Alan Greenspan: Still a 33% Chance of Recession by Year-End
Formal Fed chairman Alan Greenspan reiterated Friday he still predicts a 33% chance of U.S. recession by year-end. "There is no doubt there is a slowdown going on in the U.S.," he said via satellite from Washington at a Singapore economic conference. He cited slowing in consumer consumption and called housing "a significant drag." He said he had not changed his view on the health of the economy, but thought some people might say he had changed his mind. His remarks contrast with those of current Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, who has downplayed the risk of a recession. Greenspan said China should allow the yuan to appreciate a "lot faster" than it is now (it's up 7.7% since July 2005 when the government abandoned the dollar peg): "Unless the intervention into the foreign exchange market comes to a halt... they would find it at some point extremely difficult to handle the imbalance problem." He said that a U.S. slowdown would affect Asia: "There is no question if consumption in the U.S. slows down, you'll find that exports in Southeast Asia will slow down somewhat."
Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters
Commentary: How Is a Real Estate Bubble Great for the Economy? • Facing Reality: Mortgage Equity Withdrawals and Consumer Spending • New Rules for Global Investing in 2007
Stocks/ETFs to watch: S&P 500 Index (SPY), Diamonds Trust Series 1 ETF (DIA), iShares Lehman Aggregate Bond (AGG)
Monthly Budget Surplus Second-Highest Ever, But Trade Deficit Widens Over 10%
The U.S. Treasury reported yesterday that the federal budget surplus for April was $177.7 billion, the second highest monthly surplus on record. The trade deficit, however, reached its widest level in six months on higher oil prices and imports. For fiscal 2007 so far, the budget deficit dropped to $80.8 billion versus $184.1 billion in the same period last year. The trade gap grew more than 10% in March to $63.9 billion. In view of the wide gap, some analysts have shaved their estimates of Q1 U.S. economic growth to 0.7% or less from the 1.3% guidance provided by the government last month. Though the widening of the gap was severe in March, the Q1 trade gap came in at $180.7 billion, less than the $191.6 billion in Q1 2006. U.S. oil imports hit their highest point since last August and the average price for imported oil rose to $53.00 per barrel from $50.71. Overall U.S. imports went up 4.5% in March to $190.1 billion, led by a gain of over 11% in imports of industrial supplies and materials, including crude. U.S. exports did well, rising 1.8% in March to $126.2 billion. Exports to Canada, Germany and China set records, and exports to Japan were the highest in six years. The trade deficit with China shrank 6.4% to $17.2 billion.
Sources: MarketWatch, Reuters
Commentary: The Fed Rates the Economy • Budget Deficit: What's $2.9 Trillion Between Friends? • Economic Data Shows Room For Hope. Maybe.
Stocks/ETFs to watch: S&P 500 Index (SPY), Diamonds Trust Series 1 ETF (DIA), iShares Lehman Aggregate Bond (AGG)
Alcatel-Lucent Sees Sales Rising 10% Sequentially; Shares Climb Pre-Market
Alcatel-Lucent said Friday its adjusted net income fell to €199 million, or €0.09/share, versus EPS of €0.13 a year ago. Not accounting for adjustments, the recently merged Alcatel-Lucent reported an €8 million loss in the quarter on post-merger costs and weak sales volume. Revenue was down 8% y/y on weakness in wireless and core networks. The company reported preliminary earnings in April, meaning Friday's full release was already largely baked into its share price. Alcatel projected solid sequential growth as the year progresses, with next quarter's revenue expected to increase 10% q/q. The company also said plans to save €1.7 billion within three years in post-merger synergies; it cut 1,900 jobs during the recent quarter and believes it will save at least €600 million this year. Shares climbed to $13.53 in pre-market action on the NYSE, gaining $0.53, or 4.08%, as of 4:22 A.M. EST.
