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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Heads Up: Global Banking Systemic Risk Has Risen 45% in the Last Month


“In a little over a month, the risk of the 30 most systemically important global banks has jumped an impressive 45%. At 235bps, the FSB30 stands just shy of the peak levels that were seen in the initial March 2009 crisis moment – though remains below Q4 2011 peak crisis levels. Perhaps, despite all the protestations of ‘zee stabilitee’, self-sustaining record-profit-margin-driven recovery, and Chinese soft-landing, the vicious circles of austerity in Europe (and perhaps the US) and financials squandering their newly-found liquidity (and certainly not capital) is becoming too large to ignore?

What is intriguing is how absolutely end-of-the-world the situation felt heading into Q1 2009 and yet – with banks’ risk considerably higher now, we have become so much more ‘used’ to this state of chaos that our anchoring bias says – all is well?

Chart: Capital Context”

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Facebook Reports Sales Growth, Indicates Shares Valued at $30.89

Facebook Inc. (FB), the social network that plans an initial public offering, said sales rose 45 percent to $1.06 billion in the first quarter, a slowdown from the growth pace in the preceding period.

Sales climbed from $731 million a year earlier, according to a regulatory filing by Menlo Park,California-based Facebook. Net income fell 12 percent to $205 million from $233 million. Sales had risen 55 percent to $1.13 billion in the fourth quarter, and net income had climbed 20 percent.

Facebook also disclosed details of its plan, unveiled April 9, to buy Instagram. The company financed the $1 billion deal with 23 million shares and $300 million in cash. Facebook valued its shares at $30.89 apiece as of Jan. 31.

Facebook is rolling out new advertising services to step up competition with Google Inc. (GOOG) and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO)During the first quarter, Facebook said it would add mobile advertising along with new ads to reach users when they log off the company’s website. Facebook aims to raise $5 billion in what will probably be the largest Internet IPO in history. The company might seek a valuation of $75 billion to $100 billion, people familiar with the matter have said….”



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NK Threatens To Raise Seoul To Ashes, How Remains Mystery

Are they going to walk a bomb into South Korea? Because they sure as hell aren’t launching one.


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North Korea’s military vowed a new and unusually specific threat to its neighbors, saying it would reduce South Korea “to ashes” in less than four minutes.

The statement, released Monday when programming was interrupted on North Korea’s state TV by a special report, comes amid rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Earlier this month, North Korea was unsuccessful in a long-range missile launch, prompting worries that North Korea may conduct another nuclear test. South Korean officials say new satellite images show that North Korea has been digging a tunnel in what appears to be preparation for a third atomic test.

According to the Associated Press, the statement from North Korea was unusual in promising something soon and in describing a specific period of time.

The North Korean military threatened to “reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes, (or) in much shorter time, by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style.”
For months the North has castigated South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and the conservative administration for insulting their leadership and criticizing a new cruise missile capable of striking anywhere in the south.

South Korean officials responded, urging North Korea to end the threats. “We urge North Korea to immediately stop this practice,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said, according to the Associated Press. “We express deep concern that the North’s threats and accusations have worsened inter-Korean ties and heightened tensions.”

Meanwhile, in a meeting Sunday with a North Korean delegation in Beijing, China’s senior official on foreign policy praised the leadership shown by North Korea’s new young leader, Kim Jong Un.

The meeting follows the April 13 launch of what the United States called a disguised ballistic missile test by North Korea. The rocket disintegrated minutes after launch.

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via ESPN

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana was told Friday that New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis had an electronic device in his Superdome suite that had been secretly re-wired to enable him to eavesdrop on visiting coaching staffs for nearly three NFL seasons, “Outside the Lines” has learned.



[+] EnlargeMickey Loomis

AP Photo/Seth WenigMickey Loomis has been the Saints’ general manager since 2002.


Sources familiar with Saints game-day operations told “Outside the Lines” that Loomis, who faces an eight-game suspension from the NFL for his role in the recent bounty scandal, had the ability to secretly listen for most of the 2002 season, his first as general manager of the Saints, and all of the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The sources spoke with “Outside the Lines” under the condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals from members of the Saints organization.


Jim Letten, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, acknowledged being told of the allegations Friday and has briefed the FBI in New Orleans about Loomis’ alleged activity, according to sources. If proven, the allegations could be both a violation of NFL rules and potentially a federal crime, according to legal sources. The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 prohibits any person from intercepting communications from another person using an electronic or mechanical device.


