Subprime, Alt-A Borrowers Fall Further Behind on Payments
According to data released Tuesday by research firm First American Loan Performance, the rate of subprime borrowers falling behind on their payments continues to accelerate. In January, 14.3% of payments on subprime loans were at least 60% late, up from 13.4% in December and 8.4% y/y. On Alt-A loans (between prime and subprime), late payments rose to 2.6% from 2.3% in December and 1.3% y/y. The alarming figures are causing lenders to clamp down by eliminating 'no-money-down' loans and demanding proof of income, meaning many borrowers are being turned down. Subprime lending could drop 50% in 2007 according to UBS mortgage analyst David Liu; Alt-A lending is also expected to decline sharply. In 2006, subprime and Alt-A were a full 40% of all mortgage originations according to research firm Moody's Economy. Mark Zandi of Economy.com says the worst is still to come: overdue payments and defaults will continue to rise as mortgages graduate from introductory 'teaser' interest rates. He sees foreclosures up to 1.3 million in 2007 from 0.9 million in 2006. As a result, he predicts a 5% drop in sales of previously-occupied homes -- the worst since the Depression.
Sources: Wall Street Journal
Commentary: Subprime Problems Trickling Up To Midprime • Asset Manager Sy Jacob's Subprime Longs and Shorts • Subprime Mortgage Bust Could Create Ad Trouble for Google
Stocks/ETFs to watch: S&P 500 Index (SPY), Diamonds Trust Series 1 ETF (DIA), iShares Lehman Aggregate Bond (AGG), streetTRACKS KBW Regional Banking ETF (KRE)
Related: Wikipedia on Subprime Lending
February Pending Home Sales Index Posts Slim Gain
The National Association of Realtors reported yesterday that pending sales of U.S. homes ticked up 0.7% in February after a 4.2% drop in January. The gain was probably limited by bad weather and the repercussions of the collapse of the subprime mortgage market. Still, stocks rallied on the news, as well as on reports that tensions are easing in the U.K.-Iran standoff and crude oil prices are dropping. Treasury prices fell and yields rose after the NAR report was released. Pending home sales rose 0.7% to 109.3 from a downwardly revised level of 108.5 in January, bettering analyst expectations of 108.2. David Lereah, the NAR's chief economist, claims the month-to-month improvement implies an "underlying stabilization is taking place in the housing market." Credit Suisse economist Jon Basile: the report "gives a feel that existing home sales has stabilized because they are higher than the lows of last year. At the very least, housing demand is not getting any worse." Pending home sales rose 4.5% in the South and 2.9% in the Midwest while slipping 1.3% in the Northeast. The West was the hardest-hit, posting a 6.0% drop.
Sources: Bloomberg, MarketWatch, Reuters
Commentary: U.S. Home Prices Have Taken a Cliff Dive Without Signs of Recovery • New Home Sales Drop for Second Month Straight • Don't Celebrate Quite Yet: Housing Still Hasn't Bottomed
Stocks/ETFs to watch: DJ Wilshire REIT (RWR), Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ), streetTRACKS SPDR Homebuilders ETF (XHB), iShares Dow Jones US Home Construction (ITB)
QUALCOMM Sues Nokia Again as License Contract Set to Expire
QUALCOMM brought patent infringement lawsuits against Nokia in two U.S. courts yesterday, both known for their "extensive (patent) experience" and "speedy adjudication." The two companies have been negotiating their technology licensing agreement -- set to expire Monday -- for the past two years. Reuters quotes a Charter Equity Research analyst who said, "There's no hope ... these guys are going to settle" before the deadline, adding that "There's only downside for QUALCOMM," with the best case scenario being maintaining the status quo. A Prudential analyst said, "The royalty agreement they reach with Nokia could have spill-over impact on the agreements they have with their other customers." If the two do not reach an agreement and Nokia stops paying licensing fees, QUALCOMM expects quarterly EPS could decline by $0.04 - $0.06. A Nokia spokeswoman said the lawsuits are "without merit" and the company will "actively defend itself." Shares of Nokia gained 1.15% to $22.96 yesterday and QUALCOMM rose 1.46% to $43.71.
Sources: Press release, Bloomberg, Reuters
Commentary: Qualcomm: Sound Business Entering Period Of Uncertainty • Nokia Siemens JV Cuts '07 Market Outlook • Nokia vs. Motorola: Which is a Better Stock to Bet On?
