Free Markets, Free People

Economic statistics


Economic Statistics for 7 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

The Mortgage Bankers Association reports mortgage applications fell -1.2% last week, with purchase apps up 2.1%, but re-fis down -2.0%.

The ADP Employment Report estimates that February net new jobs in Friday’s Employment Situation report will rise by 216,000.

The final revision for 4Q productivity shows a 0.9% increase in productivity for the quarter, but with a 2.8% increase in unit labor costs. Productivity gains are modest, while labor costs are escalating.  This is not good for continued labor growth.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 6 Mar 12

Weekly retail sales are the only thing on the calendar today. Redbook reports sales suffered a -0.4% drop to a 3.0% year-on-year same-store sales rate for the week due to bad weather. ICSC-Goldman, on the other hand, is reporting that, while weekly store sales rose 1.3%, the year-on-year sales rate is only 1.7%, as higher gas prices put more pressure on consumers’ pocketbooks.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 5 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

Factory orders declined by -0.1% in January, led by weakness in durable goods, which fell -3.8%.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index rose five-tenths from last month to a better-than-expected 57.3.

That’s all for today, as we kick off a light week of statistics, with the exception of Friday’s Employment Situation.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 01 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

Chain stores are reporting sales today, and a large majority are reporting greater rates of year-on-year sales growth in February than in January.

Initial jobless claims were 351,000, down 2,000 from the prior week. The 4-week moving average fell 5,500 to 354,000.

Personal income rose 0.3% in January, up 3.6% for the year. Personal expenditures rose 0.2% for the month, and 3.8% for the year. The Core PCE price index rose 0.2% for the month, and 1.9% for the year.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index posted at -38.8 for the 26 Feb period. This is almost a 4-year high. I don’t know whether that’s supposed to make me happy at the increase, or sad that the high is still a negative number.

The ISM Index fell to 52.4 this month, from 54.1 last month, indicating a slower rate of manufacturing growth.

Construction spending came in well below expectations of a 1% increase, posting a -0.1% decline for the month, though it’s still 7.1% higher than a year ago.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 29 Feb 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US Economy:

The Commerce Department revised fourth quarter GDP growth up to 3.0% from the initial estimate of 2.8%. Mainly, the change stemmed from upward revision to nonresidential fixed investment, a downward revision to imports, and an upward revision to personal consumption. Interestingly, inflation, as measured by the GDP price index, was revised upwards to 0.9%. That’s quite a drop from 3Q, where it was measured at 2.6%, despite 3Q growth being significantly slower at 1.8%

The Mortgage Bankers Association reports mortgage applications fell by -0.3% last week as refinance apps dropped -2.2%. Purchase apps jumped 8.3%, though MBA isn’t impressed with that gain.  They note, "Purchase application volume increased over the week, but remains within the narrow and anemic range of activity we have seen since the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit in May 2010."

The Chicago Purchasing Manager’s Index rose sharply to 64 from 60.2 last month. The Production, New Orders, and Employment sub-indexes were all up sharply. The Chicago PMI is widely seen as a predictor of the national ISM Index, which is due out tomorrow.

The Feds "beige book", which compiles anecdotal evidence on economic conditions from each of the 12 Federal Reserve districts, is due out later today. This document generally serves as a guide to Fed policy makers at the regular meetings of the FOMC, which determine the Fed’s monetary policy moves.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 28 Feb 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US Economy:

Durable goods orders fell -4.0% for January, but were still 8.1% higher than a year ago. Ex-transportation, orders fell -2.3% for the month, but were up 5.7% over last year.

Home prices are still falling, as Case-Schiller reports prices dropped a steep -0.5% in December. That’s down -4.0% from last December.

Consumer confidence jumped more than 9 points to 70.8. That’s still below the February 2011 index of 72.0, however.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index jumped sharply, up 8 points to 20, indicating a strong increase in manufacturing in the district. This continues the trend of strong regional manufacturing reports we’ve been seeing, but is at odds with the weak durable goods orders data also released this morning.

State Street’s Investor Confidence Index says institutional investors may be getting skittish, as the index dropped to a very weak 86.5 in February.

In retail sales, Redbook reports a strong 3.4% year-over-year increase in same store sales. Conversely, ICSC-Goldman’s same-store sales index fell a big -1.0% for the week, and the year-over-year 2.7% increase is the lowest in three months.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 27 Feb 11

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US Economy:

The National Association of Realtors reports the Pending Home Sales Index rose nearly 2 points to 97.0. Year-on-year, pending sales were up 5.6%.

In the Dallas Fed’s manufacturing survey, the business activity index rose to 17.8, and the production index rose to 11.2.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 23 Feb 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US Economy:

Initial jobless claims remain unchanged at 351,000 for the latest week. The 4-week moving average fell 7,000 to 359,000. The recent decreases in claims indicate that a positive Employment Situation report for the month.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to the highest reading since April, 2008, coming in at -38.4. Of, course, that’s still a minus sign in front of that number.

The FHFA reports house prices improved a bit in December, rising 0.7%. That’s still down -0.8% on a year-over-year basis.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index came in well above expectations, rising from 7 last month to 13 in February.

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Dale Franks
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Energy prices are rising, but energy demand is declining.

We’ve been seeing some better—if not good—economic numbers lately, mainly in employment, but also in industrial production, and general business conditions. One might be tempted to believe there’s at least a mild recovery on the way. That’d be nice.

But I’m…troubled. First, there’s this:

Oil prices aren’t high right now. In fact, they are unusually low. Gasoline prices would have to rise by another $0.65 to $0.75 per gallon from where they are now just to be “normal”. And, because gasoline prices are low right now, it is very likely that they are going to go up more—perhaps a lot more…

In terms of judging whether the price of WTI is high or low, here is the price that truly matters: 0.0602 ounces of gold per barrel (which can be written as Au0.0602/bbl). What this number means is that, right now, a barrel of WTI has the same market value as 0.0602 ounces of gold.

During the 493 months since January 1, 1971, the price of WTI has averaged Au0.0732/bbl…

At this point, we can be certain that, unless gold prices come down, gasoline prices are going to go up—by a lot.

In other words, there’s at least an 18% price differential in the current price of oil compared to gold, compared to the historical average.

Another important thing to remember is that the current rise in energy prices does NOT appear to be related to demand for energy. According to the US Energy Information Agency, the US demand for both electricity and petroleum has been decreasing.

Statistics for energy use usually run a couple of months behind, but the recent figures for petroleum are that from August, 2011 until November 11, Total Crude Oil and Petroleum Products consumed, in thousands of barrels per month, fell from 593,757 to 562,019. Figures for the same months in 2010 are 609,517 and 569,312, respectively.

Similarly, the most recent electrical generation numbers, in millions of kilowatt hours, show that from August to November, 2011, total electricity consumption fell from 370,073 to 273,053. Both figures are about 2 million kWh less than the same months in 2010.

Now, maybe in the last two months there’s been a huge turnaround in energy consumption, but please note that the year-on-year demand is declining, and in general, has been since 2006.

So, if energy use is declining, while prices are increasing, and supply remains steady—or is increasing—then we can reasonably look to monetary reasons for the price increase, as the economic fundamentals do not explain the price changes.

The implications for energy prices, therefore, are not good. Start saving those pennies, kids.

For all the good it’ll do you.

Oh, and by the way, if the economy is recovering, why is energy demand decreasing, rather than increasing? Just asking.

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Dale Franks
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