“I can say that we were just made aware of that on Friday, at least of these allegations,” Letten said. “Anything beyond that I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to comment.”

Greg Bensel, Saints vice president of communications, said Monday afternoon on behalf of the Saints and Loomis: “This is 1,000 percent false. This is 1,000 percent inaccurate.”

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league was unaware of the allegations.

Sources told “Outside the Lines” the listening device was first installed in the general manager’s suite in 2000, when Loomis’ predecessor, Randy Mueller, served as Saints GM. At that time, according to sources, Mueller only had the ability to use the device to monitor the game-day communications of the Saints coaching staff, not the opposing coaches. Mueller, now a senior executive with the San Diego Chargers (he also was an ESPN.com NFL analyst from 2002-05), declined to comment when contacted by “Outside the Lines.”

After the transition from Mueller to Loomis, the electronic device was re-wired to listen only to opposing coaches and could no longer be used to listen to any game-day communications between members of the Saints coaching staff, one source said.


“There was a switch, and the switch accessed offense and defense,” said the source. “When Randy was there, it was the Saints offense or defense, and when Mickey was there it changed over so it was the visiting offense or defense,” the source said.

“Outside the Lines” could not determine for certain whether Loomis ever made use of the electronic setup.

The sources said when Loomis took his seat during home games, then in the front row of box No. 4 in the 300 level of the Superdome’s north side, he was able to plug an earpiece into a jack that was under the desk in front of him. The earpiece was not unlike those used to listen to inexpensive transistor radios, the sources said. With the earpiece in place, Loomis could then toggle back and forth with a switch that he controlled, enabling him to listen to either the game-day communications of the opposing offensive or defensive coaches.


Also underneath the desk in front of Loomis, said the sources, was a metal box that contained two belt packs similar to those worn around the waists of NFL head coaches during games. The packs powered the listening device available to Loomis, which was, according to sources, hard-wired to the audio feed of the opposing coaches.

The wiring setup was disabled sometime in September 2005 in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. The timing of the device’s removal could prove significant for legal reasons. If Loomis used an electronic device to secretly listen to the opposing coaches without their consent, it would appear to be a violation of the federal ECPA statute, said Mike Emmick, a Los Angeles-based attorney.

Emmick worked for 25 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, serving for eight years as chief of the public corruption and government fraud section.

“The ECPA bars any person from intentionally intercepting wire, oral or electronic communications by using an electronic or mechanical device,” Emmick said. “The ECPA doesn’t make it illegal just to eavesdrop. You have to have used a device … Intentional interception by using the device is the key.”

But the statute of limitations, the window federal prosecutors have to pursue any criminal charges against Loomis or the Saints, would only extend for five years after the date of such an offense, Emmick said.

If Loomis no longer had the ability to eavesdrop on opposing coaches after the 2004 season, he would be free from any potential criminal prosecution for a violation of the ECPA, Emmick said.

Loomis’ alleged activity also would be a violation of Louisiana state law, according to Danny Onorato, a former assistant U.S. attorney now in private practice in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in white-collar crime. The statute of limitations for the law governing electronic eavesdropping in Louisiana is six years, Onorato said.

“A prosecutor or law enforcement should conduct a thorough investigation to make sure these are the facts. Did these individuals re-connect this device in some way?” Onorato said.

“At a minimum, somebody somewhere has a duty to investigate it to ensure the integrity of the game of football,” he said.

Emmick said that it’s possible Loomis and others could still be prosecuted for taking part in a conspiracy to cover up the federal ECPA violation. The statute of limitations for prosecution of a conspiracy is also five years, Emmick said, but that period would begin with the last “overt act” of the parties involved in a conspiracy.

In this case, any attempt to cover up the ECPA violation that extended into 2007 could constitute such an overt act and fall within the window of the statute of limitations, Emmick said.

Emmick and Onorato both said that any prosecution on the basis of a conspiracy to cover up an ECPA violation is unlikely. But there is another potentially far more costly aspect to Loomis’ alleged behavior, according to Emmick and other legal sources contacted by ESPN.

“There’s the potential for a lot of lawsuits filed by whoever was victimized by the electronic eavesdropping,” Emmick said.

Under the civil laws that govern electronic eavesdropping, the victims of the eavesdropping would have two years from the time they had a “reasonable opportunity to discover the violation” in order to file lawsuits, Emmick said.

In other words, if an opposing team or individuals who were eavesdropped upon wanted to sue Loomis or the Saints, the clock would start ticking on their time frame to file a lawsuit when they discovered the alleged ECPA violation, not when the violation actually occurred.

