Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Watch

Evening Headlines 
  • Putin’s Words No Solace as East Ukraine Braces for Storm. Vladimir Putin’s assurances that eastern Ukraine isn’t in his cross hairs rang hollow in the beat-up black Lada taking Anna Gerashchenko to a makeshift army outpost on the Russian border. “I’m helping the troops because I’m afraid eastern Ukraine will soon look like Crimea,” said Gerashchenko, a 35-year-old NGO worker, as she ferried a trunk full of cookies, socks and blankets to soldiers of her country’s underfunded army with her two young children in the backseat for the bumpy 25-kilometer (16 miles) drive from Kharkiv. “It doesn’t matter what Putin says. He’s a liar.” 
  • Russia-Ukraine Crisis Threatens Europe Economy: Cutting Research. Europe’s economy is vulnerable to ripple effects from the crisis in Russia and Ukraine. As the European Union, the U.S. and Canada look to take coordinated action to pressure Russia to back off its annexation of Crimea, economists at Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank AG released reports yesterday analyzing the potential for fallout on Europe’s economy should the crisis spread. The impact could be transmitted through finance if Russia grabs assets or if the creditworthiness of its assets declines, said Gilles Moec and Marco Stringa, London-based economists at Deutsche Bank. Among other channels, world trade may be roiled by a drop in Russian imports or if Russia holds back exports of its energy. 
  • China’s Top Banks Seen Posting Slower Profit Growth Amid Reform. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and its three largest rivals are poised to report the slowest profit growth since the 2008 financial crisis amid surging bad loans and more competition for deposits. ICBC, China Construction Bank Corp., Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. and Bank of China Ltd. will probably report combined net income next week of 791 billion yuan ($127 billion) for 2013, 11 percent more than the previous year, according to analyst estimates in a Bloomberg survey. The growth may slow to 7 percent this year, compared with a 17 percent increase forecast for the four largest U.S. and European banks. 
  • China Funds Post Record Outflows as ETF Money Exits Bear Market. Chinese equity funds are posting their biggest outflows on record as concern deepens that the world’s second-largest economy is slowing. Investors pulled out a net $1.5 billion in the week through March 19, of which $1.3 billion came from exchange-traded funds, Citigroup Inc. said today, citing EPFR Global. Emerging-market funds had outflows of $4.1 billion in the 21st straight week of withdrawals, analysts Markus Rosgen and Yue Hin Pong wrote in a report, while European funds had inflows for a 38th week.
  • China Slowdown Seen Worst for Norway as Oil Key to Growth. Norway’s reliance on oil means it faces a bigger risk than most other countries from a slowing expansion in China, according to Hilde Bjoernland, an economics professor at the BI Norwegian Business School. “If China is in a bubble, that would be bad for everyone but even worse for the Norwegian economy because reduced demand from China would bring down oil prices,” Bjoernland said in an interview in Oslo this week.
  • China Beige Book Says Economy Slowing. China’s economy slowed this quarter, with industries including retail and mining showing weaker revenue growth while loans through non-traditional channels became more expensive, according to a private survey. Even with the moderation, the labor market and wage growth were little changed from the previous quarter, according to the China Beige Book survey, published by New York-based CBB International. 
  • Korean Stocks Rally as Gold Gains; Oil Falls With Ringgit. Korean and Australian stocks rallied, pushing benchmark indexes up from the lowest levels in more than a month, after signs of economic strength fueled a rebound in U.S. shares. Gold drove gains in precious metals while oil fell along with the Korean and Malaysian currencies. The Kospi Index (KOSPI) jumped 0.6 percent by 9:57 a.m. in Seoul, rising from the lowest close since Feb. 6 as Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.4 percent with Japan’s markets closed. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures lost 0.1 percent after the gauge climbed 0.6 percent. Gold and silver advanced for the first time in five days while oil in New York fell a second day, losing 0.3 percent. The Korean won reached a six-week low as Malaysia’s ringgit slipped a third day. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.1 percent today, paring its second weekly drop to 1.6 percent.
