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March 31, 2009
Shock waves from the Obama’s Administration’s plans for the auto industry sent stock prices on a one-way ride yesterday, especially shares of General Motors. But, we should get a little reflex bounce early on today. Ford stock, for one, is bid higher on news of a new program that would cover up to a year of payments on a new car purchase should the buyer lose his or her job.
It’s the last day of the first quarter and although it’s been a decent month, it’s been another lousy quarter (that makes six in a row) further shaking some investors out of the stock market and into money market funds. One little statistic to keep in mind; the average yield on tax-free money markets is now about 1/3 of one percent. At that rate of return, a dollar invested today would double to 2 dollars in just 210 years.
At 9:45 this morning, the March Chicago Purchasing Managers Index is actually expected to tick up to 34.4 from February’s 34.2. And at 10 o’clock we’ll get the March Consumer Confidence number which is ALSO expected to improve to 28 from last month’s 25.
March 30, 2009
Once again, the big national story is the big local story. At 11 o’clock, President Obama will talk about the future of General Motors and Chrysler and the talk won’t be pretty. Rick Wagoner, of course, will be gone, but problems getting other stakeholders to renegotiate their positions remain. It’s expected that GM will get sufficient cash to operate for a short period of time, but if sufficient concessions are not achieved, a bankruptcy of some is now directly on the table. It may still be a bluff to get the UAW and the bond holders to fall in line, but it’s a tough bet to call.
General Motors stock is bid about 25% lower in the pre-market.
There are more bailouts in Europe this morning for their banks. So after their recent run-up, our bank stocks will take some hits in the early going.
No big economic reports on the schedule this morning, but you might say that the automotive rescue speech coming later this morning will be about all the news we can handle.Overseas markets are decidedly lower, with Asia off 4 to 6 percent and Europe about 2 to 3 percent lower. At this point, adjusted for fair value, the S&P 500 futures are down about 14 points, the Dow futures are down 128 and the NASDAQ futures are 18 points below fair value.
March 27, 2009
Hedge funds started the rally, and there’s evidence now that individuals are moving money back into stocks. Unfortunately, some of those individuals are the same individuals who sold their stocks two weeks ago, when the S&P 500 was more than 25% lower than it stands today. If this rally is to sustain, what we really need is participation by some of the big mutual funds, who are still reportedly trimming stock positions.
Johnson Controls announced this morning that they will close 10 manufacturing plants and take a charge of more than 200 million dollars in the second quarter. They expect a return to profitability as soon as their fiscal third quarter. And it’s not just manufacturing – Amazon will close three distributions centers, effecting about 200 employees.
The President will meet at noon with the CEOs of all the big banks. Presumably he’ll have his hands full convincing some of them to keep their TARP money now that we know that at least the House of Representatives is willing to change the ground rules retroactively. Hopefully, if the new private-public partnership works in getting the toxic assets of the banks books, hopefully the President has devised a way to actually GET the banks to lend again. So far, everybody seems to ASSUME that they will, but bad assumptions about big banks is what got us here in the first place.
March 26, 2009
A furious last-minute rally turned a see-saw day positive yesterday. Stock prices had swung between large positive and large negative numbers all day, before the last minute institutional buying stepped in. Lesson to be learned: if you’re trying to figure out the market’s direction, make friends with some hedge fund managers and talk to them every hour or so.
Speaking of hedge funds, their power over marginal asset prices and the lack of regulation thereof – well those days may finally be coming to an end. Treasury Secretary Geithner, who has been on a roll this week, will appear before a House Committee today to talk about regulatory reform. It’s reported that he will propose federal oversight of all financial derivatives and some (presumably the largest) hedge funds.
Best Buy is out with a surprise this morning – a profit of $1.61 in their fourth quarter. The estimate was only $1.40.
At 8:30 we’ll finally get the final revision to fourth quarter Gross Domestic Product, which is expected to come in at a 6 percent decline in economic activity.
March 25, 2009
There’s a report out this morning that Bank of America wants to start repaying its TARP loan as early as last month. Goldman Sachs is also anxious to get out from under the TARP. So, perhaps either the program was not really necessary in the first place. Either that, or it is a good program, but Congress has scared the heck out of the banks who don’t want their businesses micro-managed by that crew.
