Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th Unlucky for JP Morgan, Europe Sovereigns as Debt Ratings Are Slashed

Friday the 13th was unlucky for most investors as stocks slipped over concerns of "imminent" credit downgrades in Europe and JP Morgan Chase's (JPM) quarterly results disappointed on revenue.

JP Morgan released 4th quarter and annual results prior to the opening bell sending related financial stocks into a tailspin.

JPM's earnings excluding items met expectations of 90 cents per share, a decrease from $1.12 per share in the year-earlier period, but full-year net income was $19 billion, down from $26.72 billion a year ago and well below analyst expectations of $23 billion. Quarterly net income was $3.72billion, down from $4.83 billion a year earlier.

JP Morgan was down 93 cents at the close, to 35.92, a loss of 2.52%.

It wasn't long after trading commenced in New York that news began leaking out, via Reuters, that many European nation's credit ratings were about to be downgraded by Standard & Poor's, which had put all 17 Eurozone nations on credit watch negative on December 5th.

The persistent rumors haunted european bourses, which fell dramatically on the news. Finally, after US markets closed in advance of a three-day weekend, S&P confirmed, dropping the credit ratings of nine countries, leaving only Germany with the gold-standard, AAA rating.

The following list, courtesy of London's daily Telegraph details the action:

France CUT one notch to AA+
Austria CUT one notch to AA+
Italy CUT two notches to BBB+
Spain CUT two notches to A
Portugal CUT two notches to BB (junk)
Belgium AFFIRMED at AA (the country was cut in November)
Malta CUT one notch to A-
Cyprus CUT one notch to BB+ (junk)
Luxembourg AFFIRMED at AAA
Slovenia CUT one notch to A+
Slovakia CUT one notch to A
Ireland AFFIRMED at BBB+
The Netherlands AFFIRMED at AAA
Estonia AFFIRMED at AA-

All outlooks remain negative, except for Germany and Slovakia.

US stocks were crushed in the early going, but rallied throughout the afternoon, limiting losses. The Dow Jones Industrials were off by as much as 160 points in early going.

The Euro fell to its lowest level in 16 months vs. the US Dollar, at $1.2667, which is actually good news for European exporters and generally bad for US companies doing business in Europe.

Volume in US markets was weak (same old story) as participation levels have fallen off dramatically since the 08-09 financial crisis, many individual investors pulling money out of equities via funds and/or personal accounts. The low trading levels is somewhat of a bell-weather for the economy, mirror low participation rates in the labor force as Americans seek alternatives to both investment and traditional working roles.

The losses today pretty much cut the week's gains for the major indices in half. Stocks have been grinding higher through the first two weeks of the year, but there seems to be little conviction from traders.

Next week will be chock-full of earnings reports, many of which will meet or beat expectations, though the number of pre-announcements has been running unusually high for the 4th quarter and investors are nervous, as action in the financials and JP Morgan, in particular, made quite clear.

Also, Greek talks with creditors have broken down, leaving open the possibility that the proposed 50% voluntary haircuts on Greek debt would become involuntary, triggering credit default swaps payouts as early as March, when Greece is scheduled to receive another round of funding from the IMF and ECB.

Dow 12,422.06, -48.96 (0.39%)
NASDAQ 2,710.67, -14.03 (0.51%)
S&P 500 1,289.09, -6.41 (0.49%)
NYSE Composite 7,632.03, -49.23 (0.64%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,686,001,750
NYSE Volume 3,692,377,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1874-3682
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 142-50
WTI crude oil: 98.70, -0.40
Gold: 1,630.80, -16.90
Silver: 29.52, -0.60

No comments: