Tone:

  • Advance/Decline Line: Higher
  • Sector Performance: Most Sectors Rising
  • Volume: Slightly Below Average
  • Market Leading Stocks: Performing In Line
Equity Investor Angst:
  • VIX 17.54 -3.41%
  • ISE Sentiment Index 98.0 -19.01%
  • Total Put/Call .73 -1.35%
  • NYSE Arms .68 -32.02%
Credit Investor Angst:
  • North American Investment Grade CDS Index 95.92 -.23%
  • European Financial Sector CDS Index 99.92 +5.33%
  • Western Europe Sovereign Debt CDS Index 167.58 bps -.10%
  • Emerging Market CDS Index 206.64 -.88%
  • 2-Year Swap Spread 17.0 unch.
  • TED Spread 21.0 unch.
Economic Gauges:
  • 3-Month T-Bill Yield .09% unch.
  • Yield Curve 265.0 -1 bp
  • China Import Iron Ore Spot $170.50/Metric Tonne +1.19%
  • Citi US Economic Surprise Index +44.40 -1.7 points
  • 10-Year TIPS Spread 2.45% -1 bp
Overseas Futures:
  • Nikkei Futures: Indicating +112 open in Japan
  • DAX Futures: Indicating +24 open in Germany
  • Higher: On gains in my Tech, Retail, Biotech and Medical longs
  • Disclosed Trades: None
  • Market Exposure: 100% Net Long
BOTTOM LINE: Today's overall market action is bullish as the S&P 500 builds on recent gains, despite rising Mideast unrest, US housing worries, emerging market inflation fears, more hawkish Fed commentary, eurozone debt angst and Japan concerns. On the positive side, Education, Gaming, Construction, HMO, Hospital, Biotech, Paper, Oil Tanker and Telecom shares are especially strong, rising 1.75%+. (XLF) and (IYR) have traded well throughout the day. Small-caps and cyclicals are outperforming again. Oil is falling -.45%. The Japan sovereign cds is falling -1.93% to 97.08 bps, the Brazil sovereign cds is declining -2.01% to 113.0 bps and the Israeli sovereign cds is down -1.57% to 151.76 bps. The fact that the 10-year yield is falling 4 bps to session lows, despite more economic optimism and additional supply is noteworthy. On the negative side, Homebuilder, Oil Service and Road & Rail shares are lower on the day. Lumber is falling -1.01% and copper is down -1.67%. The US price for a gallon of gas is unch. today at $3.59/gallon. It is up .47/gallon in 43 days. The Ireland sovereign cds is rising +2.01%, the Greece sovereign cds is rising +1.43% to 996.67 bps and the Portugal sovereign cds is rising +.99% to 572.23 bps. The Shanghai Composite has not participated in the global equity rally over the last few days. Quarter-end window dressing and expectations for a strong jobs report on Friday are aiding the bulls again today. One of my longs, (VRX), is hitting a new multi-year high today on volume after announcing their intent to acquire (CEPH). While the stock is overbought short-term, I still see substantial upside in the shares over the longer-term. Another one of my longs, (AAPL), is lagging again today on estimate cuts. The stock has been consolidating huge gains since the bear market lows, over the last few months, in an orderly fashion. For the first time in awhile expectations are coming in ahead of a quarterly report. The stock is becoming more attractive in the short-term as a result, in my opinion. I still see tremendous upside in the shares from current levels over the long-term. I expect US stocks to trade mixed-to-higher into the close from current levels on short-covering, lower energy prices, more economic optimism, window-dressing and buyout speculation.

