Friday, April 30, 2010

Business Spending Propels Recovery


The U.S. economy grew at a slower pace in the first quarter, but the underlying trends—including a bigger share of growth from industry, strong consumer spending and low inflation—were encouraging.

The nation's gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday.

That's not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.

Spending by consumers rose at a 3.6% rate, more than double the fourth-quarter pace and faster than any quarter in the past three years. But half the quarter's growth came from firms rebuilding inventories.

"The strength and durability of this recovery remain in question, as the economy sails into strong headwinds over the next few quarters," said Bart van Ark, chief economist of the Conference Board, a business research group. Markets were disappointed by the report, among other things. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 1.42% to 11008.61.

One big question is whether consumers will keep loosening their purse strings. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the demand in the economy. Consumer confidence has improved quite a bit from the lows of the financial crisis, but remains depressed. The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index, released Friday, dropped slightly to 72.2 in April from 73.6 in March—and was well below the pre-recession levels, which exceeded 90.

Tiffany Luongo, a commercial real-estate broker in Fort Myers, Fla., who saw her income drop 90% during the depths of the downturn, is among the cautious ones. "Even though things have gotten dramatically better, I don't think I'll spend as freely as I once did," she said.

Business is picking up, and Ms. Luongo is dining out more often and taking "a few little splurges," like buying a new suit for work. But she continues to hold spending down, getting her nails done less often, for instance, and switching to a hair salon that costs her $35 a month rather than the $180 she used to spend. A few weeks ago, she shopped at a dollar store for the first time to buy household items like cleaning supplies and toothpaste. "I really appreciate the lessons I've learned," said Ms. Luongo, 44 years old. "I feel almost nostalgic. I'm living more like my parents did, being more careful with money."

Companies that sell to consumers see signs of hope but remain cautious. VF Corp., maker of Lee and Wrangler jeans, said Friday its first-quarter profit rose 62% from a year earlier—after cutting costs and reducing inventory. "Consumers were more engaged in the economy and in buying apparel" during the first quarter, said Chief Executive Eric Wiseman. But he warned that "the economic recovery remains fragile."

More customers at the 400 stores operated by Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc., a retailer that lets customers make stuffed animals, pushed revenue up almost 4% from a year earlier. "We're benefiting…because the customer is feeling a little bit better, needing to get out and shop and buy some new things," said Tina Klocke, an executive at the firm.

Friday's data showed inflation remains tame, even as the economy climbs out of recession. The Federal Reserve's preferred gauge, the price index for personal consumption expenditures excluding food and energy, rose an annualized 0.6% in the first quarter, compared with the fourth quarter's 1.8%. Wages aren't rising much either. The Labor Department's employment cost index, the broadest measure of wages and benefits, rose 0.6% in the first quarter from the fourth, and was 1.7% higher than a year earlier.

Business spending is improving, but many businesses are bracing for a slow expansion. Dunbar Armored Inc. of Hunt Valley, Md., which uses 1,500 red trucks to transport money for retailers and restaurants, froze wages last year for the first time since the early 1970s recession. The firm installed new electronic tracking devices to improve its efficiency, cutting labor costs by more than 5%, as it faced price cuts by competitors. Its 5,200 employees were told in April they would receive 2% to 4% pay increases as business picks up. "We're seeing things moving in a better way," said CEO Kevin Dunbar.

Dunbar Armored is hauling 6% more money so far this year, a sign of higher spending at retailers and expansion at some. "It's not like it was four or five years ago or in the 1990s, but I'm cautiously optimistic," Mr. Dunbar said. "It's kicking in the right direction."

But the new data highlighted numerous risks. Residential investment dropped at a 10.9% annual rate during the quarter. Commercial construction fell 14%, even as businesses ramped up their spending on equipment and software. Exports also failed to keep up with imports, damping hope that a major ramp-up in exports by U.S. producers can offset weakness elsewhere in the economy. And while federal stimulus dollars were still boosting the economy during the quarter, that was offset by a decline in spending by state and local governments.

For all those reasons, economists continue to worry about the recovery in the second half of the year as the boost from inventory restocking and fiscal stimulus wanes.

"We know that economic recoveries in the wake of financial crises tend to be unusually modest," said economist Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics. "They don't tend to be super-sharp, V-shaped recoveries where we get 8% GDP growth."

And even when the economy returns to something approaching normal, the lingering effects of recession, widespread unemployment and changes in the world economy will remain.

"Even on optimistic assumptions, there is going to be substantial unused capacity in this economy," White House economic adviser Lawrence Summer said Friday. He noted one in five men between ages 25 and 54 was unemployed. Even if the economy returns to full employment in five years, he predicted, one in six wouldn't be working.

Write to Sudeep Reddy at

Thursday, April 29, 2010

央行:稳定股市运行 金融调控避免市场大起大落

今年金融市场可能出现震荡 金融调控应避免市场大起大落

中国人民银行28日发布的《2009年中国金融市场发展报告》指出,2010年将会加快金融市场创新,稳定股票市场运行。2010年我国金融市场可能 出现一定幅度的震荡,融资规模将继续扩大。金融调控应避免市场出现大起大落,兼顾支持经济发展和维护金融稳定。

央行强调,应正确把握调控金融市场的方向、节奏和力度,使其发展适应经济发展的水平、宏观调控的要求、市场发育的程度和金融监管的能力,避免金融市场 出现大起大落。

央行认为,今年金融市场融资规模将继续扩大。一是银行类金融机构的融资量会有所增加;二是多层次资本市场进一步完善,市场融资主体会进一步增多;三是 2009年我国金融市场针对中小企业、地方政府等相关主体进行了一定的融资工具创新,随着这些融资工具的成熟,2010年的融资量可能进一步增大。

在优化金融市场融资结构方面,央行重申,2010年将引导市场资金加强对经济社会薄弱环节、就业、战略性新兴产业、产业转移等方面的支持,大力发展消 费信贷;严格控制新开工项目的融资量,严格控制资金流向高耗能、高排放行业和产能过剩行业。

央行表示,2010年会加快金融市场创新,稳定股票市场运行,推进场外市场建设,创造条件有效地拓展直接融资渠道,积极规范发展股权投资基金等投融资 方式,规范和引导民间金融健康发展,吸引更多社会资金参与基础设施建设、灾后重建项目和国有企业改革重组。

此外,央行提到,现有的短期券、中期票据、集合票据等中小企业融资工具的发行规模将会扩大,也可能产生新的中小企业融资工具,信贷资产转让平台的建设 及资产证券化的推动步伐将可能有所加快。

央行表示,2010年股票与期货市场的发行与交易制度将进一步健全,结算代理人获得的政策支持将有所增加,对做市商的政策支持力度将有所加强。同时, 引导商业银行开发黄金市场系统,建立我国黄金市场统一的黄金市场交割标准。

此外,将逐步把净额清算主体由做市商扩大到普通会员,业务范围将稳步扩大到人民币外汇衍生产品、远期、掉期等,进一步提高衍生产品市场的流动性。(中 国证券报)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bond Traders Declare Inflation Dead After Yields Fall (Update2)

By Daniel Kruger
April 26 (Bloomberg) -- The bond vigilantes who punished governments for profligate spending in past years have gone into hiding.

Sovereign bonds yield an average 2.385 percent, about the same as a year ago and below the average of 3.08 percent in 2008 when the credit market seizure led investors to seek the safety of government debt, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data. The cost to borrow is steady even though the amount of bonds in the index that includes nations from the U.S. to Germany and Japan has grown to $17.4 trillion from $13.4 trillion two years ago.

While the debt helped the global economy recover from its first recession since World War II, yields show bond investors aren’t troubled that the growth will spur inflation. Consumer prices excluding food and energy costs rose 1.5 percent in February from a year earlier in the 30 countries that form the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the smallest gain on record.

“The fact that inflation is very well behaved, that provides the cover for central banks to remain on the sidelines and continue to pursue accommodative policies to help the economy,” said Thomas Girard, a senior money manager who helps oversee $115 billion in fixed-income assets with New York Life Investment Management in New York.

Ending Bearish Bets

Girard is no longer bearish on Treasuries, even though some of the world’s biggest investors, including Bill Gross, manager of the world’s biggest bond fund, say the best is over for bonds. Girard extended the duration of the U.S. Treasuries he oversees this month to match that of benchmark indexes from a so-called underweight position.

Steady yields are helping U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama finance deficits and spur their economies.

The U.S. paid $383.4 billion in interest on its debt in fiscal 2009 ended Sept. 30, down from $451.2 billion in the previous year, according to the Treasury Department. That represented 3.2 percent of gross domestic product, down from 4.6 percent a decade earlier, when Bill Clinton was president and the U.S. had a budget surplus.

Auction Demand

Demand for U.S. government bonds is increasing. On average, the Treasury received $3.21 in bids for each dollar sold at 10- year auctions this year, compared with $2.63 in 2009 and $2.41 from 2004 through 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Part of what’s frustrated bond vigilantes has been that economic data has ratified the notion of modest growth and continued declining inflation,” said Wan-Chong Kung, a money manager who helps oversee $89 billion at FAF Advisors in Minneapolis, the asset-management arm of U.S. Bancorp.

The term bond vigilantes was coined by economist Edward Yardeni in 1984 to describe investors who protest monetary or fiscal policies they consider inflationary by selling bonds.

