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Thread: US Market News

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    Despite China's might, US factories maintain edge
    By PAUL WISEMAN, AP Economics Writer Paul Wiseman, Ap Economics Writer – Mon Jan 31, 2011
    WASHINGTON – U.S. factories are closing. American manufacturing jobs are reappearing overseas. China's industrial might is growing each year.

    And it might seem as if the United States doesn't make world-class goods as well as some other nations.

    "There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products," President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union policy address last week.

    Yet America remains by far the No. 1 manufacturing country. It out-produces No. 2 China by more than 40 percent. U.S. manufacturers cranked out nearly $1.7 trillion in goods in 2009, according to the United Nations.

    The story of American factories essentially boils down to this: They've managed to make more goods with fewer workers.

    The United States has lost nearly 8 million factory jobs since manufacturing employment peaked at 19.6 million in mid-1979. U.S. manufacturers have placed near the top of world rankings in productivity gains over the past three decades.

    That higher productivity has meant a leaner manufacturing force that's capitalized on efficiency.

    "You can add more capability, but it doesn't mean you necessarily have to hire hundreds of people," says James Vitak, a spokesman for specialty chemical maker Ashland Inc.

    The industry's fortunes are brightening enough that U.S. factories are finally adding jobs after years of shrinking their payrolls. Not a lot. But even a slight increase shows manufacturers are growing more confident. They added 136,000 workers last year — the first net increase since 1997.

    What's changed is that U.S. manufacturers have abandoned products with thin profit margins, like consumer electronics, toys and shoes. They've ceded that sector to China, Indonesia and other emerging nations with low labor costs.

    Instead, American factories have seized upon complex and expensive goods requiring specialized labor: industrial lathes, computer chips, fighter jets, health care products.

    Consider Greatbatch Inc., which makes orthopedics and other medical goods. The company is expanding its manufacturing operations near Fort Wayne, Indiana. Greatbatch wanted to take advantage of a specialized work force in northeastern Indiana, a hub of medical research and manufacturing.

    "When you're talking about medical devices, failure is not an option," CEO Thomas Hook says. "It's a zero-mistake environment. These products are customized and high-tech. They go into patients to keep them alive."

    Hook says the United States offers advantages over poorer, low-wage countries: reliable supplies of electricity and water, decent roads. And some localities support businesses by providing infrastructure and vocational training for potential hires.

    Centerline Machining & Grinding in Hobart, Wisconsin, which makes custom parts for manufacturers in the paper industry, plans to add to its staff of 26. But it's struggling to find the skilled tradesmen it needs for jobs paying $18 to $25 an hour.

    CEO Sara Dietzen laments that local vocational schools cut back training courses in recent years, having concluded that the future for manufacturing was dim. Not from her view it isn't. For her company, output is all about speed.

    "Our average customer wants a turnaround in less than three weeks," Dietzen says. "You're not going to get that in China."

    Still, economist Cliff Waldman of the industry research group Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI doubts that U.S. factories will continue to expand their payrolls in the long run. Manufacturing, he says, is "not a job creator for the U.S., basically."

    Global competition will always force factory managers to try to replace expensive workers with machines or with low-wage labor overseas, Waldman says.

    Mark Perry, a visiting scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, likens the loss of manufacturing jobs to the exodus of workers from farms between the 19th and 20th centuries. If that migration hadn't happened, Perry says, "we'd still have millions of people working in agriculture. Now, we can employ fewer people in factories."

    But the transition can be painful, he concedes.

    The U.S. remains No. 1 in global manufacturing, accounting for 18 percent of global manufacturing output in 2008. But China is catching up. Its share of manufacturing output jumped from about 6 percent in 1998 to 15 percent in 2008.

    Critics have a ready explanation for that: unfair competition.

    Robert Scott of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute says China is cheating in world markets — keeping its currency artificially low to make Chinese products less expensive overseas and unfairly subsidizing its exporters.

