U.S. GDP Growth to Drop to 2.3% -- Panel
The Blue Chip Economic Indicators panel of forecasters said Monday in its monthly newsletter it expects U.S. GDP growth to slow to 2.3%, its lowest since 2002. The panel scaled back from its forecast of 2.5% in March, due to lower estimates for capital spending, residential investment, and business inventories. It also said it did not expect inflation to slow as much as it previously did, but still felt it would grow less rapidly in 2007 than the years 2004-2006 (during which the Consumer Price Index varied between 2.7 and 3.4%). The group expressed concern about slowing growth in the service sector. It left its unemployment forecast unchanged at 4.7% for 2006 and 4.8% for 2008 (note: the survey was conducted before Friday's surprise jump to 180,000 new jobs created in March coupled with unemployment falling from 4.5% to 4.4%). Based on the healthy labor markets and inflation concerns, the panel predicts little-to-no rate cuts of the Federal Reserve's benchmark rate. 24% of those survey expect a recession within the year, while 71% said the Fed's next move would be a rate drop.
Sources: Reuters, CPI Data
Commentary: Happy Times Are Here Once Again! • An Inflation Warning from the Money Supply Data • Tech Spending Poll, GDP Data Confirm Slowdown
Stocks/ETFs to watch: S&P 500 Index (SPY), Diamonds Trust Series 1 ETF (DIA), iShares Lehman Aggregate Bond (AGG)
Related: Blue Chip Economic Indicators newsletter subscription
LG Philips Posts Fourth Consecutive Loss, Forecasts Rosier Future for LCD Makers
South Korean flat panel maker LG Philips reported this morning its Q1 2007 earnings, posting its fourth straight quarterly loss. The world's #2 LCD panel maker said it lost 169 billion won ($181 million), vs. a 47.5 billion won profit in Q1 2006 -- beating analyst consensus estimates of a 235 billion won loss. Sales rose 10% to 2.72 trillion won, ahead of analyst estimates of 2.61 trillion won. LCD makers have been hurt over the past year by falling panel prices coupled with rising costs. The company said LCD prices fell 9% in Q1, and will likely fall by a 'mid-single digit' in Q2, but that demand for LCD TV panels will exceed supply for the second half of 2007. Reuters says analysts see the company turning profitable again by Q3. Newly appointed CEO Kwon Young-soo said the industry should see a shortage of TV panels and a rebound in prices of monitor and notebook screens starting in the third quarter. Research company DisplaySearch says global shipments of LCD TVs will rise 56% this year, vs. 2.7% growth for total TVs and 33% growth for plasma TVs. Sony Corp. said this morning it expects a 50% surge in global LCD TV shipments. Shares have gained 18% thus far this year over investor anticipation of a recovery. Jung Ho of Daehan Investment Trust Management in Seoul: "If you agree with the recovery story, then it's time to buy."
Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg I, II
Commentary: LCD Market: Supply/Demand Balance Remains Out of Whack • Don't Expect LCD Prices To Recover Anytime Soon • Acquisitions the Only Way For LG Philips To Turn Things Around
Stocks/ETFs to watch: LG Philips LCD Company Ltd. (LPL). Competitors: Hitachi Ltd. (HIT), AU Optronics Corp. (AUO)
Conference call transcript: LG.Philips LCD Q4 2006 Earnings Call Transcript
Microsoft Forecasts 20% China Sales Gain on Anti-Piracy Campaign
Microsoft China CEO Timothy Chen told Reuters he expects 2007 sales to jump 20%, bolstered by the company's anti-piracy campaign and new products. Major software and PC vendors, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo have been pressuring the Chinese government to clamp down on previously rampant piracy. China is the world's second biggest PC market. Of more than 20 million units shipped last year, more than 50% carried legal copies of Windows, data-tracking firm IDC says. Chen says that only 30% of Lenovo PCs currently sold contain pirated Windows copies, down from an estimated 90% last year. He also said that growth would come from new product sales such as Microsoft's recently introduced Vista OS; it plans to roll out seven new products in China this year and another six in 2008.
