1) Standard & Poor's plays into the hands of the anti-austerity crowd. Could it get worse for Spain? One in four Spaniards are officially out of work, and then there's a two-notch downgrade of Spain by S&P (with negative outlook). Spain's rating of BBB+ is just one notch above high yield.
The reasoning for the downgrade is that is "Spain's budget trajectory will likely deteriorate against a background of economic contraction..."
This of course plays into the hands of those who are fed up with austerity. It does nothing of the sort: S&P continues to push for fiscal restraint. No matter.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is leading the "growth" charge in Europe, but with a "responsible" twist. He knows that calls for growth are mostly just fig leaves for deficit spending: "We agreed that the revival of growth must come through a relentless focus on improving competitiveness and not through higher levels of debt," he said in a joint statement with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. He called for structural reforms instead.
2) Real estate investment trusts (REITs) shine: I have mentioned all this week that many REITs are the new market leaders, led by 3.5 year highs in the MSCI REIT Index. In the last 24 hours, two of the big kahunas in the space, mall giants Simon Property Group and Taubman Centers, both reported stellar earnings.
It's simple: both reported increases in rent and occupancy. For Simon Property , sales per square foot were up 11 percent. Occupancy rates were up 0.6 percent to 93.6 percent. They are building outlets in Brazil and China. And they're raising their dividend 5 percent. The company raised guidance for funds from operations (FFO, the key metric for REITs) for 2012.
For Taubman Centers , FFO was above consensus by several cents. Operating expenses were down (less snow removal due to a warm winter?). Base rents are rising, increasing 2.6 percent sequentially. Tenant sales (sales per square foot) increased 13.3 percent year over year.
3) A better day for earnings elsewhere, with beats from International Paper, Procter & Gamble, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and Ford Motor.