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Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Fed’s Bullard Wants More Inflation B4 Tapering Begins

“Inflation is the U.S. data “wild card” and needs to move closer to target before theFederal Reserve shifts towards a tapering of its bond purchase program, St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard told CNBC on Friday.

“One wildcard for the data in the U.S. isinflation. Numbers have come in quite low. Inflation has been, by our preferred measures been about 1 percent over the last year—way below our target,” said Bullard.

“Before I am in favor of tapering I would like to see some assurance that inflation is going to move back towards target,” he said.

U.S inflation fell to a two-year low of 1.1 percent earlier this month, at the sharpest pace since December 2008 due to the dip in the oil price. The fall led to speculation that the Fed would stay on its very easy monetary policy path, despite divisions among policymakers.

However, comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress on Wednesday rocked markets, as he hinted thatpolicymakers might review the Fed’s $85 billion-a month asset-purchase program in the next few meetings, should market conditions improve.

(Read MoreIgnore Fed Hawks, Bernanke in Driving Seat)

Bullard said the inflation number had been on a downward trend and he would like assurance that it will return back to target before quantitative easing tapering is initiated…..”

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$GPS Profits Rise 43%

“NEW YORK (AP) — After years of struggle, Gap is back in style.

Gap Inc., which owns The Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic clothing chains, on Thursday reported a 43 percent jump in its fiscal first-quarter net income, as the company continues to reap benefits from the turnaround plan that it began early last year.

The results are welcome news for customers and investors who had watched the one-time industry darling flounder over the past several years. Gap’s performance shows that efforts by the chain to attract customers with brightly colored fashions and lively ads are helping to boost sales.

“We are pleased with our strong start to the year, especially first-quarter sales,” Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO of Gap, said in a statement. Murphy pointed to the improving mindset of the consumer, noting the improving housing market and job picture and the stock market’s gains.

“The consumer has been operating pretty much for the last five-plus years in a very challenging environment,” he said on a call with analysts. “This is the first quarter in a long time that the consumer, to us, felt like they were moving in a more positive direction.”

Gap executives did not mention the recent push by activists for clothing makers to form a global pact aimed at improving safety in Bangladesh clothing factories. Gap said last week that it couldn’t join the pact unless a provision was made that it felt would free it from unlimited legal liability. The San Francisco-based retailer also backed an outlook for the full year that remains below analyst expectations. Gap said that the weaker yen will impact its fourth quarter…..”

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$SHLD Reports A Larger Loss Than Expected

“NEW YORK (AP) — It was another ugly quarter for Sears Holdings Corp.

The beleaguered department-store chain reported a steeper-than-expected loss for its first quarter on slumping sales.

It also announced that it is considering selling its protection-agreement business in an ongoing effort to raise cash as it struggles to reverse its fortunes. The unit runs the part of the business that sells customers service contracts that guarantee to fix or replace appliances if they break within a certain timeframe.

The steep loss drove Sears’ shares down more than 12 percent in after-hours trading.

Like many retailers, Sears’ business in the first couple of months of the year was hurt by poor weather and new economic pressures on its customers, including rise in the payroll tax. But the latest results show that Sears’ path toward profitability will be more elusive than the chain may have thought. Critics say that Sears still has not given shoppers a compelling reason to spend money there.

“I do not subscribe to the view that the macro factors are the sole reason for our poor performance,” hedge fund billionaire and Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert, who added the title of Sears CEO in February, told investors in a call following the earnings results Thursday.

Lampert succeeded Louis D’Ambrosio, who had been CEO since February 2011 but left because of family health reasons.

“They have an impact. But even with that impact, we should have been doing a lot better than we are,” Lampert said…..”

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$PG Announces the Return of Former CEO A.G. Lafley

“NEW YORK (AP) — Household products giant Procter & Gamble Co. is hoping its former CEO can work his magic once again.

The Cincinnati company said late Thursday that former CEO A.G. Lafley, a 33-year industry veteran, is returning its top post. The surprise move comes as the world’s largest consumer-products maker tries to spur growth in the face of stiff global competition.

Lafley, 65, replaces CEO Bob McDonald, effective immediately. McDonald, who will retire June 30 after a transition period, has served as CEO since 2009.

Lafley, who led P&G from 2000 to 2009, also is taking the president and chairman titles.

The 175-year-old company’s Tide detergent, Crest toothpaste and other products can be found in 98 percent of American households. But it is struggling to grow.

In his first stint at the helm, Lafley helped right an ailing P&G, emphasizing innovation and a “consumer-is-boss” focus. That included spending more time in personal observation and interviews with consumers.

He also pulled off the blockbuster $57 billion acquisition of the Gillette Co. in 2005, expanding P&G’s reach into male-oriented products with Gillette’s shavers and razors.