Commentary: Piracy From China: How Microsoft, Ralph Lauren, Nike And Others Can Cope • Ten Steps Microsoft Should Take To Jumpstart Vista • Microsoft Continues to Lose Online Popularity
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), Dell Inc. (DELL), Lenovo Group Ltd. (OTCPK:LNVGY). Competitors: Oracle Corp. (ORCL), Novell Inc. (NOVL), International Business Machines Corp. (IBM). ETFs: iShares Goldman Sachs Software Index Fund (IGV), Software HOLDRS Trust ETF (SWH), PowerShares Dynamic Software (PSJ)
Conference call transcript: Microsoft F2Q07 (Qtr End 12/31/06) Earnings Call Transcript
Seagate Issues Q3 Sales Warning
Hard drive manufacturer Seagate Technology warned yesterday that fiscal Q3 sales will come in below both the company's prior forecast and Street expectations. Margins also failed to meet company forecasts. Seagate is now projecting Q3 sales of approximately $2.8 billion, below its earlier forecast of $2.9-3 billion and a consensus analyst forecast of $2.94 billion. The company is attributing the disappointing sales to pricing pressures and lower-than-expected demand for its 3.5-inch ATA disc drives. Seagate claims its market share remains the same from last quarter. "Overall, the company's results continue to be healthy and are reflective of its leadership position in an industry where consumers and applications are using, creating and sharing digital content at an accelerating pace," Seagate said in a press release. The company's shares closed up $0.19 at $23.46. Seagate will report quarterly results on April 17.
Sources: Press release, TheStreet.com, Forbes
Commentary: Seagate, Western Digital, Bell Micro Down On Competitive Concerns • Why Seagate CEO Bill Watkins Isn't Worried About Flash • Seagate: Downplaying Fears About Apple
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Seagate Technology (STX). Competitors: Western Digital Corp. (WDC), Fujitsu Ltd. [ADR] (OTCPK:FJTSY), Hitachi (HIT). ETFs: Vanguard Mid-Cap Value ETF (VOE), Vanguard Mid Cap ETF (VO)
Conference call transcripts: F2Q07 (Qtr End 12/29/06)
Advanced Micro's Shares Rally on Smaller-than-Anticipated Sales Drop
Shares of Advanced Micro Devices rose 3.8% yesterday after the company issued a preliminary report stating that Q1 sales had dropped 8% to $1.23 billion. Investors had been expecting a grimmer result after the company issued a warning that it would miss its $1.6-1.7 billion forecast. The shares, which have lost 34% on the year, gained $0.49 to close at $13.35. Shares of competitor Intel rose 2.7% to $20.10. Though the company's revised sales forecast is well shy of analysts' consensus of $1.54 billion, investors appear to have been cheered that the shortfall was not greater. They also welcomed AMD's announcement of a restructuring plan that will involve $500 million in spending cuts this year -- a 20% capex reduction -- as well as a partial hiring freeze. AMD, which holds 25% of the PC microprocessor market, has suffered from Intel's aggressive pricing. Later this year, AMD will unveil a new chip series called Barcelona that it claims will outperform Intel's Core 2 Duo range. A full Q1 report is expected on April 19.
Sources: Bloomberg, Chron.com, Red Herring, News.com
Commentary: AMD Issues Revenue Warning; Restructuring Looms • AMD Stock Rises; Will It Still Need To Raise Cash? • How Deep Is The Hole At AMD?
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD). Competitors: Intel Corp. (INTC). ETFs: iShares S&P Global Technology (IXN), PowerShares FTSE RAFI Telecom & Tech (PRFQ)
Conference call transcripts: Q4 2006
Lawson Software Doubles Sales, Loses Money
Business Management vendor Lawson Software said Monday its Q3 sales were double those of last year, but that it lost $10 million in the quarter on restructuring costs. Sales revenue soared 118% to $191.2 million, ahead of consensus estimates of $188 million. Its $10 million loss ($0.05/share) reversed a $10 million ($0.09/share) gain in Q3 2006, which the company attributed to an $11.5 million charge it took for restructuring costs from its April 2006 $480 million acquisition of Sweden's Intentia (including compensation charges for 350 jobs it expects to eliminate over the next five years), and higher marketing costs. Before items, Lawson earning $11.4 million ($0.06/share), beating Street estimates of $0.03. It gave Q4 guidance of revenue of $188-196 million and EPS excluding charges of $0.03-0.05 -- analysts expected $0.04 on revenue of $197 million. Last week, shares jumped 11% when the company said Q3 sales would beat estimates. In after-hours trading, shares lost 2.8% to $8.65 after dropping as much as 4.4%.