Sources: Press Release, Reuters, AFX News, MarketWatch
Commentary: Alcatel-Lucent Reports Lower Q1 Revenues, Operating Loss; Shares Rallying • Foolish Forecast: Alcatel-Lucent's Dim Glow • Cramer's Take on ALU
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Alcatel-Lucent (ALU). Competitors: Cisco (CSCO), Ericsson (ERIC), Nokia (NOK), Nortel (NT), Siemens (SI). ETFs: Broadband HOLDRS (BDH), iShares Goldman Sachs Networking (IGN)
Conference call transcripts: Alcatel-Lucent Q4 2006 Earnings Call Transcript, Alcatel Lucent Q1 2007 Earnings Conference Call Transcript (later today)
THQ Adjusted EPS Beats by a Penny, but Shares Drop on Weak Guidance
THQ returned to profitability in its fiscal Q4, earning $6.5 million, or $0.09/share, on sales growth of 16% to $172.1m. It lost $8.6m, or $0.14/share in the same period last year. Adjusted EPS of $0.15 beat the Street by a penny, but disappointing Q1 guidance sent its shares down 6.3% to $32.50 in the after-hours, on volume of 163,000+. THQ lost 0.2% to $34.69 during normal trading Thursday. It expects Q1 revenues of around $110m and a net loss of $0.26/share, compared to analysts' average estimate of $148.6m and -$0.03/share (Bloomberg survey). Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter said the lower-than-expected guidance is partially due to the late release of "Ratatouille," a Disney/Pixar movie-based game, in which most sales will be realized from Q2. The Company reiterated full year guidance of $1.34 - $1.44/share on sales of $1.12b - $1.15b. Analysts expect $1.38/share on sales of $1.14b.
Sources: THQ F4Q07 (Qtr End 3/31/07) Earnings Call Transcript, Press release, Bloomberg, MarketWatch
Commentary: THQ: Three Reasons For Caution • THQ: Strong Slate of New Games Ahead • Are Nintendo Sales Good For Video Game Stocks?
Stocks/ETFs to watch: THQ (THQI). Competitors: Activision (ATVI), Electronic Arts (ERTS),Take-Two Interactive Software (TTWO), Konami (KNM)
NVIDIA Q1 Earnings Beat Street, Shares Gain 5% in After-hours
NVIDIA reported a 44% increase in net income to $132.3 million, or $0.33/share, on sales growth of 24% to $844.3m. Excluding certain items, EPS totaled $0.42, topping analysts' average estimates of $0.38 (Bloomberg) to $0.39 (Thomson) on sales of $836m. NVIDIA said Q1 gross margin of 45.4% was a new company record. It reported strong sales in desktop and notebook graphics chips, but chipset sales fell 31%. Shares of NVIDIA lost 1.85% to $32.82 during normal trading Thursday, but jumped 5.1% to $34.50 in after-hours activity on volume of more than 2.37 million. In a press release, NVIDIA's CEO emphasized the "growing importance of the GPU across a broad range of computing and digital devices," saying the Company's "strategy is clear and focused -- to be the world leader in GPUs and capitalize on this exciting opportunity." NVIDIA said it expects Q2 sales will be flat to slightly higher from Q1, compared to analysts' average forecast of $841.9m.