Economists at the securities unit of London-based Barclays Plc, Britain’s second-largest bank, forecast in an April 23 research report that inflation in developed nations will hold steady at an annual rate of 1.5 percent through the end of the year before slowing to 1.4 percent in mid-2011.

Bernanke’s ‘Moderation’

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said in an April 15 speech that he is paying “serious attention” to disinflationary pressures. The “moderation in inflation has been broadly based,” Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said a day earlier in testimony to Congress.

Consumer prices rose 1.4 percent in the 16-member euro region in March from a year earlier instead of a previously reported 1.5 percent, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said April 16. The report came a week after the Frankfurt-based European Central Bank kept its benchmark rate at a record low of 1 percent and President Jean-Claude Trichet forecast inflation will remain “moderate” through 2010.

Japan may say this week consumer prices excluding fresh food dropped for the 13th consecutive month in March, based on the median estimate of 20 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Traders see prices falling an average 0.9 percent annually for the next five years, yields on inflation-linked bonds show.

Expectations that yields will stay low for an extended period run counter to the outlook of Pacific Investment Management Co.’s Gross. The manager of the $219.7 billion Total Return Fund said a month ago that the bond market may have seen its best days.

‘Bear Element’

“Real interest rates are moving higher,” Gross said in a March 25 Bloomberg Radio interview from Pimco’s headquarters in Newport Beach, California. “That’s the main bear element in the bond market.”

Real yields, which take into account inflation or deflation, have increased to 1.46 percent on 10-year Treasuries from 1.03 percent at the end of last year. The mean over the past 20 years is 2.73 percent, Bloomberg data show.

The challenge facing policy makers is debt near postwar records, after governments spent trillions of dollars to revive their economies following the first global recession since World War II, the International Monetary Fund said April 21. The richest nations face growing pressure to draft plans to reduce budget deficits, while emerging economies try to fuel domestic demand and avoid asset bubbles, the Washington-based IMF said.

‘Downside Risks’

“Activity remains dependent on highly accommodative macroeconomic policies and is subject to downside risks, as fiscal fragilities have come to the fore,” the IMF said in the report.

Bond investors are focusing on those “fragilities.” Government debt as measured by Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Global Sovereign Broad Market Plus Index has returned 1.35 percent on average this year, compared with 0.9 percent in all of 2009.

“There’s a philosophical battle between those -- and I’m in this camp -- who feel the deflationary forces are very powerful, versus those who say ‘hey, you’re printing tons of money, you’ve got to have inflation,’” said Barr Segal, a managing director at Los Angeles-based TCW Group Inc. who helps oversee $72 billion in fixed-income assets. “And they’re right, too. The big question is timing.”

Besides taxpayers, the biggest beneficiaries of low borrowing cost are companies. The average corporate bond yields 3.93 percent, down from 6.68 percent a year earlier, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch Indexes. The drop represents annual interest savings of $27.5 million for every $1 billion borrowed by companies from Fairfield, Connecticut-based General Electric Co. to Roche Holding AG in Basel, Switzerland.

Diminished Supply

Sovereign bonds are also benefitting from diminished supply following the seizure in credit markets. While U.S. government debt outstanding has risen $1.444 trillion since 2008 to $7.68 trillion, private sector debt fell $1.86 trillion to $40.186 trillion, according to UBS Securities.

“There will be a limit to how much pure supply can push yields higher,” said David Rolley, who helps oversee $106 billion as co-head of global fixed-income in Boston at Loomis Sayles & Co. “There appear to be levels at which people are prepared to buy. For example, for the U.S. 10-year as we approach 4 percent buyers emerge.”

The benchmark 3.625 percent Treasury note February 2020 closed last week at 98 14/32 to yield 3.82 percent, down from 4.01 percent on April 5, according to BGCantor Market Data. The yield was 3.79 percent today at 8:43 a.m. in New York.

Bank Demand

Yields on Treasuries average 2.41 percent, down from last year’s high of 2.75 percent in June, Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes show. Ten-year yields will fall to 3 percent by year-end, said Sungjin Park, head of fixed income at Samsung Investment Trust Management in Seoul, South Korea’s largest private investor, with $60 billion in debt assets.

“Currently, the main mission of the Fed is not about inflation,” Park said. “It’s the recovery of the U.S. economy. Low yields help the Fed spur growth.”

German bunds yield 2.13 percent, down from last year’s high of 2.89 percent amid Greece’s worsening debt crisis.

Japan’s bonds yield 0.81 percent on average, compared with last year’s peak of 1.05 percent. Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Kiyohiko Nishimura said April 21 that the country’s recovery is beginning to stem deflation and the central bank should persist with its accommodative monetary policy.

“Some beams of light are starting to break through a thick cloud of deflation,” Nishimura said in a speech in Sendai, northern Japan. “The effects of the pickup in the economy since the spring of 2009 can be considered to spread over to prices only from now on.”

U.K. Gilts

Yields on U.K. gilts average 3.53 percent. While up from 3.21 percent a year ago, it’s down from 3.66 percent in July. The Office for National Statistics in London said last week that Britain had a budget deficit of 152.8 billion pounds ($234 billion) in the fiscal year ended March 31, an increase of 76 percent.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee voted 9-0 to keep rates at a record low 0.5 percent because data in the previous month hadn’t changed enough to “substantially alter” its view of the economy, minutes of the April 8 meeting released April 21 in London showed.

“The size of the output gap in the U.K. is pretty substantial,” said Robin Marshall, who helps oversee $20 billion as director of fixed income at Smith & Williamson Asset Management in London. “There is a still huge amount of unused capacity bearing down on inflation here, and indeed elsewhere in most major markets.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Kruger in New York at

Sunday, April 25, 2010

STT Q1 2010

--EPS $0.99, operating basis (GAAP) EPS $0.75, meeting expectation $0.75; Q4 2009 operating basis EPS $0.71
--Net Interest Revenue accounts for 25% of total revenue; Net Interest Revenue accounted for around 30% of total revenue in Q4 2009
--asset under management 1.9 tril, increasing only 0.9% from Q4 2009. Given the fact that the overall market has increased over 6%, net money outflow means that some clients are pulling out assets.
--trading revenue $242, 10% fewer than that at Q4 2009. lower volatility is one factor, but it is disappointment that the company's prop trading profits failed to make up for the lower agency fees like other Wall Street banks.

Small Cap Stocks Pickings

Small cap stocks often fall off analysts' radar screen. Some of them might offer upside potential. Here are my pickings.

FFHL: $1.08, mktcap $14.11 mil
the Chinese company manufactures and distributes plastic film. EPS in 2009 was negative due to market downturn. Annual EPS before 2009 was at least $1.39. Assets $740 mil, equity book value $530 mil.
Reasons to buy: seems seriously undervalued; given the expected growth of China industrialization, the company can turn into profit in 2010.

VISN: $4.7, Mkt cap $337 mil
VisionChina Media Inc. is engaged in operating out-of-home advertising network using real-time mobile digital television broadcasts to deliver content and advertising on mass transportation systems in China based on the number of displays.
PE: 12
Reason to buy: based on Wall Street's analysis, the expected annual growth rate of the company revenue will be at least 30% in the next 3-5 years. and the valuation is still moderate.

ACY: $21.82, Mkt cap 33.68 mil
AeroCentury Corp. acquires used regional aircraft and aircraft engines for lease to foreign and domestic regional carriers.
Reasons to buy: low PE at 6.03 while solid fundamentals: uprising revenue even at market downturn; stable and uprising cash flow

CBEH: $11.53, mkt cap $384 mil
China Integrated Energy, Inc., formerly China Bio Energy Holding Group Co., Ltd., is an integrated energy company in China engaged in three business segments: the wholesale distribution of finished oil and heavy oil products.
reasons to buy: energy company and china market oriented; moderate valuation; uprising revenue with annual growth rate at least 20% in the past 4 years; relative stable margin;

Friday, April 23, 2010

Durable Goods Orders for March 2010

Released on 4/23/2010 8:30:00 AM For Mar, 2010

PriorConsensusConsensus RangeActual
New Orders - M/M change0.5 %0.4 %-0.8 % to 2.5 %-1.3 %
New Orders - Yr/Yr Change

11.9 %
Ex-transportation - M/M0.9 %

2.8 %
Ex-transportation - Yr/Yr

13.5 %
Aircraft orders pulled down the headline number but otherwise, durable orders look great. New orders for durable goods in March dipped 1.3 percent after gaining a revised 1.1 percent in February. The headline number came in well below market forecasts for a 0.4 percent rise. Excluding the transportation component, however, new durables orders spiked 2.8 percent, following a revised 1.7 percent rebound in February. Transportation fell 12.9 percent in March with civilian aircraft leading the decline, decreasing a monthly 99.5 percent. Outside of transportation, gains were widespread.

On the upside were primary metals, up 3.5 percent; machinery, up 8.6 percent; electrical equipment, up 4.9 percent; and "other" durables, up 0.1 percent. In addition to transportation, fabricated metals decreased-by 1.2 percent.

Nondefense capital goods orders excluding aircraft gained another 4.0 percent in March, following a 2.1 increase the month before. Shipments for this category-and source data for equipment investment in GDP-rose 2.2 percent in February, following a 1.5 percent increase the month before.

Year-on-year, overall new orders for durable goods in March were up 11.9, compared to 11.4 percent in February. Excluding transportation, new durables orders improved to 13.5 percent from 8.5 percent in February.