JP Morgan is out with a couple of interesting calls this morning. Today they downgraded American Express from a ‘buy’ to a ‘sell.’ This is a stock that has dropped from 52 to under 10 during the past year. Now, there’s something they don’t like about it.
JP Morgan also cut its 2010 earnings estimate for the S&P 500 from 80 to 76 dollars. Throw, oh let’s say, a 15 multiple on that and it would indicate that the S&P stocks might rise over 40% over the next year or two.
Some people interpreted the Existing Homes Sales report as good news earlier this week. At 10 o’clock this morning, we’ll hear about February New Home Sales. Expect an annualized rate of 300,000 units, down from 309,000 last month.
We’ll also get the Durable Goods number at 8:30 this morning, which is expected to reflect a decline of 2.4%, which is not great, but it’s better than January’s decline of 4½ percent.
March 24, 2009
Stocks prices shot about 7 percent higher yesterday as we learned about the Administration’s plan for “toxic assets.” It will be interesting to see how much the Government’s private equity partners will be willing to pay for the sludge that the big banks have created. However, it’s safe to say that the prices will be higher than if we taxpayers weren’t helping foot the bill.
We actually had several separate rallies yesterday. The Treasury plan kicked off an early rally, but another spark came after the 10 o’clock announcement that Existing Home Sales rose over 5% in February. Careful. Fully 45% of those sales were foreclosures or short sales. Not exactly what you can point to as an economic recovery.
Geithner and Bernanke get to spend more time letting the House of Representatives showboat about AIG this morning. And of, course, the President’s news conference tonight at 8 o’clock will likely set the tone for tomorrow.
Oil services firm Schlumberger will cut another 6,000 jobs – after cutting 5,000 in January. Hospira will shed 10 percent of its workforce.
March 23, 2009
It’s been six months of one government rescue program after another, interrupted occasionally by some spasmodic knee-jerk reactions out of Congress.
But, today COULD be the day. The details on the “bad bank” program that Treasury Secretary unadvisedly teased us about a month or two ago were released fifteen minutes ago.
Early word is that it will feature a public/private partnership that will bid on the banks “bad assets.” Initially, five fund managers will be approved. Government financing for the purchases at a six-to-one leverage ratio will be put in place to encourage the private money to participate. Participating firms will also NOT be subject to executive compensation limits. Perhaps they’ll also find some way to assure the private sector hat Congress won’t change the rules of the game retroactively. That would certainly be a plus.
If you’re looking for someone not hard hit by the recession, look for a little blue box. Tiffany reported fourth quarter operating earnings that beat expectations of 80 cents by a nickel. Revenue was also higher than expected. General Mills and Corning got broker upgrades this morning. Autozone and Fluor were hit with downgrades.
March 20, 2009
Ben Bernanke and Sheila Bair will be speaking at a bankers’ conference later today. Those two seem to have more credibility than any of the Washington economic gods lately, primarily because they have been wrong less often. So, the markets will be tuning in.
Yesterday’s announcement of 5 billion dollars of aid for the auto parts industry set off a sharp rally in those companies. Can’t wait to see how much Congress decides their employees can be paid.
Not a lot of great earnings news this morning. Shares of phone makers Palm and Ericsson are both about 8 percent lower in European trading after announcing losses in their call phone business.
We’re getting near the end of the first quarter, so look out or earnings warnings over the next two weeks. This morning, Xerox says that the first quarter profit looks more like 4 cents rather than the expected 18 cents.
March 19, 2009
If you’re looking for a business with unlimited growth potential, that would apparently be the business that provides the ink to the to the Government’s dollar printing machine.
The Federal Reserve came up with its latest version of “shock and awe” yesterday. While most of the media focused on the Congressional ringmasters and their AIG bonus circus, the important news of the day was the Fed’s announcement that it’s ready to buy just about every debt instrument in sight. All in, the Fed announced over a trillion dollar expansion of its balance sheet, which should lead to lower interest rates and more available credit for all of us. Their announcement was not lost on the stock market, which staged another pretty impressive rally in the last two hours of trading.
