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Economic statistics


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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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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Economic Statistics for 22 Feb 12

 

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

ICSC-Goldman reports store sales were driven up 3% last week by Valentines Day. Sales are 3.2% higher than last year. Predictions for the whole month however, are still below trend. Redbook’s same-store sales rate, at only a 2.9% year-over-year increase last week, continues to hold almost at the lows for the year. Conversely, Redbook is signaling a strong 1.4% gain for the month, in opposition to the ICSC-Goldman forecast.

Existing home sales rose 4.3% in January to a 4.57 million annual rate. But the median price still fell sharply, down -4.6% to $154,700.

The Mortgage Bakers Association reports mortgage applications fell -4.5%, with purchase apps down -2.9%, and refinance apps down -4.8%.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 21 Feb 12

This is a fairly thin week for economic data, and today only has one statistics release of any interest.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index rose from 0.17 last month, to 0.22 this month. The 3 month moving average was up sharply, though, to 0.14 from last month’s -0.19. Production, consumption, and housing remain a drag on the economy, however.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 16 Feb 12

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

Housing starts rose 1.5% to a 699,000 annual rate, following last month’s -1.9% drop. Housing permits declined to a 676,000 annual rate.

Initial claims for unemployment fell 13,000 last week to 348,000. The 4-week moving average fell to 365,250.

Producer prices rose 0.1% overall last month, but the core rate, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.4%.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose for the 4th straight week to reach the highest level in a year, which is…-39.8.

The Philadelphia Fed Survey’s General Business Conditions Index rose 3 points this month to 10.2.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 15 Feb 12

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

The Mortgage Bankers’ Association reports that mortgage purchase applications fell -8.4%, while refinance apps rose just 0.8% last week. This brings the composite to a -1.0% drop.

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey’s General Business Conditions Index rose sharply to 19.53, the best reading in 18 months.

The Treasury reports that net demand for US securities was $17.9 billion in December, on $21.0 billion of sales, offset by $38.9 billion in sales of foreign securities from US accounts. Foreign buying of US long-term securities was weak, and foreigners were net sellers of US equities for the third month in a row.

The Fed reports industrial production was unchanged last month. Capacity utilization dropped to 78.5% from 78.6% in December.

The Housing Market Index rose sharply to 29 from last month’s 25. This is the 5th straight increase, and the second straight 4-point rise. One notes, however, that these increases have not yet shown up in the hard housing data.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 14 Feb 12

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

Despite strong core numbers, weak auto sales meant that retail sales were up a less-than-expected 0.4% for January. Ex-autos, retail sales rose 0.7%, and removing gasoline sales brings the core number to 0.6%.

In weekly store sales, ICSC-Goldman reports a weak -2.0% drop in sales, with the year-on-year rate at 2.8%. Redbook is also weak at a 2.7% same store sales increase from last year.

Export prices rose 0.2% for January, which is up 2.5% from last year. Import prices rose 0.3% for the month, and 7.1% for the year.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose very slightly to 93.9 in January.

The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index fell 1.7% in January to a level of 93.17.

Business inventories rose 0.4% in December. Sales rose 0.7%, so the stock-to-sales ratio dropped to 1.26.

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Dale Franks
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