On the release of the report, equity futures and Treasury rates firmed.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Durable goods orders in February gained a revised 0.9 percent, following a revised 3.8 percent surge in January. New orders have been up three months in a row. Excluding the transportation, new durables orders rebounded 1.4 percent, following a 0.8 percent decline in January. Looking ahead, recent manufacturing surveys were mixed on new orders. The ISM durables index spiked to 62.3 for March from 55.0 the prior month (breakeven of 50) and the Empire State survey's new orders index jumped to 25.43 from 8.78 in February. In contrast, the Philly Fed new orders index eased to a less positive 9.3 from 22.7 in February. The two regional surveys have a breakeven point at zero.
Durable goods orders reflect the new orders placed with domestic manufacturers for immediate and future delivery of factory hard goods. The first release, the advance, provides an early estimate of durable goods orders. About two weeks later, more complete and revised data are available in the factory orders report. The data for the previous month are usually revised a second time upon the release of the new month's data.  Why Investors Care
[Chart] Monthly fluctuations in durable goods orders are frequent and large and skew the underlying trend in the data. In fact, even the yearly change must be viewed carefully because of the volatility in this series.
Data Source: Haver Analytics

Amazon's Sales Soar, Lifting Profit


Amazon's strong sales gains in part reflect its acquisition of Zappos. Above, employees working at a Leipzig, Germany, warehouse last November. Inc. posted a sharp increase in first-quarter profit, in a sign the online retail giant's sales are accelerating as consumer spending rises.

But the Seattle company continued to decline to disclose detailed sales figures for its heavily promoted Kindle e-book reader, which faces new competition from Apple Inc.'s iPad.

Consumers continued to flock to the Seattle retailer, which saw a 46% rise in sales for the quarter—above Wall Street expectations. Amazon isn't only growing faster than other major retailers, but is gaining market share in e-commerce, which analysts say is benefiting from a shift to online purchases by consumers.
WSJ Professional

* Consumers Send Mixed Messages
* Investor's Business Daily: Job Growth Lifts Americans' Outlooks

Amazon saw the largest sales boost in its catch-all category of electronics and general merchandise, which grew 72%, underscoring the fact that the online retailer is becoming more than just a books and media retailer. This was also the first full quarter to reflect Amazon's acquisitions of shoe and apparel retailer Zappos. The company didn't break out details on its impact.

"Customers are responding very positively to the increased selection, the great prices, and the value that we have," said Tom Szkutak, Amazon's chief financial officer. He added that higher adoption of the company's Prime shipping loyalty program was favorably influencing its growth rate.

Amazon's first-quarter profit rose 68% to $299 million, or 66 cents a share, from $177 million, or 41 cents, a year ago. Revenue rose to $7.13 billion from $4.89 billion.

Amazon's shares fell about 6% in late trading on Thursday, reflecting investors' high expectations for the quarter. The shares were up 2.5% to an all-time high of $150.09 in 4 p.m. trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Investors may have been disappointed by Amazon's forecast for operating profit below Wall Street expectations. The company forecast operating profit between $220 million and $320 million, compared with analysts' estimate of $327.8 million, according to Thomson Reuters.

"Amazon's shares have been priced to perfection in recent weeks, having held up against the iPad launch and a disappointing outlook from eBay. There wasn't a lot of wiggle room there," said Scott Tilghman, an analyst at Hudson Square Research, Inc.

Amazon's gross margins, or profit after cost of goods, were slightly lower than Mr. Tilghman had expected. That could reflect the short-term costs of rolling out new product categories in international markets, he said.

Amazon said Kindle sales remained "very strong," and that it now had 500,000 e-books for sale. With this earnings release, the company also changed the way it accounts for the Kindle, booking the full revenue from each device sold instead of amortizing it over several quarters.

In terms of competition with the iPad, Mr. Szkutak wouldn't specify what happened to sales in the lead up the device's launch. But he did suggest Amazon can also benefit from other hand-held devices that allow customers mobile access to its online store. "What we are excited about is that the world may shift to a place where everybody has a 3G connected device for browsing the Web," he said.

John Aiken, an analyst with Majestic Research, says his own proprietary Web traffic data suggests the Kindle device now accounts for 2% of Amazon's revenue and its e-book sales account for an additional 1.5%. "We assumed there would be a little bit of slowdown of Kindle sales into the iPad launch, and we really did not see that," he said.

As many as 7 million Kindles will likely have been sold by the end of the year, Mr. Aiken predicted, which could help drive earnings because Kindle owners appear to buy more books than other shoppers.

Write to Geoffrey A. Fowler at

Thursday, April 22, 2010




  此前,中国央行于前一周(4月8日)重启了3年期央票发行,为时隔22个月后首度重启3年期央票发行,发行规模为150亿元,发行利率为2.75%. 本次央行下调3年期央票的发行利率,相应地降低了1年期央票利率的上行压力,从而延迟加息的推出时间。


  15个月来首度下调央票利率 央行或延迟加息




  国泰君安固定收益分析师姜超则认为,在房地产调控出台后,央票利率上调表明央行可能要延迟其他紧缩政策,包括加息。央行很可能还是担心复苏的基础并不牢固。 (全景网)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Northern Trust, State Street Stumble; BNY Mellon Fares Better


Banks that serve wealthy individuals and large institutions don't usually face troubles with bad loans, but Northern Trust Corp.'s first quarter was a glaring exception.

The Chicago bank-and-trust, whose stock fell less during the financial crisis than almost any other U.S. lender, said its levels of troubled loans and assets rose sharply during the first quarter, to $365.2 million. The disclosure was a reversal from last quarter, when the bank's number of souring loans appeared to be tapering. A year ago, Northern Trust had troubled loans, called nonperforming assets, of $172.1 million.

Northern Trust's Boston-based competitor, State Street Corp., marked another custody bank to post lackluster earnings on Tuesday. A third large custody bank, Bank of New York Mellon Corp., turned in better results than its two competitors.

State Street earned $495 million in quarterly profits, up 11% over a year ago. Its revenues of $2.3 billion were up 14.7% over a year ago. But the company said some clients had moved assets out of State Street's management.

State Street also turned in trading revenues of $242 million, down 10% over last quarter, even though some big Wall Street banks, like Bank of America Corp. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., have recently reported frothy first-quarter revenues from trading stocks and bonds.

The 120-year-old Northern Trust nonetheless turned in profits of $157.2 million for the quarter as fees from trust and investment services, Northern Trust's core business, remained strong, as compared to year ago. Net income fell 3% over a year ago amid higher expenses and slower profits tied to enduringly low interest rates.

But investors were rattled by the state of the Northern Trust's loan books, which suggest higher losses could be coming in future quarters.

William Morrison, Northern Trust's chief financial officer, said during the company's conference call that "half of the increase" in nonperforming loans "is related to residential real estate." He said the bank's holdings of real estate collateral from failed loans grew sharply, "principally related to two commercial real estate properties."

Earnings at Bank of New York Mellon rose 74% on improved fee revenue and investment gains.

Enduringly low interest rates have weighed on earnings at custody banks, which typically make more money when rates rise and the yield curve steepens.

Despite the low-rate market environment, BNY Mellon continued to grow its revenues, this time modestly, up 1% over last quarter, to $3.3 billion. The bank also set aside $164 million, or ten cents a share, for future litigation costs.

Monday, April 19, 2010

首付60%或是未来目标 楼市利空尚未出尽?





央行银监会迅速落实房贷新规 首付成数或再提高


消息称个人住宅消费税试点获批 或近期试点开征


北京隐现退房潮 一手房或临冰点

中央楼市调控风暴显效 上海开发商开始打折

新政出台投资客一次清空680套房 泡沫破灭不远










在一轮又一轮的调控之后,政府的底牌早已被抓牢。尽管从2009年下半年以来,政府已经出台包括“国11条”在内的紧缩调控信号。但在过去的3月,国内70个大中城市房屋销售价格同比上涨了11.7%,北京的一手住宅成交均价超过 2.6万元/平方米,同比上涨59.5%,环比上涨16%。3月最后一周,各地楼市成交甚至出现井喷,部分城市成交单价“日涨千元”,市场被投资投机需求笼罩。













最终让中央下定决心的还是全国“两会”之后暴涨的房价。一位银行业高管称,今年“两会”期间,房价问题再次引发热议,高层也多次表态要抑制不合理的房价上涨,先后出台多项措施,但房价不降反升,调控屡屡失效。在这种背景下,有关部门决定联手进一的炒房客和开发商也出现了分歧,一部分人仍坚信楼市可以 “继续上涨”,另一部分人则感到了恐慌。北京、海南、深圳等地的炒房客出货的消息频频传来,一位在楼市投资上亿元的炒房客在此次政策出台前已紧急在海南出手了一批房产,将资金腾挪出来。









就在二套房政策出台的当天,水木清华的BBS上关于房价的讨论暴涨至1000多条。一个刚刚签约准备花200万元买房的网友发帖称,准备要求对方直降 50万元,否则不惜违约。一位此前炒过20多套房的炒房客则直言,现在支撑楼市的主要是投资性需求,而非自住性需求,二套房政策基本去掉了投资者的杠杆,对市场打击很大。