Today's Headlines

  • U.S. Companies Add 201,000 Jobs in Sign Labor Market Recovering, ADP Says. Companies in the U.S. added more workers in March, a sign the labor market may be strengthening, data from a private report based on payrolls showed today. Employment increased by 201,000 workers in March after a revised 208,000 gain in February, according to figures from ADP Employer Services. The median estimate in the Bloomberg News survey called for a 208,000 gain. Businesses added 210,000 jobs in March and the jobless rate held 8.9 percent, economists project a Labor Department report to show in two days. Another report today showed employers announced fewer job cuts in March than the same month last year, even as government payroll cutbacks climbed to the highest level in a year. Planned firings decreased 39 percent to 41,528 this month from March 2010, according to Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Public employees accounted for almost half of all job cuts. Companies employing more than 499 workers expanded their workforces by 17,000 jobs. Medium-sized businesses, with 50 to 499 employees, created 82,000 jobs and small companies increased payrolls by 102,000, ADP said.
  • Unemployment Rate in Washington's Ward 8 Is Highest in U.S. The jobless rate in the poorest part of the District of Columbia is higher than in any U.S. metropolitan area with a labor-force of comparable size, according to figures released by the city government. Unemployment in the Ward 8 section of the capital climbed to 25.2 percent in January, the latest month of available data, from 23.1 percent in December, figures from the Department of Employment Services show. Ward 8 is in the southeast section of The next highest rate, as measured by the U.S. Labor Department, was 25.1 percent, in El Centro, California.Washington, about four miles from the White House and home to the Anacostia neighborhood. The poverty rate is 35 percent, compared with 18 percent for the city as a whole.
  • Hoenig Blames Fed for Higher Commodity Prices, Urges Tightening. The Federal Reserve's “highly accommodative” monetary policy is partly to blame for rapidly increasing global commodity prices, said Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig, who called on colleagues to raise the benchmark interest rate toward 1 percent soon. “Once again there are signs that the world is building new economic imbalances and inflationary impulses,” Hoenig, the central bank's longest-serving policy maker and the lone dissenter at Fed meetings last year, said in the text of a speech today in London. “The longer policy remains as it is, the greater the likelihood these pressures will build and ultimately undermine world growth.” The Federal Open Market Committee “should gradually allow its $3 trillion balance sheet to shrink toward its pre-crisis level of $1 trillion,” Hoenig, 64, said in his remarks at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “It should move the U.S. federal funds rate off of zero and toward 1 percent within a fairly short period of time.” “Policy should acknowledge the improving economic trends and begin to withdraw some degree of accommodation,” he said. “If this is not done, then the risk of introducing new imbalances and long-term inflationary pressures into an already fragile recovery increase significantly.”
  • Obama Won't Rule Out Arming Rebels as Qaddafi Forces Advance. Libyan rebels retreated under fire from Muammar Qaddafi’s troops as President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said they may consider sending arms to the opposition forces. “We will be providing them direct assistance,” Obama said in an NBC “Nightly News” interview yesterday. Asked if this meant sending weapons to the rebels, Obama said: “I’m not ruling it out. But I’m also not ruling it in.” Rebels, after advancing toward Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, withdrew in the face of artillery and rocket attacks as pro- Qaddafi forces retook control of the oil port of Ras Lanuf. The BBC and New York Times, citing reporters near the Libyan front line, said rebels are streaming away from Brega and heading northeast toward Ajdabiya. “There’s little indication that Qaddafi’s forces were driven back by the rebels,” Nate Hughes, director of military analysis at the Austin, Texas-based geopolitical advisory firm Stratfor, said in a telephone interview. “The rebels are no match for Qaddafi’s forces.” Qaddafi’s advance shows he retains military capacity after almost two weeks of U.S.-led bombing that has targeted his air defenses, armor and army installations. “In two weeks from now, if the rebels haven’t taken Tripoli and Qaddafi is still in charge, I see a second UN mandate for ground troops,” Florence Gaub, a North Africa expert at the NATO Defense College in Rome, said in a telephone interview.
  • Deal Rush Pushes Takeovers to Most Expensive Since Lehman. Corporate executives in the first quarter paid the most for takeovers since before the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., kicking off what investment bankers say may be the busiest year for deals since 2007. Acquirers paid a median 9.2 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for companies in the period, the most since the second quarter of 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Valuations are still lower than during the last M&A boom, when they peaked at 11.4 times Ebitda.