Sources: NVIDIA F1Q08 (Qtr End 4/29/07) Earnings Call Transcript, Press release, Bloomberg, MarketWatch, Reuters
Commentary: Apple's iPhone and the Future of Nvidia • Seeing Upside Potential in Nvidia • The Long Case for Semi Stocks
Stocks/ETFs to watch: NVIDIA (NVDA). Competitors: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Broadcom (BRCM), Creative Technology (OTCPK:CREAF), Intel (INTC). ETFs: SPDR S&P Semiconductor (XSD), PowerShares Dynamic Semiconductors (PSI), iShares Goldman Sachs Semiconductor (IGW)
Syntax-Brillian Shares Plunge On Earnings Miss, News of Public Offering
Following the closing bell Thursday, Syntax-Brillian Corp. reported it swung to a profit in its third quarter (ended March 31), and that it plans to publicly offer an additional $172 million worth of shares in an underwritten offering. Shares plunged on the news. By the numbers, Syntax's net income was $5.49 million, good for EPS of $0.09, versus a year-earlier EPS loss $0.26. Sales of the LCD TV maker improved drastically to $162.9 million, from $45.7 million a year earlier. Despite its improvements, the company missed Wall Street's estimates, as gathered by Thomson Financial, of EPS of $0.12 on sales of $167 million. Shares reacted by falling heavily in after hours action to $7.24, down $1.17, or 13.91%, as of 7:59 P.M. Thursday. Shares had already been down 2.1% from regular trading, as the market rang up across the board losses. Looking ahead, Syntax-Brillian projects revenue in a range of $190 million to $210 million in its June-ending quarter; for its fiscal year (also ending then), it expects total revenue in a range of $682 million to $702 million. Analyst projection had been for next-quarter revenue of $182.2 million and full year revenue of $678.7 million. The public offering is expected to be completed before the end of the next quarter; at the stock's closing price Thursday of $8.41, the offering would be for about 20 million shares, increasing the company's shares outstanding by about 31% from the current total of 64.2 million.
Sources: Press release, MarketWatch, AP
Commentary: TV Maker Syntax-Brillian Seeks $150 Million In Stock Offering • Syntax Brillian Longs Are Feeling the Pain • Syntax-Brillian Can't Be Trusted
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Syntax-Brillian Corp. (BRLC). Competitors: Sony Corp. (SNE), Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. (PHG), Matsushita Electric Industrial Company Ltd. (MC), Corning Inc. (GLW), AU Optronics Corp. (AUO)
Related: Syntax-Brillian Investor Relations
TRANSPORT AND AEROSPACE
Magna Only Wants 'Partial' Chrysler Stake; Russian Billionaire Hops On Board
Magna International co-CEO Siegfried Wolf told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Thursday that his company wants only a minority stake in Chrysler. "This is now in the evaluation phase. We are only interested in a minority stake, if it comes to that at all," Wolf said, adding, "Magna does not intend to compete in future against other carmakers. That would be fatal." Wolf also indicated that if Magna were to acquire a Chrysler stake, it would be placed in a holding company clearly separated from the company's auto supply business. Magna wants parent DaimlerChrysler to retain a stake in Chrysler. In related news, Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska announced plans to buy a $1.54 billion stake in Magna. Magna's current market cap is $9.27 billion. The Wall Street Journal believes the move could provide an important chunk of cash for Magna's Chrysler bid; Magna Chairman Frank Stronach has indicated his company will not take on any debt in a Chrysler purchase. U.S. law-enforcement believes Mr. Deripaska has ties to Russian organized crime, though he has consistently denied claims to that effect. A spokesman for Mr. Deripaska's Basic Element holding company, which is officially buying the Magna stake, said Deripaska would consider Magna's Chrysler bid in the same way any other shareholder would. Thursday Magna shares climbed $5.38, or 6.82%, to $84.31 after the company reported earnings.
Sources: Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, AFX News, Reuters, Bloomberg
Commentary: Magna Says It Won't Take On Debt in Chrysler Bid • The Chrysler Saga Continues: Is Magna the Favorite? • KeyBanc: 'Increased Likelihood' Magna Will Take Direct Minority Interest in Chrysler
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Magna International (MGA), DaimlerChrysler (DCX). Competitors: Ford (F), General Motors (GM), Toyota (TM), Honda (HMC), Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY)
ENERGY AND MATERIALS
Dow/Saudi Aramco to Build $20 Billion Petrochemcial Plant -- Financial Times
The Financial Times reports Dow Chemical and Saudi Aramco are in the midst of finalizing a $20 billion deal to build a petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia. It says the deal, which could be announced as early as Saturday, gives Dow access to low cost oil for its plastic products, while offering Saudi Arabia Dow's expertise in the chemical industry. People familiar with the situation said the talks had been going on since last July, and were very advanced, but could still fall apart. It isn't clear how the $20 billion cost would be split; sources say Dow normally retains 50% of foreign joint-ventures, but that in this case it could be less if Saudi Aramco decides to list a stake on the stock market. The plant is expected to be completed over the next five years. In April Dow partnered with Libya's National Oil Corp to expand and manage a plastics factory. The company faces competition from rivals in oil-rich countries, where plastics and chemical products can be made for cheaper because of the abundance of crude and natural gas. Neither company would comment on the report.