北京“链家地产”副总裁林倩认为, 50%的首付虽然只比原来提高10个百分点,但已经超出二手房市场平均支付能力,假设2010年的购房需求仅为20万套左右的话,除去一季度2.5万套左右的成交,也会影响到至少2.6万套左右需求的置业节奏。

接通戴德梁行华南研究部张晓端的电话时,他的声音听来颇为沉重。“政策影响会很大,推动市场进入一个调整期。”张晓端认为,新政给投资客带来 很大的打击,一是门槛提高了,二是获利降低了。另外,也抑制了二次置业的改善性需求,这部分人是目前市场上刚性需求的主力军,政策一出,对他们的打击会 “很明显而且很快”。



中金公司研究报告认为,刚刚出台的二套房贷政策将产生比较明显的市场效果,“房价将在近期趋稳,并在下半年随供给量的增加而出现调整”。而申银万国4 月15日的研究报告认为,政策出台,虽短期交易量面临下滑风险,但中期风险将有所降低。



总体而言,大部分受访业者和专家对新政表示了相当程度的接受,甚至是 欢迎。一种普遍的观点是,现在的市场已经透支了未来的增长,中央政府出台实质性的调控政策宜早不宜迟,新的政策打击的是上涨太快的局面,对长期(三年以上)房价不会构成冲击。







2007年9月,央行出台新政,要求购买二套房首付比例不得低于40%,贷款利率不低于央行基准利率的1.1倍,这被市场认为是收紧房贷的开始。至 2008年,央行先后十次上调金融机构人民币存款准备金率,由9%提高至15%,达到1987年以来的最高水平;五次提高存贷款利率,持续回笼货币,控制贷款条件。之后,2007年以来楼市高烧的局面出现明显降温。2007年10月,70个大中城市房价环比涨幅为1.6%,比9月环比涨幅下降了0.1个百分点。这也是自上年四季度以来,70个大中城市房价环比涨幅首次出现下挫。虽然部分城市房价依然在高位徘徊,但是成交量明显锐减,市场观望气氛浓郁。






“大家都看出来了,政府不会真的打倒开发商,打一下,要揉三揉。”一家北京地产开发商负责规划的人士对记者称。 最关键的是,政府在2008年最有可能获得理想调控结果的时刻打出了“保增长”的底牌。这使得2009年底以来,政府虽多次重申遏制房地产价格过快上涨调控政策,非但不能收到预期的调控效果,市场还以一轮疯狂上涨作为回应。















“一些时候,只要房地产商集体呼吁,政府就出面救市;而另外一些时候,当市场对房价飞涨的抱怨升级, 政府又急于调控,使其完全变成了政策市。”一位熟悉政府决策机制的资深人士坦言。

多位受访者均建议,政府应在保障低收入人群的基本住房需求方面下大力气,而将其他层面的房地产供求交给市场。 (财新网)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Russell Rises For Fourth Week in Row


Small-capitalization stocks tumbled after the Securities and Exchange Commission's civil-fraud charges against Goldman Sachs Group ignited fears that risks in the market have been ignored.

Small-caps started sinking Friday after the SEC alleged that Goldman Sachs had misled investors about a financial product tied to subprime mortgages.

While the charges sent large-cap financials into a tailspin, small-cap financials weathered the day's events slightly better. Investors said the fears that regulators could be hunting for other targets didn't apply to smaller banks and financial companies.

The Russell 2000 index of small-capitalization stocks dropped 9.59 points, or 1.3%, to 714.62, but rose for a fourth week in a row. The Standard & Poor's SmallCap 600-stock index fell 4.10 points, or 1.1%, to 378.78. The index is up 14% year to date and rose for a seventh consecutive week, the longest streak since the seven-week period that ended May 8, 2009.

The energy sector took the biggest hit, hurt by crude-oil prices that fell 2.7% to slightly more than $83 a barrel. Oil-and-gas company Swift Energy shed $1.87, or 4.9%, to $36.27. PetroQuest Energy, an oil-and-gas explorer, slid 22 cents, or 3.7%, to 5.72. Both are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Health care was the only sector in the black. Magellan Health Services, a manager of behavioral health care, rose 1.33, or 3.3%, to 42.03.

Health-care software company Phase Forward jumped 3.72, or 28%, to 16.80 after large-cap business-software company Oracle said it plans to buy the Waltham, Mass., company in a transaction valued at about $685 million.

Film company Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE) rose 50 cents, or 7.9%, to 6.87, after activist investor Carl Icahn raised his offer to buy the company. Separately, billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban disclosed he holds a 5.4% stake in Lions Gate, according to a filing with the SEC.

Mesabi Trust (NYSE) a New York royalty trust that gets its income from a Minnesota iron mine, tumbled 3.16, or 13%, to 20.74, after slashing its quarterly distribution.

Ladish, which makes jet engine, aerospace and industrial components, jumped 2.38, or 10%, to 25.42 after its first-quarter profit soared.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Flicker of Hope in Subprime Failings

For investors looking for a bottom in the troubled housing market, one nascent but significant sign emerged last month: Subprime-mortgage delinquencies dropped for the first time in almost four years.

The share of subprime loans that were at least 60 days past due or in foreclosure fell to 46.3% in March from 46.9% a month earlier, according to Fitch Ratings, which studied the value of loans packaged into securities.

The decline is effectively a rounding error and pales in comparison to the steady increase in delinquencies from their low of 6.2% in 2006. But subprime borrowers were the first to buckle under the weight of their debt—triggering what quickly became a global financial crisis—and an improvement in the sector could be seen as a notable marker in the recovery.

The decline comes amid other signs credit conditions are improving. On Tuesday, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. reported net income jumped as delinquencies declined and the provision for credit losses fell.

Across the economy, the portion of consumer loans that were at least 60 days past due fell to 3.59% on a seasonally adjusted basis at the end of March, from 3.73% at the end of December, according to Equifax Inc. and Moody's It was the second consecutive decline in delinquencies for mortgages, home-equity loans, credit cards and other types of consumer debt. "Credit quality is improving pretty dramatically across the board," says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's

Some analysts say it is too early to call a turn in the subprime market, noting the portion of troubled loans tends to fall in March and April as borrowers receive tax refunds. "We may be nearing the top, but it's difficult to say whether the seasonal factor is artificially" reducing delinquencies, says Vincent Barberio, a managing director at Fitch. Even if troubled loans are leveling off, the news is hardly heartwarming. In the worst-performing subprime securities, more than 70% of the loans are delinquent, Fitch said.

"The default rates would still have to drop by fifty-plus percent to just get back to an acceptable performance range," says Ted Jadlos, president of LPS Applied Analytics, which tracks loan performance.

There is still plenty of new pain in the mortgage sector. Some 1.14 million loans that started the year current were at least 30 days past due in February, according to LPS, as delinquency rates continued to climb for mortgages made to borrowers with good credit. "You still have seven million loans in some form of delinquency, many of which are not subprime," said Walt Schmidt, mortgage strategist at FTN Financial. More than 3.6 million homes will be lost from 2010 to 2012 because borrowers can't make their loan payments, according to Moody's

While troubled subprime loans played a key role in the credit crisis, the sector's importance to the $10.8 trillion U.S. mortgage market has been waning.

Just $422 billion of the $1.3 trillion in subprime loans packaged into securities from 2004 to 2007 were still outstanding as of March, according to mortgage-bond trader Amherst Securities Group LP. Refinancings reduced the amount outstanding by $670 billion, according to Amherst, while $250 billion in mortgages were liquidated. The issuance of bonds backed by new subprime loans ground to a halt in 2007.

Write to Ruth Simon at

3月份CPI上涨2.4% 一季GDP增11.9%

3月份CPI上涨2.4% 一季GDP增11.9%


中华人民共和国国家统计局新闻发言人 李晓超



1.农业生产总体基本稳定,粮食播种面积继续增加。预计全年粮食播种面积10946万公顷,比上年增加47万公顷。目前全国冬小麦一、二类苗比例 82.9%,比冬前提高3.9个百分点。一季度,猪牛羊禽肉产量2104万吨,同比增长4.7%,其中猪肉产量1427万吨,增长5.2%。


1-2月份,全国规模以上工业企业实现利润4867亿元,同比增长119.7%。在39个大类行业中,35个行业利润同比增长,2个行业由亏转盈,1 个行业亏损额减少。


4.市场销售平稳较快增长,热点消费快速增长。一季度,社会消费品零售总额36374亿元,同比增长17.9%,比上年同期加快2.9个百分点。按经营单位所在地分,城镇消费品零售额累计30571亿元,同比增长18.4%;乡村消费品零售额累计5803亿元,增长15.4%。按消费形态分,餐饮收入 4077亿元,增长16.7%;商品零售32297亿元,增长18.1%。其中,限额以上企业商品零售额12877亿元,增长29.6%。热点消费快速增长。其中,汽车类增长39.8%,家具类增长37.6%,家用电器和音像器材类增长29.6%。



7.城乡居民收入继续增长,转移性收入增长仍比较快。一季度,城镇居民家庭人均总收入5787元。其中,城镇居民人均可支配收入5308元,同比增长 9.8%,扣除价格因素,实际增长7.5%。在城镇居民家庭人均总收入中,工资性收入同比增长9.7%,转移性收入增长13.3%,经营净收入增长 7.5%,财产性收入增长17.0%。农村居民人均现金收入1814元,增长11.8%,扣除价格因素,实际增长9.2%。其中,工资性收入增长 16.3%,家庭经营收入增长7.6%,财产性收入增长15.6%,转移性收入增长13.8%。

8.货币供应量增速高位回落,新增贷款同比减少。3月末,广义货币供应量(M2)余额65.0万亿元,同比增长22.5%,比上年末回落5.2个百分点;狭义货币供应量(M1)余额22.9万亿元,增长29.9%,回落2.4个百分点;流通中货币(M0)余额3.9万亿元,增长15.8%,加快4.0 个百分点。金融机构人民币各项贷款余额42.6万亿元,比年初增加2.6万亿元,同比少增2.0万亿元;人民币各项存款余额63.8万亿元,比年初增加 4.0万亿元,同比少增1.6万亿元。


国家统计局:010年一季度GDP80577亿元 同比增长11.9%





中证网讯 今年一季度CPI上涨2.2%,三月份上涨2.4%。 (中国证券报)

一季度CPI涨2.2% PPI上涨5.2%  

证券时报网04月15日讯 国家统计局今日公布数据显示,一季度GDP为80577亿元,同比增长11.9%。


一季度,全社会固定资产投资35320亿元,同比增长25.6%,比上年同期回落3.2个百分点。一季度社会消费品零售总额36374亿元,同比增长 17.9%.