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Nokia (NOK), QUALCOMM (QCOM). ETFs: Broadband HOLDRs (BDH), Wireless HOLDRs (WMH), Morgan Stanley Technology ETF (MTK), iShares Goldman Sachs Networking (IGN).
Conference call transcripts: Nokia Q4'06, QUALCOMM F1Q07
Related: QUALCOMM's Legal Newsroom
Comcast to Buy Patriot Media
Comcast, the U.S.'s largest cable TV provider, will plug a hole in its central New Jersey service by acquiring niche provider Patriot Media for $483 million in net cash. The purchase will boost Comcast's competitive position against rival Verizon, which is rolling out FiOS TV in the state. The deal is expected to close in Q3. Patriot's 81,000-person constituency resides in New Jersey's affluent Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Morris counties, geographically complementing Comcast's existing service areas in the state. The deal values each Patriot customer at $6,000, a premium to the $4,000-per-customer value range of other cable companies. Comcast justifies the high cost by noting the high average net worth of Patriot's clientele, who are more likely to buy additional products like high-speed Internet access. Comcast spokeswoman D'Arcy Rudnay: "These systems have great demographics and are so well managed that they generate almost twice as much cash flow as the average customer." Craig Moffett, senior analyst at Sanford Bernstein, concurs: Patriot enjoys "probably the best operating metrics of any cable system in America, with spectacular demographics and very high penetration of all the advanced services."
Sources: Reuters, Newsday, Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch
Commentary: Triple-Play All The Way: A Look at the Hottest Trend in Consumer Telecom • How Verizon's FiOS Will Change the Face of the Telecom Industry
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Comcast Corp. (CMCSA). Competitors: Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ), DirecTV Group Inc. (DTV), EchoStar Communications Corp. (DISH). ETFs: PowerShares Dynamic Telecom & Wireless (PTE), PowerShares Dynamic Media (PBS), iShares Dow Jones US Consumer Services (IYC)
Conference call transcripts: Comcast Q4 2006, Verizon Q4 2006
NBC to Launch 20 New International Pay TV Channels
NBC Universal announced Wednesday morning it will launch 20 new pay TV channels in 23 countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia in an effort to more than double its broadcasting revenues abroad over the next 2-3 years. CEO Jeff Zucker: "We promised that international growth would be one of our key areas of focus and this first step underlines our determination to grow our business throughout the world." Existing channels such as Sci-Fi and 13th Street will be launched in new markets including Portugal, Hungary, Russia and India. NBC Universal is owned jointly by General Electric (80%) and Vivendi (20%).
Sources: C21 Media, Reuters
Commentary: Attention News Corp, NBC Universal: People Won't Pay for Content • NBC Prime Time TV: Coming To a Mobile Phone Near You • NBBC: Will 2007 Be the Year of Quality Online Video?
Stocks/ETFs to watch: General Electric Co. (GE). Competitors: CBS Corp. (CBS), Time Warner Inc. (TWX), News Corp. (NWS), Viacom Inc. (VIA), Walt Disney Company (DIS). ETFs: PowerShares Dynamic Media Portfolio ETF (PBS), PowerShares Dynamic Leisure & Entertainment (PEJ)
TRANSPORT AND AEROSPACE
DaimlerChrysler CEO Admits To Negotiating Sale of Chrysler
DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche admitted for the first time today that he is in the midst of negotiating the sale of his company's N. American Chrysler unit, nine years after it first purchased Chrysler, and a few months after the company reported a loss of $1.5 billion for FY2006. Zetsche, who is attending chrysler's annual shareholder meeting in Germany beginning to day refused to disclose details of the talks, or say who his company was talking to. Among possible bidders are private equity groups Blackstone Group LP and Centerbridge Capital Partners LLC and Canadian parts suppler Magna International Inc. together with Cerberus Capital Management LLC. GM has also been mentioned as a possible bidder but CEO Rick Wagoner has stated his company has no intent to make a bid at this time.
Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters, AP
Commentary: Toyota Continues To Gain U.S. Market Share At Expense of Big 3 • DailmerChrysler: In The Firm Embrace of Magna International • GM Unlikely To Make Chrysler Bid After First Offer Was Rebuffed
Stocks/ETFs to watch: DaimlerChrysler (DCX), Magna International (MGA). Competitors: General Motors (GM), Ford (F), Toyota (TM), Honda (HMC), Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY)
Positive Traffic Reports and Lower Oil Prices Boost Airline Stocks
Airline stocks rallied on news of a positive March traffic report by Continental Airlines, which came as a surprise to many, after Continental warned of a challenging Q1 last month. Continental says passenger revenue per available seat mile [RASM] rose 4.5 - 5.5% y-o-y as traffic increased 3.4% and capacity rose 1.8%. Shares of Continental jumped 8.4% to $39.08, U.S. Airways gained 6.3% to $47.87, American Airlines parent AMR Corp rose 5.3% to $31.93, UAL Corp gained 4.8% to $40.17, JetBlue was up 3.6% to $11.86 and Southwest rose 2.2% to $15.08. Continental reports Q1 earnings April 19, with analysts expecting it to break even, according to Thomson. A J.P. Morgan analyst noted the strong March performance "portends a quarterly profit ... hopefully serving as a reassuring reminder that demand trends remain intact." An S&P analyst called Continental's results "encouraging" saying it "provides hope that a recent slowing in RASM isn't as much as previously feared." Also helping airline stocks was a 2% fall in crude futures. Ryanair, Europe's largest budget airline, just announced March traffic increased 26%, but load factor fell 1% to 78%. Separately, MarketWatch says Northwest Airlines will offer 27.8 million new shares priced at $27/share as part of its exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Sources: Press release, BusinessWeek, Forbes, MarketWatch [i, ii, iii], Reuters
Commentary: Goldman: United Airlines, JetBlue Should Outperform Peers • There's a Reason There Is No Airline ETF • Continental Narrows Loss in 4Q06
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Continental Airlines Inc. (CAL), AMR Corporation (AMR), Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV), UAL Corp. (UAUA), U.S. Airways Group (LCC), JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU), Ryanair Holdings Plc (RYAAY), Delta Air Lines Inc. (DALRQ.PK), Northwest Airlines Corp. (NWACQ.PK)
Toyota Continues To Gain U.S. Market Share At Expense of Big 3
Toyota Motor Corp. continued to steal U.S. market share from the Big 3 automakers, reporting a 12% YoY sales gain for March, as it watched its sales jump to 242,675 vehicles on strong hybrid sales. The company sold 61,635 of the gas efficient vehicles, up 68% from last year's first quarter. In contrast, the Big 3 each reported YoY drops in sales in March. General Motors reported a 4% sales drop to a total of 345,418 light vehicles, while cutting its 2Q production forecast for N. America. Meanwhile, Ford reported its sales fell 9% to 264,975 cars and light trucks; F-Series pickup truck sales dropped 15%. DaimlerChrysler, whose shareholder's begin their annual meeting today, reported a 4.6% YoY sales drop with 206,435 vehicles sold - the first time it surpassed the 200,000 mark in a single month since March 2006.
Sources: Playfuls.com, Bloomberg, AP, Detroit Free Press
Commentary: The Rise of Toyota and the Demise of the American Auto Industry • Target Marketing: Toyota's Lexus Makeover • GM Vehicle Sales, U.S. Market Share Rise; Japan's 'Big 3' Continue to Roll
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Toyota (TM), GM (GM), Ford (F), DaimlerChrysler (DCX). Competitors: Honda (HMC), Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY)
United Airlines and BMI File to Merge Trans-Atlantic Operations
The Times of London reports that British airline BMI and United Airlines have applied for U.S. government permission to merge their trans-Atlantic operations. The paper cites BMI CEO Nigel Turner as its source. The airlines would continue to be separately owned, but passengers would deal with only one of the two when booking flights. The two airlines are both members of the Star Alliance. BMI's chairman, Michael Bishop, holds 50% of the company, with Lufthansa holding just under 30% and SAS 20%.
Commentary: Goldman: United Airlines, JetBlue Should Outperform Peers • SAC Capital: Notable Portfolio Changes
Stocks/ETFs to watch: UAL Corp. (UAUA), Lufthansa [DE: 823212]. ETFs: iShares Dow Jones Transportation Index ETF (IYT)
Apollo Management Said to Be Considering IPO
Leon Black's private equity firm Apollo Management is rumored to be considering an IPO -- though senior management remains cagey about its intentions. The company has retained Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan to help it consider its options. The Apollo IPO rumor is circulating about two weeks after buyout company Blackstone Group became the first such firm to offer shares to the public -- an IPO in which Goldman and J.P. Morgan were conspicuously absent. The Apollo IPO, if it takes place, would involve only a small percentage of the company and be valued at about $1.5 billion; Blackstone is offering $4 billion in stock. Investment banks that stand to gain from the underwriting of transactions are said to be prodding private equity firms to follow in Blackstone's footsteps while investor appetite remains keen. Fortress Investment Group, which in February became the first hedge fund to go public, is trading at $28.99, 57% above its offering price of $18.50. Apollo has conducted 18 deals totaling $58 billion since the start of 2006.