“A.G.’s track record and his depth of experience at P&G make him uniquely qualified to lead the company forward at this important time,” said board director Jim McNerney….”

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Au Bulls Become More Bullish Despite Tapering Being on the Table

“Gold traders are the most bullish in a month after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernankesignaled record stimulus will continue until the economy improves.

Twelve analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect prices to rise next week, with nine bearish and eight neutral, the highest proportion of bulls since April 26. Prices rose 58 percent since 2008 as the Fed led central banks in debt purchases. Bullion is poised for its first weekly gain in three and trading and investment company Degussa Goldhandel GmbH said demand this month will be double the first-quarter average.

Investors sold 467 metric tons valued at about $21 billion from exchange-traded products this year as some lost faith in gold as a store of value amid an improving U.S. economy and rally in equities. Raising interest rates or curbing bond buying too soon would endanger the recovery, Bernanke said May 22. While prices entered a bear market last month and hedge funds are making the biggest ever bet against the metal, the slump is boosting purchases of jewelry and coins.

“Gold should still be in demand as an alternative currency,” saidDaniel Briesemann, a commodities analyst at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “The quantitative easing by central banks should lead to a depreciation in rates for major currencies and in the end should also lead to some inflation concerns, although this is not an issue at the moment. As long as institutional investors are selling gold ETP holdings, this will probably outweigh robust retail demand.”

Gold Prices

The metal fell 17 percent to $1,387.11 an ounce in London this year after climbing the past 12 years. Gold is the third-worst performer in the Standard & Poor’s GSCI gauge of 24 commodities, after silver and corn. The S&P GSCI dropped 3.7 percent since the start of January and the MSCI All-Country World Index of equities rose 9.7 percent. Treasuries lost 0.6 percent, a Bank of America Corp. index shows.

Bullion rose as much as 2.8 percent and then fell as much as 1.6 percent on May 22 after Bernanke expressed concern to Congress that federal budget cuts were blunting the recovery. He said the pace of bond purchases could be reduced in the next few meetings if the jobless rate keeps dropping. Many Fed officials said more progress in the labor market is needed before paring the $85 billion in monthly purchases, minutes of their last meeting showed the same day.

Physical Demand….”

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WTI Continues to Fall After The Largest Weekly Downside Action in a Month

“West Texas Intermediate headed for its biggest weekly drop in more than a month amid signs of rising U.S. oil inventories and a global economic slowdown.

Futures slid as much as 0.8 percent in New York. Prices may decline next week amid speculation that U.S. fuel supplies will be sufficient to meet summer demand after factory output in China shrank for the first time in seven months, according to a Bloomberg News survey. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. recommended selling WTI and buying Brent contracts for December 2014 as supplies accumulate on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“U.S. crude stocks are very well-filled, and there’s some disappointing economic data from China,” said Hannes Loacker, an analyst at Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI) in Vienna, who estimates WTI will average $92 this quarter. “It’s not the best cocktail for crude.”

WTI for July delivery fell as much as 78 cents to $93.47 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $93.55 as of 12:02 p.m. London time. The volume of all contracts traded was 0.5 percent below the 100-day average. Prices are 2.6 percent lower this week, the most since the seven days ended April 19.

Brent for July settlement fell 24 cents to $102.20 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark was at a premium of $8.67 to WTI compared with $8.19 yesterday.

The spread is still set to narrow toward $5 a barrel in the third quarter as new pipeline capacity to move crude out of Cushing causes stockpiles there to decline “substantially,” Goldman said.

Sweet Crude….”

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The Euro Gains Against the Dollar on Better Than Expected Business Confidence

“The euro strengthened for a second day against the dollar after an industry report showed German business confidence unexpectedly increased in May, adding to optimism the region’s biggest economy is improving.

The 17-nation currency extended its biggest weekly advance in seven weeks as a separate report forecast German consumer sentiment will improve in June. The yen extended its biggest weekly gain versus the dollar since June after Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the central bank had announced sufficient monetary easing. Australia’s dollar weakened against all of its 16 major counterparts as HSBC Holdings and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicted it would weaken….”

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Weak Construction Growth Hurts German GDP Data

“The German economy’s return to growth in the first quarter was hampered by declines in construction activity and investment as a severe winter and a recession in Europe damped demand.

Construction fell 2.1 percent from the fourth quarter and capital investment dropped 1.5 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. Gross domestic product increased 0.1 percent, the office said, confirming a May 15 estimate. From a year earlier, the economy shrank 0.2 percent when adjusted for working days.

With the 17-nation euro area mired in recession and the coldest March in a quarter-century freezing building activity, Europe’s largest economy has relied on domestic demand to haul it back to growth. GDP fell 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.

“The somewhat disappointing first-quarter result was due mainly to the cold weather and the sensitivity of companies to developments in the rest of Europe,” said Gerd Hassel, an economist at BHF Bank AG in Frankfurt. “While that uncertainty hasn’t quite fully dissipated yet, there should be a rebound in construction activity in the second quarter and we could see better-than-expected results.”

