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“Don’t believe the hype” crooned Public Enemy and they were right as, after all the fanfare, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner underwhelmed in spades. The Dow Jones fell 200 points from the start of his 30 minute speech to the end and finished yesterday 382 points behind. It reminded me of the Stonehenge sketch from Spinal Tap when it turns out that singer Nigel Tufnel's design for massive mock standing stones is built not to scale but to his original paper drawings by the set designer.

Today’s Market Moving News

  • So thumbs down then for a plan that had a nifty name but not much else. The devil was in the LACK of details. Indeed it was alarmingly sketchy in key areas, long on rhetoric but toothless. Investors should realise now 18 months into this debacle that there is no quick fix, no silver bullet. Welcome to the job from hell Timothy. The upshot as I suspected was for a bout of risk aversion with financials bearing the brunt (-13.8%) of the rout and the dollar, yen and bonds getting a bid.
  • Perhaps the most striking news overnight was China’s trade balance. Exports came in softer than expected but it was the collapse in imports that caught the eye (down 43.1% YOY). Those almost unbelievably bad Japan machine tool orders we saw Monday (-84.4% YOY) now look all too believable and chilling.
  • The chaps at the ECB seem to be warming us up for a rate cut at their March rendezvous. Council member Guy Quanden has just opined that he is “absolutely ready” to cut rates below 2% and that this level was “never taboo” for him. Note there is a raft of his colleagues giving us their wit and wisdom throughout today so watch for hints on the degree of the impending cut i.e. will it be a measly 0.25% or a bolder more Anglo Saxon move. Sweden’s Riksbank have just slashed rates by 1%, so the pressure is on.
  • Career opportunities for former high flying CEOs who crashed to earth (though some had a golden parachute).
  • And what’s the world coming to you may ask, as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) win regulatory approval for a prescription pill to treat premature ejaculation.

Irish Life And Permanent Making Plenty Of News
US rating agency Standard and Poor’s moved Irish Life and Permanent’s (IL&P) A- ratings to negative outlook. They said the government support on hand is sufficient to allow IL&P to rework its business and funding profile and basically get itself on a firmer footing. Shape and liabilities are the most important things for the bank to work on seeing as loan-deposit ratio was 243% in October 08.

Meanwhile, an investigation has begun into IL&P on the placing of a €7 billion deposit with Anglo Irish before the end of the bank’s financial year. The stock is off 12% this morning on this news.

Also the courting between EBS and IL&P seems to be making progress with the main stumbling block said to be the former's €500m development property “portfolio”.

Equities

  • Credit Suisse (NYSE:CS), another Swiss bank gone pear shaped, have just posted a $5.2bn loss.
  • Steelmaker ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT) have come in with a huge $2.6bn loss as the global depression has led to a collapse in sales.
  • It seems we are still eating yogurt as dairy kings Danone (OTC:GDNNY) posted some impressive numbers this morning with sales up 10%. Guidance was less healthy saying they’d miss “medium term goals”.
  • Now we know why Peugeot (OTCPK:PEUGF)/Citroen were looking for a dig out from Sarkozy. They have just reported a €343m loss and expect lots more red ink on the P&L in 2009. Note French industrial production was down 2.8% in December 2008 (far weaker than expected).
  • China’s Chinalco is mulling a $20bn investment in mining giant Rio Tinto (RTP). This story has been rumbling for a while now.
  • SmurfitKappa (OTCPK:SMFTF) reported results that were in line with expectations. Cash flow generation to pay down debt remains the key focus and challenge. They have suspended their dividend for 2009, cut CAPEX and bought back some of their debt in the market, which is trading cheaply, nice idea.

And Finally… The First Cut Is No Longer The Deepest

Disclosures: None

Source: Preview from Europe: Geithner Fails to Deliver