2010年一季度GDP总值80577亿元 增速11.9%  

今天上午10时,国新办举行新闻发布会,国家统计局新闻发言人、国民经济综合统计司司长李晓超介绍今年一季度国民经济运行情况时说说,初步核算,2010年一季度国内生产总值 80577亿元,同比增长11.9%,比去年同期加快5.7个百分点。其中,第一产业增加值为 5139亿元,增长 3.8%;第二产业增加值 39072亿元,增长14.5%,第三产业增加值 36366亿元,增长10.2%


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


2009年全国土地收入为1.42万亿元,而拆迁、补助农民收入的支出为5180亿元;2008年土地收入1.0375万亿元,拆迁、补助农民费用为 3778亿元。政府花1块钱,从农民那里买来地,从城镇居民拆迁获得地,转手卖给地产商,可以获得3块钱

《财经》记者 陈涛





依照今年两会财政部提交的报告,2009年,全国的国有土地使用权出让收入总额达1.42万亿元(其中地方收入1.3964万亿元,中央收入 275亿元),全国地方政府的财政收入为3.258万亿元,两者之比达到0.4。


在1998年房改之前,地方政府几乎没有卖地收入,而今,这笔“额外”的收入在地方政府的收入总盘子中占比巨大,人们不得不冠之以“土地财政” “第二财政”这样的专有名词,以示重视。















仍以2009年为例,全国商品房销售总额高达4.39万亿元,以行业平均净利润率10%匡算(具有代表性的地产商万科2009年销售毛利率为 29%,净利润率为10.8%),地产商拢共从老百姓那里赚取了4000多亿元(实际数字应该大过4000亿,因为万科相比囤地少,未能充分分享土地上涨带来的利润)。































Monday, April 12, 2010

The Downside Of Optimism On Earnings

Hopes are running high for this quarter's earnings season. Given Wall Street's sometimes upside-down logic, that could pose a problem for stocks.

The floodgates for first-quarter-profit reports open in earnest Monday, when Alcoa Inc. releases its results, the first member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average to do so.

The worry is that, with the Dow already up 9% in the past two months amid hopes of an economic recovery and strong corporate profits, stocks could do the same thing they did last earnings season: sell off when the good news actually arrives.

Stocks typically trade on expectations, ahead of actual news. They rise when investors think future earnings reports will be strong. One of Wall Street's oldest sayings is investors buy on rumors and then sell on news, taking profits just as the rest of the world thinks stocks should be rising. That is what happened at the start of 2010, as the Dow rose 4% in the two months before companies started reporting fourth-quarter results.

Companies more than delivered on investors' hopes, with three-quarters of the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index surpassing analysts' profit expectations. Instead of celebrating, stocks peaked on Jan. 19, just one week into earnings season. By Feb. 8, the Dow was 7% below its level of Jan. 12, the start of the fourth-quarter earnings season, as investors took profits. They also worried about Greece's national debt, an issue that flared again last week.

This time, despite the recent pause as the Dow approached the 11000 level, the market's gains have been even larger as earnings reports near. As a result, some analysts are sending cautionary notes to clients.

Among them is Justin Walters of Bespoke Investment Group. "We believe the market is more likely to struggle early on in the earnings season than make a big move higher," Mr. Walters wrote to clients last week.

In periods of earnings optimism, it is common for stocks to rise before profit reports and then fall when reports actually arrive, says Nicholas Bohnsack of Strategas Research Partners, who has studied the phenomenon. Mr. Bohnsack measures expectations by tracking what analysts call earnings preannouncements: firms' news releases about their own coming earnings. His conclusion is the same as Mr. Walters's: Stocks could face headwinds now.

Companies typically make preannouncements to warn of a coming disappointment, trying to avoid surprising investors or being accused of hiding bad news. In the last two decades, negative preannouncements have outnumbered positive ones by about 2.2 to one, according to Strategas. This time, the ratio is running at only about 1.3, far below the norm, according to Thomson Reuters, which has left investors upbeat. Companies including Aetna Inc., Texas Instruments Inc. and Family Dollar Stores Inc. announced in March that their quarterly results would come in stronger than analysts had expected.

In periods like the current one, when expectations are high and the preannouncement ratio is low, stocks tend to rise ahead of the reports and then fall once earnings reports are released, Mr. Bohnsack has found. The average decline is 1% during the quarter's first month, when the majority of earnings news is released. When the preannouncement ratio is high and expectations are low, stocks rise an average of 2.1% during the new quarter's first month, reacting positively to the earnings reports. "We have found time and time again that when the preannouncement ratio is less than the long-term average of 2.2, the market tends to sell off during the earnings season," Mr. Bohnsack says. This time, "we aren't saying the market's run is over, but it could get a little sloppy" during earnings season.

Analysts' earnings forecasts also suggest optimism is running even higher now than three months ago. In last year's fourth quarter, companies in the S&P 500 posted 17% profit gains overall, according to Thomson Reuters. That excludes financial companies, whose gains were skewed that quarter because many had posted losses or tiny profits a year earlier. For the quarter that just ended, analysts are forecasting 27% gains, again excluding financial companies. Including financial companies, the forecast is 37%.

"Earnings expectations are high enough to make it just too hard for a lot of companies to live up to them," worries Bespoke's Mr. Walters.

The average quarterly earnings gain, going back to the 1970s, is just 7%, so these expectations are well above average. (Thomson Reuters measures "operating" earnings, which don't include what analysts consider one-time items.)

Similarly high earnings expectations continue for every quarter through the end of the year, Thomson Reuters says.

What's more, the lesson from the last round of earnings was that even when companies exceeded expectations, as the majority did, they were often punished. Part of the reason is that stocks again are trading on what investors call whisper numbers, meaning investors are betting companies will do substantially better than analysts project.

In that situation, it may not be enough for a company merely to exceed analysts' numbers. To truly surprise investors, it must beat the numbers by a lot.

Moreover, investors expect companies to beat more than just the overall profit number. They want the company to do better than expected in key market segments, to maintain or improve its profit margin and to show sales gains, not just profit gains from cost-cutting.

In the fourth quarter, sales for S&P 500 members rose less than 8%. This time, analysts are projecting nearly 10% gains, and investors may be betting on more than that. Some investors note that, back in the January earnings season, other issues contributed to the market pullback. Investors were notably worried about Greece's solvency.

While that issue has reappeared recently, some people believe investors are turning strongly optimistic now and will welcome earnings news, sending stocks still higher during earnings season. "Earnings season has historically been good for stocks, except for the last quarter when everyone was obsessed over Greece," says Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank in Chicago. "This earnings season could provide another boost for stocks."

Stocks broke out of the doldrums after the last earnings season mainly because interest rates stayed low, helping keep plenty of cheap money in investors' hands, and economic news provided more evidence that the recession is over.

Now, expectations have risen steadily for both the economy and earnings, leaving investors focused on how much longer the Federal Reserve can maintain its promise to keep rates low "for an extended period."