Under Article No. 9 of the Constitution and Bylaws of the NFL, which lists “Prohibited Conduct,” the league specifically bans the use of “…videotape machines, telephone tapping or bugging devices, or any other form of electronic device that might aid a team during the playing of a game.”


“That would be a stupendous advantage if you had that,” said Rick Venturi, who was the team’s defensive coordinator during the period the sources said Loomis could eavesdrop on opposing coaches.

“That’s shocking,” Venturi said, when told of the allegations. “I can tell you if we did it, nobody told me about it. … Nobody ever helped me during a game.”

Venturi served in various capacities during a decade-long period with the Saints coaching staff, including a brief stint as interim head coach, and now hosts a radio program on an ESPN Radio affiliate in St. Louis.

Attempts to reach former Saints head coach Jim Haslett were not successful. Haslett served as the Saints head coach from 2000-05 and is now defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins. Sean Payton was named head coach of the Saints in 2006.

Rick Mueller, the brother of former Saints general manager Randy Mueller, was in the Saints front office from 2000-08 and was a regular in Loomis’ booth during Saints home games.

“I sat right next to him most of the time,” said Mueller, who now serves as a player personnel executive with the Philadelphia Eagles. Mueller said he vaguely recalled Loomis using an earpiece during games but he could not recall whether Loomis ever did so during the period in which sources allege Loomis had the ability to eavesdrop on opponents.

During Saints home games, Loomis typically sat in a seat next to the glass separating the Saints front office personnel from the Saints assistant coaches. When asked whether Loomis in any way signaled those Saints assistants on the other side of the glass during games, Mueller replied: “I didn’t get any indication of that. … There’s no communication going on between Mickey and the coaches during a game I can tell you that. … If it was just Mickey hearing it, I would see no way he could signal our coaches next door.”

In 2002, the Saints compiled a 9-7 record. The team had an 8-8 record during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. In those three seasons combined, the Saints were 12-12 in the Superdome.

The 2005 season remains the infamous one that the Saints never played a home game in the Superdome due to the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina. According to sources, that was also the first time Loomis would not have had the ability to listen in on the play calls of opposing teams. That year the Saints finished 3-13.


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has an established a track record of issuing severe penalties when teams attempt to skirt those rules.

When it was discovered that the New England Patriots videotaped the New York Jets coaches’ signals during a September 2007 game — the so-called “Spygate” episode — Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 by the NFL, the maximum amount permitted under league rules.

The Patriots were also fined $250,000 by the NFL, and the team was forced to give up its first-round pick in 2008.

“This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field,” Goodell wrote at the time in a letter to the Patriots.


Producer David Lubbers and production assistant Danielle DeSousa contributed to this report.

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Revisionist History: Suddenly Everyone Was Betting On Strong Dollar All Along

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There’s at least one thing that bulls and bears on the U.S. economy agree on: the dollar, the most undervalued major currency in the world, is due to rise as Europe’s sovereign debt crisis threatens the global recovery.

Strategists who as recently as November were predicting the dollar would depreciate against currencies of the Group of 10 nations, now say it will climb by year-end. After weakening against all but the Mexican peso among its 16 most actively traded peers over the past decade, it has gained against 14 of them since February.

Bulls say the dollar will benefit from increased U.S. hiring and an economy that’s projected to grow 2.3 percent this year, almost double the 1.26 percent for the Group of 10, according to Bloomberg surveys of economists. The currency will also gain if global and U.S. growth slows as Europe’s debt crisis worsens, boosting demand for dollar assets such as Treasuries as traditional havens from market turmoil diminish.

“We’ve become more bullish on the dollar because the economic prospects in the U.S. are improving,” Ken Dickson, an investment director of currencies at Standard Life Investments in Edinburgh, which manages about $235 billion, said on April 18 by telephone. “There are additional reasons including problems in the periphery, and a weaker euro is required to help the transition to a better economic situation in Europe.”

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As Goes Europe, So Goes The Market

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A string of disappointing developments in Europe put heavy pressure on global markets Monday morning.

In recent trading, the Dow was down 150 points while major bourses in Germany and France were off by nearly 3% as Europe’s crisis completed its migration from the back burner to the forefront of the market’s consciousness.

Last week, financial markets became fixated on Spain’s debt crisis and then turned to focus on French elections heading into the weekend. (See: Martin Wolf on Europe’s “Very Significant Moment” and the IMF’s “Dangerous Game”)

But it was developments in the Netherlands, where budget talks broke down this weekend, that really unsettled the markets.

