Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Watch

Evening Headlines 
  • Heavy Pollution Returns in Shanghai After Week of Improved Skies. Pollution in China’s commercial hub worsened today after a week of improved air quality as authorities warned children and the elderly to avoid all outdoor activities with PM2.5 pollutants exceeding eight times the level recommended by the World Health Organization for safe breathing. The air quality index was 206 as of 10 a.m., indicating “heavy pollution,” the Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website today.
  • China Money Rate Climbs, Stocks Slide as Cash Crunch Persists. China’s benchmark money-market rate rose and stocks dropped for a ninth day, the longest losing streak in 19 years, as targeted cash injections by the central bank failed to alleviate the worst cash crunch since June. The seven-day repurchase rate, a gauge of funding availability in the banking system, increased 100 basis points to a six-month high of 7.60 percent in Shanghai, according to a daily fixing by the National Interbank Funding Center. It has jumped 328 basis points this week, the most since January 2011. Transactions had been reported at rates ranging from 3.80 percent to 9.5 percent as of 11:08 a.m. local time, with a weighted average of 7.76 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP) of shares dropped 0.8 percent.
  • Asian Stocks Drop Amid Chinese Funding-Cost Concerns. Asian stocks fell, led by Chinese shares amid concern funding costs for the nation’s lenders will remain high even after the central bank injected cash into the financial system. Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. lost 1 percent in Hong Kong. McDonald’s Holdings Co. Japan Ltd. (2702) declined 1.6 percent after cutting its full-year profit forecast by more than half in the fast-food chain’s second-largest market. Telstra Corp. (TLS) rose 1 percent, pushing Australia’s benchmark index toward the biggest two-day gain in six months, after agreeing to sell its Hong Kong mobile phone business. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.2 percent to 138.07 as of 11:14 a.m. in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland shares listed in the city retreated 0.9 percent, on course to lose 3 percent this week.
  • Rebar in Shanghai Narrows Weekly Loss After China PBOC Adds Cash. Steel reinforcement-bar futures in Shanghai rose for the first time in seven days, trimming a weekly loss after China’s central bank injected funds to selected lenders to alleviate a cash squeeze. Rebar for May delivery on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose as much as 0.4 percent to 3,665 yuan ($604) a metric ton, before trading at 3,661 yuan at 10:55 a.m. local time. The gain cut the week’s loss to 0.4 percent, the second weekly drop.
  • EU Leaders Delay Deal on Incentives for Economic Reforms. European Union leaders pushed back the introduction of a German-inspired system to encourage nations to modernize their economies, as northern and southern countries wrangled over financial incentives. A June deadline was delayed until October as leaders sparred over whether steps to boost competitiveness would be binding and what sort of rewards countries would get for enacting them.
  • Fed Seen Tapering QE in $10 Billion Steps in Next Seven Meetings. The Federal Reserve is likely to reduce its bond purchases in $10 billion increments over the next seven meetings before ending the program in December 2014, economists said. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 41 economists matches the $10 billion reduction announced yesterday as the Fed began to unwind the unprecedented stimulus that has defined Ben S. Bernanke’s chairmanship.
  • Lew Says U.S. Ability to Borrow May Run Out by Late February. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned Congress that the U.S. will exhaust its borrowing authority as soon as late February and urged lawmakers to raise the federal debt limit weeks before then. The Treasury Department estimates that so-called extraordinary measures used to avoid breaching the debt limit “would be able to extend the nation’s borrowing authority only until late February or early March 2014,” Lew said in a letter today to House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders.
Wall Street Journal:
  • Obama Issues Rare Veto Threat on Iran Bill. Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Slap Tehran With New Sanctions. The White House issued a rare veto threat in response to a bipartisan Senate bill that would slap Iran with new sanctions if it violates an interim deal reached last month to curb its nuclear program. The threat sets up a standoff in the new year between President Barack Obama and more than two dozen Senate Democrats and Republicans who introduced the legislation on Thursday. The challenge to Mr. Obama is particularly stark because half of the lawmakers sponsoring the new bill are from his own party. 