Saturday, April 10, 2010










回顾改革开放历史,大致可分成两个阶段:一是从上世纪80年代初到1993年。从形式看,先是实行农村土地承包责任制,再是城市国有企业民营化,但就实质来说,这一时期最主要的社会转型是政府逐渐放出了市场经济。二是从1994年到现在。中国经济高速增长,社会体制发生潜移默化变化。其主要变化是,在1994年分税制改革后,政府每年财政收入实质上几乎以超过GDP增速两倍的速度快速增加,有些年甚至超过GDP增速的3倍。其结果是政府从 1995到2007年,去掉通胀成分后,政府财政收入增加了5.7倍,城镇居民人均可支配收入只增加1.6倍,农民的人均纯收入才增加了1.2倍。这充分说明,1994年以来,政府(尤其是中央政府)控制市场和社会的力量越来越强。

在1994年以来中国社会的急剧转型过程中,人们往往只注意经济高速增长的一面,却往往忽略了被高速增长事实所掩盖的负面影响。譬如,细心考察 2000年到2008年这9年间中国政府的财政预算执行情况,就会大吃一惊,这9年,中国财税部门几乎每年都以200 % 的增幅超额完成原定的财政收入增收计划。2000年,财政部财政收入计划增加8.4%,但实际却增加了16.9%,完成计划的201.2%;2001年,计划财政收入增加10.3%,但实际增加22.2%,完成计划的215.5%;2006年,计划增加12.0%,实际增加24.3%,完成计划的 202.5%;2007年,计划增加13.8%,实际增加了32.4%,完成计划的234.8%!如此超高速地增长,其社会后果是,自1994年分税制改革以来,中央政府掌握的资源越来越多,政府控制社会的力量越来越强,政府投资在全社会固定资产投资中的比重越来越大。于是,一个强势政府控制、主导和驾驭市场的独特的社会体制正在中国社会内部渐渐成型。





这里,我想提出两个概念:一是目前“可能渐进成型中国模式”,二是作为我国长期发展目标的“理想社会模式”。如果说目前人们往往把中国过去30 多年的高速增长与这种处于转型过程中的非稳态的“渐进成型的中国模式”联系起来的话,那么,讨论并企划中国的“理想模式”,应该旨在中国社会长治久安和可持续发展以及人民的久远福祉寻求制度保障。

众所周知,从20世纪80年代起,中国就把发展市场经济确定为基本国策,中共十六届四中全会又把构建社会主义和谐社会作为我国的基本发展目标。但是,一个 21世纪的“和谐社会”的基本构成因素应该是什么?我个人认为,若想整合“市场经济”和“和谐社会“,就应该把“构建民主法治下良序的市场经济秩序”明确确定为我们下一步的社会发展目标。







Friday, April 9, 2010

Two Treasury Forecasts: a Grand Canyon-Size Gap

Goldman and Morgan at Odds as Yield Forecasts Paint Picture of Uncertainty .ArticleComments (4)more in Economy ».EmailPrintSave This ↓ More.
Investors befuddled by dramatic moves in the 10-year Treasury yield won't get much help from the sages of Wall Street.

Some of the smartest prognosticators are sharply divided on the direction of Treasurys, a split echoed by the gyrations of the yield itself. This week, the yield swung from just above 4% on Monday to as low as 3.84% on Thursday and back to as high as 3.93% on Friday as investors were alternately fearful and sanguine about the market's willingness to digest the U.S. government's record supply of new debt.

Meanwhile, the two best economic forecasting teams of the past two years couldn't disagree more about where Treasurys will go next. Morgan Stanley believes the 10-year yield will rise to 5.5% this year, the highest estimate among top Treasury dealers. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. says yields are headed back down to 3.25%.

The 2.25 percentage-point gap between those forecasts represents a gulf when it comes to corporate, consumer and government borrowing costs. Where Treasurys wind up could hold the key to the pace of the economic recovery—and the direction of the stock market—given that a strong economy might be able to withstand a spike in rates but a shaky economy might not.

Goldman's forecast, for example, would put mortgage rates, which theoretically move in step with 10-year Treasury yields, at about 5%, their generational low. Morgan Stanley's forecast would put them somewhere north of 7%, the highest in a decade.

Since 2003, Treasury yield forecasts by economists have differed more only in late 2008 and early 2009, when the credit crisis was raging and the economy was an even bigger question mark, according to tallies by The Wall Street Journal surveys of economists.

And seldom have the best forecasters been so far apart. Morgan Stanley's economic and rate forecasts were No. 1 in 2009, while Goldman led the pack in 2008. The second-ranked forecasters in 2008 and 2009 don't agree, either. Kurt Karl of Swiss Re, last year's No. 2, sees the 10-year yield ending 2010 at 3.8%. And 2008's No. 2, Ram Bhagavatula, of Combinatorics Capital, thinks the yield will rise to 5%.

At Morgan Stanley, head of interest-rate strategy Jim Caron reasons that the market can't withstand an estimated $2.4 trillion of debt the U.S. government is expected to sell this year without yields rising. Because yields move inversely to price, they go up as prices decline.

"We've never seen this much Treasury supply in the history of the bond market," Mr. Caron said in a phone call this past week. Morgan Stanley's strategists and economists, including Richard Berner and David Greenlaw, also take into account a view that the economy, private credit demand and inflation expectations will rebound more quickly than many analysts expect.

In some respects, Morgan Stanley's view looks extreme: 5.5% would be the highest yield since May 2001. That was two recessions, two stock-market bottoms and one real-estate bubble and bust ago. In comparison, the broad consensus is that the 10-year yield will rise to just 4.24% by year's end, according to the latest Wall Street Journal survey of economists.

"I never really thought about [our forecast] as being the outlier," Mr. Caron said. "In our view, the consensus is wrong."

At the other extreme, Goldman's view is that record government borrowing is merely replacing missing private credit demand, which will return slowly. Even without a double-dip recession, unemployment and other measures of economic "slack" will stay high, snuffing inflation, which is typically a key driver of interest rates, Goldman predicts.

"Ultimately, we don't find supply to be of such great predictive power regarding what happens to interest rates," said Goldman Sachs economist Jan Hatzius.

The divergence of views between Morgan Stanley and Goldman is reflected in debates taking place around the world, including the boardroom of the Federal Reserve. Economic iconoclasts Jim Grant and David Rosenberg recently debated the subject in a video enjoying heavy Internet rotation this week.

"You'll find more bargains in your hotel mini-bar than you will in the Treasury yield curve," said Mr. Grant, editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer.

"You don't go through bear markets in Treasurys unless the Fed is tightening monetary policy, which I frankly believe is years down the road," countered Mr. Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff in Toronto.

After this past week's rebound, including an auction Wednesday that brought the highest demand for 10-year Treasurys since 1994, the momentum is on the side of the Treasury bulls, if only for now.

And Treasury yields are still lower than before the recession began in 2007, despite record government borrowing and budget deficits.

This isn't unprecedented. David Ader, head government-bond strategist at CRT Capital, recently noted that government borrowing costs have fallen in Canada, Japan and the U.K. even as those countries racked up hefty budget deficits.

Even if supply alone is enough to drive rates dramatically higher and the economy isn't strong enough to handle it, then the recovery could be at risk, at least in housing. That could hurt the economy or lead the Fed to ramp up its Treasury purchases, either of which would drive yields lower.

But the case by Treasury bears for higher rates depends partly on an expectation that the economy can handle it. Though the 1.65 percentage-point jump in yields Morgan Stanley expects this year would be unusually large, it isn't unprecedented. In fact, Treasury yields surged 1.6 percentage points last year, and the economy managed to recover anyway.

Write to Mark Gongloff at

Mutual Funds Draw Derivatives Scrutiny

Mutual Funds Draw Derivatives Scrutiny
SEC Looking at Disclosure, Oversight


The use of derivatives by mutual funds has caught the eye of regulators, concerned that these complex instruments pose risks that aren't fully understood.

It is safe to say that many investors, and even their advisers, can't easily determine the extent to which the funds they choose are using derivatives, including futures, options, swaps and other instruments.

While more often associated with hedge funds and the more exotic types of exchange-traded funds, such as those that use leverage, derivatives are in fact employed to some extent by many different types of mutual funds.
SEC Reviewing Use

The Securities and Exchange Commission said in March that it is reviewing the use of derivatives by mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and other investment companies. It plans to explore, among other issues, whether current practices are in line with federal rules on leverage, concentration and diversification, and whether funds manage and disclose risk appropriately. It also will look at whether their boards are providing enough oversight.

The review is likely to focus on the over-the-counter market, especially for interest-rate and credit-default swaps, which are used by firms including BlackRock Inc., Allianz SE's Pimco, and Western Asset Management Co., a unit of Legg Mason Inc., said Michael Herbst, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. Over-the-counter derivatives are traded privately rather than through commodity exchanges, which are regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Those three managers are some of the biggest users of derivatives, Mr. Herbst said. "A wide range might use them a bit more sparingly." Among the reasons for using them, he said, would be to gain or magnify exposure to markets or interest rates, and to hedge against risk in a portfolio.

Some investors may be surprised to learn that many core bond mutual funds use derivatives extensively. Among them are Pimco Total Return Fund (trading symbol PTTAX) and BlackRock Total Return Fund I (MDHQX) and II (BCBAX), Mr. Herbst said. In addition, Western Asset Management Core (WACSX) and Western Asset Core Plus (WAPSX) funds have used them in the past, but probably do so a little less today, he said.

Western Asset Management confirmed that its Core and Core Plus funds are using derivatives less. The asset manager discloses all of its holdings in its annual reports, a spokeswoman said.

BlackRock declined to comment on its funds' use of derivatives, and Pimco didn't respond to a request for comment.

Mutual funds disclose their use of derivatives in annual and semiannual statements, but this doesn't always make the extent or type of exposure clear.

Mr. Herbst noted that, even when they are disclosed, the risks may remain unclear.

"A manager may buy one type of derivative, then buy another type to offset the first," Mr. Herbst said. "Something managers themselves have been wrestling with is how to better disclose that type of exposure to investors."

Dylan Cathers, an analyst with Standard & Poor's Equity Research, said investors would be better served by a plain-English document in which managers explain clearly and in detail what derivatives they are using and why.

Still, he added, "At the end of the day, it's the advisers' and the investors' responsibility to really look into the funds on their own."
Higher Costs?

Mr. Cathers and others noted that, should increased regulation result from the SEC review, it may have a downside in higher costs for mutual funds.