    Scott and other critics want to see the Obama administration support U.S. manufacturers by pressuring Beijing to drop the subsidies and let its currency rise freely. A higher-valued Chinese currency would make U.S. exports cheaper for Chinese consumers.

    Centerline CEO Dietzen says she isn't fazed by Chinese manufacturing. Some of her customers have placed orders with Chinese companies, she says, only to return, frustrated, to her company.

    Chinese factories want mainly big orders. And they demand lots of time to fill them.

    Dietzen says her clients are "finding when they get their parts back from China, they're not always what they want. So we end up doing the work anyway."

    "A common misperception," Greatbatch CEO Hook says, is that the United States doesn't make anything anymore.

    The reality is rather different.

    "We need a highly skilled work force," Hook says. "So it's very advantageous to be in a country like the United States where people are educated and ready to be hired."
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110131/...VzcGl0ZWNoaW5h

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    Egypt's economy hurt as travelers avoid the unrest
    By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ, AP Business Writer Scott Mayerowitz, Ap Business Writer – Mon Jan 31, 2011

    NEW YORK – The violence in Egypt is already hurting the country's tourism industry, and in turn, its economy. It's also raising fears that other Middle Eastern countries will suffer as well.

    Many U.S. travelers have canceled trips to Egypt. Some tour operators are avoiding the country, and Delta Air Lines and EgyptAir suspended flights from the U.S. to Cairo. Stock markets in the Middle East fell sharply during the weekend.

    Travelers faced the same question as Rob Solow, who is booked on an Egyptian getaway in February with his wife. "Is it going to be an issue where we are going to have to watch our backs the whole time?"

    The Yorktown Heights, N.Y., couple aren't sure if they'll make the trip. But Solow said he won't be going to the Middle East in the future: "I just think it's a troubled part of the world that's not necessary to visit."

    The timing of the violence and political uncertainty couldn't be worse — winter is the high season for visitors. Large tour operators such as Gate 1 Travel and cruise companies including Norwegian Cruise Line have canceled Egyptian stops. Tours elsewhere in the Middle East haven't been canceled, but travel agents are getting a steady stream of inquiries about the status of planned trips.

    "The ones who haven't booked are holding off and the ones who have are trying to get out of it," says Blake Fleetwood, owner of several Cook Travel businesses around New York.

    Tourism is a major industry in Egypt, a country that struggles with poverty. It accounts for 5 percent to 6 percent of the country's gross domestic product, according to several estimates. Egypt is also often a starting point for people exploring Jordan and parts of Northern Africa.

    Cairo International Airport is the second-largest airport in Africa after Johannesburg, handling roughly 16 million passengers a year. Most of them — 15 million a year — are tourists, according to the Egyptian Tourist Authority in New York.

    Investors were clearly concerned the turmoil could spread. Dubai's major stock market index fell more than 4 percent Sunday, while stocks fell nearly 2 percent in Kuwait and 3 percent in Qatar. Saudi Arabia's main index rose 2.5 percent, but that was a partial recovery from a 6.5 percent drop on Saturday.

    Oil prices spiked 4.3 percent on Friday on fears that the Suez Canal might be closed. Roughly 3,500 oil tankers a year plus thousands of other cargo ships travel through the canal on their way from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the canal was shut down for eight years. A closure today would add 6,000 miles to trips as ships detour around Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Those trips would risk the threat of attack by Somali pirates.

    The region's real economic power player is Dubai, whose airport saw 47.2 million passengers in 2010, according to the Airports Council International. Government-backed Emirates Airlines has also turned Dubai into the region's cargo hub and FedEx bases it Middle East operations there.

    "To affect the (tourism) industry globally, unrest would need to spread to places like Dubai, which is a major port and air hub. This looks very unlikely," says Ann Wyman, head of emerging market research at investment bank Nomura in London.

    Still, Egypt's problems follow political strife in Lebanon, Yemen, and earlier this month, Tunisia. That has led to a general wariness about the region.