Sources: Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Reuters, TheStreet.com
Commentary: Blackstone Files For $4 Billion IPO, Reveals Untold Secrets • The Private Equity Party Might Be Over • Fortress Goes Public: A Rational Look At Valuation
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Blackstone Group (BX), Fortress Investment Group LLC (FIG), American Capital Strategies (ACAS), Apollo Investment Corp (AINV). ETFs: Private Equity Listed Portfolio (PSP)
U.S. Trust CEO Scaturro to Jump Ship Before Bank of America Acquisition
The Bank of America announced yesterday that U.S. Trust Corp. CEO Peter Scaturro will not come on board when it completes its acquisition of U.S. Trust later this year, dealing what the Wall Street Journal calls "a setback to the big bank's ambitious push to become the leader in the lucrative business of managing rich people's money." Scaturro was supposed to continue leading the exclusive private bank, which requires a $2 million deposit to open an account and has about $93 billion in client assets. Announced in November, the deal was supposed to allow U.S. Trust clients to continue to enjoy their preferred treatment, while benefitting from the giant bank's broad reach. People familiar with the situation say that after numerous disagreements over how the integrated unit would be run, Scaturro decided to step down this summer. Differences of opinion include the big bank's insistence that U.S. Trust switch over to its computer platform, Scaturro's reluctance to cede his autonomy over guiding the unit, and BoA's failure to appreciate the high-cost methods private banks use to lure clients and keep them happy. The Journal says the setback is unlikely to derail the acquisition, but that it highlights the difficulties big banks have in changing their mass-market strategies to suit the ultra-wealthy. Frances Aldrich Sevilla-Sacasa, U.S. Trust president, is likely to replace Scaturro, a person close to the matter said.
Sources: Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Bloomberg
Commentary: Bank of America: Reaching Out to the 'Unbanked' • What Would Happen if Bank of America Acquired Countrywide Financial? • Investment Styles of the Rich and Famous
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Bank of America Corp. (BAC). Competitors: Wachovia Corp. (WB), Citigroup Inc. (C), Wells Fargo & Company (WFC). ETFs: PowerShares Dynamic Banking (PJB), streetTRACKS KBW Bank (KBE)
Jackson Hewitt Franchises Accused of "Massive" Fraud
Shares of no. 2 U.S. tax preparer Jackson Hewitt plunged 18% to $26.53 yesterday after the U.S. Department of Justice accused five Jackson Hewitt franchises of defrauding the U.S. Treasury out of over $70 million. The shares rebounded to $27.25 after hours. The investigation accuses 24 individuals who manage or work at the franchises' 125 locations of a "pervasive and massive series of tax-fraud schemes" in which clients were encouraged to claim fake deductions and fuel tax credits in "absurd amounts" and seek refunds based on phony W-2s. There is also evidence of "massive fraud" in claims for the federal earned income tax credit. Some of the defendants are alleged to have taken kickbacks from clients who benefited from the fraudulent claims. A single defendant, Atlanta-based Farrukh Sohail, owns all or part of all five franchises. Sohail is accused of creating a "business environment'' where "fraudulent tax return preparation is encouraged and flourishes.'' "Sohail's main focus is volume, quotes and profit, all at the expense of preparing honest, accurate tax returns,'' the DoJ said. This is the third time Jackson Hewitt has been investigated by federal authorities in a year.
Sources: Press Release, Reuters, Bloomberg, New York Times
Commentary: Fraud Alleged at Jackson Hewitt Sites [Wall Street Journal] • Many Happy Tax Returns [SmartMoney.com] • Jackson Hewitt: U.S. suits unlikely to hurt financials [MarketWatch] • Hewitt Can Do It [Motley Fool]
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. (JTX). Competitors: H&R Block, Inc. (HRB), Intuit Inc. (INTU)
Marshall & Ilsey Spinning Off Payment-Processing Unit
Milwaukee-based bank Marshall & Ilsey [M&I] will spin off its Metavante payment-processing unit into an independent public company valued at about $4.25 billion. M&I shares gained 8.7% to $49.83 yesterday after the Wall Street Journal reported the news. Private equity firm Warburg Pincus has committed $625 million for a 25% equity stake in the new company. M&I shareholders will receive one share of M&I Corp. stock and one share of Metavante Corp. stock for every three shares of M&I stock they hold. The deal will also include approximately $1.75 billion in new Metavante debt. M&I is spinning off the unit, which accounted for a fifth of the company's profit last year, in order to focus more exclusively on retail banking operations. The deal follows the announcement of the purchase by buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts of credit-card processor First Data Corp. Raymond James analyst Bradley Vander Ploeg: "Private-equity firms are clearly looking at this space right now because of the payment processors' ability to generate consistent cash flows." The transaction should close in Q4.