  • Corn Drops on Speculation Chinese Demand Will Slow for U.S. Crop. Corn prices dropped for the first time in three sessions on speculation that China may reduce imports of U.S. grain as domestic inventories swell. Wheat also fell, while soybeans gained. Supplies held in Chinese government silos may reach 60 million metric tons before the start of this year’s harvest, Fred Gale, an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said today. Demand has slowed from poultry farmers as cases of human infections of the H7N9 avian influenza spread. Stockpiles held by the state and by farmers and consumers may rise 10 percent from a year earlier to 72 million tons by Sept. 30, the USDA has forecast. “Chinese demand is slowing, and that can have repercussions for the next year,” Peter Meyer, the senior director of agricultural commodities for Pira Energy Group in New York, said in a telephone interview.
  • Hot-Rolled Coil Futures Debut in Shanghai to Complement Rebar. Hot-rolled coil futures make their debut today on the Shanghai Futures Exchange as China pushes to expand its commodities trading from raw materials to steel products. The market opens at 9 a.m. local time for nine monthly contracts for delivery from July to March 2015, according to the nation’s largest metals bourse. Hot-rolled coil is used to make steel sheets for cars and home appliances.
  • Caterpillar(CAT) Said to Be Focus of Senate Overseas Tax Probe. A U.S. Senate investigative subcommittee is examining Caterpillar (CAT) Inc. and whether the company improperly avoided U.S. taxes by moving profits outside the country, said three people familiar with the inquiry. The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will hold a hearing in early April, said two of the people. They spoke on condition of anonymity before an official announcement of the hearing. Rachel Potts, a spokeswoman for Caterpillar, declined to comment. Two staff members for the subcommittee declined to comment.
Wall Street Journal: 
  • Crimea Vote Gets Attention of Europe's Secession Movements. Catalans Reject Comparison Drawn by Spanish Government. When Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia—under the watchful gaze of Russian troops—some Spaniards viewed the drama through the lens of a conflict much closer to home. Spain's Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said "the parallelism is absolute" between Crimea and Catalonia, the wealthy industrial region that has scheduled a nonbinding referendum on independence from Spain for November.
Fox News:
  • Medical group that backed ObamaCare warns obscure rule could hurt doctors. The largest doctors group in the country is raising alarm that an obscure ObamaCare rule could stick them with the tab for patients who skip out on paying their premiums. The American Medical Association, which originally supported the Affordable Care Act, warned the rule could pose a "significant financial risk" for doctors and hospitals, and on Wednesday blasted out guidelines to help members try and avoid those costs.
  • Fed stress test: Banks lose $501 bln in bad recession. 29 of 30 banks above Fed’s minimum levels for capital. Thirty of the largest banks operating in the U.S. would see losses of $501 billion in a severe recession, the Federal Reserve said Thursday in announcing stress-test results that it says shows a banking system in better shape than five years ago. 
Zero Hedge: 
Business Insider: 
NY Times:
  • Nike(NKE) warns FX fluctuations to slam profit, expects weak China sales. Nike Inc on Thursday warned Wall Street that growing pressures from weaker currencies in key emerging markets would take a big toll on its profit in the current quarter and into the next fiscal year. The maker of sports shoes and apparel also said sales in China would be unchanged or even down slightly this quarter, reawakening concerns it is having trouble finding its bearings in that market after signs of progress in recent quarters. Nike shares fell 3 percent to $76.88 in after-hours trading.
People's Daily:
  • China to 'Drastically' Curb Number of New Shipyards. China must restrain blind investment in shipbuilding industry especially in the regions of the Bohai Bay, Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta, citing Li Dong, a deputy director a the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's equipment industry department.
Shanghai Securities News:
  • China Warns of Risk in Insurance Investment in Debt. China Insurance Regulatory Commission told insurance cos. to be aware of the risks in their investments in debt, especially that of local government financing vehicles, citing a person in the industry.
Evening Recommendations
  • None of note
Night Trading
  • Asian equity indices are -.25% to +.50% on average.
  • Asia Ex-Japan Investment Grade CDS Index 139.5 +9.25 basis points. (new series)
  • Asia Pacific Sovereign CDS Index 96.75 -1.25 basis points.
  • FTSE-100 futures -.21%.
  • S&P 500 futures -.02%.
  • NASDAQ 100 futures  +.02%.
Morning Preview Links

Earnings of Note

  • (DRI)/.85
  • (TIF)/1.52
Economic Releases
  • None of note
Upcoming Splits
  • None of note
Other Potential Market Movers
  • The Fed's Fisher speaking, Fed's Bullard speaking, Fed's Kocherlakota speaking, Fed  Board Governor Stein speaking, (KEYW) investor meeting and the (WLP) investor day could also impact trading today.
BOTTOM LINE: Asian indices are mostly higher, boosted by technology and commodity 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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