    Airlines from Arab states lining the Persian Gulf were still flying in and out of Cairo. Some have had to rearrange their schedules due to the unrest and curfews put in place by Egyptian authorities. The Mideast's biggest airline, Emirates, advised passengers to "reconsider nonessential travel" but said it was operating on schedule from its Dubai hub.

    John Strickland, a London-based aviation consultant, said the turmoil's effect on the region's airline industry is yet to be determined. EgyptAir is likely to suffer most, and Gulf carriers could also face trouble, he said. But Strickland said Emirates in particular has shown it can bounce back following challenges including the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

    It is not clear how long tourists and businesses might avoid the Middle East, and therefore, how much of an impact the situation in Egypt will have on other countries in the area. Jordanian economist Hani Horani said: "Foreign tourists look at the Middle East as one entity and they will avoid traveling to an area they consider unstable."

    Tourism accounts for 14 percent of Jordan's GDP. Horani thinks its trade with its neighbor Egypt "will be negatively affected by the turmoil," he said.

    Tourism in the Middle East has recovered after wars and unrest in the past. Egypt has had a number of terrorist acts aimed at tourists. A 1997 attack killed 62 people, including 58 tourists at ruins in Luxor's Valley of the Kings. But the violence hasn't deterred visitors from coming to see the pyramids, cruise the Nile River and tour Cairo's markets.

    Lebanon's recent political turmoil is likely to scare off Western travelers. But the Lebanese capital, Beirut, has repeatedly proven repeatedly its resilience, emerging from civil war and conflict with Israel to rebuild and live up to its image as the "Switzerland of the Middle East" — a reference to the snow-capped mountains as well as its banking laws.

    "People's memories are surprisingly short," says Janet Moore, owner of Distant Horizons, a Long Beach, Calif., travel agency specializing in the Middle East.

    For now, though, many Americans are staying away. Moore predicts that 80 percent of her customers who have already booked trips to Egypt will try to cancel. And she doesn't expect any calls for new bookings during the next six months. Moore expects travel to the rest of the region, including Israel and Lebanon, to be hurt too.

    "People will fear that the whole region will be falling apart," Moore says. "I think the next year is going to be a quiet one."

    Not everybody is so worried. Malaka Hilton owns Admiral Travel International in Sarasota, Fla., specializing in Egypt. The biggest concern for her clients: a government curfew from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., essentially trapping tourists in hotels.

    One of those clients, Robert Kendis, 67, and his wife Hilary, 55, have been planning a three-week trip to Egypt since May. The Cleveland couple is supposed to fly to Cairo Tuesday but Delta has indefinitely suspended flights. If flights resume, the couple is going.

    "This is not a civil war. This is a civil protest concerning their government," says Robert Kendis, an attorney. "It's not like they are shooting at each other. It's not like what you would see in Afghanistan or Iraq."

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110131/...B0c2Vjb25vbQ--

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    Instant View: Consumer spending rises 0.7 percent in Dec
    – Mon Jan 31, 2011
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. consumer spending rose more than expected in December to post the sixth straight month of gains as households drew down on their savings to fund purchases, government data showed on Monday.

    KEY POINTS: * The Commerce Department said spending increased 0.7 percent after rising by 0.3 percent in November. * Economists polled by Reuters had expected spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, to increase 0.5 percent last month. * The report also showed the Federal Reserve's preferred measure of consumer inflation -- the personal consumption expenditures price index, excluding food and energy -- was unchanged in December after edging up 0.1 percent in November. * In the 12 months through December, the core PCE index rose 0.7 percent, the smallest increase since records began in 1959, after increasing 0.8 percent in November.

