I was talking with one of the traders at the NYSE Commissary this morning, and we agreed that last year's fourth quarter was like dying by being thrown out of a plane: it was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
This year is like dying of consumption: it's slow, and there's days where the death is absolutely....boring.
That was yesterday.
Dying of consumption, and no one cared: traders huddled around the monitors to watch CNBC's coverage of Bernie Madoff driving around midtown while the markets remained at the lows of the day...all day.
1) The good news about JP Morgan (up 4 percent pre-open) is that the earnings number was positive, far better than many expected. Deposits grew 4 percent, assets under management dropped just 2 percent, net interest margin (the difference between what you're lending and what your paying out in deposits) increased 55 basis points to 3.28 percent.
More good news: Dimon says he is comfortable with the dividend, currently $0.38 a quarter with a yield of 5.9 percent.
The bad news is: a) much of the earnings came from a gain on the Washington Mutual deal, b) there was a big build in reserves, c) $2.9 billion of write-downs on leverage lending/mortgage exposures and private equity write-downs of $700 million, and d) the outlook is ugly: credit is getting worse and investment banking will continue to see lower earnings.
UBS summarized the general feeling on the Street: "While outlook is weak, it's been well telegraphed & we think results should be good enough to stabilize JPM for now post recent drop in the stock."
2) Reports that Bank of America may get another infusion of TARP money to cover greater than expected losses at Merril Lynch was another demoralizing note for the Street, which already is full of conspiracy theories that the government is running the banks behind the scenes.
Mike O'Rourke at BTIG summarized the Street's feelings: "for Treasury to cut another check to a bank appears futile...the investment community wants to see the balance sheets of financial institutions begin to start moving merchandise and shrink."
3) Lawn mower engine maker Briggs & Stratton beat estimates, and guidance was right in line with expectations; stock trading up 12 percent on light volume.
4) How lousy are things in retail land? Last night Standard and Poors announced that Pacific Sunwear was being removed from the S&P Midcap Index. Why? Well, the stock has gone from $10 to $1.12 in the last eight months, and now has a market capitalization of only $73 million. That's not even a small-cap stock, that's a microcap. It will be replaced by Landstar System , with a still-small cap of $1.7 billion.
5) There's been a lot of complaints overnight that the Board of Apple should have been more aggressive in pushing Steve Jobs to disclose more information on his health, and that Jobs may have successfully intimidated them into saying nothing.
Who's on the board of Apple? Al Gore, Eric Schmidt (Google CEO) , Mickey Drexler (J Crew CEO) , Bill Campbell (Chairman of Intuit) , Andrea Jung (Avon CEO) , Dr. Arthur Levinson (Genentech CEO), and Jerry York (Harwinton Capital CEO) .
Not exactly a bunch of shrinking violets.
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