Next to Germany, the Netherlands was considered “the cleanest country” in the EU in terms of its fiscal discipline, says Sassan Ghahramani, president and CEO of SGH Macro Advisors. “The triple-A of triple-A is now having a big dogfight over the budget. They may put a budget together but the government is going to fall apart.”

Indeed, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said new elections were an “obvious scenario” after budget talks ended and Rutte’s government lost the support of the right-wing Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders. The Freedom Party opposed Rutte’s plans to bring the country’s deficit toward 3% of GDP. The risk for financial markets is Netherlands losing its AAA rating.

In Europe, right-wing parties tend to be extremely conservative on social issues, like immigration, but not necessarily what Americans think of as “conservative” on fiscal issues. These parties are “very anti-bank, anti-establishment,” Gharamani says.

Right-wing politicians in the Netherlands and France, among others, have been critical of the EU and are pushing back against the austerity measures agreed to in the EU Fiscal Compact Treaty. The compact, which was approved in January, obliges EU members to keep budget deficits below 3% of GDP and keep public debt at 60% of GDP.

“Northern countries are drifting away from the fiscal austerity they’re preaching to southern countries,” Ghahramani observes. “That’s an issue people are concerned about.”

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What Happens When Austerity Fails?

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A couple of weeks ago European finance ministers attended an informal meeting in Copenhagen to sign off on one of the final components of the plan to deal with the debt crisis once and for all. In return for funds from their richer EU partners in the form of bailouts and a firewall to deal with future problems, peripheral euro zone members were to put their house in order, imposing austerity measures to help cut, or at least slow the pace of incurring new debt.

Aided by nearly a trillion dollars of assistance from the ECB’s Long-Term Refinancing Operation (LTRO) which ended fears of a fully-fledged banking crisis in late 2011, policy makers met in Denmark hoping the worst was now behind them.

But having agreed upon extra funding for the IMF’s own rescue fund over the weekend, policy makers will unfortunately not be able to look forward to a calmer summer and two weeks on the beach.

The reason thousands of politicians and bureaucrats will not be able to hit the beach is an EU member that could do with as many people as possible spending the summer on its beaches: Spain. The cost of borrowing over 10 years for the Spanish government is now 6 percent after heavy selling of Spanish debt by bond traders who had just a few months ago been buying heavily using ECB money. The IBEX 35 in Madrid has seen huge volatility as investors question the sustainability of Spanish housing prices and the debt that banks hold against it.

“It is becoming increasingly likely that some kind of support program for Spain will be needed” said Carl Weinberg, the chief economist at High Frequency Economics in a research note on Monday. “The yield on Spanish 10-year debt is approaching borrowing rates that are destabilizing and un-economic.”

Spanish and European officials will not agree with Weinberg, particularly in public, but whether they like it or not ,the bond vigilantes are back and ready to test their resolve. Those betting against the Spanish bond market are not just betting against Spain and its imbalances, they are betting against German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ECB President Mario Draghi’s resolve to protect the European project.

Up until now the support of Angela Merkel and Mario Draghi for countries finding themselves in trouble has been dependent on them implementing austerity measures and halting runaway government borrowing. So far those having to accept big cuts have played along, with Greece, Ireland and Portugal imposing massive cuts in return for bailout cash, and others have also gone along, to avoid the fate of Greece in particular.

Doubting the path set by Germany and the ECB has been frowned upon and in the case of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi led to him losing power. But opposition to austerity and plan A is beginning to grow in more prosperous places than Athens and Lisbon. In France, one of the architects of the plan to resolve the debt crisis, Nicolas Sarkozy, risks losing power to socialist candidate Francois Hollande.

Hollande won this weekend’s first round vote promising to focus on growth and is now favorite to win the French presidency despite over a third of all voters backing either the far right or extreme left. Whether or not Hollande will back Angela Merkel’s thinking on the debt crisis could define the EU response in the second half of 2012, but the optimists say his election would not have to be a negative.

“Let me point out that sometimes changes open up new opportunities for reforms – the “Nixon goes to China” paradox. For example, France needs labor market reforms and I suspect that a socialist president would have a better chance of getting that done than a center-right president would, but we will see,” said Erik Nielson, the chief economist at Unicredit in a research note on Monday.