    COMMENTS:

    CARY LEAHEY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SENIOR ECONOMIST AT DECISION ECONOMICS, NEW YORK:

    "The personal income numbers are okay. There was a decent gain in wage and salaries in December. The savings rate appears to have dropped a bit which helped Christmas store sales. Going forward it seems the anecdotal evidence suggests better job growth in the first half of this year and at the same time there will be a $120 billion tax cut in the form of that 2 percent payroll tax reduction that was enacted last December. That was the major reason why people upped their growth forecasts for this year in December. The outlook is pretty good, but we have to mind the huge gap between GDP growth and the unemployment rate and it will take a very, very long time for the unemployment rate to catch up."

    ANTHONY KARYDAKIS, SENIOR U.S. ECONOMIST, COMMERZBANK AG, NEW YORK:

    "We had a slightly bigger-than-expected rise in consumption. On the face of it, we could see an upward revision to Q4 GDP, but there are still other missing pieces like exports/imports and business inventories so that may be up for grabs.

    "What is happening with income points to an upward momentum in consumption and labor conditions.

    "We are on the verge of a significant upswing in U.S. economic activity in the coming months. We are looking at an economy that will have a materially better year than last year."

    MICHELLE MEYER, SENIOR ECONOMIST, BANK OF AMERICA MERRILL LYNCH, NEW YORK:

    "The spending was quite strong. To me, the question is what is spending is going do in the beginning of the year. It is probably going to slow down. The year-end increase was not off fundamentals because the jobs market while improving is not great; retailers were offering a lot of discounts and credit conditions are still relatively tight. Perhaps part of this gain is pulling consumption from the beginning of this year.

    "The PCE was the biggest surprise. The core number is flat four out of the last six months. With the year-over-year core PCE at 0.7 percent, it's an uncomfortable level for the Fed. The Fed will prone to be more accommodative than restrictive. It will complete QE2 and keep policy easy this year and into most of next year."

    LIAM DALTON, PRESIDENT OF AXIOM CAPITAL MANAGEMENT INC IN NEW YORK, WHICH OVERSEES ABOUT $1.4 BILLION:

    "The numbers were so in line that they won't have a dominant force on trading today, and you can see that they haven't moved the market, and they won't with so much else going on. We're paying attention to earnings, and then Egypt is a classic out-of-the-blue thing. That has caught a lot of market participants on the wrong foot. We've had a big uptrend since we bottomed last year, and this may contribute to the first break we've had since then. Right now it looks like we've sort of got our bearings on the situation, but if it continues and it disrupts crude or something, that could be another story."

    DAVID SLOAN, ECONOMIST, IFR ECONOMICS, A UNIT OF THOMSON REUTERS:

    "The December personal income and spending report confirmed the Q4 totals seen with the GDP report, showing spending outpacing income. The main news may be the y/y core PCE price index in falling to a new record low of 0.7 percent, highlighting core inflationary pressures remain below levels the Fed would like to see."

    MARKET REACTION: STOCKS: U.S. stock index futures hold earlier gains. BONDS: U.S. Treasury bond prices hold steady at lower levels. FOREX: The dollar holds steady at lower levels versus the euro.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110131/...RhbnR2aWV3Yw--

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    Technology cos. commit funds to Obama program
    – Mon Jan 31, 2011
    NEW YORK – Three of the nation's biggest technology companies are committing hundreds of millions of dollars to an initiative backed by President Barack Obama to encourage job creation and economic growth by supporting small businesses.

    The program, called the Startup America Partnership, is aimed at helping entrepreneurs start businesses and help them grow. In his State of the Union address last week, the president encouraged such efforts to stimulate the economy.

    Intel Corp. said Monday it is giving $200 million to the campaign, while IBM Corp. is investing $150 million. Hewlett-Packard Co. is also participating, but did not disclose if it was committing funds to the partnership. A Hewlett-Packard representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

    IBM said its funds will be used in part to help mentor start-up companies, support software developers and expand mentorship programs.

    Startup America is an independent private-sector alliance, working with the White House to support entrepreneurial businesses.

    It will be chaired by Revolution LLC CEO and AOL Inc. co-founder Steve Case, whose Case Foundation along with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation will provide launch funding for the partnership.