Sources: Press release, TheStreet.com, Bloomberg
Commentary: Lawson: Still a Flat Line [Fool]
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Lawson Software Inc. (LWSN). Competitors: Oracle Corp. (ORCL), SAP AG (SAP), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT). iShares Goldman Sachs Software Index Fund (IGV), Software HOLDRS Trust ETF (SWH), PowerShares Dynamic Software (PSJ)
Conference call transcript: Lawson Software F2Q07 (Qtr End 11/30/06) Earnings Call Transcript
99 Cents Only Stores Posts 9.4% Quarterly Sales Rise
Retailer 99 Cents Only Stores reported a 9.4% rise in Q4 total sales to to $277.9 million, up from $254.1 million in Q4 last year and ahead of Street expectations of $275.60 million. Retail sales gained 9.2% to $267.2 million while bargain wholesale sales were up 13.8% to $10.8 million against $9.5 million a year ago. Q4 same-store sales were up 2.9% versus the same quarter last year. Overall same-store-sales transactions increased by 0.9% in the period, and the average transaction size increased 2.0%, from $9.22 to $9.41. Full year sales for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2007 were $1,104.7 million, up 7.9% from $1,023.6 million last year, beating analyst expectations of $1.10 billion. Total retail sales were $1,064.5 million, up 8.2% from $984.3 million last year. Full-year same-store-sales were up 2.4% over the prior year. The company plans to boost its store opening growth rate from 8.2% in fiscal 2007 to about 15% in fiscal 2008 and expand into new markets in 2009 and 2010.
Sources: Reuters, Trading Markets
Commentary: 99 Cents Only Stores "hold," target price raised - update [New Ratings] Sector Snap: Discount retailers rise [Business Week]
Stocks/ETFs to watch: 99 Cents Only Stores (NDN). Competitors: Big Lots Inc. (BIG), Dollar General Corp. (DG), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT). ETFs: PowerShares Value Line Timeliness Select (PIV), PowerShares FTSE RAFI Consumer Services (PRFS)
ENERGY AND MATERIALS
Gas Producers to Form Pricing Group
Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said yesterday at the Gas Producing Countries Forum in Qatar that the world's largest natural gas producers have agreed to create a group to study gas pricing policy -- a move widely viewed as a precursor to the formation of an OPEC-like cartel. The group, which will study pricing, infrastructure and the relationship between producers and consumers, will make its first report in 2008 at the next Forum. Gas-dependent Europe has warned that it will pursue alternative energy sources if a gas cartel comes into being, prompting reassurances from the ministers. "I hate the word 'cartel,'" said Qatari Energy Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah. "We should work towards greater cooperation to stabilize the market, to give confidence to our consumers." Khristenko: "We do not, and will not, set ourselves the goal of ganging up on anybody." The ministers agree that an OPEC-like body will not be practical in any case until gas becomes a globally traded commodity. The advent of liquefied natural gas, of which Qatar and Indonesia are the world's leading exporters, is believed by analysts to be a step toward a global gas market.
Sources: Bloomberg, Boston Herald, Wall Street Journal, Reuters
Commentary: Gazprom: Rich in Resources, Weak in Capital • Think You Want A Piece of High Flying Gazprom? Think Again • ExxonMobil Shelves Qatar Gas-to-Liquid Project in Favor of Natural Gas
Stocks/ETFs to watch: OAO Gazprom [ADR] (OTCPK:OGZPY), Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE), PowerShares Dynamic Energy & Exploration (PXE)
Dow Shares Gain on Renewed Buyout Rumors
Shares of Dow Chemical rose almost 5% yesterday on renewed rumors of an LBO involving a group of Middle Eastern investors and American buyout firms. The company continues to deny that an LBO is in the works. British tabloid The Sunday Express reported this weekend in an unsourced article that the investor group had secured financing for a $50 billion bid. The paper claims the group will offer $52-58 per share, which would represent at least a 17% premium to the company's Thursday close of $44.47. The only member of the team specifically cited in the report is private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which is declining comment. Dow spokesman Chris Huntley: "[CEO Andrew] Liveris has said on several occasions that we really have no interest in an LBO and that is the case." The Dow board issued a statement last night that said it "fully supports Dow's management team" and has had "no discussion of a leveraged buyout." In addition to the LBO speculation, rumors have swirled that Dow is in JV talks with Indian chemical firm Reliance Industries. "If I read one more time on the third page of a third-rate newspaper in the U.K. and anyone gives that any credibility, please, give us a little more credit for sophistication than that," Liveris said in March.