Mr. Jacobson said regulators appear to be focusing on disclosure issues, which is a good approach. "Derivatives are tools that can be used for tremendous advantage and can be abused to create serious problems. It's practically useless to ban many of them entirely because the industry will simply design something similar that will do essentially the same thing."

Philadelphia Bonds Benefit Others

Philadelphia Bonds Benefit Others

Proceeds Needed to Get City Out of Money-Losing Rate Swap


Philadelphia sold $391 million in water and waste-water revenue bonds, but the money won't expand or improve infrastructure. Instead, it will refinance floating-rate debt and pay Citigroup $48.6 million to unwind an interest-rate swap that turned against the city.

Philadelphia, the nation's sixth most-populous city, thus becomes the latest municipality to pay millions of dollars to extricate itself from a money-losing interest-rate swap with a Wall Street bank.

The payment to Citigroup will exceed savings from the refunding, say Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's, although the city disputes that. In any case, ending the agreement will eliminate risks posed by the variable debt and swap.

"Better to take the hit and move on, than to stick with a strategy" that isn't working out, said Evan Rourke, portfolio manager at Eaton Vance. Mr. Rourke said more municipal-bond issuers should end agreements no longer in their favor.

There are many such municipalities across the country. They issued variable-rate debt to lower borrowing costs, then entered into contracts, or swaps, to shield themselves from any rise in rates. When interest rates unexpectedly fell in the financial slump, cities were on the hook to compensate swaps partners.

Hundreds of municipalities entered into swaps that are now working against them, including Los Angeles; Chicago; Denver; Kansas City, Mo., and Oakland, Calif., as well as the states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Oregon.

In Pennsylvania alone, 107 school districts and 86 local governments hold swaps tied to at least $14.9 billion in debt, Jack Wagner, the state's auditor general, said. Not all of those swaps are losing money, but Mr. Wagner still supports a bill to ban municipalities from using swaps.

Philadelphia benefited from its swap and variable-rate debt issue in 2003 until the end of 2007, said Joe Clare, deputy water commissioner. The city received $25 million up front. It paid a fixed rate of 4.52% to Citigroup, which paid the city a variable rate.

And variable debt overall saved two to three percentage points compared with fixed-rate debt, he said.

But as turmoil spread to the variable-rate market in 2008, investors shied away from these securities; rates shot up as high as 10%, compared with around 3% before the meltdown, Mr. Clare said. Meanwhile, under the terms of the agreement, Citigroup was able to pay the city a much lower amount based on a short-term interest rate.

As a result, Philadelphia paid $10 million more in debt service in fiscal year 2009 than officials had projected.

The deal on Thursday sold at a top yield of 4.15% for the bonds maturing in 2019, according to preliminary pricing details. Mr. Clare said the refinancing would save the city more than the cost of terminating the swap agreement, which he said was $48.6 million. S&P had estimated the termination payment to be $54.7 million.

A Citigroup spokesman declined to comment on the Philadelphia matter.

Big Banks Move to Mask Risk Levels

Quarter-End Loan Figures Sit 42% Below Peak, Then Rise as New Period Progresses; SEC Review


Major banks have masked their risk levels in the past five quarters by temporarily lowering their debt just before reporting it to the public, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

A group of 18 banks—which includes Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc.—understated the debt levels used to fund securities trades by lowering them an average of 42% at the end of each of the past five quarterly periods, the data show. The banks, which publicly release debt data each quarter, then boosted the debt levels in the middle of successive quarters.

Excessive borrowing by banks was one of the major causes of the financial crisis, leading to catastrophic bank runs in 2008 at firms including Bear Stearns Cos. and Lehman Brothers. Since then, banks have become more sensitive about showing high levels of debt and risk, worried that their stocks and credit ratings could be punished.

That practice, while legal, can give investors a skewed impression of the level of risk that financial firms are taking the vast majority of the time.

"You want your leverage to look better at quarter-end than it actually was during the quarter, to suggest that you're taking less risk," says William Tanona, a former Goldman analyst who now heads U.S. financials research at Collins Stewart, a U.K. investment bank.

Though some banks privately confirm that they temporarily reduce their borrowings at quarter's end, representatives at Goldman, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and Citigroup declined to comment specifically on the New York Fed data. Some noted that their firm's financial filings include language saying borrowing levels can fluctuate during the quarter.

"The efforts to manage the size of our balance sheet are appropriate and our policies are consistent with all applicable accounting and legal requirements," a Bank of America spokesman said.

An official at the Federal Reserve Board noted that the Fed continuously monitors asset levels at the large bank-holding companies, but the financing activities captured in the New York Fed's data fall under the purview of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates brokerage firms. The New York Fed declined to comment.

The data highlight the banks' levels of short-term financing in the repurchase, or "repo," market. Financial firms use cash from the loans to buy securities, then use the purchased securities as collateral for other loans, and buy more securities. The loans boost the firms' trading power, or "leverage," allowing them to make big trades without putting up big money. This amplifies gains—and losses, which were disastrous in 2008.

According to the data, the banks' outstanding net repo borrowings at the end of each of the past five quarters were on average 42% below their peak in net borrowings in the same quarters. Though the repo market represents just a slice of banks' overall activities, it provides a window into the risks that financial institutions take to trade.

The SEC now is seeking detailed information from nearly two dozen large financial firms about repos, signaling that the agency is looking for accounting techniques that could hide a firm's risk-taking. The SEC's inquiry follows recent disclosures that Lehman used repos to mask some $50 billion in debt before it collapsed in 2008.

The practice of reducing quarter-end repo borrowings has occurred periodically for years, according to the data, which go back to 2001, but never as consistently as in 2009.

The repo market played a role in recent accusations leveled by an examiner in Lehman's bankruptcy case. But rather than reducing quarter-end debt, Lehman took steps to hide it.

Anxious to maintain favorable credit ratings, Lehman engaged in an accounting device known within the firm as "Repo 105" to essentially park about $50 billion of assets away from Lehman's balance sheet, according to the examiner. The move helped Lehman look like it had less debt on its books, the examiner said.

Other Wall Street firms, including Goldman and Morgan Stanley, have denied characterizing their short-term borrowings as sales, the way Lehman did in employing Repo 105. Both of those firms also make standard disclaimers about debt.

For instance, Goldman disclosed in its 2009 annual report that although its balance sheet can "fluctuate," asset levels at the ends of quarters are "typically not materially different" from their levels in the midst of the quarter. Total assets at the end of 2009 were 7% lower than average assets during the year, the report states.

Some banks make big trades that don't show up in quarter-end balance sheets. That is what happened recently at Bank of America involving a trade designed to mature before the end of 2009's first quarter, people familiar with the matter say.

Two Bank of America traders bought $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities from clients for one month, while at the same time agreeing to sell the securities back before quarter's end, according to people familiar with the matter. This "roll" trade provided the clients with cash and the bank with fees.

Robert Qutub, then Bank of America's chief financial officer for global markets, told Michael Nierenberg, a former Bear Stearns trader who oversaw the traders who made the roll trade, to cap the size of the short-term transaction, people familiar with the matter say.

A week later, however, the amount tied to the trade shot up to $60 billion, these people say, before dropping to $25 billion, one of these people said, appearing to some at headquarters that the group had defied the order to cap the trade.

A bank spokeswoman said "the team was aware of and worked within its risk limits."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Greek Banks Seek Lifeline, Stocks Sink

Yield on 10-year bond hits 7.13%, stocks fall as Athens says '09 budget shortfall is slightly more than forecast


Greece's banks, which have seen their borrowing costs soar as a result of the country's fiscal problems, have asked the Greek government to tap an extra 17 billion euros ($22.7 billion) in unused liquidity measures as they struggle amid the country's economic crisis.

The move caused financial stocks in Greece to drop and helped push down the ASE stock index, which fell 3% to 1987.58, its lowest close since March 1.

A banks stocks subindex sank 4.2%. Over the past six months that gauge has fallen about 40%.

Greece's banks are struggling to cope with rising loan-loss provisions and trading losses on their large portfolios of Greek government bonds.

"They want to have an additional safety net now that the economy and the banking system are under pressure," George Papaconstantinou, the finance minister, told reporters after a meeting with Bank of Greece governor George Provopoulos.

EFG Eurobank Ergasias slid 7.5% and Piraeus Bank lost 5.7%.

Greek bonds sank further on Wednesday after the government said the budget deficit in 2009 likely was 12.8% or 12.9% of gross domestic product, compared with an earlier estimate of 12.7%. A government spokeswoman denied a report that the revision could show 2009's deficit was as much as 13.5% of GDP.

Greece's benchmark 10-year bond yielded 7.13%, up from 6.999% late Tuesday. That is the highest closing yield since Oct. 26, 1999, when the country's 10-year debt yielded 7.236%, according to data from Thomson Reuters. The German 10-year bond, considered the euro-zone benchmark, yielded 3.13%, pushing the gap between the two countries to four percentage points. In 1999, the gap was 1.777 percentage points.

The gap was even wider between the two countries' two-year notes: such Greek debt yielded 6.59%, compared with just 0.97% for Germany.

The cost of insuring against the risk of a Greek default rose. Greece's five-year sovereign credit-default swaps rose to 4.1 percentage points, from 3.90 percentage points Tuesday, according to CMA DataVision, meaning it cost €410,000 ($549,600) annually to insure €10 million of debt for five years. It cost €31,600 to insure the same amount of German debt against default.