    The White House is making an effort to move away from the heavy government spending that it relied on to pull the economy out of recession to a business-friendly strategy to make the U.S. more competitive in the global marketplace.

    The week, Obama will discuss innovation with technology business leaders on Tuesday.

    Kauffman Foundation CEO Carl Schramm will be one of Startup America's founding board members.

    "This partnership will bring together partners from across the private, public and non-profit sectors, working together toward a common goal: supporting the entrepreneurs who are the lifeblood of our economy," Schramm said in a statement.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110131/...hub2xvZ3ljbw--

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    Factory, spending data support strong growth tone
    – Mon Jan 31, 2011
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A measure of factory activity in the U.S. Midwest rose to a 22-1/2 year high in January on strong orders and employment prospects, bolstering hopes the economy would stay on a solid growth path this year.

    A second report on Monday showed consumer spending ended 2010 on a firmer footing, a trend that economists expected to continue as the labor market recovery gains traction.

    The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago business barometer rose to 68.8 in January, the highest level since July 1988, from 66.8 in December. Economists had expected the index, which gives a first look at the manufacturing sector, to slip to 65.0.

    A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the regional economy. The index was this month lifted by jump in measures for new orders and employment.

    "The factory sector news is an important positive omen for the broader economy, because increased production will yield significant income generation, which in turn will fuel stronger household consumption," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities in New York.

    In a separate report, the Commerce Department said spending increased 0.7 percent in December, advancing for a sixth straight month, after rising by 0.3 percent in November.

    Economists had expected spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, to increase 0.5 percent last month.

    The spending figures were included in the government's fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) report released on Friday, which showed the economy grew at a 3.2 percent pace on the back of robust consumer spending.

    Spending in the fourth quarter grew at a brisk 4.4 percent pace, the fastest in more than four years. While economists see spending remaining strong this year, they expect the pace of growth to be less brisk than in the last three months of 2010.

    "While we doubt that the pace seen in the fourth quarter will persist in 2011, further labor market recovery and a gradual rebound in labor income should underpin solid and sustained consumption growth," said Peter Newland, an economist at Barclays Capital in New York.

    Spending in December came as incomes increased 0.4 percent and savings dropped to their lowest level since March. Incomes grew 0.4 percent in November and the increase last month was in line with economists' expectations. Savings fell to $614.1 billion from $634.4 billion in November.

    The report also showed the Federal Reserve's preferred measure of consumer inflation -- the personal consumption expenditures price index, excluding food and energy -- was unchanged in December after edging up 0.1 percent in November.

    In the 12 months through December, the core PCE index rose 0.7 percent, the smallest increase since records began in 1959, after increasing 0.8 percent in November.

    (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani and Ann Saphir in Chicago; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110131/...NlbWJlcmNvbnM-

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    Exxon profit up, tops Street on taxes and output
    – Mon Jan 31, 2011


    HOUSTON (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) reported a better-than-expected 53 percent increase in quarterly profit, helped by a lower tax rate and a surge in natural gas production in the United States and Qatar.

    Exxon, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, also saw its results lifted by higher profits in its chemicals and refining units. A recovering global economy has sparked a bigger appetite for chemicals and fuels including diesel and gasoline.

    Oil demand rose last year and the U.S. government expects

    another 1.5 percent gain this year.

    Exxon's exploration and production results were also lifted by higher oil prices, which climbed 12 percent from a year earlier to average around $85 per barrel in the fourth quarter.

    Still, the company's bottom line was also helped by lower taxes, an analyst said.

    "A lot of the beat looks like it was on a lower effective tax rate," Phil Weiss, oil analyst at Argus Research said on Monday. "Production was really strong, but the beat really was on gas, which is not as profitable as liquids.

    Weiss had expected a tax rate of 46 percent, but said the company's actual fourth-quarter rate was about 38 percent.

    Exxon's purchase of U.S. gas producer XTO Energy Inc in June has been a drag on the company's shares. But the rally in oil prices has helped the stock in recent months. Shares of Exxon are trading around the highest level in about two years.