  • Optimism Among U.S. CEOs Tops Pre-Slump High. Optimism among U.S. chief executive officers surpassed the highest level reached before the recession as more business leaders projected increased sales, investment and hiring, a survey showed. The Business Roundtable’s economic outlook index increased to 113 in the first quarter, the highest point since records began in 2002, from 101 in the previous three months, the Washington-based group said today. Readings greater than 50 coincide with an economic expansion. The previous peak was 104 in the first three months of 2005. “Companies have given strong signals about their willingness to expand,” Ivan G. Seidenberg, chairman of the Business Roundtable and chief executive officer of New York- based Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ), said in a press conference. “As we keep a steady flow of capital investment, we’ll certainly see sales forecasts go up, and as we do that we’ll start to see hiring.” None of the 142 CEOs surveyed said they expected a decline in sales in the next six months, and 92 percent projected an increase, paving the way for more hiring and investment in equipment. A gain in capital spending plans points to further strength in manufacturing, the industry that’s propelled the economic expansion.
  • Fukushima Governor Sato Slams Japan's Handling of Nuclear Reactor Disaster. Fukushima Prefecture, epicenter of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, accused Japan’s central government of sowing confusion and hampering recovery efforts through poor communication.
  • Bunds to Underperform on Permanent German Support for Neighbors, MEAG Says. German bunds may underperform U.K. and U.S. bonds as Europe’s biggest economy is likely to take on supporting its weakest euro-region partners as a permanent burden, according to MEAG Munich Ergo Asset Management GmbH. “Bunds enjoy a huge risk premium right now, which they may no longer enjoy to the same degree as we are moving to a kind of transfer union,” where weaker nations such as Ireland and Portugal are officially supported by their stronger neighbors, Reiner Back, who oversees more than $150 billion as head of fixed income and foreign exchange at MEAG in Munich, said in a telephone interview. German debt is already lagging behind gilts and Treasuries. Yields have climbed this year as the nation committed to aiding the region’s weakest members beyond an initial three-year period ending in 2013.
  • AT&T(T) CEO Makes Case T-Mobile Deal Will Boost iPhone Service. AT&T Inc. (T) Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson, making his case for a proposed takeover of T-Mobile USA, said the deal would boost network capacity and improve service for devices such as Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone. The acquisition would improve capacity on AT&T’s wireless network by about 30 percent in some of the largest U.S. cities, Stephenson said today at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. It could also reduce charges for overseas roaming, he said. “This transaction is very instrumental” in improving network service, said Stephenson at the event. “Virtually on the day you close the deal, getting a 30 percent lift in capacity in New York City: that’s a significant improvement in call quality and data throughput.”
  • Visa(V), MasterCard(MA) Jump on Possible Delay of Debit-Card Curbs. Visa Inc. (V) and MasterCard Inc. (MA), the two biggest U.S. payment networks, posted their biggest gains of the year on speculation that U.S. curbs on debit-card fees will be delayed or modified. Visa advanced $2.99, or 4.1 percent, to $75.19 at 10:57 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, the most since June for the San Francisco-based firm. MasterCard jumped $6.58, or 2.6 percent, to $258.29 after gaining as much as 4.2 percent.

Wall Street Journal:
  • Gadhafi Push Tests The Coalition Strategy. Forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi continued to push rebels out of positions along coastal oil towns, further delaying the rebel drive on Tripoli and testing the limits of the coalition airstrikes at a time when the alliance is considering arming the rebels.
  • First Solar(FSLR) Chairman Ahearn Slashes Stake. First Solar Inc. (FSLR) Chairman Michael Ahearn may be taking a dimmer view of the solar power company these days, having cut his stake by nearly half in the past month.
  • Morgan Stanley(MS) Sees Even Higher Corn, Soybean Prices Ahead. Most agricultural commodities are marginally lower today, with the exception of soybeans, but that hasn’t stopped Morgan Stanley from getting bullish on foodstuffs. Dow Jones reports that Morgan Stanley believes corn and soybean prices need to jump even more – they recently hit two-and-a-half-year highs – to entice farmers to plant more. The investment bank said it initiated a long position in November 2011 soybean futures to go along with its long December 2011 corn futures position. The USDA is scheduled to issue it plantings estimate report tomorrow.