Sources: MarketWatch, MoneyCentral
Commentary: Dow: Financially Sound Amidst Rumors of Merger with Reliance Industries • Dow Chemical: Using the Past to Predict the Future • Dow Chemical May Get $54B Takeover Bid -- Tabloid
Stocks/ETFs to watch: The Dow Chemical Company (DOW). Competitors: BASF AG (BF), EI DuPont de Nemours & Co. (DD), ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM), Monsanto Company (MON), Eastman Chemical Company (EMN). ETFs: PowerShares FTSE RAFI Basic Materials (PRFM), Vanguard Materials ETF (VAW), iShares S&P Global Materials (MXI)
Marathon Forecasts Lower Prices and Sales Volumes for Q1
Marathon Oil Corp. reported yesterday that it expects Q1 selling prices for crude oil and natural gas to be lower and sales volumes of refined products to be weaker than they were in the year-ago period. The company is forecasting Q1 production sold at approximately 338,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day [boepd] against 348,000 boepd in Q1 2006 and 357,000 boepd in Q4. Crude prices were lower in Q1 than they were in Q4 or a year ago: the company's oil and liquids in the U.S. market averaged about $47.99 a barrel, down from $49.30 in Q1 last year and $48.33 in Q4. Natural gas prices averaged $5.69 per thousand cubic feet in the U.S. market, up from the Q4 average of $5.36 but down about $1 from Q1 last year. Marathon's lower sales volume forecast -- from 1.4 million boepd a year ago to about 1.3 million boepd in Q1 -- is attributable to a change in accounting methods. Analysts are forecasting Q1 EPS of $2.08. Marathon's shares hit a 52-week high of $104.23 before settling at $104.10, up $1.31. The company will report Q1 results on May 1.
Sources: Press release, Reuters, Chron.com
Commentary: Betting On Refiners: The Crude/Gas Price Disparity and the 3-2-1 Crack Spread • Marathon Oil: Emphasis on Refining • Can Marathon Oil Keep Up The Pace?
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Marathon Oil Corp. (MRO). Competitors: Chevron Corp. (CVX), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM). ETFs: PowerShares Dyn Energy Exploration (PXE), PowerShares FTSE RAFI Energy (PRFE), PowerShares Dynamic Market (PWC)
Citigroup Will Cut 26,000 Jobs in Effort to Streamline -- New York Times
The New York Times reports Citigroup CEO Charles Prince will eliminate or reassign over 26,000 jobs (8% percent of its work force) when he releases plans for a major overhaul on Wednesday. In a company memo Monday obtained and verified by Reuters, Prince said he would consolidate some back/middle-office and corporate functions, move some work to lower-cost areas, and make technology platforms more efficient. On Monday, CNBC said the company might cut up to 45,000 jobs, while other reports have pegged the cuts at just 15,000. The Times said Citigroup's consumer and credit card operations, and its investment banking units would see the most severe cuts, but that compliance and legal departments are also being 'heavily scrutinized,' an apparent reversal from a few years ago when the bank beefed up its compliance staff after several scandals.
Sources: New York Times, Reuters
Commentary: Citigroup: Break It Up! • Citigroup Addict Buys More Shares • Citigroup Unlike Other Big U.S. Banks
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Citigroup Inc. (C). Competitors: Deutsche Bank AG (DB), Credit Suisse Group (CS), Legg Mason Inc. (LM), UBS AG (UBS), Barclays PLC (BCS). ETFs: PowerShares Dynamic Banking (PJB), streetTRACKS KBW Bank (KBE)
Conference call transcript: Citigroup Q4 2006 Earnings Call Transcript
Glaxo and Adolor Suspend Alvimopan Trial; Adolor Shares Plummet
Shares of drug manufacturer Adolor went into freefall yesterday, dropping 56%, after Glaxosmithkline and Adolor announced they are suspending their development program for bowel drug alvimopan (Entereg/Entrareg[R]) while long-term safety study findings are evaluated. Entereg is Adolor's most advanced experimental drug. Adolor's shares lost $4.87 to $3.90 while Glaxo's gained $0.06 to $56.18. Late-stage clinical trial results unexpectedly indicated a "numerical imbalance" in the number of cardiovascular side effects and tumors among patients taking Entereg versus those taking a placebo, though the total number of "serious adverse events" was comparable (Entereg 13%; placebo 11%). The trial involved 805 patients suffering from opioid-induced bowel dysfunction [OBD] who take painkillers for chronic, non-cancer pain. Glaxo has halted an application for another Entereg clinical trial as well as a smaller study of cancer patients on strong painkillers, while Adolor has halted a separate Entereg study of patients who take painkillers after rotator cuff surgery.