Markit analyst Gavan Nolan said the Greek credit-default swap briefly reached 4.15 percentage points, making insurance against the risk of default pricier than for Iceland for the first time. Iceland, whose credit-default swaps on Wednesday traded at 3.97 percentage points, in 2008 sought IMF aid after its main banks collapsed.

In late 2008, Greece's previous conservative government had passed a 28 billion euros support package that consisted of a mixture of loan guarantees, direct capital injections and special liquidity measures to boost the Greek banking system.

However, the banks had tapped only about 11 billion euros of those funds, mainly drawing on the special liquidity measures and direct capital injections, by issuing special preference shares to the Greek government.

Although Greek banks are well-capitalized, with an average capital-adequacy ratio of around 12%, they have been squeezed by slower economic growth and rising loss provisions, which reached 7.7% of total loans outstanding last year.

Late last month, Moody's Investors Service downgraded five of the country's nine major banks, citing a weakening in the banks' stand-alone financial strength, as well as the "anticipated additional pressures stemming from the country's challenging economic prospects in the foreseeable future."

Greek credit growth for the past four months has hovered at an anemic 4%, down from a growth rate of more than 20% two years ago. Nonperforming loans, meanwhile, continue to rise and aren't expected to peak until the second half of the year.

Sentiment toward Greece remains poor as the country continues trying to convince investors that it can refinance its borrowings, given its heavy debt load and the latest surge in its bond yields. Greece has large financing needs over the next two months and is expected to issue a bond in coming weeks.
—Katie Martin, Mark Brown and Emese Bartha contributed to this article.

US Airways, United in Talks

Renewed Courtship by the Two Carriers Would Create Nation's Second Largest Airline


UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and US Airways Group Inc. have resumed discussions of a potential merger that would create a global behemoth, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

The talks are the latest in a decadelong dance between the two big airlines and have recently heated up after months of off-and-on conversation, these people said. The talks aren't that far along and could falter again, these people said.

The companies haven't seriously discussed how a deal would be structured, though it probably would involve a stock swap because neither wants to deplete its cash, said one person familiar with the talks. The two carriers declined to comment.

Chicago-based UAL is the third-largest airline in the U.S., by traffic, and US Airways, Tempe, Ariz., is the sixth. A merger would create the nation's second-largest air carrier behind Delta Air Lines Inc., which merged with rival Northwest in 2008. The new carrier would combine United's strength on trans-Pacific flights and its five domestic hubs with US Airways' large presence on the East Coast and its hub in Phoenix.

Both companies' CEOs—US Airways' Doug Parker and UAL's Glenn Tilton—have loudly championed the need for consolidation to cut capacity and allow fares to rise.

United and US Airways, along with the rest of the industry, have lost money over the past couple of years as oil spiked to a record high in 2008 and then the recession walloped travel demand in 2009. But in recent months, industry revenues are rebounding, albeit from double-digit, year-over-year declines at the nadir last year.

While both United and US Airways are expected to post losses in the first quarter, analysts expect them to be narrower than in the first quarter of 2009. Both companies are reporting strong revenue gains in recent months as fares firm, business travelers return to the skies and airlines benefit from having cut their capacity.

The recent talks were first reported by the New York Times.

The airlines have flirted with mergers a few times in recent years. They aborted a deal in 2001 after unions protested and antitrust enforcers threatened to file a lawsuit to block a deal.

A renewed effort two years ago ended after United decided to pursue a marketing alliance with Continental Airlines Inc. instead.

Houston-based Continental had turned down United as a merger partner earlier in 2008, but with their marketing alliance, the two now are reaping some of the revenue benefits of a merger without the risks.

US Airways, itself the result of a 2005 merger of the old US Airways and America West Airlines, still hasn't been able to combine its pilot and flight-attendant ranks because the unions won't agree on seniority. And US Airways pilots have a stipulation in their contract that would raise their wages back to pre-bankruptcy levels if a merger occurs that would trigger a change of control—another aspect United and US Airways would have to confront.

Mr. Parker, who ran America West when it acquired the old US Airways out of bankruptcy, made an unsuccessful hostile bid for Delta before the Atlanta-based carrier acquired rival Northwest.

Mr. Tilton in his seven years at United has looked at merging with a number of carriers.

Continental was widely regarded as a better strategic fit than US Airways, but Continental's then CEO, Larry Kellner, decided his company would be better off remaining independent. Jeff Smisek, his successor, has said he might change his mind about mergers if Delta uses its size to outpace the rest of the industry.

Some in the industry think the rekindled talks are an effort by United to tempt Continental back to merger talks. A combined United-Continental would leapfrog Delta as the world's largest airline by revenue. A Continental representative declined to comment.

Regulatory approval of the Delta-Northwest deal in 2008 appeared to pave the way for further consolidation in the U.S. But antitrust enforcers in the Obama administration could prove tough to persuade. They've said they intend to give mergers even closer scrutiny and have opposed airlines' efforts to secure antitrust immunity deals for their marketing alliances.

After the antitrust rebuff in 2001, "it can't just be try, try again," said J. Bruce McDonald, a former deputy assistant attorney general who served in the Justice Department's antitrust division and is now at the law firm of Jones Day.

"The same DOJ lawyers who investigated it the first time will [have] to be convinced that something has changed."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Europe Economy Unexpectedly Stalled in Fourth Quarter (Update3)

By Simone Meier

April 7 (Bloomberg) -- Europe’s economy unexpectedly stagnated in the fourth quarter as companies cut spending more than previously estimated.

Gross domestic product in the 16-nation euro region remained unchanged compared with the third quarter, when it rose 0.4 percent, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said today. It had previously reported a fourth- quarter expansion of 0.1 percent. Corporate investment dropped 1.3 percent instead of the 0.8 percent estimated earlier.

The European economy is now showing signs of rebounding from its end-of-year relapse as the global recovery prompts companies to step up investment and offsets some concerns that Greece’s fiscal crisis will hurt the euro region. While unemployment is at an 11-year high, economic confidence improved in March and the region’s services and manufacturing growth accelerated to the fastest pace since August 2007.

“The first quarter was still be very weak followed by an economic rebound in current three-month period,” said Christoph Weil, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “Exports will continue to drive an expansion this year.”

The euro was little changed after the GDP release, trading at $1.3353 at 1:11 p.m. in Frankfurt, down 0.3 percent on the day. The yield on the German 10-year benchmark bond dropped 0.3 basis points to 3.11 percent.

Idled Mines

Euro-area exports increased 1.9 percent in the fourth quarter from the previous three months, more than the 1.7 percent gain estimated earlier, today’s report showed. Household consumption was unchanged in the latest quarter, and government spending declined 0.1 percent after rising 0.7 percent in the previous period.

Solvay SA, the world’s biggest soda-ash maker, reduced capital spending by 57 percent last year to the lowest amount in five years. Nyrstar NV, the largest zinc producer, lowered its capital spending by 41 percent in 2009 and plans a 60 percent increase this year as it moves to restart operations at idled mines.

Asian economies are leading a worldwide recovery from the worst slump since World War II. The International Monetary Fund forecasts the global economy will grow 3.9 percent this year after a 0.8 percent contraction in 2009, with China expanding 10 percent, almost five times the pace projected for the U.S. The euro-area economy may grow 1 percent, the IMF forecast.

Data “point to a continued recovery of the world economy, albeit at variable speeds across countries and regions,” the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report today. “A number of factors are expected to bear down on activity in the very near term.”

Largest Economies

Germany, France and Italy, the euro area’s three largest economies, probably expanded 0.9 percent in the first three months of 2010 and may grow 1.9 percent in the current quarter, the Paris-based OECD said. The U.S. economy probably grew 2.4 percent in the first quarter, it estimates.

Hochtief AG, Germany’s largest builder, on March 25 forecast further earnings growth this year after surging Asian demand boosted orders in 2009. Munich-based Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s largest maker of luxury vehicles, last month forecast a “strong double-digit” percentage gain in Chinese sales this year.

Europe will see “a slow and bumpy recovery,” said Colin Ellis, an economist at Daiwa Capital Markets Europe Ltd. in London. “The euro area is set to rely disproportionally on trade this year and next.”

Price Cuts

In Germany, an increase in foreign demand for basic goods and machinery countered a drop in the domestic market as factory orders held steady in February after a surge in the prior month, data showed today.

To help shore up earnings, companies have continued to cut prices and eliminate jobs, pushing unemployment to 10 percent, the highest since 1998. Euro-area producer prices fell 0.5 percent in February from a year earlier after declining 1.1 percent in January, a separate report showed today.

The European Central Bank will probably keep its benchmark interest rate at a record low 1 percent tomorrow, according to all 62 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. The ECB, which has started to phase out some of the stimulus measures introduced to fight the recession, will announce its decision at 1:45 p.m. in Frankfurt.

From a year earlier, euro-area GDP declined a seasonally adjusted 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter instead of a previously reported 2.1 percent, the statistics office said. For the full year, the economy contracted 4.1 percent after expanding 0.6 percent in 2008.

The euro was little changed after the GDP release, trading at $1.3353 at 1:11 p.m. in Frankfurt, down 0.3 percent on the day. The yield on the German 10-year benchmark bond dropped 0.3 basis points to 3.11 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simone Meier in Dublin at