A Dodgy Day

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DOW – 20 = 17,556
SPX – 5 = 2041
NAS – 17 = 4833
10 Y unch = 1.72%
OIL + .61 = 40.33
GOLD + 19.70 = 1259.10

Stocks started the session higher. This morning the Dow was up 150 points for the first hour or so of trade. In the final hour we saw a sell-off that pushed the major indices into negative territory. This kind of trading action makes the recent run-up look like not much more than short covering. With today’s decline, the S&P 500 moved into negative territory year-to-date.

First quarter earnings reporting season is underway, starting with Alcoa’s (AA) results after today’s market close. Actually, we’ve already seen a few earnings, but Alcoa is the traditional start of the reporting season because it used to be in the Dow Industrials and it has the ticker symbol AA. The metals and materials company reported adjusted first-quarter earnings of 7 cents per share on $4.9 billion in revenue.

Earnings fell from 28 cents per share in the prior-year period, while sales slid from $5.8 billion. Alcoa beat on earnings and missed on revenue. The company also said it cut 600 jobs in the quarter, with 400 more reductions planned. And they are considering another 1,000 cuts. Shares have plunged more than 25 percent in the last year amid a prolonged commodities slump.

More important than Alcoa is what we see from the first crop of big banks, including JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Bank of America (BAC), later in the week. Analysts forecast a 20 percent decline on average in earnings from the six biggest U.S. banks, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data. Some banks, including Goldman Sachs Group (GS), are expected to report the worst results in over ten years. This spells trouble for the financial sector more broadly, since banks typically generate at least a third of their annual revenue during the first three months of the year. In other words, the first quarter could be so ugly, they can’t recover in the second half of the year.

Total earnings for the quarter are expected to be down as much as -11% and revenues are expected to be down -2.3%. Wall Street analysts have a tendency to lower the bar heading into reporting season, and then celebrate when actual earnings beat diminished expectations. The negative earnings growth in Q1 will be the fourth quarter in a row of earnings declines for the S&P 500 index.

The headwinds remain unchanged from other recent periods, essentially a combination of Energy sector weakness, the dollar strength and global growth constraints. What corporate CEOs say about the future could be the biggest determinant of whether Wall Street is sold on the theory that the first-quarter will mark the low point for earnings

The U.S. Federal Reserve conducted a closed meeting this morning “under expedited procedures” during which the Board of Governors reviewed and determined advance and discount rates charged by the Fed banks. The event is notable because the last time such a gathering took place was on November 21, less than a month before the central bank’s historic rate hike.

Economic growth is set to slow in Italy but steady in Canada over coming months, while the outlook for developed nations as a whole continues to weaken, according to leading indicators released Monday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Overall, the leading indicators imply that the global economy is unlikely to accelerate this year, following several years of disappointing growth.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has published his taxes after his father’s name was revealed in the Panama Papers. The returns revealed that Cameron and his wife, Samantha, earned a $19,000 profit from the sale of shares in Blairmore Holdings, an offshore trust held by his late father and named in the Panama Papers; that trust did not pay British taxes. Tax returns also reveal that in 2011, the Prime Minister received £500,000 free of inheritance tax.

Making the matter more onerous, Cameron has, in the past, publicly championed tax transparency as well as being an advocate for austerity. There is nothing in the tax returns that indicates illegal action, but Cameron tried to stonewall the press for about a week, and that hasn’t helped his case.

Taking a cue from Iceland, thousands of British protesters swarmed London’s streets on Saturday to try to get their leader to quit. This morning, Cameron went before parliament to explain his role in the offshore trust, and call for new measures that would go after British corporations that do not crack down on tax evasion through offshore accounts, making tax avoidance a criminal offense.

For the first time, companies will be held criminally liable if they fail to stop their employees from facilitating tax evasion. Also British dependencies and territories that are often used to create offshore companies for tax purposes have agreed to compile information on offshore companies registered there; to share the information among themselves; and to create centralized registries of “beneficial ownership”. The jurisdictions that have agreed to these steps include Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party said, “There is now one rule for the super-rich and another for the rest.”  Dennis Skinner, a Labour member, was thrown out of the House of Commons for the day for calling the Prime Minister “dodgy Dave” several times. Apparently “Dodgy Dave” was just a bit too rude.

