Thursday, February 18, 2010

2.18.10 Today’s Top Stories & Catalysts

Today’s Top Stories & Catalysts

· Focus for the most part remains on Europe with little out of Asia (BoJ decision pretty
much as expected and HK’s unemployment rate was unchanged) as China remaining closed.
On the Greek front, no major developments to speak of overnight (to watch coming up
though: the FT is reporting that Greece may test the waters next week w/a bond offering and
the country is expected to deliver more information by Fri 2/19 on its debt swap deals).
There were a handful of earnings out in Europe - Daimler is prob. the standout, w/the
stock off ~7% after reporting disappointing numbers and proposing a dividend cut. SocGen is
down 5% post its earnings (first disappointing European financial report this week after very
strong Barclays and ING #s) although other European financials aren't really getting hit in
sympathy. In London, BT is the weakest stock in the FTSE following a ratings downgrade
from S&P (there are continued worries about the co's pension exposure). On the eco front,
the UK posted a budget deficit for January vs. expectations for a surplus, putting UK
sovereign debt under some pressure (FT).

· tech update from Wed night - big night of earnings - on the whole numbers/trends/mgmt
commentary all remain positive, although inline w/what we heard from companies back in Jul
and also inline w/CSCO's Chambers a couple weeks back. Trends were robust in the CQ4,
trends remained strong in Jan, the CQ1 is shaping up to be better-than-seasonal for many endmarkets,
and mgmt tone remains sanguine on the outlook. The next big catalyst for tech will
be the sell-side conference season and the mid-Q updates - Goldman has a conf next week
and Morgan Stanley the week after - these forums will give companies a chance to update on
the status of Q1 (i.e. are things still pacing better-than-seasonal; how is the outlook for June
shaping up; etc). Also - we will start getting formal mid-Q updates in early Mar. Some
tidbits from Wed night: 1) HPQ tone remains positive on demand; PCs prob. showed biggest
upside (revs much better than St), which isn't surprising given what others have said/reported
(MSFT, INTC, etc); HPQ mgmt said it was component constrained (similar to what others,
inc. CSCO, have said); 2) AMAT beat and raised; tone was positive; one analyst on the call
noted that backing into CH2:10 guidance based on mgmt's color implies a down back-half (if
I take the 25% revenue growth you gave in the April quarter, 100% year on year growth, I
think you are actually talking about a 50% revenue decline from the April quarter level into
July and October"); that said AMAT was sanguine on the outlook looking into ’11; 3) NVDA
said it remained capacity constrained throughout the Q and will remain so into the Apr-end Q
(NVDA said this cost them a couple hundred million in revs in the Q and that they would
have guided for higher Apr revs). Big to watch tonight in techland - DELL and IM earnings.

· Gold sales - IMF to Begin On-Market Sales of Gold – hit after the US close on Wed – IMF
said Wed night it will soon kick off the second phase of its gold sales process. The first
phase was set aside exclusively for off-market sales to official holders. The total amount
remaining to be sold is 191.3 metric tons. In accordance with the priority of avoiding
disruption of the gold market, the on-market sales will be conducted in a phased manner over

· China & US tensions growing on economic front - US officials increasingly view the
Chinese currency’s artificially low peg as a threat to worldwide economic stability; the US
plans to press Chinese officials in the coming months to take action and strengthen the yuan.
In addition, US multinational corporations are becoming increasingly vocal about what they
view as anti-competitive practices on the part of the Chinese – WSJ

· Muni market – cities weigh Chapt 9 filings – the WSJ says municipalities around the
country are considering whether to file for Chpt 9 bankruptcy protection; also on the muni
front: States see ~$1T benefits “sinkhole” (there is a massive gap between what states have
promised in pensions, health care, and other benefits, and the available resources)
· Retail earnings season kicks off – WMT earnings due to hit @ 7amET this morning; JCP
comes Fri morning.

· US bank lending falls at fastest rate in history
bank lending in the US has contracted so far in ’10 at the fastest rate in history, raising worries that the Fed is withdrawing its
emergency stimulus measures too early. The M3 broad money supply has been contracting at
a rate of 5.6pc over the last three months. This signals future deflation. London Telegraph.

· Earnings season recap – from JPMorgan’s E Beinstein - Roughly 75% of the non-financial companies in our High Grade bond index have filed their 4Q09 reports. This preliminary data suggests credit metrics continue to improve, but the complexion of the improvement has changed. Recall, trends in 3Q09 credit metrics were positive across almost all sectors. These trends continue in 4Q09, but with a different tone. While companies continue to accumulate cash, the pace is slower. With cost cutting largely finished, profit margins have ticked down as companies must spend more to grow. While leverage has likely peaked earlier in 2009, its reduction will likely be gradual.
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