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Lehman "Hunkering Down" For Tough Times

The dollar is weak again; Band of England lowered rates, but Europe has been weak right from the open and that weakness has spilled over into our futures.

Elsewhere:

1) March retail sales were again fairly sluggish, one third beat estimates, two third missed, according to RetailMetrics. A couple standouts: discounters like Wal-Mart , Costco , BJ's , all did well, so we are clearly seeing tradedown. Teen apparel store Buckle sales were a big surprise up 20.9 percent (up 7 percent expected), Aeropostale also slightly better than expected. The good news is that comps will be easier for next month, because April last year did not include Easter. Rebate checks will not arrive until May.

Wal-Mart's same store sales for March were up 0.7 percent from a year earlier, below expectations of a 1 percent gain. However, they boosted guidance for the first quarter to $074 to $0.76, from $070 to $0.74, so it's up fractionally pre-open.

Men's Wearhouse reaffirmed their first quarter estimatesof $0.20 to $0.24 (analyst estimate $0.22).

2) DuPontraised first quarter and full year guidance. The agricultural business has been particularly strong (about 25 percent of sales), and overall sales in emerging markets has been strong (Asia/Pacific about 20 percent of sales).

3) Lehmanhas liquidated three investment funds that dropped notably in value and took $1 b of those assets onto its balance sheet. Down 3 percent. Most traders think they are basically bailing out investors hoping the parent can better fund those assets.

More important is Deutsche Bank's Mike Mayo, who met with Lehman's CFO and put out a widely-discussed note this morning. Mayo said his meeting was somewhat downbeat and sober: "Conditions remain tough, whether it relates to client flows, activity, or even hedging." He concluded by saying "Lehman's strategy is evolving to take on less risk to better hunker down in tough times and to generate lower risk earnings growth longer-term. This new harsh reality is sobering to those looking for a quick fix for the financial sector."


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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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