To the north of Paris in the Netherlands, talks over slashing government debt collapsed over the weekend after an anti-euro right wing ally of the governing coalition walked out demanding elections as “soon as possible”

“It is very regrettable that this government cannot finish its job,” said Frans van Houten, the CEO of Philips in a CNBC interview following the release of forecast-beating numbers which had little to do with the health of the Dutch economy.

Alistair Newton, a political analyst at Nomura following the news from the Netherlands said: “Although failure by the Netherlands alone to ratify would not in theory spell the compact’s demise – only 12 out of 17 euro zone members need to ratify for it to come into force – it would at best significantly damage the compact’s credibility and at worst encourage other members to follow suit.”

With opposition to austerity measures rising and the debt crisis moving to Spain, the current plan A is under threat and this could spell trouble for euro zone resolve, according to Newton.

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Market Update

The S&P 500 continues to dance along the 1365 line with 1% loss. Such weakness has caused the Volatility Index to rise sharply. Euphemistically labeled the Fear Gauge, it is currently up more than 11%, but still shy of its monthly high.

Energy stocks have rolled back into the red. The sector, which was recently at the flat line after it had been down well in excess of 1% this morning, is now back to a 0.3% loss. It is still today’s top performing sector, however.

Materials stocks are at the opposite end of the spectrum today, even though resource-related stocks often trade in close correlation. As a group, Materials stocks are down 1.8%, largely because of weakness in metals and mining plays. DJ30 -142.66 NASDAQ -36.20 SP500 -14.83 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 520/1.07 bln/1955 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 650/400 mln/2325

Market Update

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Christopher Whalen: Big Banks Will Split Up but Small Banks Look Good

“Big financial institutions will split and go back to their core functions of offering either retail or investment banking services, says R. Christopher Whalen, a former banking analyst and now part of the hedge fund Tangent Capital Partners.

“I think you will see Bank of America sell Merrill Lynch before long. It makes a lot of sense. They need to raise some money. Morgan Stanley — they have Smith Barney, they have the old Discover Business. Both of those are under a lot of stress right now,” Whalen tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview.

“I would not be surprised to see the bigger retail firms, if you will, shed their retail arms and go back to being in investment banking and institutional sales trading, because I think those businesses make more sense than the retail business does right now.”

Story continues below video.”

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THE GOVERNMENT CONFESSES: Social Security To Run Out Of Funding BY 2035, Earlier Than Expected


The government now says that Social Security finances have worsened dramatically, which will reduce the life of the supporting trust funds by 2035. This is earlier than previously forecasted.

Social Security

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/report-social-security-to-run-out-of-funding-by-2035-2012-4#ixzz1st7GHxEi

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Market Update

The markets took the global lead and decided to sell off. We have pared some of the losses and Apple AKA NASDAQ 100 has gone green.

DOW down 140, NASDAQ down 35, S&P down 14, VIX up 11.24%,  Gold down  $8, Oil down $1.04, Dollar up .25


“1:30 pm : Stocks have flattened out in recent trade, leaving the major equity averages to continue wrestling with losses on the order of 1%.

Energy stocks, which overcame a loss of about 1.5% to trade flat, have been unable to extend their climb. Instead, the sector remains mired near the neutral line.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Staples sector is stuck near its session low with a loss of about 1.7%. Only Materials stocks are in such bad shape. DJ30 -137.78 NASDAQ -34.36 SP500 -13.87 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 485/1.00 bln/1990 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 615/380 mln/2355

1:00 pm : Stocks have been working to recover from an early slump, but broad market losses remain pronounced.

Underwhelming economic data from China and disappointing reports from Germany and France combined with renewed concerns about eurozone budgets to take a heavy toll on stocks this morning. The opening slump only slowed when the S&P 500 came in contact with its monthly closing low, which is separated from its monthly intraday low by roughly one point.

Although stocks have slowly trended higher since then, the broad market remains on pace for its poorest performance in about 10 calendar days. Energy stocks have managed to fully slash their losses in the face of such weakness. In fact, the sector has poked into positive territory for a fractional gain, even though oil prices are still down more than 1% at $102.50 per barrel. Earlier today oil prices dipped below $102 per barrel.

ConocoPhillips (COP 72.41, -0.47) hasn’t quite turned its loss into a gain, however. The stock’s lingering weakness comes after the integrated energy company announced this morning earnings that came short of what Wall Street had expected. Most other quarterly reports, including those of Brinker (EAT 30.69, +2.79) and SunTrust (STI 23.34, +0.74), bested expectations for the bottom line, but the batch hasn’t received much attention amid renewed macro concerns.

