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Germany Cut to Negative by Moody's
Germany Cut to Negative by Moody's

Late Monday, Moody's Investors Service cut its outlook on Germany’s triple-A credit rating to negative from stable as well as, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, leaving only Finland with a stable outlook. “Moody’s now has negative outlooks on those Aaa-rated euro-area sovereigns whose balance sheets are expected to bear the main financial burden of support — whether because of the need to expand the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) or the need to develop more ad hoc forms of liquidity support,” the ratings firm said. Strategists warned yield-hungry investors that they may be pushing their luck by piling into core euro-zone government bonds as well as longer-dated German bunds. The renewed threat of a Greek exit from the euro zone along with rising fears that Spain will be forced to seek a full-fledged bailout, have fueled haven-related flows into German and other core European government bonds in recent weeks. In early July, the European Central Bank’s decision to cut the rate it pays on overnight deposits to zero from 0.25% have also fueled flows into those markets. Germany, France, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands and have all seen negative yields on short-term bills. Spain’s 10-year yield is pushing well above the 7% level that many economists fear could force the country to seek a bailout unless brought down quickly. The euro-zone 'semi-core' - French, Austrian and Belgian long-term bonds, have outperformed Germany, narrowing yield spreads versus bunds to levels seen last summer before the debt crisis intensified in the autumn. While Moody's said it does not see a Greek exit as its 'base case', the threat has increased. “Although Moody’s would expect a strong policy response from the euro area in such an event, it would still set off a chain of financial-sector shocks and associated liquidity pressures for sovereigns and banks that policy makers could only contain at a very high cost,” the ratings firm said. Moody’s said if they failed, the result would be a gradual unwinding of the currency union with a “profoundly negative” impact on all euro-zone members. Even without an exit, the liabilities taken on by the strongest euro-zone countries are rising due to foot dragging by policy makers or what Moody’s termed a 'continued reactive and gradualist policy response'. “Moody’s view remains that this approach will not produce a stable outcome, and will very likely be associated with a series of shocks, which are likely to rise in magnitude the longer the crisis persists,” the firm said. Moody’s warned that the continued deterioration of the situation surrounding Spain and Italy increases the risk that the countries will need external help. Additionally, Moody’s warned that Germany is vulnerable due to its banking system’s sizable exposures to the most distressed countries in the euro zone, particularly Italy and Spain. German banks are particularly vulnerable to a further deepening of the crisis as they have a combined limited capacity to absorb losses and structurally weak earnings.

According to a survey released Tuesday, growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector slowed in July to the second-weakest level since the country emerged from recession. The Markit flash U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers index dropped to 51.8 from 52.5 in June, striking the worst level seen since December 2010 and second-worst seen since late 2009. Readings above 50 indicate an improvement from the prior month. The Markit flash index is based on 85% to 90% of typical monthly responses and released about a week ahead of the final data. The output index dropped to 52.2 from 53.4 in June, and the new-orders index fell to 51.9 from 53.7, with the new-export orders staying in contraction territory at 48.2 from 48.3. Employment moved ever so slightly higher to 52.9 from a 52.8 reading. “The U.S. manufacturing sector is clearly struggling under the pressure from falling exports, which showed the first back-to-back monthly decline for almost three years in July,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, in a statement. Much of the export weakness stems from the euro-zone debt crisis and slowing activity in China.Markit reported that euro-zone manufacturing PMI dropped to 44.1 in July from 45.1 in June, which marks the worst level in more than three years, and that the HSBC Chinese manufacturing PMI edged up to 49.5 from 48.2 in June.

Richmond Fed reported its manufacturing index for the central Atlantic region tumbled to a -17 reading from -1 in June. That index, designed so that readings above zero indicate growth, was hurt by deeply negative readings for shipments and new orders. The shipments index plunged to -23 from zero in June, and the new-orders index dropped to -25 from -7.

