By Simon Lack
This looks on the surface to be good news across the board. Private payrolls up almost 100K greater than consensus, increased hourly workweek, and a drop in the unemployment rate in spite of an increase in the labor force. Not a 4% GDP type of number, but good enough to reassure that the 2-2.5% level GDP growth trajectory we're on is sustainable.
It also supports the case for equities over bonds. The Equity Risk Premium is wide, but this type of data will cause it to narrow somewhat, as stocks rise and bonds fall. In addition, the utility of holding a short euro position, such as EUO, in combination with long stocks is highlighted. The U.S. economy is likely to grow 3% faster than the eurozone this year. The dollar can draw support just from the relatively better prospects here, as well as providing tail risk insurance against an economic or geopolitical surprise.
Leon Panetta probably isn't using the Washington Post to communicate policy, but this article draws attention to the closing window Israel has to set Iran's nuclear plans back several years. While the more likely outcome is that EU-led sanctions will be allowed more time to play out, an Israeli attack on Iran is just the type of event that could derail the recovery. The US dollar would undoubtedly offer some protection in that type of environment.
We continue to like Microsoft (MSFT), which has quietly broken above $30 following a solid earnings report in January. Corrections Corp (CXW) is also attractively priced - California's state budget included no cuts in funding for private prisons, which has helped the stock price of the largest private prison operator.
We've added to a couple of natural gas E&P names lately - most notably Comstock Resources (CRK), which has $1.5BN in reserves based on its PV-10 (albeit using early 2011 natural gas prices), net debt of $700MM and is valued at $560BN. It recently announced reduced 2012 capex and expect revenues will be 20% oil by year-end. We expect it to be acquired if valuation doesn't improve soon.