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What's Moving The Futures

Once again, a nugget of economic news came in better than expected: February durable goods came in up 3.4 percent, stronger than the decline of 2.5 percent expected. It was the first reading that wasn't negative since September, although January numbers were revised downward.

Futures moved up a few points.

Several economic stats, including existing home sales, housing starts, Philly Fed, and retail sales have come in stronger than expected recently.

Bank stocks trading up mid single-digits, commodity stocks down mid single-digits.

Elsewhere:

1) A failed auction of bonds? The UK apparently did not have a successful auction of 40-year gilts, with a bid-to-coverage ratio of 0.93. That means there was not enough bids to buy all the gilts offered. The spin is that once you adopt a policy of quantitative easing, investors are concerned that the resulting inflation will destroy the value of long-term bonds.

Today begins the Fed's buyback of Treasuries.

2) Ken Lewis told the LA Times he wanted to begin paying back the $45 billion in TARP money his firm received NEXT MONTH, following the completion of the stress test, and that he could possibly repay the whole amount by the fourth quarter of 2009.

Good and bad news on the Fed's program to buy MBS. The good news: it's lowering mortgage rates. The Mortgage Bankers Association said the average 30 yr mortgage rate fell another 26 bps to 4.63%, the lowest in at least 20 years. Mortgage refis rose 41.5 percent.

Now, the bad news: mortgage applications to buy homes rose a measly 4.2 percent.

3) Earnings estimates for the second half of the year are still coming down. This morning JP Morgan cut its 2009 and 2010 estimates for the S&P 500, to $57 a share from $65, citing further decline in profits from industrials, technology, energy and materials.

4) Blockbuster up about 15 percent announced a deal to deliver movies directly to viewers through TiVO.

5) Greek dry bulk shipper DryShips reported earnings below expectations, hurt by contract termination fees.

6) American Express downgraded from JP Morgan on concerns that consumers might spend less money (duh).

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