Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
February's non-farm payroll of a loss of 651,000 was in line with expectations, although there were large downward revisions for January and December (161,000 in total). The rise in the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent was the highest since December 1983.
1) The dollar has been weak this morning; this is often a help for stocks and commodities. Indeed commodities have been rallying; copper is at the highest level since November.
As a result, commodity stocks like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are up mid-single digits.
2) Wells Fargo up 8 percent pre-open, is the latest to cut their dividend, from $0.34 to $0.05, but they also made positive comments about strong operating results for the first two months of 2009.
There has been a spate of somewhat positive comments on banks in the last couple days, from executives buying stock to Rochdale Research's Dick Bove noting this morning that "cash is pouring into these institutions." He notes in particular that the "big four" of JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo havegrown their share of deposits. In the fourth quarter, banks overall picked up deposits at the rate of $100 billion per month.
3) H&R Block up 10 percent pre-open, reported earnings above expectations ($0.20 vs. $0.10 consensus estimate); they said they were on track to significantly improve the profitability of its businesses in FY09
Interestingly, they prepared fewer returns for 2009 through February 28th, but they increased fees 8.5 percent.
4) Ann Taylor , who clothes a lot of professional women, is clearly feeling the pinch. They're down 18 percent pre-open, reporting a loss of $1.03, about twice the loss of $0.55 that was expected. Like many companies, they have declined to provide first quarter or full year guidance.
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