Not so impressive is the earnings report out of Federal Express this morning. FedEx missed estimates by a mile; 31 cents versus the expected 46 cents. Operating margins down from 6.8% to 2.2%. FedEx also warned about the quarter to come and will be cutting jobs and reducing work hours.
Weekly jobless claims roll at 8:30 and we’ll get the February Leading Market Indicators at 10. Expect a decline of six-tenths of a percent.
By the way Citigroup says that it’s planning to spend 10 million dollars on refurbishing offices for its top 17 executives. Heelllloooooo!?!
March 18, 2009
The national furor over the bonus payouts at the disaster known as AIG will make some great theater on Capitol Hill today, as AIG’s CEO Ed Liddy will be the latest executive making a dollar a year to be drawn and quartered while the media heads continue to pontificate.
We’ve gotten some great sound bites over the past 48 hours. Senator Grassly, a couple of days ago calling for CEO’s to commit suicide, and yesterday, Representative Barney Frank said that he “doesn’t understand why we need to retain people who caused the problem.” Perhaps he’ll hear that quote again if he decides to run for re-election. Whatever, it will be great theater today. Let’s just be thankful that not every company is 80% owned by the Government -- yet.
General Mills is out with a disappointing earnings report this morning. They made 79 cents on an operating basis last quarter, versus the expected 88 cents. And IBM shares are under a little pressure this morning on word that IBM may be looking to acquire Sun Microsystems for about 6½ billion dollars.
At 2:15 the Fed’s Open Market Committee officially ends their latest meeting. The Bank of Japan held interest rates steady at one-tenth of a percent overnight.
March 17, 2009 - No report today -- Ron's at the party at the DAC. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
March 16, 2009
Ben Bernanke stirred some interest with an appearance on ’60 Minutes’ last night. His makeup was perfect, the beard nicely trimmed and the message was reassuring – although the financial system is not yet stable, if we have the ‘political will’ to stabilize it, recovery could come by the end of the year. And, as we all know, the stock market usually starts to rally six to nine months before the market starts to recover. You do the math on that one, as we all can hope that Mr. Bernanke is right.
The Fed’s Open Market Committee will start a two-day meeting tomorrow, coincidentally on the one-year anniversary of the Bear Stearns bailout.
Small business will be all ears today as the Administration is due to unveil an enhanced small-business lending plan, reportedly complete with more cash and lower fees.
Industrial production and capacity utilization numbers will be released in about an hour. That capacity utilization number is expected to be all the way down to 71 percent.
Most major overseas markets are 2 to 3 percent higher, and we’ll start off in the green as well.
At this point, adjusted for fair value, futures on the S&P 500 are up 8 points, the Dow futures are up 67, but the NASDAQ futures are about 7 points above fair value.
March 13, 2009
We’ll see how lucky Friday the 13th turns out to be for stock prices, as we follow up a three-day run that has listed the market by about 10 percent.
Positive comments about big bank profits dragged the financials off the floor to lead the rally this week and it looks like that strength may continue this morning, with Bank of America and JP Morgan both higher in pre-market trade.
Also on the move yesterday was the price of oil. Light sweet crude is up another 80 cents or so this morning and is closing in on 48 dollars per barrel.
No doubt that some, if not a large part of this week’s rally was short covering. Congressional comments about modifying mark-to-market and reinstating the ‘uptick’ rule has some traders scared ‘shortless,’ and it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of folks.
The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment index rolls later this morning.
Asian markets were up around 4 to 5 percent overnight. European markets are about 2 percent higher, and we will likely see more green arrows at 9:30.
March 12, 2009
It wasn’t much on a gain for the market yesterday, but it did mark the first two-session rally we’ve seen in over a month. Unfortunately, if we finish today the way we’ll likely begin, that’s where the winning streak will stop.
It’s Thursday, which means the weekly jobless claims will be announced at 8:30. Expect about 650,000 new claims. We’ll also get the February Retail Sales number, which is expected to reflect a one-half-of-one-percent decline.