An interest in safety has helped take the dollar higher, such that the Dollar Index has held steady to a gain of about 0.4% for the day, while demand for the 10-year Treasury took its yield down to a monthly low closer to 1.90%. Gold has failed to garner buying interest, leaving prices to trade in the red for the day. DJ30 -144.29 NASDAQ -37.26 SP500 -14.82 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 495/935 mln/1955 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 615/350 mln/2335

12:30 pm : Stocks continue to steadily left off of session lows. They still have a ways to go before fully offsetting today’s losses. In fact, the S&P 500 remains on pace for its poorest single-session performance in 10 calendar days. As an aside, the broad market measure has booked only five losses of at least 1% in 2012.DJ30 -135.23 NASDAQ -33.85 SP500 -13.65 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 480/870 mln/1975 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 595/325 mln/2345

12:00 pm : The Energy sector remains on the mend. In fact, it is now flat for the day. The move higher from a loss well in excess of 1% has been led by the likes of Exxon Mobil (XOM 85.55, +0.25), Schlumberger (SLB 72.05, +0.35), and Baker Hughes (BHI 41.23, +0.77). Shares of XOM actually received an analyst upgrade this morning.DJ30 -130.89 NASDAQ -37.65 SP500 -13.89 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 405/765 mln/2015 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 520/295 mln/2405

11:30 am : The stock market is slowly working its way up from its session low, but it continues to wrestle with a loss in excess of 1%.

Although oil prices are still down nearly 2% to about $102 per barrel, Energy stocks have been faster in their attempt to rebound. The sector was down about 1.5% at its session low, but it has since slashed that loss to just 0.6%. Of the major sectors, only Telecom is in better shape; Telecom stocks are down 0.3% today.

Benefiting from the Energy sector’s upward push, shares of ConocoPhillips (COP 72.46, -0.42) have been trimming their losses after setting a monthly low in response to an earnings miss this morning. DJ30 -147.35 NASDAQ -45.95 SP500 -16.55 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 365/625 mln/2015 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 440/250 mln/2445

11:00 am : The S&P 500 appears to have stabilized. Its descent steadied when it came in contact with its monthly closing low of 1358, or within roughly one point of its monthly intraday low of 1357. In contrast, the Nasdaq Composite recently extended its slide to notch a new monthly low, but it still has a way to go before a test of its two-month low of 2900 becomes something to monitor.DJ30 -138.19 NASDAQ -50.91 SP500 -16.61 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 325/530 mln/2040 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 390/210 mln/2480

10:30 am : Overall weakness in the commodity complex has the CRB Index down 0.9%. Its slide comes as an extension of the downtrend that has taken it lower in five consecutive weeks for a cumulative decline of more than 5%.

Gold has failed to garner buying interest, despite its defensive characteristics. The yellow metal was last quoted with a 0.8% loss at $1629.70 per ounce. Silver is in even worse shape; it was last quoted with a 3.3% loss at $30.61 per ounce.

Crude oil futures prices are down 1.8% to $102.05 per barrel after recently slipping below a mark of $102 per barrel.

Although most of the commodity complex is contending with concerted selling pressure, natural gas prices have pushed up sharply to $1.98 per MMBtu for a 2.6% gain. The energy component is only fractionally shy of its session high. DJ30 -168.62 NASDAQ -45.34 SP500 -18.41 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 280/335 mln/2035 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 335/150 mln/2490

10:00 am : Aggressive selling continues to keep stocks down with sharp losses.

Materials stocks are being punished the most among the major sectors. Their 2.3% loss comes as steel stocks slump and shares of diversified metals and miners get cut down. Gold stocks are also being punished as the price of the precious metal drops nearly 1% to just under $1630 per ounce, despite its defensive characteristics. DJ30 -166.75 NASDAQ -48.95 SP500 -18.65 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 290/175 mln/1960 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 350/95 mln/2415

09:45 am : The major equity averages are all down in excess of 1% as a concerted selling effort takes hold of stocks. Financials, Materials, Energy, and Industrials are in the worst shape — each sector is down roughly 1.5% or more.

Telecom stocks, which displayed relative strength last week, are holding up relatively well in the face of widespread weakness. More specifically, the sector has managed to limit its loss to only 0.3%, thanks to support from integrated telecom plays. UK-based global telecommunications outfit Vodafone (VOD 27.76, +0.07) is actually sporting a gain. DJ30 -133.73 NASDAQ -32.25 SP500 -14.95 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec NA/NA/NA NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec NA/NA/NA”

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