Sources: Financial Times
Commentary: Dow Chemical: The Transformation Proceeds • What a Relief: Dow CEO Quells Rumors of an LBO • Dow Chemical: Using the Past to Predict the Future
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Dow Chemical Company (DOW). Competitors: ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM), E.I. DuPont de Nemours (DD), Total S.A. (TOT). ETFs: PowerShares FTSE RAFI Basic Materials ETF (PRFM), Vanguard Materials VIPERs (VAW), Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB)
Rating Agencies Could be Liable for Investor Losses -- Study
Credit rating agencies like Moody's, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch understate the risks underlying securities backed by subprime mortgages and could thus be held liable for investor losses, according to a study to be presented Friday at the Hudson Institute in Washington. The agencies, the study claims, cannot accurately assess the probability of losses because the underwriting standards of the home loans that back the debt are always changing. The study also holds that because the agencies are not impartial – they work with investment bankers to structure deals, and underwriters pay for the ratings they provide -- the agencies themselves could be considered underwriters according to U.S. securities regulation. The agencies maintain that their role is simply to provide opinions that are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. The criteria they use to reach those opinions are available to anyone, including investment bankers. Bond investors could lose up to an estimated $75 billion on securities backed by subprime mortgages, and S&P noted last month that subprime mortgage-backed securities from 2006 may be the "worst-performing in recent history.'' Moody's rated 96.7% of subprime mortgage bonds created last year, S&P 97.6% and Fitch 51.3.
Sources: Where Did the Risk Go? -- Draft of study by Joseph R. Mason and Joshua Rosner, MoneyCentral, Bloomberg
Commentary: Moody's Concerned About Lending Standards Slide • Credit Rating Companies: The Subprime Debacle's Latest Casualties • It's Not Surprising They're Moody
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Moody's Corp. (MCO), Thomson Corp. (TOC), The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. [owner of Standard & Poor's] (MHP). ETFs: iShares Lehman 1-3 YR Treasury Bond (SHY), iShares Lehman 7-10 YR Treasury Bond (IEF), iShares Lehman 20+ YR Treasury Bond (TLT)
CBOT Favors ICE Over CME, May Stay Independent -- Papers
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Chicago Board of Trade [CBOT] is increasingly leaning towards accepting an unsolicited merger offer from Atlanta energy market IntercontinentalExchange Inc. [ICE] and dropping its previously accepted deal with cross-town rival Chicago Mercantile Exchange Holdings Inc. [CME]. Conversely, the Financial Times reports that the CBOT is under growing shareholder pressure to ditch both bids and either remain independent or wait for something more appealing. Fueling the speculation on both fronts is the fact that CME shares are down 6.1% since ICE's March 15 offer while ICE shares have gained 2.2% over the same period. As a result, ICE's all-stock bid is now worth $2.6 billion [33%] more than the CME's approximately $8 billion offer. According to a contract traded on the U.S. Futures Exchange, traders gave an ICE-CBOT deal a 51% chance of happening by early December, vs. 45% for the CME; three weeks ago the odds were 70-30 in favor of the CME. The Journal says that should ICE win, the CME may look to merge with the New York Mercantile Exchange [Nymex]. Asked about the ICE premium, a CME spokeswoman said its offer is superior because they "have the clearing and technology scale to accommodate CBOT volumes." ICE admits it's smaller than the CME, but says it has a record of successful deal integration. If CBOT shareholders refuse the deal, it avoids a $240m break-up fee, but would then be barred from entertaining another bid for a full year. The Financial Times says shareholders pushing for the CBOT's independence cite the recent takeover of the International Securities Exchange [ISE] by Deutsche Börse's Eurex subsidiary. They concede shares would likely drop if both offers were rebuffed, but believe the drop would be small and easily overcome by future gains.