As the Administration’s task force ponders the fate of the auto companies, consider this – Freddie Mac just went to the Government for an additional 30 billion dollar bailout. That’s over and above the 14 billion they’ve already drawn. And remember, Freddie’s not a victim of the financial crisis. It’s one of the perpetrators.
Today’s big Congressional hearing will be a discussion with the House Financial Services Committee regarding mark-to-market accounting. The idea of mark-to-market is to make sure that investors know the true value of assets on the books. The criticism is that in a true financial firestorm, its very difficult to fairly mark assets to an illiquid market, and at worst, it exacerbates the problems.
March 11, 2009
Yesterday, some encouraging words about profit at Citigroup, about re-imposition of the “uptick” rule from Barney Frank and some apparent flexibility from Ben Bernanke on mark-to-market accounting sent us off to the races. Tomorrow, the House Financial Services Committee will actually hold a hearing about mark-to-market, so things could really get interesting. However, until further economic evidence emerges, chalk up yesterday’s gains to a lot of short-covering after Frank’s comments.
I don’t know that this qualifies as news, but February foreclosure filings totaled more than 121,000 – that’s 76% more than January. Moreover, pre-foreclosure filings were up 24%.
How about this? AT&T has announced that they will add 3,000 jobs in 2009 due to increased demand. On the famous other hand, a Wall Street Recruiting firm says this morning that hedge funds might will 20,000 jobs this year, freeing up those people to do something more productive.
Staples reported 36 cents of earnings for the quarter versus the expected 42 cents.
March 10, 2009
The futures have the wind at their back for once as we head toward the open. Although the Japanese market was a bit lower overnight, the Nikkei did manage to hold the 7,000 level and other markets overseas rallied overnight.
Citigroup’s CEO says that the big bank operated at a profit during the first two months of the year. Granted, not much of a profit, but Citi stock is indicated almost 20% higher in the pre-market. Bank of America stock is also rising in sympathy.
The American Association of Individual Investors reports that their survey of retail investors reveals that 70 percent are bearish, and only 18 percent are bullish. That’s as negative as the index has ever been. That kind of negative sentiment often coincides with market bottoms, as small investors throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Ben Bernanke speaks at 8:30 this morning to the Council on Foreign Relations and at 10 o’clock the Report on January Wholesale Inventories is expected to show a decline in 1 percent.
March 9, 2009
It’s been hard to find a bright spot in the stock market this year. However, if you own shares of Schering-Plough, you’re looking at a bright spot this morning. Merck will buy Schering-Plough in a cash and stock deal that values Schering-Plough shares at 23.61 per share. That’s 34 percent higher than Friday’s close, which was 8 percent higher than Thursday’s close. Merck says that they are committed to maintaining their fairly-rich dividend, as well.
Not maintaining their dividend this morning is credit-card issuer Capital One. The quarterly dividend will be cut from 37 ½ cents per share to just a nickel.
McDonald’s February same store sales worldwide were 1.4% higher, which is 1% better than expected. Domestic sales, which were expected to decline, were up more than 2%.
The Hang Seng Index was off almost 5 percent overnight. Most other stock markets overseas are lower by 1 to 2 percent.
March 6, 2009
After another drubbing yesterday, daily stock prices are becoming fairly painful to watch. Prices are at incredible levels, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re cheap. However, if you have 5 dollars, you can buy a share of General Motors, Ford, AIG and Citigroup, and still get change back in your pocket.
Today, of course is the first Friday of the month. That means that the Department of Labor will tell us how many of our neighbors are out of work. It’s expected that 650,000 non-farm jobs were lost in February and that the Unemployment Rate has hit 7.9 percent. Keep in mind that
Unemployment is a lagging indicator. In other words, unemployment usually continues to rise even after the stock market begins to recover. Nevertheless, a really ugly jobs number will not likely be well received.
Wells Fargo just announced a dividend cut from 34 cents per quarter to a nickel. Well stock is bid about 6% higher in the pre-market.
European markets are lower, but only on the order of one percent or so.
March 5, 2009
European interest rates continue to finally play catch-up with reality this morning. The Bank of England cut their short term rate by a half-percent, to a half-percent. Across the channel, the European Central Bank set its interest rate to a record low one and a half percent. That’s also a half-point cut. Both of those moves were widely expected.