Household spending rose 0.8 percent in the first quarter, while public spending fell 0.1 percent, today’s report showed. Exports declined 1.8 percent and imports dropped 2.1 percent. Domestic demand didn’t add to growth as stronger consumption was offset by weaker investment, while net trade contributed 0.1 percentage point to GDP.

European Recession….”

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Draghi Says Bond Buying Program is Help Greater Economy

“European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said his pledge to buy government bonds is helping to ensure that interest-rate cuts reach the parts of the euro-area economy that need them the most.

“Our measures gave breathing space from markets driven by panic, which were forcing the economy into a position where inappropriately high interest rates would make default a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Draghi said in a speech in London. “Today we are seeing some encouraging signs of tangible improvements in financial conditions. Spreads in sovereign and corporate debt markets have narrowed considerably.”

Since Draghi pledged last year to buy unlimited amounts of government bonds in exchange for countries signing up to economic reforms, conditions in euro-area financial markets have improved. Even though his so-called Outright Monetary Transactions program has yet to be used, bond yields in distressed countries such as Greece and Spain have dropped from euro-era records and banks’ reliance on ECB funding has declined, indicating confidence is returning.

The ECB has “started observing convincing signs that fragmentation on the funding side for banks has decreased greatly,” Draghi said last night. “And although bank lending to businesses and households remains anaemic, we are now seeing some signs of slight improvement on the lending side as well.”

Challenging Conditions….”

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European Markets Fall After the Worst Downside Trading Day in 10 Months

European stocks declined for a second day, after the Stoxx Europe 600 Index yesterday dropped the most in 10 months, as investors awaited data on U.S. durable-goods orders. U.S. index futures and Asian shares also fell.

Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI) lost 1.8 percent after its chief executive officer offered to quit. Novo Nordisk A/S climbed after saying its liraglutide treatment helped overweight patients without diabetes to lose weight. Elan Corp. extended its longest rally since July 2011 after the Irish drugmaker’s board of directors unanimously rejected a higher takeover offer from Royalty Pharma.

The Stoxx 600 slid 0.3 percent to 303 at 10:40 a.m. in London. The gauge is heading for its first weekly loss in five weeks as the Federal Reserve signaled it will scale back its stimulus if the U.S. economy improves. Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 0.3 percent today, as did the MSCI AsiaPacific Index.

“This dip we saw yesterday took a lot of people by surprise, and everyone is now talking about the market coming off,” Manoj Ladwa, head of trading at TJ Markets, told Mark Barton on Bloomberg Television. “I’d be careful about buying stocks at these levels. There is a lot of money being taken off the table.”

In the U.S., orders for durable goods probably climbed 1.5 percent in April after falling by the most in seven months in March, economists estimated before a Commerce Department report at 8:30 a.m. in Washington…..”

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Kyle Bass Expects the BoJ to Absorb Bond Selling

“J. Kyle Bass, whose Hayman Advisors LP made $500 million amid the U.S. subprime crisis, said the Bank of Japan will have to “dramatically” increase bond-buying efforts that have been “overwhelmed” by investors selling.

Benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond yields rose to 1 percent yesterday for the first time since April 2012, more than triple the all-time low reached last month, a day after the BOJ announced unprecedented bond buying. Japanese shares also plunged the most in two years, trimming gains since November when Shinzo Abe called for expanded fiscal and monetary stimulus before elections that made him prime minister….”

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Chinese Burritos Will Continue to Trade in the U.S. as Document Sharing Agreement Has Been Made

China agreed to give a U.S. regulator access to documents from Chinese accounting firms, moving toward a resolution of a dispute that could have pushed the country’s companies to stop trading on U.S. markets.

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the China Securities Regulatory Commission and China’s Ministry of Finance signed the agreement May 7, the ministry said in a statement on its website today. The deal is a step toward resolving other disputes including one with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, PCAOB Chairman James Doty was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal, which reported the agreement earlier today.

The SEC last year accused affiliates of the world’s top four auditing firms of withholding documents from investigators probing potential fraud by China-based companies….”

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The Nikkei Circle Jerks, Ending Up in Positive Territory

“Japanese stocks swung wildly before closing less than 1 percent higher, the day after the biggest rout since the March 2011 disaster erased $314 billion.

The Topix Index (TPX) added 0.5 percent to close at 1,194.08 in Tokyo. The gauge earlier rose 3.3 percent and then fell by the same amount as the yen strengthened after Bank of JapanGovernor Haruhiko Kuroda said enough stimulus had been announced. The Topix slid 6.9 percent yesterday.

