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Markets News Tuesday: Japan's unemployment rate fell in February but is expected to rise in coming months
By Finfacts Team
Mar 29, 2011 - 9:02 AM

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Source: Davy

Japan: Japan's unemployment rate dipped to a two-year low in February, government data showed Tuesday, however, power blackouts and supply chain disruptions are likely to push up the rate in coming months following the March 11 devastating earthquake a tsunami.

Japan's jobless rate stood at 4.6% in February, data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications showed. The rate was unchanged from January.

Irish Bank Stress Tests: Donal O'Mahony, Global Strategist at Davy, commented in his weekly report on Monday: "Ireland's creditworthiness has suffered untold damage by enforced entanglement with domestic bank credit risk. On Thursday, Ireland announces its latest and most critical attempt to disentangle such risks, and the stakes could not be higher in terms of future economic and financial stability.

In early Feb, Standard & Poor's attributed its latest downgrading of Ireland’s sovereign credit rating (one notch to A-) to the 'uncertainty surrounding the banking sector crisis '. This is a depressingly familiar refrain. Absent the banking burden, the sovereign would have ended 2010 with a restrained Debt/GDP ratio of 74%, not to mention the contra of a public pension fund (NPRF) replete with €25bn of assets (16% of GDP). However, the entwining of both sovereign and banks commenced with the blanket liability guarantee of Sep/08, and has proceeded via the NAMA asset-transfer and attendant recapitalisation processes to its current €77bn involvement (49% of GDP). The latter encompasses €31bn of NAMA bonds (off balance sheet), €12bn of investments (NPRF) and €34bn in borrowings. The EU/IMF Accord of Nov/10 commits up to a further €35bn for 'deep restructuring' of the Irish banking system. This contingency is weighing very heavily on rating agencies, investors and indeed the Irish State itself, the latter upshot of which being those self-defeating calls for a default on senior bank debt to ease the burden of Ireland’s financing predicament.

On Thursday, the €35bn contingency faces its long-awaited quantification, following publication of Irish bank 'stress tests' on both capital (PCAR) and liquidity (PLAR) requirements. The outcome remains uncertain, but recent speculation of a full 35bn drawdown may prove to have been somewhat hyperbolic. The requisite injections for bank recapitalisation purposes will more likely fall within the ambit of the NPRF’s investment capacity (€17.5bn), thereby protecting the sovereign (and its credit rating) against any incremental borrowing needs. Furthermore, those feared capital outlays to subvent 'fire-sale' disposals of bank assets as part of system deleveraging requirements may also have been allayed.

Weekend press reports indicate that the ECB is preparing a 'medium term funding' solution to the liquidity crisis in Irish banks, one that will facilitate a more orderly and far less costly downsizing of bank balance sheets to their targeted levels. Such facility may initially be tailor-made for Irish bank resolution purposes, but may also become template for a broader application involving other distressed banking systems across the Eurozone area.

There have been far too many false dawns involving Irish stabilisation efforts to pre-judge the outcome of forthcoming events. However, one plausible scenario involves a credible restructuring of the Irish banking system (over-capitalisation and secured funding), along with an agreed paring of the 'bail-out' interest rate cost and retention of the coveted 12.5% corporate tax rate. A quid pro quo will be needed for such EU sponsored outturns, and the honouring of bank debt may be part of it."

Japan's reconstruction could turn around deflation and allow the economy to blossom says Clem Chambers, CEO of ADVFN:

Irish Financials: Media commentary on state involvement in IL&P; Goodbody's Eamonn Hughes comments  -- "Volumes in the banks yesterday were very light ahead of Thursday’s stress tests where media commentary has centred around possible capital requirements in an €18-23bn range for the 4 banks being evaluated (including the €10bn earmarked last November).

With the results due on Thursday evening, any interest in the banks ahead of then is the equivalent of playing red or black until details on the stress test emerge at the individual company level. This morning’s press commentary (Irish Times) focuses on the likelihood of the State having to inject capital into IL&P, which will see it cede a significant ownership to the State as it faces a substantial challenge under the PLAR tests to rebase its €38bn of loans closer to its €19bn of deposits.

On an existing group basis, the last PCAR assessment (November) indicated IL&P required very little additional capital, though we believe it needs to disaggregate its banks which could see the figure over the €1bn mark, though liability management could reduce this by about 30%. However, the PCAR/PLAR assessment this week may drive this base figure higher again, so the commentary this morning is no real surprise.