Sources: Wall Street Journal, Financial Times
Commentary: CBOT Members Believe CME Partnership is Right, Price is Wrong • CBOT Taking ICE Offer Seriously: Money Talks • CBOT Takeover Battle: Show The Love
Stocks/ETFs to watch: CBOT Holdings Inc. (BOT), Chicago Mercantile Exchange Holdings (CME), IntercontinentalExchange Inc. (ICE), Nymex Holdings Inc. (NMX) Competitors: International Securities Exchange Inc. (ISE), Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. (NDAQ), NYSE Euronext (NYX)
First Trust's 17 New ETFs Include Industrials, REIT Index
The American Stock Exchange [Amex] announced Thursday the launch of 17 new First Trust ETFs. Sixteen of the new funds track the performance of so-called 'enhanced' indexes managed by Amex or Standard and Poors that select stocks using a proprietary, rules-based AlphaDEX fundamental stock methodology. These ETFs include three core funds (large-cap, mid-cap and small-cap), large- and mixed-cap growth and value funds, and nine sector funds (consumer discretionary, staples, energy, financials, healthcare, industrials, materials, tech, utilities). The 17th fund is the First Trust S&P REIT Index Fund [FRI], which tracks the S&P REIT composite index. Goldman Sachs, Susquehanna, and Kellogg will split specialist duties on the funds.
Sources: Press release
Commentary: New First Trust Quantitative ETFs Hit Market Today • Hold On, Actively Managed ETFs On the Way • Are ETFs Un-American?
Stocks/ETFs to watch: First Trust Large Cap Core AlphaDEX Fund (FEX), First Trust Mid Cap Core AlphaDEX Fund (FNX), First Trust Small Cap Core AlphaDEX Fund (FYX), First Trust Large Cap Growth Opportunities AlphaDEX Fund (FTC), First Trust Large Cap Value Opportunities AlphaDEX Fund (FTA), First Trust Multi Cap Growth AlphaDEX Fund (FAD), First Trust Multi Cap Value AlphaDEX Fund (FAB), First Trust Consumer Discretionary AlphaDEX Fund (FXD), First Trust Consumer Staples AlphaDEX Fund (FXG), First Trust Energy AlphaDEX Fund (FXN), First Trust Financials AlphaDEX Fund (FXO), First Trust Health Care AlphaDEX Fund (FXH), First Trust Industrials/Producer Durables AlphaDEX Fund (FXR), First Trust Materials AlphaDEX Fund (FXZ), First Trust Technology AlphaDEX Fund (FXL), First Trust Utilities AlphaDEX Fund (FXU)
AIG Posts 29% Rise in Q1 Net; Beats Street
American International Group Inc. reported a 29% rise in Q1 net income on the back of strong growth at its overseas life insurance and property casualty divisions. Q1 net income was $4.13 billion ($1.58/share) versus $3.2 billion ($1.22/share) in Q1 2006. Adjusted net income, which excludes capital gains and losses, was $4.39 billion ($1.68/share), up from $3.4 billion ($1.29) in the year-ago quarter. Revenue came in at $30.65 billion, up 12% from $27.28 billion. Analysts had forecast adjusted EPS of $1.54 on revenue of $29.45 billion. Operating income from general insurance operations reached $3.1 billion in Q1 from $2.33 billion a year ago. In a statement, President and CEO Martin J. Sullivan stressed "strong performance in general insurance businesses worldwide and foreign life insurance" as a factor in the company's results. "One could assume looking out over time foreign will overtake domestic [earnings]," he said. In February, AIG consented to pay $1.64 billion to resolve allegations that it used deceptive accounting practices. In March, the company announced plans to buy back $5 billion of its stock this year.AIG's Insurance Business: An Odd Sense of Gains and Losses • Tracking Money Flow in Financial Stocks • Short and Longer Term Directions For American International Group
Sources: Press release, MarketWatch, Bloomberg, MoneyCentral
