joi, 11 octombrie 2007

Retailers wave the warning flags

Retailers wave the warning flags

Wal-Mart says its shoppers are concerned about their finances; Nordstrom, one of the better-performing retailers, warns on its third quarter and misses sales forecast.

NEW YORK -- A slew of earnings warnings from retailers Thursday, on top of poor September sales numbers, added credence to concerns that consumers are feeling tapped out and that retailers are headed for a difficult holiday period.

"Retailers really struggled last month because of slow sales and also because of the warm weather drag," said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics.

Warner-than-usual September and early-October temperatures around the nation were blamed by some retailers for disappointing sales.

High-end seller Nordstrom, which has been one of the best-performing retailers, said Thursday that sales at its stores open at least a year - a key measure of retail performance known as same-store sales - rose 3.2 percent, missing analysts' forecasts for a 5 percent increase.

What's more, the retailer cut its third-quarter profit guidance to between 50 and 53 cents a share, much lower than its prior outlook of 61 to 64 cents a share.

Nordstrom said it struggled with much higher inventory levels it had planned for, a possible sign that its shoppers bought less.

luni, 1 octombrie 2007

Dow hits all-time high

Dow hits all-time high

Big blue-chip barometer hits intra-day record of 14,111 as Wall Street resumes the recent advance; Citigroup warning, drop in ISM index fuels hope of Fed rate cut.

NEW YORK -- Stocks surged Monday afternoon, with the Dow touching an all-time high above 14,110 as investors shrugged off a profit warning from Citigroup and instead focused on the possibility of more Fed rate cuts.

The Dow Jones industrial average (Charts) added around 210 points with an hour left in the session, rising as high as 14,111.53 and setting a new all-time intra-day high. The previous intra-day high was 14,021.95 from July 19.

The broader S&P 500 (Charts) index and the tech-fueled Nasdaq composite (Charts) both gained 1.3 percent. The Russell 2000 (Charts) small-cap index jumped more than 2 percent.

"You're seeing a continuation of the recent momentum," said Chris Johnson, CEO of Johnson Research Group. "There was unfavorable news in the financial arena, but the market is still rallying, which tells you that investors are afraid of getting left behind."

Investors were also perhaps reacting to hopes that any so-called "bad news," whether it be weak bank earnings or a dip in the ISM index, means that the Federal Reserve is more likely to cut interest rates again at its next policy meeting scheduled for the end of the month.

miercuri, 19 septembrie 2007

Falling home prices hurt borrowers, neighbors

Falling home prices hurt borrowers, neighbors

Economist estimates inflation-adjusted value of $23 trillion housing market could fall by $3 trillion by next year.

NEW YORK -- If home prices fall as forecast, the $23 trillion housing market could lose $3 trillion in value by August 2008, a leading housing economist and former mortgage bank president told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Between 1998 and early 2006, when housing prices peaked, home values rose 86 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis, Robert Shiller, a professor of economics at Yale University, said at a hearing about the subprime crisis held by Congress's Joint Economic Committee.

Since that peak, Shiller noted, real home values have fallen 6.5 percent and they're forecasted to fall at least another 7 percent on average in the next year.

That combined decline could translate into a $3 trillion loss of wealth for households, said Alex Pollock, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the former CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, in his written testimony.

Those hardest hit likely would be homeowners with subprime adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) whose payments are scheduled to reset to higher levels in the next year - in some cases by as much as 50 percent. Refinancing out of those loans, already made difficult by the recent credit crunch, will be out of reach should a borrower's home price fall below the value of his loan in the next year, said Martin Eakes, CEO of the Center for Responsible Lending, during his testimony.

That's why he and Shiller were urging lawmakers to act quickly to pass measures to aid struggling homeowners saddled with high-cost predatory loans.

Helping them with foreclosure avoidance wouldn't just assist the mortgage borrower but his neighbors, too, Eakes asserted. He cited a study that estimates that for every foreclosure on a block, values on homes within an eighth of a mile are likely to fall 1.14 percent in value.

Lawmakers have been considering what steps, if any, to take both to contain the current subprime contagion and also to prevent another mortgage meltdown in the future.

A number of proposals have been put forth, including one by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee and a member of both the Senate banking and finance committees. Schumer's bill is aimed at making it easier for homeowners with subprime ARMs to refinance and to help home buyers in high-cost markets get a mortgage since even those with good credit have been shut out recently.

Among the measures he calls for: temporarily lifting the portfolio caps allowed for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by 10 percent, or $145 billion. Those caps apply to the amount of mortgage assets the government-sponsored agencies buy and own directly (as opposed to their other function - which is to buy, pool and sell mortgages as mortgage-backed securities).

Half of the cap increase would be earmarked for the purchase of subprime refis with scheduled interest-rate resets between June 2005 and December 2009. That would potentially encourage lenders to offer them, since they know Fannie and Freddie would guarantee a secondary market in which the lender could sell the refis.

Those who oppose such a move, such as the White House and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), which regulates both agencies, contend that such a big increase would not be prudent given the accounting problems both Freddie and Fannie have had in recent years.

To date, the Federal Housing Administration has already loosened its criteria for refinancing. And eligibility requirements for FHA loans would be further liberalized if FHA reform legislation passes into law, which many are expecting.

vineri, 14 septembrie 2007

Group bids $150 million for Aeromexico

Group bids $150 million for Aeromexico

Subsidiary of Citigroup bids for majority stake of Mexican airline; Aeromexico says it will reply within 10 business days.

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexican airline company Consorcio Aeromexico SAB said Friday that a trust run by a unit of Citigroup has launched a $150 million tender offer for the company's shares.

Aeromexico said its board of directors will issue its opinion on the latest offer no later than 10 business days. The board had already endorsed an earlier offer from other local investors as "reasonable from a financial point of view."

The trust run by Citigroup's (Charts, Fortune 500) local banking unit Banamex is offering 1.68 pesos (15 cents) a share for between 50.1 percent and 100 percent of Aeromexico's 992.4 million shares, the airline said in a filing with the local stock exchange.

The offer is open until Oct. 15 and could be extended until Nov. 30. Banamex's brokerage unit is acting as the intermediary in the transaction.

Flying Southwest? Reconsider that miniskirt

The trust's bid was first announced Sept. 12, and represents a 53 percent premium over the 1.10 pesos (10 cents) a share offer made last month by local businessmen Moises Saba Masri and Alberto Saba Raffoul.

Both offers would be contingent on the Mexican state selling some or all of its 62 percent stake in Aeromexico. The government has said that it would sell the shares through a public offer unless a buyer emerged

luni, 10 septembrie 2007

Barclays says trading unit profitable in August

Barclays says trading unit profitable in August

British bank, with a deal in the balance, fears major losses from overexposure to risky mortgages.

LONDON (AP) -- Barclays, the British bank in a bidding war for ABN Amro Holding, said Monday that its securities unit "traded profitably" last month, easing fears that the bank was overexposed to the credit crisis that has swept global markets.

Barclays (Charts), Britain's third-largest bank, borrowed twice in two weeks from the Bank of England's emergency loan facility this month, but sources said at the time that the loans were due to technical glitches rather than a shortage of funds.

"Barclays Capital traded profitably in August 2007, after full allocation of costs and the mark to market of all positions," said Bob Diamond, head of investment banking at Barclays, in a statement coinciding with an investor presentation in New York. "Year-to-date profits are well ahead of 2006."

Shrinking global credit levels started with defaults on U.S. subprime mortgages, or home loans made to people with weak credit histories. The crisis has spread because banks have repackaged risky loans with the more reliable, and sold them to a wide range of investors across the globe.

All the latest market news

Attention was drawn to Barclays when it turned to the Bank of England as a lender of last resort - once after a loan from HSBC Holdings was delayed and again after a breakdown in the banking clearance system.