Elsewhere, it looks like the government may be publishing the results of the restructuring plans of the banks to downsize their balance sheets on Thursday as well. Previously, these plans were pencilled in for the end of April, but the inter-relationship with the PLAR means it makes more sense to publish the results all together. On this point, it appears that the €60bn of medium term financing on the table from the ECB to wean the banks off the ELA dependence will be conditional on a strict timetable on the restructuring. It appears the government will be reviewing the stress tests at this morning’s weekly cabinet meeting, with a further meeting pencilled in for Thursday morning."

Siemens unveiled its largest corporate revamp since 2007, whereby it plans to spin off its lighting division, Osram. "This is a great opportunity where Osram can actually enhance its leading market position and technology position," CEO Peter Löscher told CNBC Tuesday.

UK and US data releases indicate a weak outlook for the consumer; Davy economist, Conall Mac Coille, comments  -- "A number of data releases for the UK economy today (March 29th) are likely to underline that growth prospects remain weak. UK GDP in Q4 is expected to show little revision from the 0.6% decline indicated in the previous release. This is a sharp pace of contraction, accentuated by the impact of December's bad weather, which the Office for National Statistics estimates reduced growth by 0.5 percentage points on the quarter. But there is considerable uncertainty around this estimate. As in other countries, the temporary negative impact of the snow in December has made reading the Q1 data more difficult as bad weather effects dissipate. Overall, net trade continues to struggle to provide a substantial contribution to growth, and today's release of the UK balance of payments is expected to show that the current account deficit rose from £9.6bn in Q3 to £10.5bn in Q4.

UK mortgage approvals data are expected to show that activity remained weak in the UK housing market in February with approvals expected to equal 46,000 compared with pre-recession rates in excess of 100,000. Similarly, net lending by banks, secured on dwellings, in February is expected to be £1.8bn compared with net lending close to £10bn prior to the recession. The February headline M4 broad money growth figure is likely to remain close to negative territory, reflecting continued weakness in bank lending. Net consumer credit is expected to fall by £0.1bn given the weakness of the British Banking Association data for credit card and personal borrowing already released for February. Together, today's data releases therefore provide a pessimistic outlook for growth and consumer spending in the UK.

Today's release of the US Conference Board measure of consumer confidence is expected to show that confidence fell back sharply in March to 65.0 from the three-year high of 70.4 in February. The US personal income and spending data released yesterday (March 28th) showed that higher inflation and rising oil prices are eating into real incomes. Personal income growth was 0.3% in nominal terms but fell by 0.1% in real terms, the first decline since September. Similarly, the nominal 0.7% increase in personal spending meant a smaller 0.3% rise in real terms. So, as in the UK and other economies, higher energy prices are likely to dent consumer confidence and spending."

Economic View: Irish consumers still finding it tough; Goodbody chief economist, Dermot O’Leary, comments  - - "With weather affecting both month-on-month comparisons and year-on-year ones in recent months, it has been difficult to get a handle on the true state of the Irish consumer. February’s retail sales data thus gave us a clearer picture; in February, retail sales fell by 1% yoy, with core sales (i.e. excluding the motor trade) down by a larger 3%.

Headline sales volumes had been up by 5% yoy in January, but were flattered by very weak base effects. The modest annual decline seen in February masks some weaker performances in some categories of retail sales. For example, sales of furniture on lighting fell by 13%, while sales volumes in the hardware, paints and glass category, our proxy for DIY sales, fell by 6% yoy. Outside of the strong growth in the motor trade (+5% yoy), which continues to be aided by the scrappage scheme, the only other categories showing growth are non-specialised stores (supermarkets, +0.5%), department stores (+0.3%) and clothing and footwear (+0.7%).

Another interesting aspect of the data is the fact that inflation is making a return, albeit a modest one. The retail sales deflator, calculated from the volume and value figures, rose on an annual basis in February (+0.3%) for the first time since October 2008. While significant deflation still exists in some sectors (clothing and footwear, electrical goods), price increases are returning in supermarkets (impact of food price rises), pharmaceutical goods and bars, all of which represent notable changes in trends. With the well known pressures on Irish consumer likely to remain, the return of inflation is unlikely to spur demand. We are expecting a fall in consumer spending of 1% in 2011. These data do nothing to change that view and, in fact, the risks are still on the downside given the recent weak employment data."