“The market is going up and down like a roller coaster,” said Koji Toda, chief fund manager at Resona Bank Ltd. in Tokyo, which oversees the equivalent of $147 billion. “The fundamentals haven’t changed, but more and more investors are trading on momentum. Things will probably calm down in a week.”

The Nikkei 225 Stock Average pared a decline of as much as 3.5 percent to close 0.9 percent higher at 14,612.45. The Nikkei Volatility Index touched a two-year high, extending yesterday’s 58 percent jump, before retreating….”

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Bill Gross Expects Tapering to Begin in Q3

“The Federal Reserve is likely to taper its quantitative easing in September, says bond-investing legend Bill Gross, co-chief investment officer of Pimco.

The Fed is currently buying $85 billion of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities a month.

Both Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and New York Fed President William Dudley have suggested a tapering is coming within the next few meetings of the Fed’s policymaking Federal Open Market Committee, Gross told CNBC.

“I think we’re looking at a potential tapering in the next few months, probably around September,” he said. 

Bernanke gave conflicting comments about whether a tapering will come soon in his congressional testimony Wednesday.

“That’s what happens when you approach an inflection point,” Gross said. You talk with uncertainty to alert investors there’s change coming.”

The bond market already is preparing for a tapering, with the 10-year Treasury yield having risen to 2.04 percent from its record low of 1.38 percent in July 2012, Gross says….”

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Why is Cash King as of Late ?

“Today’s wealthy investors seem to have split personalities.

Part of them is brimming with confidence and optimism. Survey after survey shows that they are back to pre-crisis boom years when it comes to their outlook for their own finances, their investments and their retirements.

Then there is the darker side. When it comes to their outlook on the broader economy or in stock markets, they take a dimmer view.

This contrast was on view in a recent survey from U.S. Trust. Its “Insights on Wealth and Worth” survey—which polls people worth $3 million or more (one-third of respondents had $10 million or more)—showed that 88 percent of respondents feel financially secure today and 70 percent feel confident about their financial security in the future.

A majority of millionaires now place a higher priority on growth than wealth preservation—a marked reversal from last year, when preservation topped growth.

However—and this is where the dual personality comes in—the wealthy are still holding mountains of cash. The survey found that 56 percent have a “substantial” amount of cash. Only 16 percent of them plan to invest that cash in the next couple of months. And only 40 percent plan to invest it over the next two years.

This may be a sign that the wealthy are confident psychologically, but they’re not quite ready to give up the security of their cash holdings, said Keith T. Banks, president of U.S. Trust and Bank of America Private Wealth Management….”

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Deep Thoughts From an Unapologetic Skeptic

“As the global equity and bond markets grind ever higher, abundant signs exist that we are once again living through an asset bubble – or rather a whole series of bubbles in a variety of markets. This makes this period quite interesting, but also quite dangerous.

With equity and bond markets at or near all-time record highs, with all financial assets consistently shrugging off bad – or worse – news as the riskiest of assets continue to find consistent upward bids, we find ourselves in familiar and bubbly territory.

I can summarize my thoughts in one sentence:  How could this be happening again so soon?

In times past, it took one or more generations between bubbles for people to financially recover and forget the painful lessons before they would consider doing it all again. Yet here we are, working our way through our third set of bubbles in less than two decades, which must be some sort of world record.

I will confess to my biases right up front: I have always been deeply skeptical of both the practice of running up debts at a faster pace than income (the common practice of the entire developed world over the past several decades) and the idea that the solution to too much debt is more debt, enabled by cheaper money courtesy of thin-air money printing.

In short, instead of seeing central banks as sophisticated stewards of intricate monetary policies, I view them as serial bubble-blowers and reckless debt-enablers whose only response, when confronted with the inevitable consequences of their actions, is to serve up more thin-air money at an even cheaper rate. And when that doesn’t work, then they simply try even more of the same, but in larger quantities.

While I think central banks are populated by earnest people with impressive credentials who have rationalized their actions as being necessary and in service of the greater good, I also think that the biggest ones hold an entrenched set of institutional views that are dogmatic, fail to incorporate the idea of economic and resource limits, and are seemingly immune to healthy introspection.

Somewhere along the way, I would have hoped they might have noted that each new crisis is larger than the one before….”

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Will the Rest of 2013 Provide to be an Equity Danger Zone?

“…..Here’s where we stand – heading into yesterday the S&P 500, Dow Jones and Russell 2000 had been in a three-way race to outdo each other in the record highs department. All three had been relentlessly ripping to greater heights throughout the spring and just about every sector and sub-sector had joined the rally by early April.

When we didn’t get the traditional Sell in May pullback that so many had been positioned praying for, things just went parabolic for a week or so. Large cap pharmas like Bristol and Lilly began putting up dotcom-esque gains, highly speculative solar stocks began populating the most active lists and hedge funds took their short-squeezing, options-chasing activities into overdrive.

And then before you knew it, everyone was on the same side of the boat again…”

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