- US: Dow: 13005.20 (0.16%), S&P 500: 1368.36 (0.36%), NASDAQ: 2969.94 (0.44%)
- Europe: CAC: 3467.03 (0.57%), DAX: 6864.43 (0.80%), FTSE: 5935.13 (-0.05%).
- Asia:China: 2439.63 (1.23%),Hong Kong: 21406.86 (0.12%),India: 5429.30 (-0.98%),Japan: 9647.38 (0.54%)
- Metals: Gold: 1775.80 (-0.59%), Silver: 35.36 (-0.57%), Copper: 3.86 (1.47%)
- Energy: Crude Oil: 108.89 (0.98%), Natural Gas: 2.52 (-3.70%)
- Commodities: Corn: 6.38 (-0.27%), Soya Bean: 12.80 (0.23%), Wheat: 6.38 (-0.62%)
- Currency: EUR/USD: 1.3480 (0.8041%), GBP/USD: 1.5894 (0.9492%), USD/JPY: 80.8425 (1.0575%)
- 10 year US Treasury: 1.977% (-0.019)
Market News Update
S&P 500 at highest level since 2008: U.S. stocks were little changed Friday, but modest gains in the S&P 500 were enough to put the broad index at the highest level since June 2008 — first time in nearly a year. The S&P 500 added 2 points, or 0.2%, to top 1,366. That last time the index was at a multi-year high was in April 2011. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrial average slipped 4 points, and the NASDAQ composite gained 4 points, or 0.1%. Starting in February, the Dow has been trading at the highest level since May 2008. The NASDAQ has been at the highest level since December 2000, also since the start of February. http://money.cnn.com/2012/02/24/markets/stocks/index.htm?iid=HP_LN
New home sales slip in January, but Supply tightens: New U.S. home sales fell in January but upward revisions to the prior months’ data and a drop in the supply of properties on the market added to signs of a budding housing recovery. In a further boost to the economy, a separate report on Friday showed U.S. consumer confidence hit its highest point in a year this month despite a strong rise in gasoline prices. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/24/us-usa-economy-idUSTRE7BM0AB20120224
Consumer sentiment at year high: Consumer sentiment improved a tad in February to rack up a year high as Americans became more confident about the economy’s resilience, a survey released on Friday showed. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s final reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment came in at 75.3, edging up from 75.0 the month before. It was the highest level since February 2011. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46512531/ns/business-stocks_and_economy/
Oil rises for the seventh consecutive day: Oil climbed for a seventh day, the longest streak of advances since January 2010, as escalating tension withIran threatens supplies and on signs of a global economic recovery. Futures rose above $109 a barrel for the first time in nine months as sanctions against thePersian Gulf nation make it more difficult to sell crude.
Euro climbs above $1.34: The euro rose to multi-month highs against the dollar and yen after Greek cabinet members approved the details of a debt restructuring, clearing another hurdle for new bailout funding from international lenders. The common currency gained to $1.3474, its highest level against the dollar since Dec. 8, and above ¥108, its highest since November. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203918304577242891783378420.html?mod=WSJ_Markets_LEFTTopStories
Company News Update
- J.C. Penney (JCP) shares slipped after the department store chain beat earnings estimates, but fell short of sales expectations for the fourth quarter.
- AIG (AIG) surged 2.8 percent to $28.76. The insurer cited a return to “sustainable operating profit” as it booked a tax benefit that fueled record fourth-quarter earnings. AIG is projecting that it will generate enough profit to use tax assets, tied to prior losses that can limit future payments to the government.
- Salesforce.com (CRM) added 8.5 percent, the most in the S&P 500, to $142.94. The amount Salesforce invoiced its customers grew 57 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, topping the 31 percent predicted by Brent Thill, an analyst at UBS AG in San Francisco.Billings rose 29 percent in the third quarter.
- Gap’s (GPS) stock fell after the retailer missed earnings and sales expectations for the fourth quarter. Gap also announced a $1 billion share buyback program and an 11% boost to its annual dividend.
- Citigroup (C) sold its stake in Mumbai-based Housing Development Finance Corporation. Citigroup said the sale should result in a pre-tax gain of $1.1 billion, and an after-tax gain of approximately $722 million.
- Bank of America (BAC) announced plans late Thursday to freeze pension plans, effective in July, and increase its 401(k) contributions instead.