Mitul Kotecha, head of global FX strategy at Credit Agricole CIB, shares his outlook on the U.S. dollar and other currencies:

US Markets

In New York Monday, the Dow fell 23 points or 0.19% to 12,198.

The S&P 500 slid 0.27% and the Nadaq slipped 0.45%.

Asia Markets

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed Tuesday.

Japan's Nikkei 225 dipped 0.21%; China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.87%; Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.47% and the Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensex index gained 1.03% in Mumbai.

Asia benchmarks

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Markets News Afternoon: ECB working on medium-term funding facility for Irish banks; Pfizer seeking up to 80 job cuts at ex-Wyeth campus in West Dublin
Irish retail sales volume dipped by 0.7% in February 2011 compared with February 2010
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Prospects for full global economic recovery rebounded before Japan, North Africa and Middle East woes
SuperValu says it will add 400 jobs to 15,000 franchise workforce

In Europe, the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 is down 0.32% in early trading Tuesday.

The ISEQ has dipped 0.70% in Dublin.

CRH is off 1.66%; Elan is down 0.29% and Zamano is unchanged.

Zamano (Reduce, Closing Price €0.04); Results behind forecasts: Goodbody's Clodagh McCarthy comments  -- "Zamano reported its FY10 results this morning, which were behind our forecasts. Revenue came in at €15.8m compared to €25.1m in FY09 and our forecasts of €16.9m, while EBITDA was €0.9m (FY09 €4.3m) versus forecasts of €1.7m. Net debt was €3m verses our forecast of €1.4m (€2.2m in FY09). The variance in the top line from FY09 to FY10 stems from transition delays in re-structuring the Group, initiated last year. However, the impact of new regulations and challenges in the smart phone area has delayed improved financial performance.

Outlook for the company remains 'challenging,' bank agreements have been renegotiated and 'cost reductions are allowing the company to invest in future opportunities.' The Board remains confident that stability has now been achieved and the capacity to grow will follow. Despite this, we reiterate our reduce recommendation."

European Benchmarks

Irish Share Prices

Irish Stock Market Capitalisation by Company

Key Index Performance Statistics

Euribor Rates

AIB Daily Report

Bank of Ireland Daily Report

Currencies 

The euro is trading at $1.4135 and at £0.8822.

For live currency updates, check the right-hand column of the Finfacts home page.

The US dollar fell to $1.6038 per euro on Tuesday, July 15, 2008 - an-all time record.

Commodities

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of shipping costs for dry commodities, hit an all-time High of 11,771 on the 21st of May, 2008. From that time it reversed and on the 5th of December, 2008 it hit a low of 663 - - close to a 1986 low.

The BDI closed at 3,005 on Thursday, Dec 31st - - a rise of 289% in 2009. The index averaged 59% lower in 2009 than a year earlier.

On Thursday, July 15, 2010, the index  fell for the 35th straight session, by 9 points, or 0.537%, to 1,700 points, Bloomberg report.

On Friday July16th, the BDI rose 20 points or 1.12% to 1,700 to break the 35-session losing streak.

On Monday this week, the BDI was unchanged at 1,585.

The Financial Times reported earlier in January, that Australia’s flooding and fears of ship oversupply has pushed down a gauge of the cost of hiring ships to carry coal, iron ore and other dry bulk by nearly half since October to the lowest level since the aftermath of the financial crisis. The Baltic Dry index, the widely watched measure of dry bulk charter rates, fell to 1,453, nearly half the 2,784 peak reached on October 27, 2010.

Crude oil for April 2011 delivery is currently trading on the Chicago York Mercantile Exchange (CME/Nymex) at $103.44 per barrel, down 54 cents from Monday's close. In London, Brent for April delivery is trading on the International Commodities Exchange at $114.33. The North Sea benchmark accounts for two-thirds of the global market.

The margin between the US benchmark WTI (West Texas Intermediate) used on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Brent is almost $11.

The FT said in early February that a surge in oil inventories in Cushing, Oklahoma, where WTI is delivered into America’s pipeline system, has depressed the value of the benchmark against other yardsticks. The International Energy Agency said on Thursday that with “few relief valves” to cut the stock overhang in Cushing, the price dislocation “may persist for months [or years] to come”.

Gold spot price

The spot price of an oz of gold is trading in New York at $1,417.70, down $3.20 from Monday's close.


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