    (For a graphic on Exxon share price vs. crude oil, click

    http://r.reuters.com/nun77r)

    Exxon, based in Irving, Texas, reported a fourth-quarter profit of $9.25 billion, or $1.85 per share, compared with $6.05 billion, or $1.27 per share in the same quarter a year earlier.

    Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.63 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

    Oil-equivalent production rose 19 percent from the year-ago quarter, lifted by liquefied natural gas operations in Qatar, the company said.

    "Exxon has such big exposure to refining and chemicals that they really benefit when the economy gets better," Allen Good, oil analyst at Morningstar, said. "And their production was huge, driven by volumes from Qatar and the XTO acquisition."

    Earnings in Exxon's exploration and production unit climbed 29 percent from the year-earlier quarter to $7.48 billion while chemical earnings soared 49 percent to $1.07 billion. Refining profit rose sharply to $1.15 billion from $189 million a year ago.

    Revenue soared to $105.2 billion from $89.8 billion a year earlier.

    For the year, Exxon said its capital expenditures were a record $32.2 billion and the company spent $5 billion to buy back its shares in the fourth quarter.

    Shares of Exxon rose about 1 percent, or 69 cents, to $79.68 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares have risen 17 percent so far this year. That compares with a 16 percent increase in the CBOE index of oil companies.

    (Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston, editing by Dave Zimmerman)
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110131/...9ucHJvZml0dQ--

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    Jackson Hewitt sues H&R Block over ads
    By Jonathan Stempel– Mon Jan 31, 2011


    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc sued H&R Block Inc to stop a new advertising campaign that it said misleads customers about tax refund loans and disparages Jackson Hewitt's competence.

    The lawsuit comes on the eve of the main U.S. tax filing season, a crucial period for the largest U.S. tax preparation companies because the February-to-April quarter generates the bulk of their annual revenue and profit.

    H&R Block did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.

    According to the complaint, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, both companies provide "refund anticipation loans" to taxpayers who want access to expected refunds within eight to 15 days, in exchange for a fee.

    Jackson Hewitt said that unlike its larger rival, it also offers taxpayers access to as much as $1,500 within one day.

    Last month, H&R Block suffered a setback when the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ordered a partner, HSBC Holdings Plc, to stop making tax refund loans to H&R Block customers.

    To negate its disadvantage, according to the complaint, H&R Block is falsely claiming that its "Second Look Review" service found that two-thirds of prior tax returns prepared by Jackson Hewitt contained mistakes.

    "H&R Block's 2 out of 3 claim necessarily implies the false claim that two out of three Jackson Hewitt customers who are entitled to refunds have been short-changed due to Jackson Hewitt errors or incompetence," the complaint said.

    Jackson Hewitt also said H&R Block gives its agents a script designed to deceive them about its loan service.

    Saying the ad campaign is causing "irreparable harm," Jackson Hewitt is seeking to halt the alleged improper ads. It is also seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

    Jackson Hewitt said it prepared 2.53 million U.S. tax returns in 2010 H&R Block prepared 20.1 million U.S. returns in its 2010 fiscal year. H&R Block is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and Jackson Hewitt in Parsippany, New Jersey.

    In morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Jackson Hewitt shares rose 1 cent to $1.58, and H&R Block shares fell 3 cents to $12.47.

    The lawsuit is Jackson Hewitt Inc v. H&R Block Tax Services LLC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-00641.

    (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and John Wallace)

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110131/...tzb25oZXdpdA--

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    Treasury prices dip in profit taking from Friday's gains


    By Chris Reese

    NEW YORK | Mon Jan 31, 2011

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Treasuries eased on Monday as investors took profits after bonds rallied late last week on concerns political unrest in Egypt could spread to other parts of the Middle East.