Sources: MoneyCentral, Bloomberg, Reuters
Commentary: KKR To Buy First Data For $29 Billion; Shares Jump 25% • Financial-services sector seen ripe for buyouts [Reuters]
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Marshall & Ilsley Corp. (MI). Competitors: Bank of America Corp. (BAC), US Bancorp (USB), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Fidelity National Information Services Inc. (FIS), Fiserv Inc. (FISV), Total System Services, Inc. (TSS). ETFs: KBW Bank ETF (KBE), WisdomTree High-Yielding Equity (DHS), iShares Dow Jones US Regional Banks (IAT), iShares Dow Jones U.S. Financial Services (IYG), Rydex S&P Equal Weight Financial Services (RYF)
GlaxoSmithKline-Pozen Combination Treatment Increases Migraine Effectiveness -- JAMA
Today's Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA] has an article demonstrating that Trexima, a migraine treatment combining Imitrex and naproxen sodium, relieves migraine headaches significantly more effectively than either drug alone, according to two separate studies. The combination therapy is produced by GlaxoSmithKline and Pozen Inc.; Pozen's shares jumped nearly 9% in after hours trading on the news. Trexima was found to stop moderate to severe migraines in 65% of cases, versus just 55% effective relief for Imitrex alone, 44% for naproxen sodium alone and just 28% for the placebo. Some doctors have known combination therapy was more effective for some time; according to neurologist Richard Lipton, "We've used combination therapy for a long time... these two studies provide really solid evidence that the combination treatment is rational and provides better outcomes."
Sources: Press Release, Washington Post, Bloomberg, Reuters,
Commentary: GlaxoSmithKline, Like Other Pharmas, Ignored in Good Drug Press • Glaxo's Q4 Earnings Mostly In-line, Shares Up on '07 Prospects •
Stocks/ETFs to watch: GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Pozen Inc. (POZN). Competitors: Pfizer (PFE), Merck (MRK), Novartis (NVS), Sanofi-Aventis (SNY). ETFs: iShares S&P Global Healthcare (IXJ)
Pressure on Citi to Raise Bid for Nikko Rises to New Heights
Instinet Japan says sell orders for Nikko Cordial at ¥1,900 -- 11.8% above Citigroup's ¥1,700 bid -- totaled 137 million shares today (vs. 71m yesterday), or 14% of shares outstanding. Harris Associates, one of Nikko's largest shareholders, joined Orbis Investment Management in offering their shares at an above bid price. Shares of Nikko gained 0.53% to ¥1,695, hitting ¥1,700 intra-day -- the first time it has traded at Citi's offer price. Reactions among analysts varied, with the head of Japanese equities at Yasuda Asset Management commenting, "It's a bargaining technique which is unprecedented and very political. The risk is that Citigroup will cancel the offer, which may hurt Nikko's share price." A portfolio manager at T&D Asset Management in Tokyo previously said, "It will be an incentive for Citigroup to raise the offer as it can monitor how many shareholders will be willing to sell at ¥1,900." A senior equities dealer at Shinko Securities, who does not think Citi will raise its bid, commented that "They are trying to send a message -- 'If you want Nikko so much, why don't you pay this level?'"
Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters
Commentary: Nikko Cordial: Shareholders Join Campaign Against Citigroup's Takeover Bid • Big Nikko Shareholder Signals Unwillingness to Accept Citi's Bid • Dance Over Nikko Cordial Continues
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Citigroup (C), Nikko Cordial (OTC:NIKOY) (JP: 8603), Mizuho Financial Group (MFG) (JP: 8411). Competitors: Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MTU) (JP: 8306), Nomura Holdings (NMR) (JP: 8604), Daiwa Securities Group (OTC:DSECY) (JP: 8601). ETFs: iShares S&P Global Financial Index Fund (IXG), iShares Dow Jones US Financial Services (IYG), Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF)
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