UBS’s Take on the World Economy

In a recent conference call with clients, UBS’s chief economist and head of asset allocation, said that their targets for growth in the global economy have been revised downward.  UBS is now expecting 3.6% growth in 2008 and 3.8% growth in 2009.  Specifically, the U.S. is projected to grow at only 0.8% this year down from a standing estimate of 2.1%, while growth in Asia is expected to grow at 7.8% and growth in euro-based countries should grow 1.3%.
 
The dollar is expected to remain weak against emerging currencies, with the euro peaking at around $1.50 and giving up some gains to about $1.40 in the back half of this year.
 
Financials kicked off the current market volatility in the U.S. and elsewhere, and while there have been some significant write-downs thus far, UBS believes that a second and third leg of write-downs are still to come, possibly from credit card issuers and for corporate bonds.
 
What does this mean for global stock markets?  UBS currently likes U.S. equities, especially relative to European equities, believing that expanding profit margins will be one catalyst for enhanced market valuations.

 

Laurie Berman, Senior Vice President, lberman@pondel.com
 
 

NYSE Euronext to Acquire AMEX

NYSE Euronext, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, announced that it has entered into an agreement to purchase the American Stock Exchange (Amex) for $260 million in NYSE Euronext stock.  As part of the transaction, current Amex members will be entitled to receive additional shares of NYSE Euronext common stock based on the net proceeds from the expected sale of Amex’s lower Manhattan headquarters.
 
The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2008.  No word yet on what impact, if any, the merger will have on Amex listed companies.

 

Laurie Berman, Senior Vice President, lberman@pondel.com
 
 

Fed Head Acknowledges Risk

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke told the Women in Housing and Finance and Exchequer Club today that the U.S. Central bank is prepared to act aggressively to help stem problems caused by the recent housing slump and strains on the credit markets that are putting economic growth at risk.
 
Many analysts who fear that the United States is headed for a recession, reacted positively to the Fed chairman’s remarks and his public acknowledgement that the economy may indeed be in trouble.
 
Bernanke commented that policy makers are now more worried about sustaining economic growth than they are about inflation and pointed to rising oil prices, lower stock prices and falling home values as drivers for hurting consumer spending over the next year.
 
The Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed’s policy setting body, will hold a two-day meeting January 29-30.  Bernanke’s comments today reinforced expectations that rates will be cut by a half percentage point.

 

Laurie Berman, Senior Vice President, lberman@pondel.com
 
 

A Little Optimism for ’08

It never hurts to express a little optimism for what could be in 2008.  And the Wall Street Journal did just that this morning with a list of why investors should feel pretty darn good about the year ahead.
 
Drum roll, please.
 

  1. Stocks rally — Assuming we’ve seen the worst in the fourth quarter.
  2. The housing market stabilizes — Really, how low can it go?
  3. Consumer spending remains solid — A healthy job market is keeping those cash registers ringing.
  4. Corporate profits accelerate — The jury is still out on this one.
  5. Economic growth accelerates — The Fed’s gonna have to provide some assistance here.

 

 — Evan Pondel, Senior Associate, epondel@pondel.com
 
 

OTCBB – Stock Symbol Requests Not an Option

Issuers with stock trading on the OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) need to be aware that a corporate transaction, which results in the issuance of a new cusip number, triggers an automatic change in the ticker symbol. According to the folks at the OTCBB, the issuer is “not allowed” to reserve or request a specific ticker symbol.  No ifs, ands or buts about it.  While no one I spoke with at the OTCBB could tell me why requests and/or reservations are not allowed, the only possible conclusion is that allowing reservations on the OTCBB would reduce the pool of ticker symbols available to Nasdaq traded issuers.

 

PondelWilkinson, investor@pondel.com
 
 

Goldman Outshines Forecasts

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on Tuesday reported a 2.2 percent increase in fiscal fourth-quarter net income, bolstered by investment gains that apparently offset prickly market conditions. The Wall Street behemoth posted net income of $7.01 a share, clearly out swimming the $6.61 a share estimate that Thomson averaged from analysts’ forecasts.
 
But don’t think for a moment that all that glitters is a sign for better times ahead for the financial services sector. According to analysts, about 75 cents of the net gain in earnings per share came from sales of equity investments and electricity plants. That means Goldman’s clients aren’t necessarily trading stocks because of new-found faith in the economy. On the contrary, it points to the lack of faith Goldman has in the economy as it tries to fatten up in anticipation of what could be a rather fruitless period ahead.

 

Evan Pondel, Senior Associate, epondel@pondel.com