Wednesday's Early Headlines
- ADP Report Shows Moderating Job Losses in February -- Automatic Data Processing's (ADP) latest employment report showed that the private sector lost 20,000 jobs in February, as expected. The decline marks an improvement from the revised January number of losses totaling 60,000. It was the fewest number of private sector jobs lost since February 2008. ADP said that adverse weather conditions in February are expected to depress the government's own employment report for February, due out Friday at 8:30 a.m. EST, but boost it for March.
- Planned Layoffs Fall to Lowest Level Since 2006 -- Employers cut payrolls in February by only 42,090 jobs, a 41% decline from January and 77% from a year ago, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. It is the lowest monthly total since June 2006, when employers announced 37,178 job cuts. Retail and automotive company job cuts are down sharply from a year ago, while the pharmaceutical sector leading in job cuts through the first two months of 2010, the firm said.
- Mortgage Applications Jump; Rates Fall -- The Mortgage Bankers Association said its Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, rose a seasonally adjusted 14.6% last week, as both the purchase and refinance indexes increased from the previous week. Refinancing applications rose 17.2% compared with the prior week, the survey showed. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate slipped to 4.95% last week from 5.03% the previous week, the MBA said.
- Greece Austerity Plan Lifts Euro -- The dollar lost ground against the euro after Greece's government decided on a 4.8 billion euro ($6.5 billion) austerity package. The plan, which is part of Greece's effort to slash its massive deficit, calls for steep cuts in civil service salaries and entitlements. Greece's austerity plan also will push the country's sales tax higher by two percentage points.
- Too-Big-To-Fail Banks Should Be Dismantled: Dallas Fed President -- Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher said Wednesday that "too big to fail" institutions should be broken up, while stressing the importance of central bank independence. "I am more convinced than ever that too-big-to-fail banks are dangerous and should be contained, if not broken up," Fisher said, according to prepared remarks.
- Medivation's Alzheimer's Drug Fails in Trial -- Pfizer (PFE) and partner Medivation (MDVN) said their Alzheimer's drug candidate Dimebon was no better than a placebo at treating the disease, according to a phase III study. Medivation shares tumbled nearly 70% in premarket trading, while Pfizer was down roughly 1%.