Futures moved up about 4 points, then back down into negative territory, as March saw 663,000 jobs lost and an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent, in line with expectations. February was unrevised, but January did see a steep downward revision, from 655,000 jobs lost to 741,000 lost.
Bottom line: we are in that strange universe where in-line horrendous numbers are greeted as good news. This has happened because for six months economic and earnings news has been WORSE than analyst forecasts.
A string of numbers in-line or better than forecast is therefore being greeted with some relief.
1) Like the U.S., the major indices in Europe are at 6-week highs, Hong Kong is at a 3-month high.
2) Bank stocks are trading up mid-single digits, while gold stocks are trading down pre-open.
3) Research in Motion up 27 percent pre-open, surprised the street with 2008 Q4 earnings of $0.90 per share - 6 cents ahead of estimates - propelled by strong sales of its Blackberry devices.
More encouraging was its Q1 outlook, as its earnings, revenues, and margins are expected to be ahead of the street's forecasts.
4) The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) reported a 30 percent plunge in semiconductor sales in February from a year ago. This was the 5th consecutive monthly decline in sales.
More disconcerting is the bleak outlook ahead. SIA President George Scalise warned it was "premature" to declare a bottom in chip sales as "demand for semiconductors is likely to continue well below 2008 levels fro the next few quarters."
5) Reconfirming the weakness in the semiconductor industry, Micron reported a bigger than expected loss on lackluster demand and poor sales for its DRAM (down 30 percent) and NAND flash (down 20 percent) memory products. It was the ninth straight quarterly loss for Micron.
6) A demonstration is planned outside the NYSE today, beginning at 1 PM ET.
There's another one planned for Saturday outside the NYSE, the New York City Pillow Fight 2009 (I kid you not). Check this out for more info.
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