    Investors took back a portion of Friday's price gains even though protests continued in Egypt, calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

    Treasuries were also undermined on Monday by data showing consumer spending rose by more than expected in December and that consumer inflation was tame. Stronger-than-expected growth in U.S. Midwest business activity in January also provided no support for Treasuries.

    Losses were limited however as the Federal Reserve on Monday morning was buying $6 billion to $8 billion of Treasuries maturing between August 2013 and December 2014 as part of a program to lower interest rates and prop up the economy.

    "Mostly we are seeing some profit-taking after Friday's safe-haven rally, although there are still a lot of concerns about the instability in Egypt," said Kim Rupert, managing director of global fixed income analysis at Action Economics LLC in San Francisco, who noted however that benchmark yields remain well contained in a range that has held since mid-December.

    Benchmark 10-year notes were trading 3/32 lower in price to yield 3.34 percent up slightly from 3.33 percent late Friday. Yields have hovered between 3.25 percent and 3.51 percent since mid-December.

    That range was expected to continue holding, even though this week contains some potentially volatile events for the Treasuries market, including January non-farm payrolls data on Friday and a speech on the economic outlook from Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday.

    "There is a lot of data this week and a ton of stuff going on, but by and large we are likely to stay fairly range bound unless Egypt completely erupts," Rupert said.

    The week began with data from the Commerce Department showing U.S. consumer spending rose 0.7 percent in December from a 0.3 percent rise in November, while one of the Fed's favorite measures of inflation -- the personal consumption expenditures price index, excluding food and energy -- was unchanged last month after edging up 0.1 percent in November.

    Business activity in the U.S. Midwest grew more than expected in January, buoyed by an increase in orders and a stronger employment picture, the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said. Its business barometer rose to 68.8 in January, The reading was 66.8 in December, and economists had forecast a January reading of 65.0.

    "Treasuries are trading slightly lower on the day, but have firmed modestly in the wake of the number -- presumably owing to the (Fed) buyback," said Ian Lyngen, senior government bond strategist at CRT Capital Group in Stamford, Connecticut.

    Two-year Treasury notes were trading unchanged in price to yield 0.56 percent, while 30-year bonds were 9/32 lower in price to yield 4.55 percent, up from 4.53 percent late Friday.

    "This market made a big move on Friday and one would expect some consolidation before the next move -- that is happening now and if things get worse in Egypt, Treasury bonds will likely make another run up in price and down in yield," said Kevin Giddis, managing director of fixed income at Morgan Keegan in Memphis, Tennessee.
    (Reporting by Chris Reese; Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio)
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/...70U43F20110131

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    Investors see pick up for U.S. recovery


    By Jennifer Ablan

    NEW YORK | Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:08am EST

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. fund managers slightly lowered their exposure to stocks in January, a Reuters poll showed on Monday, but a pick-up in the U.S. economic recovery kept sentiment buoyant.

    Changes in the sample of the poll also masked what was effectively a slight increase in stock exposure.

    Based on 13 U.S.-based fund management firms that were surveyed from January 17 to 27 and had also responded to a survey in December, funds held 65.31 percent of their assets in equities, compared with 65.05 percent a month earlier.

    Most of this month's poll results were taken before the anti-government rioting in Egypt.

    Including a 14th firm that responded to the January survey but which had not been included in the December survey, the overall group's direction showed a dip in U.S. equities allocation to 64.1 percent.

    "I think the next two to three weeks, the crisis in Egypt and potentially across the Middle East might be an excuse for a big sell-off of 5 percent to 10 percent," Keith Wirtz, president and chief investment officer at Fifth Third Asset Management in Cincinnati, Ohio, told Reuters on Friday.

    U.S. stock markets had been in rally mode since December -- with the Dow Jones Industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500-stock indexes this week closing in on psychologically key levels of 12,000 and 1,300, respectively.

    The markets have been buoyed by relatively attractive valuations, improving economic indicators and expectations for double-digit growth in corporate earnings this year. Wall Street hit a 29-month high on January 27 before slumping a day later on the unrest in Egypt.