On the home front, shares of General Motors and Ford are both likely to be under pressure this morning. GM’s auditor has issued a going-concern qualification in their financial statement opinion. Yesterday, Ford announced that they will try to retire 10 billion of debt in a common stock swap offer. Of course, offers are one thing – acceptance is another. We’ll see how many bond holders take the bait.
Macy’s reports that February same store sales were worse than expected. On an important other hand, Walmart’s February comps were up 5.1 percent versus the expected 2.4 percent.
Asian markets were mixed overnight, but Europe is solidly in the red, and it looks like yesterday’s gains, which were almost halved in the last hour of trading yesterday, will be gone shortly after the open today.At this point, adjusted for fair value, S&P futures down 15½ points, the Dow futures are down 125, and the NASDAQ futures are about 18 points below fair value.
March 4, 2009
Stocks have now fallen 12 out of the past 13 sessions. But there is a ray of hope this morning – well, actually two rays; I don’t think that Treasury Secretary Geithner is scheduled to speak (that should help) (EDITORS NOTE: OH-OH! I WAS WRONG!) and word in Shanghai is that the Chinese Government will be offering another stimulus package soon. It used to be that the American economy would jump start the rest of the world. Hope is that the Chinese economy will grow fast enough to give us a boost.
Here’s something you don’t hear every quarter – Costco released quarterly earnings that missed expectations by 6 cents. Moreover, same store sales in the U.S. were down 1 percent. International same store sales were off 11 percent.
A report issued this morning by First American CoreLogic claims that 20 percent, yes, one in every five homeowners in the U.S. are now under-water with their mortgages. In Nevada, more than one-half of homeowners owe more than their homes are worth. And don’t look now, there are another 2.2 million homes nationwide (that’s another 5 percent or so) that are very, very close to going upside-down.
The Federal Reserve’s quarterly Beige Book of economic conditions will be released this afternoon.
March 3, 2009
For math geeks, it’s “Square Root Day,” that is, 3-3-09. For the rest of us, it’s February Auto sales report day. The average percentage sales decline for the entire industry is expected to be over 40 percent, ranging from an expected 35 percent decline at Honda to around 55 percent at Chrysler. The new annual industry sales rate is expected to run in the low-nine million range, and that’s not good news for anybody. In fact, Toyota is now seeking a 2 billion dollar loan from the Japanese government.
Ben Bernanke and Secretary of the Treasury Geithner will both be chatting with Congressional committees later today.
AutoZone beat expectations for revenue and earnings for the quarter gone by. International Game Technology will be cutting its dividend.
Walgreen will be announcing their February sales a little later on.
Overseas markets are mainly lower, but are really not off all that much given the carnage we’ve seen over the past few days.
March 2, 2009
Remember the jingle “Never borrow money needlessly, but where you need to borrow, go to HFC?” Oh, how times have changed. First, we had a decade of companies urging us to borrow needlessly, and now what is left of HFC is being shut down. The big global bank HSBC, that bought Household International in 2003, will shut down its U.S. consumer loan unit, take a 10 billion dollar write-down, cut its dividend and try to raise anther 18 billion in new capital.
The news that’s shaking up the markets this morning is the Government’s revised assistance to the basket case known as AIG. AIG reported a 61 billion dollar loss last quarter. Well, in response, the Government has extended another 30 billion dollar line of credit. AND AIG will be allowed to exchange 40 billion of the preferred stock received in the original bailout for non-cumulative preferred stock. AIG’s interest rate will go to 4.2 from 6.2 percent. What the Government appears to be saying to AIG is that “We don’t really care about a return on the taxpayer money – just please don’t die.” AIG stock was bid about 25% higher this morning, but is still only about 50 cents per share.
Personal income and consumption numbers roll at 8:30 and a little later, we’ll get the February ISM Index which is expected to decline to a reading of 34, again reflecting contraction in the manufacturing sector.
The futures have improved over the past half hour, but are still foretelling an ugly open. At this point, adjusted for fair value, S&P futures are down about 17 points, the Dow futures are down 127, and the NASDAQ futures are about 22 points below fair value.
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