For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – October 12, 2009 – announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include: Ford (F), Honda (HMC), Caterpillar (CAT), Boeing (BA) and Chevron Corp. (CVX).

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Here are highlights from Friday’s Analyst Blog:

Trade Deficit Improves

While the year-over-year improvement in the trade deficit is very good news, the reason for it is not so good. It was a reflection of the overall collapse in world trade, something that makes everyone poorer. As far as the GDP calculations are concerned, it does not make any difference — a decline in the trade deficit is a decline in the trade deficit — and it is something that feeds directly into the calculations.

However, it is not like there has been a big surge in people buying domestically produced Fords (F) rather than foreign produced Hondas (HMC). Rather, the fall in imports has been simply fewer people buying cars, period. Currently, for every dollar of goods and services we export, we import $1.24 — down from $1.38 a year ago, but still way out of whack.

It was not until the price of oil crashed last fall that we started to see real improvement in the overall deficit. Now that benefit is largely gone. While the price of imported oil has a bit of a lag with the prices in the pits, there is clearly a relationship. The price of imported oil bottomed in February at $39.22 and was $64.75 in August. It will most likely go up again in September.

It is somewhat ironic that the most dramatic part of the improvement in the trade deficit came as the dollar dramatically strengthened a year ago in the flight-to-safety trade. The path of the trade deficit has not yet been greatly affected by the path of the dollar, for two major reasons.

First, a very large part (over half) of our trade deficit is due to oil imports, and when the dollar is weak, the price of oil tends to go up to compensate. Second, our biggest single deficit is with China, which has effectively pegged the Yuan to the dollar. In August, the China deficit fell to $20.2 billion from $20.4 billion, but still represented 65.1% of the total deficit. Put another way: in August, our deficit with China was more than our deficits with OPEC, The European Union, Japan and Mexico…combined!

The flight-to-safety dollar trade is now unwinding, and the greenback is almost back to the levels it was at before the fall of the House of Lehman. Over time, this should lead to further improvements in our non-oil trade deficit — if not with China, then with the rest of the world. It might even indirectly help with the Chinese deficit even though the value of the Yuan is effectively fixed to the price of the dollar.

This would happen at the expense of the Japanese or the Europeans, as the Chinese decide to buy their heavy earth-moving equipment from Caterpillar (CAT) rather than from Komatsu, or airplanes from Boeing (BA) rather than Airbus.

Chevron’s Positive Upstream Update

Chevron Corp. (CVX) released its third-quarter interim update, covering the first two months of the quarter. On the whole, the update is positive, with earnings expected to be higher than in the previous quarter.

The company expects the upstream segment to benefit from an increase in crude oil prices as well as from gains of about $400 million associated with asset sales and tax items. Downstream results are likely to be relatively flat, as it continues to be hurt by weak refining margins. Chevron further said that unfavorable foreign currency movements will affect the segment profitability.

The best part of the update pertained to upstream volumes, highlighting Chevron’s attractive growth profile among the super-majors. The company reported that oil and natural gas production average 2.687 million oil-equivalent barrels per day – better than estimates and nearly 10% above the third-quarter 2008 level. Compared to the second quarter of 2009, production would be up by about a percentage.

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