"I find it amazing there was any question about a bank the size and quality of Barclays to fund itself," Diamond said in notes prepared for the U.S. investor presentation and posted on the Barclays Web site. "In fact, as in previous times of market turbulence, we've been net recipients of liquidity as a haven in rough seas."

Diamond said that Barclay's mortgage and asset-backed business has been a good growth area, but accounted for less than 5 percent of its revenue based on its first-half results.

"Subprime is an even smaller piece of this," he said.

Diamond also addressed concerns about Barclay's structured investment vehicles, known as SIV-lites.

Barclays denies exposure to failed debt vehicles

Edward Cahill, who was head of the European collateralized debt obligation division, resigned earlier this month, and the bank injected $1.6 billion into a SIV-lite run by Cairn Capital to rescue it from collapse after a failed attempt to raise money in the credit markets.

Two similar funds set up by Barclays Capital, Mainsail II and Golden Key, were forced to begin selling assets earlier this month because they were unable to raise new financing.

Diamond said Barclays had structured four SIV-lites for managers looking to increase their exposure to credit, but neither selected nor managed the assets.

"As liquidity in the short-term debt markets has tightened and asset prices have declined we've been working with our clients to restructure these vehicles," he said, adding those moves were not "bailouts."

"It's also worth noting that SIV-lites constitute in total about $10 billion of a market in asset-backed commercial paper worth $1.2 trillion," he said.

marți, 4 septembrie 2007

Thornburg raises $1.44B to relaunch loans

Thornburg raises $1.44B to relaunch loans

Residential mortgage lender announces deal backed by ARMs; amount is enough to let firm repay what it owes and start issuing mortgages again.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- Thornburg Mortgage, a residential mortgage lender, said Tuesday it raised $1.44 billion in a deal backed by adjustable-rate mortgages, giving it enough money to start making loans again.

Thornburg (Charts), which specializes in adjustable-rate mortgages of more than $417,000, said the financing allows it to repay $1.37 billion in borrowings, clearing the way for new loan originations.

Mortgage lenders originate loans and then typically package them together for sale to bigger banks, who then slice them into securities. Demand on this so-called secondary market has waned, making it difficult for lenders to raise money to initiate mortgages.

Thornburg said the money it raised is backed by $1.44 billion in prime-rated ARM loans in the publicly registered Thornburg Mortgage Securities Trust.

miercuri, 29 august 2007

China's top 100 companies

China's top 100 companies

Banks with hot IPOs, plus surging energy demand, propelled a dozen new arrivals onto our list of China's largest companies.

(Fortune Magazine) -- A rush of listings on the Hong Kong and Shanghai exchanges added a dozen newcomers to Fortune's annual list of China's 100 largest publicly traded companies. One of them had the largest share offering in the world: Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, which raised $21.9 billion last October. As China's biggest bank by revenue and Asia's most profitable bank, with profits of $6.2 billion last year, it grabbed the No. 4 spot on this year's list.

The Bank of China, which also had a successful IPO, debuted at No. 5. While China's economy grew nearly 11 percent last year, the revenue cutoff for this year's list rose 46 percent, to $1.9 billion, compared with last year's $1.3 billion.

Global 500: The world's largest corporations

The country's gnawing demand for energy helped keep China Petroleum & Chemical (Charts) in its No. 1 position for the seventh year in a row, with revenue up almost 34 percent, to $134 billion.

State-owned companies continued to dominate the list, taking the top ten spots. The largest private company on the list, computer maker Lenovo, fell four places, to No. 11, even though its revenues rose 10 percent, to $14.6 billion.

The China 100 was compiled by the editors of Fortune China in cooperation with the Finet Group, a Hong Kong--listed company specializing in providing business information about China, and was first published in Fortune China. In compiling the list, Fortune China looked at Chinese companies listed on the stock exchanges in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and New York City. The companies are ranked by 2006 revenues. Figures were provided by the companies to the relevant stock exchanges and obtained from Bloomberg.