Stocks/ETFs to watch: American International Group, Inc. (AIG). Competitors: Allianz SE (AZ), AXA (AXA). ETFs: streetTRACKS KBW Insurance (KIE), PowerShares Dynamic Insurance Portfolio ETF (PIC), iShares Dow Jones U.S. Insurance (IAK)
FDA Panel Recommends Stronger Warning Labels, More Testing for Anemia Drugs
Shares of drug manufacturer Amgen nosedived 9.1% to to $57.33 Thursday -- their steepest drop in over five years -- and shares of Johnson & Johnson fell 2.5% to $62.50 after an FDA panel voted overwhelmingly to require the two companies to add more warnings to their anemia medications and conduct further safety studies. The panel voted 15-2 in favor of new dosage restrictions and unanimously in favor of new clinical trials. In 2006, Amgen's anemia drugs Aranesp and Epogen accounted for 46% of total sales. Aranesp, Epogen and J&J's Procrit are erythropoiesis-stimulating agents, or ESAs. The panel was focused on the use of ESAs in the treatment of anemia caused by chemotherapy. In its report, the panel said, "there is no evidence that ESAs improve the quality of life or cancer outcomes ...There are insufficient data from adequate and well-controlled studies." Amgen has "very aggressively marketed this drug, without doing adequate trials," said panel member and hematologist Otis Brawley. In March, the FDA added a "black box warning" to ESA labels advising doctors to prescribe the lowest possible doses after studies indicated the drugs raise the risk of heart attacks, strokes and death when taken at high doses.
Sources: MarketWatch, Bloomberg, MoneyCentral, TheStreet.com
Commentary: Amgen May Be Pressured Further By New Black Box Warning Requirement • Amgen: How Promising Lead Product Will Affect the Stock • SEC Queries Amgen on Aranesp Anemia Medication
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Amgen Inc. (AMGN), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Roche Holdings Ltd. [ADR] (OTCQX:RHHBY). ETFs: Biotech HOLDRs (BBH), PowerShares Dynamic Biotech & Genome (PBE), Vanguard Health Care ETF (VHT)
Conference call transcripts: Amgen Q1 2007
China's April Trade Surplus Jumps 63% to $17B
China's trade surplus continues to grow at a blistering pace, up 88% y/y to $63.3 billion through April. Exports climbed 26.8% and imports increased 21.3% last month. A U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue will be held May 23 -24 in Washington, with the trade surplus and currency-related issues expected to be priority topics. A Hong Kong-based DBS Bank senior economist commented: "The yuan will have to appreciate further. The pace is already speeding up ahead of (Vice Premier) Wu's arrival in the U.S. [which will] alleviate tension and create a better atmosphere." The yuan is currently trading at its highest level against the U.S. dollar since its peg ended in July 2005, having appreciated 7.7% since then and 0.25% alone this week. Critics in the U.S. say Beijing may acknowledge measures need to be taken, but are dissatisfied with the results to-date. Treasury Secretary Paulson is once again looking for "tangible results" at the second biannual trade meeting later this month.
Sources: Associated Press, Bloomberg
Commentary: Goldman Warns China Correction Possible; Shanghai Renews Record High • Is the Chinese Market Overvalued? • US Investors Not Feeling the Chinese Stock Market Sizzle
Stocks/ETFs to watch: iShares Trust FTSE-Xinhua China 25 Index Fund (FXI), PowerShares Golden Dragon Halter USX China Portfolio (PGJ). Bond ETFs: iShares Lehman 1-3 YR Treasury Bond (SHY), iShares Lehman 7-10 YR Treasury Bond (IEF), iShares Lehman 20+ YR Treasury Bond (TLT). Currency ETFs: PowerShares DB G10 Currency Harvest Fund (DBV), Euro Currency Trust (FXE), CurrencyShares Japanese Yen Trust (FXY)
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