The European Commission will meet tomorrow to consider how to require large companies to make public what they pay in tax in each of the 28 EU countries, and possibly outside the bloc as well. Though the Commission has been working for years on how to stop multinationals playing European countries’ tax codes off each other to minimize payments, the Panama papers may push it to expand the scope of its work. Global finance ministers are expected to discuss evasion when they gather in Washington later this week for the International Monetary Fund’s spring meeting.

The IMF defended negative interest rates, saying they boost demand and support stable prices by supplementing conventional monetary stimulusThe International Monetary Fund said the use of negative interest rates by some of the world’s biggest central banks was appropriate given the “significant risks” of slow growth. But the fund also conceded that negative rates could produce boom-and-bust cycles. The IMF’s annual spring meetings will take place this week in Washington D.C.

Investor interest in Argentina’s new bond offering is strong as the nation, sidelined from global debt markets since its 2001 default, launches a five-day marketing tour across the U.S and U.K. Argentina will cap the offering at $15 billion across 5-, 10- and 30-year tenures; the bonds are expected to come to market as early as April 18.

Wells Fargo settled its “shoddy” mortgage practices. The bank agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle civil mortgage-fraud claims related to residential mortgages it sold from 2001 to 2008. According to the DOJ statement, Wells Fargo (WFC) certified that certain loans were eligible for Federal Housing Administration insurance, when in fact they were not. That meant the government wound up having to pay insurance claims when some of those loans defaulted.

Goldman Sachs (GS) has agreed to pay just over $5 billion to settle claims that it misled mortgage bond investors during the financial crisis. The settlement, which Goldman disclosed in January, stems from the firm’s conduct in packaging, securitization, marketing and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities between 2007 and 2009. The Justice Department said investors suffered billions of dollars in losses from the securities bought during the period. Goldman also acknowledged a Justice Department statement of facts describing how the firm misled investors.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) asked its CEO to cooperate with a Senate investigation into drug pricing after he failed to appear for a deposition. The Senate Special Committee on Aging said last week that it planned to start legal proceedings against Michael Pearson, who is leaving Valeant after months of turmoil for the drug-maker. Pearson is still under subpoena to appear before the committee for an April 27 hearing. The committee is planning its third hearing since December on soaring drug prices.

The parent company of British newspaper and tabloid site, Daily Mail, is in talks with private-equity firms about a possible offer for Yahoo (YHOO). The Wall Street Journal reports a bid is likely to take one of two forms: 1) A PE partner would acquire Yahoo’s core business, with the Mail taking over news/media properties, or 2) The PE firm would acquire Yahoo’s core business and merge its media/news properties with the Mail‘s online operations.

Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) has ended its bid for its US counterpart Norfolk Southern (NSC). The Canadian company entered into early-stage talks with Norfolk Southern — the second-largest railroad in the eastern US, valued at about $25 billion — late last year. Since then, US regulators have been pushing back against the deal.

Annaly Capital Management (NLYhas announced a definitive merger agreement with Hatteras Financial (HTS) for $15.85 per share, or $1.5 billion. The transaction has been unanimously approved by the boards of both companies.

Dell’s cyber security unit, SecureWorks, could be valued at up to $1.4 billion in its initial public offering, the first major U.S. listing of a technology company this year. Atlanta, Georgia-based SecureWorks said on Monday its offering was expected to be priced at $15.50-$17.50 per Class A share, raising as much as $157 million.

TransCanada (TRPhas received authorization from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to restart the 590K barrel per day Keystone crude pipeline at reduced pressure. The channel, which delivers light and heavy crude from Hardisty, Alberta, to Cushing, Oklahoma, and Illinois, was shut last Saturday after TransCanada discovered a tube leak in South Dakota.

In advance of the busy summer driving season, gasoline prices gained 8 cents to around $2.10 per gallon in the past three weeks, according to the latest Lundberg survey.

Disclosure: None.

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Moon Kil Woong 4 years ago Contributor's comment

There is little to be thrilled about this market upsurge besides the fact that it happened. Fundamentals are poor and inflation is rising which is not good if economic growth and earning growth are both slowing despite the Federal Reserve telling you otherwise. In fact, stagflation comes to mind before any other definition the Fed would like to name this phenomenon like "strong growth is around the corner". Higher prices do not by definition mean stranger growth, especially when credit worthiness is declining despite record low rates.

Marvin R Clark 4 years ago Author's comment

Too true. Although, I think full stagflation will not arrive until we are on the other side of the upcoming recession.