  • Europe's Banking Deal Leaves Doubts. Decision Reached on Centralized Handling of Failing Lenders. Europe's leaders have their banking union, but Europe's financial system is far from unified. Eighteen months ago, euro-zone leaders set out to revolutionize their banking system, promising to secure their common currency against the kind of crises that had almost bankrupted Spain and Ireland and sent shockwaves across the Continent. They pledged to "break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns."
  • Mary Landrieu and All That JAZZ. The Louisiana senator says she's pro-energy, but her PAC has raised a lot of money to elect opponents of the oil and gas industry
  • John Beale's EPA. An amazing fraud by an architect of government climate policies. Last month we told you about John Beale, the Environmental Protection Agency employee who bilked taxpayers out of almost $900,000 by pretending to be a secret agent. Telling EPA colleagues that he was a CIA operative, Beale was paid for long absences while on imaginary missions for "Langley." Now there is a disturbing new question about John Beale that goes to the heart of the EPA's mission. What was he doing when he actually showed up for work?
Fox News:
  • Administration announces new ObamaCare exemption. The Obama administration, in an 11th-hour change just before the holiday break,announced a major exemption in ObamaCare that will let people who lost coverage and are struggling to get a new plan sign up for bare-bones policies. The move Thursday to allow potentially hundreds of thousands of people to sign up for "catastrophic" coverage plans was blasted by the insurance industry as a shift that would cause "tremendous instability.”
Zero Hedge:
  • Target(TGT) breach could cost hundreds of millions, probe starts. The theft of credit and debit card data from 40 million Target Corp customers could end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars, but it is unclear who will bear the expense, lawyers and industry sources said. Target said on Thursday hackers had stolen the data of shoppers who visited its stores during the first three weeks of the holiday season. Americas's third-largest retailer said it was working with federal law enforcement and outside experts to prevent similar attacks in the future. It did not disclose how its systems were compromised.
  • Jazz Pharma(JAZZ) to buy Italy's Gentium for $1 blnIreland-based Jazz Pharmaceuticals Plc said it would buy Italian biotech company Gentium S.p.A. for about $1 billion to get access to its lead product candidate, Defitelio, a drug used for the treatment of a rare liver condition. The $57 per-share deal is at a premium of 2.4 percent over Gentium's Thursday close of $55.65 on the Nasdaq.
Yonhap News:
  • North Korea Threatens South to Strike Without Prior Notice. North Korea's National Defense Commission commented in a telegraph message to national security office of South Korea's presidential house, citing a South Korean official. South Korea replied that it will sternly punish North Korea if it provokes.
People's Daily:
  • China Urges Officials to Hold Frugal Funerals. Party members and government officials should set an example with simple, civilized funerals, general offices of the State Council and the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee said. Party members and officials are strictly banned from hosting luxurious funerals or taking advantage of the occasion to collect condolence money from visitors, citing the notice.
Evening Recommendations
  • None of note
Night Trading
  • Asian equity indices are -1.0% to +.25% on average.
  • Asia Ex-Japan Investment Grade CDS Index 122.0 -5.5 basis points.
  • Asia Pacific Sovereign CDS Index 101.75 -.5 basis point. 
  • FTSE-100 futures +.38%.
  • S&P 500 futures +.16%.
  • NASDAQ 100 futures +.19%.
Morning Preview Links

Earnings of Note

  • (BBRY)/-.43
  • (KMX)/.48
  • (FINL)/.02
  • (NAV)/-1.57
  • (WAG)/.72
Economic Releases
 8:30 am EST
  • 3Q GDP is estimated to rise +3.6% versus a prior estimate of a +3.6% gain.
  • 3Q Personal Consumption is estimated to rise +1.4% versus a prior estimate of a +1.4% gain. 
  • 3Q GDP Price Index is estimated to rise +2.0% versus a prior estimate of a +2.0% increase.
  • 3Q Core PCE is estimated to rise +1.5% versus a prior estimate of a +1.5% gain.
11:00 am EST
  • Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Activity for Dec. is estimated to fall to 6.0 versus 7.0 in November.
Upcoming Splits
  • None of note
Other Potential Market Movers
  • The Eurozone Consumer Confidence data and the Canadian inflation data could also impact trading today.
BOTTOM LINE: Asian indices are mostly lower, weighed down by financial and industrial shares in the region. I expect US stocks to open modestly higher and to weaken into the afternoon, finishing mixed. The Portfolio is 50% net long heading into the day.

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