  • Google(GOOG) Seeks Answer to Facebook With 'Social Search'. Google Inc., seeing a threat from social-networking companies such as Facebook Inc., plans to allow people to reorder the way websites are ranked on its core Web-search engine based on which sites they and their friends like or find useful, said people familiar with the matter.
  • JPMorgan's(JPM) Dimon Slams CFTC on Swaps Crackdown. Jamie Dimon, chief executive of Wall Street giant JPMorgan Chase(JPM), lashed out on Wednesday at efforts by U.S. regulators to police the $600 trillion swaps market, in which his bank is a big player. New regulations being implemented by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, mandated under 2010's Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms, "would damage America," Dimon said at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on capital markets. He was upbeat about the economy, however. "Corporate America is in very good shape. It's well-financed, it's well-funded," he said. "The consumer is spending ... housing is better than it was."
  • Why the New Mortgage Risk Rules May Fail.
Business Insider:
Quinnipiac University:
  • Obama Gets Lowest Approval, Re-Elect Score Ever, Quinnipiac National Poll Finds; More Voters Oppose US Involvement in Libya. American voters disapprove 48 - 42 percent of the job President Barack Obama is doing and say 50 - 41 percent he does not deserve to be re-elected in 2012, both all-time lows, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. This compares to a 46 - 46 percent job approval rating and a 45 - 47 percent split on the President's re-election in a March 3 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. In a hypothetical 2012 matchup, President Obama gets 36 percent of the vote to 37 percent for an unnamed Republican challenger. Voters oppose 47 - 41 percent America's involvement in Libya. In the survey concluded Monday evening as President Obama was addressing the nation about Libya, voters say 58 - 29 percent that he has not clearly stated U.S. goals for Libya.
Apple Insider:
  • Cheaper iPhone Could Give Apple(AAPL) Control of China's Smartphone Market. A new survey shows that Apple is poised to capitalize on an explosion in sales of 3G smartphones in China, with the iPhone the most popular option, though lower prices could give it the lion's share of sales. The survey results revealed this week by Morgan Stanley and AlphaWise show 3G handsets and smartphones are taking off in China in 2011. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said they have "high interest" in buying a 3G handset or smartphone as their next phone. Of those who plan to buy a smartphone, the most popular option is Apple's iPhone. A total of 30 percent of respondents with 3G handset purchase intensions said they will most likely purchase an iPhone, followed by 25 percent for a Nokia device, 7 percent for HTC, 5 percent for Samsung, and 4 percent for Motorola. The iPhone would be an even more popular option, the survey found, if Apple were to lower the price of its smartphone. With a cheaper option, Apple would command a 53 percent share of 3G phone buyers, leaving Nokia with 20 percent and Research in Motion's BlackBery with 5 percent.
Channel 6 News:
  • Iran Welcomes Egypt's Willingness to Resume Bilateral Ties. Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Wednesday welcomed remarks by his Egyptian counterpart Nabil al-Arabi on promoting bilateral ties, Press TV reported. The Iranian foreign minister commented on the remarks by saying "despite the ups and downs, the historical ties between the two countries have been sustained." He added that good relations between the two countries could help the region's stability, security and development. The new Egypt's foreign minister said on Tuesday that his government is ready to open "a new page with Iran," but added that the establishment of diplomatic ties depends on the Iranian side. Al-Arabi said that the Egyptian government does not see Iran as an enemy state, noting that the two countries have historically had deep relations.
Die Zeit:
  • Germans are becoming increasingly skeptical about the benefits of the single-European currency, with only 55% expressing confidence in the euro's long-term success, citing a survey by the Ipsos research service for the Assoc. of German Banks. Germans are also increasingly doubtful about European Union membership, with 31% of those asked saying the EU has more disadvantages than benefits, the highest level since 1994. Only 24% regard EU membership as offering more advantages.