When an accomplished 'fixer' like Pascal Lamy, the head of the World Trade Organization and the longtime chief of staff for former European Commission President Jacques Delors, describes the situation in Europe as “difficult, very difficult, very difficult, very difficult,” you know it is time to run for cover. The financial volatility in Europe may have created a situation that is now beyond the capacity of policy makers to curb or control. The European crisis has gone well beyond the prospect of breaking up the euro (EURUSD) and the threat is now that of a full-fledged financial and economic collapse in Europe that could plunge the world into a second Great Depression. During the depression of the 1930's, the worldwide banking crisis started by cascading bank failures in Austria and Germany as one of the major causes of that Depression. In the summer of 1931 the collapse of Creditanstalt in Vienna forced one of Germany’s big banks, Danatbank, to fail, leading to a credit crisis that prompted bank holidays around the world and exacerbating an already severe economic crisis. German banks are notoriously undercapitalized, poorly supervised and have created a number of mini-crises in the past few decades since the collapse of the Herstatt Bank in 1974. The latest austerity measures in Spain which were approved by the national Parliament last week, even as the economy continues to contract, has led to new riots in the streets, pushing the yields on Spanish bonds above the 7% level deemed manageable, and increasing the likelihood of contagion to Italy. German Economics Minister Philipp Roesler said the possibility of a Greek exit from the euro has 'lost its horror'. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble says Greece must try harder to meet its austerity commitments. The problem is the growing possibility of defaults in Spain and Italy that will lead to bank failures across the continent and incalculable consequences. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been relatively timid in recent months, keeping his distance from the European crisis and failing to make a convincing case for the Fed’s inaction in following its own mandate to promote employment in the U.S. The worst may still be averted but the challenge of the crisis in Europe is indeed very, very, very difficult, and it is hard to see at this point where salvation could come from.

Baidu Inc. (BIDU) U.S. listed shares were higher by 7% into late afternoon trading after posting 70% surge in Q2 earnings, Tuesday morning. BIDU revenue jumped 60% during the period, narrowly beating analysts' expectations for the period. Trading volume was almost 4x normal trading average.

Carl Icahn said he believes "Forest Labs (FRX) is in crisis." In a letter to Forest Labs board, Icahn wrote another harshly worded letter despairing the company's prospects, the latest move in a long-running battle between the drug maker and the billionaire investor. Icahn said the company is unprepared for the upcoming patent cliff for Alzheimer's drug Namenda, which could be 'devastating' for the company, and was 'completely unprepared for the Lexapro patent cliff'. Icahn added that Chief Executive Howard Solomon will be 'wrong again about his currently optimistic view of the company's pipeline', noting that Forest's new pipeline drugs have missed guidance eight out of 11 times in the past four years. "I strongly believe that this current crisis is the direct result of strategic flaws that have caused a lack of focus and cost inefficiency. At the core of these strategic flaws is the board's decision to allow David Solomon, Howard Solomon's son, to be unduly given so much responsibility over such a critical area as strategic planning," Mr. Icahn said. He urged shareholders to vote in favor of his four board nominees. In June, the scuttle between Forest Labs and Mr. Icahn was revived when Icahn nominated four candidates to Forest's 10-member board and said he was seeking records of the company's actions. Forest said Mr. Icahn's nominees have "significant and obvious conflicts and entanglements that compromise their independence and ability to represent all Forest shareholders." Last week, Mr. Icahn fired back at Forest, saying that he doesn't believe this board has "the slightest grasp over what constitutes a conflict." In the past, Icahn has pointed to companies that improved after his nominees were on their boards - for example - Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. (AMLN) and Biogen Idec Inc. (BIIB). Forest recently reported fiscal Q1 earnings that fell 79% as the pharmaceutical company was hit by sharply lower sales of Lexapro, its antidepressant, which masked growth from some of its other drugs. Last month, Forest Labs reduced its fiscal-year earnings guidance because of lower-than-expected branded Lexapro sales and more-aggressive pricing for the authorized generic version of the antidepressant following the March loss of the drug's patent exclusivity.

Shares of Sarepta Therapeutics (SRPT) share price rocketed higher by 149% into late day trading today after the biotech group released positive Phase IIb clinical results for its drug candidate eteplirsen. Sarepta is testing to see if the drug can slow the progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
 

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July 24, 2012


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