Market Week Wrap-up

– Leading global equity indices continued floating upwards this week while the inflation drumbeat just kept getting louder. In the US, the January y/y CPI figure hit +1.6%, its highest level since last spring, and some analysts were alarmed by higher food prices creeping into CPI data sooner than expected. China’s January CPI report was lower than expected at +4.9% y/y, but markets panned the figures as heavily massaged by basket revisions. In the UK, the BoE said CPI would likely continue growing at a 4-5% clip over the short term. The World Bank released a report indicating that food prices were up 15% since October 2010 and are now only 3% away from record highs hit in 2008. Commodities moves complicated the story somewhat. While silver has pushed out to 30-year highs, there were signs that inflated soft commodity prices were beginning to unwind, with cotton and grain prices both below recent highs. Crude and gold prices have been impacted by reports that Iran is sending warships through the Suez Canal and bloody protests in Bahrain (next door to Saudi Arabia), although WTI futures were well below recent highs seen in early February. The Obama Administration unveiled its $3.73T budget proposal for 2012, including an all-time high deficit of $1.65T, reflecting the tax-cut agreement reached with Republicans in December. For 2012, the administration sees the imbalance declining to $1.1T, giving the country a record four straight years of one trillion-plus deficits. Bond prices held steady after the details were released, and Congress sharpened its knives for a budget fight. The Feb Empire Manufacturing survey hit its highest level since last June, indicating that the US manufacturing expansion seen over the last several months is continuing. On Friday there was plenty of commentary out of the G20 conference, where leaders tried mightily to achieve some concrete steps in reforming the global monetary system. Fed Chairman Bernanke took a swipe at the Chinese in his policy address to the G20, warning that nations which keep currency values low create imbalances, while the PBoC’s Zhou continued to push for a higher profile for the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). For the week, the DJIA rose 1.0%, the Nasdaq gained 0.9% and the S&P500 was up 1.0%. – John Deere crushed earnings and revenue targets in its Q1 report and nearly doubled its guidance for FY11 equipment sales. The firm hiked its sales guidance for its key agriculture and construction units as well, and said its Q2 revenue would blow out consensus estimates. Later in the week Caterpillar released very favorable dealer metrics for the month of January, with North America machinery sales up a whopping 58% y/y in the month. – Iron ore miner Cliffs Natural Resources reported very strong Q4 profits on a big y/y gain in iron ore pricing. The company expects global steel production to continue to grow in 2011, although it warned that spot iron ore prices are unsustainably high. Reliance Steel also blew out earnings estimates, and said pricing would remain strong at least through the first quarter of 2011. – In tech, Dell’s profit was way ahead of the consensus in its Q4 report, thanks to a big improvement in margins. The company said it believes the corporate IT…

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Market Week Wrap-up

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