- Kroger (KR) gained 1.4 percent to $23.30. The company was raised to buy from neutral at Citigroup Inc. The firm also added the shares to its “Top Picks Live” list.
- Clearwire Corp. (CLWR) dropped 6.4 percent to $2.12 for the third- biggest loss in the Russell 1000 Index. (RIY) The wireless broadband provider’s third-largest investor, Google Inc., said it plans to sell its stake. Google held 29.4 million shares as of Dec. 16.
- Ford (F) opened its third assembly plant inChina on Friday, a move that puts it on track to double the number of dealerships in the car-hungry country by 2015 and outpace rivals. TheDetroit automaker has been trying to expand inAsia to meet demand in the world’s biggest auto market. The $490 million factory will increase Ford’s passenger car capacity inChina by one-third, or 150,000 units, to 600,000.
- Citigroup (C) said on Friday it received a subpoena from federal and state regulators seeking information about the bank’s “issuing, sponsoring, or underwriting” of mortgage-backed securities. The inquiries included a subpoena from the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice, which Citigroup received on Jan. 27, it said in its annual report.
- Italian carmaker Fiat may have to close two of its five plants in Italy in the face of weak European demand if plans to export to the U.S. market don’t materialize, its Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said in an interview on Friday. Marchionne, who is also head of Fiat-owned U.S. car group Chrysler, said Chrysler factories in theU.S. were already working to full capacity, and plants inMexico,Canada orEurope are needed to fill a third of theU.S. demand.
- Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY-GB), the state-backed UK bank, said Friday that it made a 3.5 billion pound ($5.5 billion) pre-tax loss in 2011, down from a profit of 281 million pounds in 2010, and warned that its outlook remained “challenging.”
Hedge Fund News Update
- Global hedge fund assets may rise 12 percent this year to a record $2.26 trillion as investors reduce cash and seek returns, according to an annual survey of investors by Deutsche Bank AG. The industry may see $250 billion of net inflows and performance gains this year, according to the survey. The number of investors with 10 percent to 30 percent of their holdings in cash is expected to halve in the next six months, helping free up $39 billion for potential hedge fund investments, the survey showed.
- Edward Lampert, the hedge fund manager who controls Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD), has more than $160 million in paper profits on shares of the retailer acquired last month from a long-standing client, the Ziff family. The billionaire paid $130 million in early January to personally acquire Sears shares from ESL Investors LLC, a partnership he runs for the Ziffs that follows the same strategy as his hedge fund, according to court documents and regulatory filings. The retailer’s stock has more than doubled since then, rebounding from a three-year low and ranking as the best- performing member of the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
- Aberdeen Asset Management has changed the name of its Alternative Investment Strategies business to Aberdeen Solutions. Aberdeen Solutions, which manages assets of £24bn (€28.3bn), recently launched the Aberdeen Diversified Growth Fund in theUK as a complement to the existing Aberdeen Multi-Asset Fund and Aberdeen Managed Distribution Fund. The division includes pooled fund and segregated mandates, whether as multi-asset, multi-manager, passive, fund of hedge funds, fund of private equity funds and pan-alternatives funds.
- Commerzbank AG’s (CBKG.DE) plan to swap debt into shares could be about to hand hedge funds one of their biggest windfalls of the year, after the German bank offered to buy back a slew of bonds at a far higher price than some managers paid for them.
- Asian hedge funds started by both new and existing managers raised $4.43 billion last year, the highest amount since the industry peaked in 2007, according to a survey by trade journal AsiaHedge. The average size of the 58 new Asian hedge funds set up last year jumped to $76.4 million, almost twice the $40 million in 2010, AsiaHedge said in an e-mailed statement today. NewAsiahedge funds raised a record $7.8 billion in 2007, it added.
- Billionaire Philip Falcone’s LightSquared Inc. wireless venture is cutting 45 percent of its jobs, or about 149 positions, to preserve cash after its plan to start operating was rejected byU.S. regulators. Most of the affected employees are those hired in preparation for its high-speed wireless network expansion, Reston, Virginia-based LightSquared said today. The company has 330 workers in total.
- A growing number of hedge funds are scouring the files of securitized home loans, in hopes of reaping rich profits by forcing mortgage-bond issuers to buy back faulty credits. Monarch Alternative Capital was among the first to begin carrying out the “putback” strategy last year. Now, Amherst Advisory & Management, Fir Tree Partners, Glenview Capital and Varde Partners are among other fund managers working either on their own or in teams to follow the same course.