Friday, March 28, 2014

Evening Headlines 
  • Crimea Resolution Backed by U.S. Barely Gets UN Majority. Ukraine and its backers won support from little more than half the members of the United Nations General Assembly to declare invalid Crimea’s referendum to secede, as Russia wielded diplomatic and economic pressure for members to abstain or cast no ballot. The 193-member General Assembly voted 100-11 today to pass a nonbinding resolution describing the Crimean referendum as “having no validity” and calling on all states and agencies to not recognize “any alteration of the status” of Crimea. Fifty-eight members abstained, and 24 were absent.
  • Ukrainian Bailout to Test Cabinet's Mettle Amid Threats. An hour after Ukraine’s lawmakers yesterday passed the laws needed to unlock a $27 billion international lifeline, protesters chanting “Revolution!” gathered by parliament, forcing deputies to evacuate. The demonstration, sparked by one of the nationalist Pravyi Sektor group’s leaders being killed in a firefight with police this week, shows the extent of the challenges Ukraine new leaders must overcome to keep the bailout money flowing.
  • China’s Developers Face Shakeout as Easy Money Ends: Mortgages. The collapse of a Chinese developer in a city south of Shanghai foreshadows a shakeout among the nation’s almost 90,000 real estate companies as the government reins in credit and the housing market slows. Zhejiang Xingrun Real Estate Co., a closely held developer based in Fenghua, is insolvent, with 3.5 billion yuan ($562 million) of debt. Its residential projects have been halted and authorities have detained its largest shareholder and his son, according to the city’s government.
  • Japan Inflation Unchanged in February Before Sales-Tax Rise. Japan’s inflation rate matched forecasts in February ahead of a sales-tax increase next week that could challenge the Bank of Japan’s effort to stoke 2 percent price gains. Consumer prices excluding fresh food rose 1.3 percent from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said today in Tokyo, matching the median estimate of 30 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News on the BOJ’s key inflation gauge. Household spending fell for the first time in six months and retail sales slowed, while the jobless rate dropped to 3.6%, other data released today show.
  • Japan Is Taxing Itself Into Trouble. On April 1, Japan's national sales tax will rise to 8 percent from 5 percent. Unless wages rise by an equal amount, the effect will be a drop in consumer spending. Japanese automakers anticipate a sales decline of as much as 16 percent during the next 12 months. Even if this isn't enough to push the economy into recession, raising the sales tax is a bad move that will undermine Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's agenda for the world's third-largest economy.
  • Asian Stocks Swing. Asian stocks swung between gains and losses, with the regional benchmark heading for its biggest weekly increase since September. Telecommunication shares led declines while banks and brokerages led gains. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.1 percent to 135.93 as of 9:32 a.m. in Tokyo after rising less than 0.1 percent.
Wall Street Journal:
  • Russian Buildup Stokes Worries. Pentagon Alarmed as Troops Mass Near Ukraine Border. Russian troops amassing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said. Such an incursion could take place without warning because Russia has already deployed the array of military forces needed for such an operation, say officials briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence. The rapid speed of the Russian military buildup and the efforts to camouflage the forces and equipment have stoked U.S. fears, in part because American intelligence agencies have struggled to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin's specific intentions
  • Crisis in Ukraine. Streaming Coverage:
  • Amazon(AMZN) Plans Free Streaming Media Service. Website Said to Drop Strategy of Only Offering Video to Users of Its Prime Shipping Service.
  • Climate Forecast: Muting the Alarm. Even while it exaggerates the amount of warming, the IPCC is becoming more cautious about its effects
  • Noonan: Mr. Putin's Revealing Speech. At the Kremlin, he makes the case for an increasingly aggressive Russia.
  • Restoration Hardware(RH) swings to profit. Restoration Hardware Holdings Inc. swung to a fiscal fourth-quarter profit as the high-end-home-goods retailer reported continued sales growth and said it had hired retail veteran Doug Diemoz as its chief development officer.
Zero Hedge:
Business Insider:
  • U.S. high-frequency trading ban unlikely -Nasdaq. U.S. regulators are unlikely to put rules in place that would harm high-frequency trading (HFT) as doing so would make trading more difficult and expensive for all investors, Robert Greifeld, chief executive officer of Nasdaq OMX Group said on Thursday. 
  • Red Hat(RHT) forecasts disappointing full-year profit. Red Hat Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly results, helped by strong subscription growth for its Linux operating system, but forecast full-year adjusted profit below average analyst estimate. 
  • GameStop(GME) shares fall as 2014 forecast disappoints. Video game retailer GameStop Corp on Thursday forecast full-year earnings below market expectations as it is yet to see an uptick in sagging video game software sales, despite robust hardware sales driven by the launches of Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 consoles.
    The Obama administration will press ahead Friday with tough requirements for new coal-fired power plants, moving to impose for the first time strict limits on the pollution blamed for global warming. The proposal would help reshape where Americans get electricity, away from a coal-dependent past into a future fired by cleaner sources of energy. It's also a key step in President Barack Obama's global warming plans, because it would help end what he called "the limitless dumping of carbon pollution" from power plants.
  • UN: 400,000 Displaced This Year in Iraq Violence. The United Nations envoy to Iraq says about 400,000 people have been displaced this year by ongoing violence in western Iraq, and the U.N. Security Council is expressing "grave concern" about recent developments particularly in Ramadi and Fallujah.
Evening Recommendations
Cantor Fitzgerald:
  • Rated (ORCL) Buy, target $50.
Night Trading
  • Asian equity indices are -.25% to +.75% on average.
  • Asia Ex-Japan Investment Grade CDS Index 130.0 -2.0 basis points.
  • Asia Pacific Sovereign CDS Index 92.75 -.75 basis point.
  • FTSE-100 futures +.15%.
  • S&P 500 futures +.21%.
  • NASDAQ 100 futures  +.19%.
Morning Preview Links

Earnings of Note

  • (BBRY)/-.54
  • (FINL)/.85
Economic Releases
8:30 am EST
  • Personal Income for February is estimated to rise +.3% versus a +.3% gain in January.
  • Personal Spending for February is estimated to rise +.3% in February versus a +.4% gain in January.
  • The PCE Core for February is estimated to rise +.1% versus a +.1% gain in January.
9:55 am EST
  • Final Univ. of Mich. Consumer Confidence for March is estimated to rise to 80.5 versus a prior estimate of 79.9.
Upcoming Splits
  • (MLI) 2-for-1
  • (INSY) 3-for-2
  • (EOG) 2-for-1
Other Potential Market Movers
  • The Fed's George speaking, UK GDP, German CPI and (DRI) investor conference could also impact trading today.
BOTTOM LINE: Asian indices are mostly higher, boosted by tech and real estate shares in the region. I expect US stocks to open modestly higher and to weaken into the afternoon, finishing modestly lower. The Portfolio is 25% net long heading into the day.

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