Jobs data looms. Investors will get a fresh look at the U.S. employment picture Friday morning as nonfarm payrolls take center stage. Expectations are for a gain of 140K, although some began to worry after Wednesday's ADP private sector payrolls report came in well below consensus at 119K. Whatever the case, no one wants a repeat of March's report which missed expectations by a wide margin.
ECB delivers on rate cut expectation. As expected by most (if not all) analysts, the ECB cut its benchmark rate by 25 basis points Thursday, as rising eurozone unemployment and low inflation provided the perfect backdrop for further monetary easing. Despite the move, some were quick to point out the comparatively feeble character of the ECB's policy response record: They are "still lagging far behind other central banks in [their] support for the economy," one economist told WSJ. Mario Draghi also suggested he was open to taking the deposit rate into negative territory and encouraged governments to stay the course in terms of fiscal consolidation.
Yields fall in eurozone after rate cut. Yields on eurozone sovereign debt fell across the board in the wake of the ECB's rate cut as investors reacted to Mario Draghi's perceived willingness to cut the deposit rate below zero, something policymaker Ewald Nowotny dismissed as not a near-term option. Yields on French, Austrian, and Belgian bonds hit record lows as spreads against safe haven German bunds compressed in Italy and Spain. After nearly pricing in a eurozone dissolution late last summer, fixed income investors now seem to be reacting as though the crisis is over.
Top Stock News
RBS swings to profit. RBS posted a quarterly profit for the first time since 2011 in Q1 as net profits came in at £393M (versus £1.46B loss in Q1 2012). Results benefited from a handsome £249M DVA gain. Impairments fell 26% and write downs tied to Ireland declined. Assets in the firm's bad bank fell to £53B and although the firm said losses tied to bad loans fell 26%, some have flagged RBS' recent purchase of some 4,000 "cheap" mortgage loans as evidence the bank is becoming less risk averse.
LinkedIn tops estimates but guidance disappoints. LinkedIn (LNKD) reported solid Q1 results Thursday evening as both EPS and revenue beat estimates, but the company's guidance was tepid. Shares fell more than 10% after hours as the social network for professionals guided below consensus estimates for both Q2 and full year revenue. LNKD also said ad revenue growth will be affected near-term by a transition to sponsored news feed updates (similar to Facebook's Sponsored Stories), but noted that it's working to "improve" its ad business model. The total number of registered users rose 16M Q/Q and monthly unique visitors increased 14%.
AIG earnings impress despite revenue miss. "We've emerged from this crisis and now you're seeing the strength of our earnings capabilities," AIG CEO Robert Benmosche said, referring to the company's EPS which came in at $1.34 per share (excluding items), beating estimates of $0.87. Although revenue came up short of the Street's expectations, investors' enthusiasm wasn't dampened as shares rose 2.4% after hours. Property and casualty operating income was $1.6B during the quarter, up from $1B in the previous year and the combined ratio fell to 97.2 from 102.1 a year ago (higher is worse; over 100 means claims exceed premiums).
BNP Paribas beats estimates, cuts costs. BNP Paribas (OTC:BNPZY) said weakness in investment banking weighed on Q1 net profit which fell 45% Y/Y to €1.58B — analysts expected €1.38B. Revenues rose 1.7% to €10.06B despite a 21% decline in investment banking. Provisions for bad Italian debt jumped 35%. The firm also said cost cutting measures (aimed at eliminating €2B in costs annually by FY15) are on track. BNP's Basel III Tier 1 capital ratio is a healthy 10%.
"The Oracle" readies earnings, meeting. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) is expected to post earnings Friday, ahead of its annual meeting this weekend at which Doug Kass will headline a panel of analysts intent on quizzing Warren Buffett for up to five hours. Analysts expect the company to post earnings of $1,966 per Class A share.
Top Economic & Other News
Record high yuan shows China confident in economic prospects. The fact that China hasn't acted to curb strength in the yuan is evidence of the government's confidence in the resiliency of the Chinese economy, some analysts and economists say. The yuan hit an all-time record high against the dollar Thursday and although the currency is only allowed to trade in a certain band relative to the greenback, recent manufacturing data which points to weakness in new export orders makes it especially interesting that an interventionist government remains on the sidelines in terms of devaluation.
FERC scolds JPMorgan. JPMorgan (JPM) has "transitioned from model citizen to problem child" in the eyes of Washington, the NY Times says. The latest evidence of the shift is a government document reviewed by the Times which reportedly says the firm dreamed up "manipulative schemes" in order to wring profits from "money-losing power plants." The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also claims Blythe Masters (mother of the synthetic CDO) "falsely denied under oath her awareness of" certain activities allegedly undertaken by a group of Houston energy traders. It isn't clear whether actions will be taken against JPM which will have a chance to respond to the allegations.
U.K. services sector sees strong growth. The U.K. services sector (which makes up 75% of the British economy) grew at its fastest pace in eight months in April according to Markit, and has now expanded in each month this year. Together with the latest Markit/CIPS PMI, which showed the U.K. manufacturing sector may be on stronger footing than anticipated, Friday's data paints an encouraging picture in terms of the country's economic health.
In Asia, Japan: Closed. Hong Kong +0.1% to 22689. China +1.44% to 2205. India -0.81% to 19575.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.23%. Paris +0.16%. Frankfurt +.20%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow -0.05%. S&P -0.09%. Nasdaq: Flat. Crude +0.62% to $94.57. Gold +1.04% to $1483.00.
Notable earnings after today's close: MTGE
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