Sources: MarketWatch (I, II, III)
Commentary: GlaxoSmithKline: Why This Year Will Be the Healthiest Yet • Top Six Socially Responsible Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Firms • Does Adolor’s Announcement of Positive Entereg Data Assure FDA Approval?
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Glaxosmithkline plc (GSK), Adolor Corp. (ADLR). Competitors: Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc. (ENDP), Pain Therapeutics Inc. (PTIE), Novartis AG (NVS), Pfizer Inc. (PFE), Sanofi-Aventis (SNY). ETFs: Europe 2001 HOLDRs (EKH), BLDRS Europe 100 ADR Index (ADRU), BLDRS Developed Markets 100 ADR Index (ADRD)
BoJ Votes Unanimously to Hold at 0.5%
As expected, the Bank of Japan kept its key benchmark lending rate unchanged at 0.5%. Japanese stocks trader lower on profit-taking, after the Nikkei 225 hit a six-week high yesterday. The yen weakened slightly against the US$ to ¥119.15. Exporter stocks traded broadly lower, but selected financial stocks (including mega banks) which have lagged over the past year, posted gains. BoJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui said the bank is watching the effects of the Feb. hike. Regarding the yen carry trade, he commented, "... overall, we do not think the yen-carry trade will be resumed immediately." The BoJ also left its economic assessment unchanged, saying the nation's economy is "expanding moderately" and is expected to continue doing so. Most economists expect another BoJ rate hike after the July upper house election. As for the U.S. economy, Fukui said, "The U.S. slowdown is continuing, but we expect the economy's growth rate to return to potential after an adjustment, so a soft landing remains likely."
Sources: BoJ Decision [pdf] and Monthly Report, Bloomberg, Forbes XFN newswire
Commentary: BoJ's Tankan Shows Optimism Slips among Large Manufacturers; Stocks Drop • Japan: Chasing Yield in a Low Interest Rate World • BoJ to Maintain Accommodative Policy; Watching Real Estate Prices
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Mitsubishi UFJ FG (MTU), Mizuho FG (MFG), ORIX (IX), Toyota (TM), Sony (SNE), Canon (CAJ). ETFs: iShares MSCI Japan Index (EWJ), iShares S&P/TOPIX 150 Index (ITF), The Japan Equity Fund, Inc. (JEQ), CurrencyShares Japanese Yen Trust (FXY)
China's Q1 Trade Surplus Nearly Doubles, but Smaller March Surplus a Surprise
China's customs bureau published March and Q1 trade data today, which showed a smaller-than-expected March surplus of $6.87 billion (-38% y-o-y), but an almost doubling of the Q1 surplus to $46.4b. The U.S. meanwhile, filed two copyright violation complaints against China with WTO. Bloomberg quotes a Hong Kong-based J.P. Morgan economist who said, "The bulging surplus will intensify trade friction and protectionist initiatives against Chinese exports, especially in the U.S. and the Europe. It will also strengthen the pressure for further appreciation of the yuan." The lower March trade surplus is attributed to a rush early in Q1 to accelerate exports in expectation of domestic and external government pressures related to China's swelling trade surplus. Still, a senior economist with Standard Chartered Bank in Shanghai commented March's surplus will do "nothing, zilch, nada to address political concerns in the U.S. about China's overall trade surplus," adding, "the numbers have now settled down, but still to a very high level."
Sources: Bloomberg [i, ii]
Commentary: People's Bank of China to Raise Reserve Requirements Again • China as an Economic Superpower: 'Watch Out Below' • China's Earnings Season: What to Expect in April
Stocks/ETFs to watch: iShares Trust FTSE-Xinhua China 25 Index Fund (FXI), PowerShares Golden Dragon Halter USX China Portfolio (PGJ). Bonds: iShares Lehman 1-3 YR Treasury Bond (SHY), iShares Lehman 7-10 YR Treasury Bond (IEF), iShares Lehman 20+ YR Treasury Bond (TLT). Currency: PowerShares DB G10 Currency Harvest Fund (DBV), Euro Currency Trust (FXE)
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