    The Reuters poll also showed money managers scaling back their exposure to bonds for a fifth consecutive month.

    Fifth Third's Wirtz said he intends to keep his high allocation to U.S. equities, remarking: "This is a good year for stocks given the fundamental conditions. They are so strong."

    The Federal Reserve's renewed commitment last week to buy $600 billion in government bonds and keep interest rates at ultra-low levels have emboldened risk-taking, he added. Wirtz said he believes U.S. gross domestic product growth will be at least 3 percent-plus in 2011.

    David Joy, chief market strategist at Columbia Management, spoke along similar lines. "It is too early to judge how far these events (in Egypt) are likely to go, and what might be their longer-term economic and political impact. It is therefore, in my opinion, premature to effect any meaningful changes to one's asset allocations."

    "Clearly, these events need to be monitored for their potential to intensify and spread further in the region," Joy added.

    The poll showed the 13 managers decreasing bond holdings to an average of 27.18 percent in January, from 27.91 percent in December. The poll participants also dropped their cash allocations to 2.68 percent this month, from 2.75 percent in December.

    (Polling by Bangalore Polling Unit; Editing by Leslie Adler)
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/...70U38920110131

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    Inflation data boosts euro, Egypt fears ease a bit


    By Steven C. Johnson

    NEW YORK | Mon Jan 31, 2011

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - A jump in euro zone inflation lifted the euro above $1.37 on Monday and bolstered the view interest rates in the region could rise more quickly than in the United States and other advanced economies.

    That helped the euro reverse the losses it suffered on Friday as unrest in Egypt drove up oil prices and sparked a safe-haven bid for dollars and Swiss francs.

    Asian central banks and some Middle East accounts were among the most active euro buyers, traders said, and some said the euro could renew a march toward $1.40 in the weeks ahead, provided trouble in Egypt does not spread to other countries.

    Brad Bechtel, managing director at FX execution firm Faros Trading in Stamford, Connecticut, said inflation expectations and month-end buying could drive the euro to $1.3750, adding "$1.40 is still on the cards" if Egypt tensions die down.

    While protesters filled the streets of Cairo for a seventh straight day, investors seemed to take heart that violence and disorder had at least not worsened.

    "After Friday, people anticipated coming in to chaos and anarchy in Egypt. When that didn't happen, a lot of shorts were caught wrong-footed," said Boris Schlossberg, director of research at GFT Forex.

    The euro rose as high as $1.3739 and was last up 0.6 percent at $1.3700. Overnight, $1.3570, the 50 percent retracement of its November-to-January decline, acted as support, bringing in buyers from Asia and the Middle East.

    Sterling jumped 1 percent to $1.6014, lifted by euro gains in a reverse of Friday's losses. The euro also rose against the Swiss franc and yen. The dollar was down 0.2 percent at 81.96 yen.

    Weekend reports that the European Union was working on a solution to reduce Greece's debt burden also helped boost the euro, traders said.

    Schlossberg, however, said the potential for more unrest in Egypt will make it "a tough slog" for the euro to break $1.40 or sterling to rise to $1.62 in the near term.

    Crude oil, reflecting uncertainty about events in Egypt, swung between gains and losses in New York before pushing above $90 per barrel in late morning. It was some 4 percent above Friday's low.

    INFLATION, EGYPT AND FED POLICY

    Data showing euro zone inflation rose 2.4 percent in the year to January, above the European Central Bank's 2 percent target, boosted the view the ECB could hike rates sooner than the Federal Reserve. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet has already warned about price pressures and is due to speak Thursday after the ECB's monthly meeting.

    The three-month Euribor rate, a mix of interest rate expectations and banks' lending appetite, rose to 1.074 percent, the highest since July 2009.

    Citing a high U.S. jobless rate, the Fed has made it clear it is not close to raising U.S. interest rates from near zero, even as U.S. economic data has shown signs of improvement.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/...70A27320110131

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