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Economic statistics

Economic Statistics for 15 Dec 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

Initial jobless claims dropped sharply for the 2nd week in a row, falling 19,000 to 381,000. The four-week average is down 6,500 to 387,750, and has dropped for 10 of the past 12 weeks. One note of caution, however, is that the holiday period can make the numbers volatile, and there are lots of special factors that can affect the numbers. Still, the trend is positive, overall, and is looking better than it has at any time since the recovery—such as it is—began.

Food prices pushed the Producer Price Index higher, up 0.3% for the month and 5.7% for the year. The core rate, which ignores food and energy prices, was up 0.1% last month, and 2.9% over the last year.

Industrial production fell -0.2% last month, well below expectations for a 0.2% increase. Manufacturing was down across the board, but auto manufacturing particularly declined. Capacity utilization also dropped slightly to 77.8%. In contrast to this morning’s industrial production numbers, the Empire State Manufacturing Survey rose well above expectations to 9.53. Especially heartening is new orders which rose to 5.1 versus -2.07 last month. In addition, the Philly Fed’s general activity index rose to 10.3 from November’s 3.6, as manufacturing in the Philly Fed district grew at a faster rate.

The nation’s current account deficit narrowed to $110.3 billion in the third quarter, the smallest gap since Q4 2009.

Inflow of investment income into the US slowed sharply in October, to a net $4.8 billion compared to $68.3 billion in September.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to the highest level in two months, to -49.9. Of course, -49.9 still isn’t good.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 14 Dec 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

Mortgage applications rose 4.1% last week, with purchases dropping -8.2% and re-finance applications up 9.3%. The 30-year mortgage rate averaged 4.12%., the lowest rate of the year.

Import prices rose 0.7% last month—9.9% for the year—due to spikes in petroleum prices. Ex-Petroleum, prices fell -0.2%, following a 0.3 percent ex-petroleum decline in the prior month. Export prices rose 0.1% for the month and 4.7% over last year.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 13 Dec 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

November retail sales weren’t as strong as expected, rising 0.2% both overall, and ex-autos. On a year-over-year basis, retail sales were up 6.6%. Despite the rather disappointing November sales, both September and October sales were revised upwards.

The post-Black Friday sales slump continued last week. Redbook reports that the year-on-year same-store sales rate slowed by -0.3% to 2.9% this week. Similarly, ICSC-Goldman Store Sales are slowing, just like Redbook, with sales down -2.3% last week, and up only 2.8% year-over year.

Business inventories continue to build at a moderate rate, up 0.8% last month. The stock-to-sales ratio is unchanged at 1.27, as inventory build-up continues to match the rate of sales.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index indicates easing pessimism among businesses, with the index up 1.8 points to 92.0.

The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index rose only 0.1% in November, to 94.84. The index is only up 0.9% over last November.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 8 Dec 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

Initial jobless claims fell 23,000 last week to 381,000, the lowest weekly level since February.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index held steady for a second week, at 50.3 compared to the previous 50.2. That’s still a recessionary level of consumer confidence.

Wholesale inventories jumped 1.6% with a strong 0.9% rise in wholesale sales, increasing the stock-to-sales ratio by one tenth to 1.16.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 6 Dec 11

Today’s economic statistical releases are limited to retail sales numbers for the pas week. Redbook and ICSC Goldman both show a lull in retail sales. Redbook reports retail sales are up 3.2% from last year, while ICSC-Goldman reports a drop of -2.3% for the week, up 3.8% for the year. Redbook explains the lull by saying that shopping patterns have "intensified" for the holiday season, in that people go out for big bargains on Black Friday, then wait until the last minute before buying Christmas gifts, causing a drop in shopping in early December.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 05 Dec 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

Factory orders fell -0.4% in October with both orders for durables goods down -0.5%, and orders for non-durable goods down -0.3%. But this is a report from October, and last week’s ISM manufacturing index indicates that orders came back fairly strongly in November. Whether that will continue if the Euro collapses is another question.

Speaking of the ISM, the non-manufacturing index today shows some slowing in the service sector, as the index fell from 52.9 to 52. A reading above 50 generally indicates expansion.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 2 Dec 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

The big number today is the monthly employment situation. The BLS released the headline as "Unemployment rate falls to 8.6% in November; payroll employment rises by 120,000". The numbers behind the headline are less impressive. Actually, the headline isn’t all that impressive, considering that 120,000 new jobs is, at best, an anemic rate of job growth.  Also, it’s the time of year when a fair amount of hiring is seasonal, for temporary Christmas jobs, which can make the employment situation look better than it actually is, despite the seasonal adjustments to the data employed by BLS. Looking deeper, the labor force participation rate  continued to fall -0.2% to 64% as nearly half a million workers left the labor force.If the labor force participation rate was at the historical average of 66%, the unemployment rate would be 11.41%.  2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, about the same as last November.  The average workweek is unchanged at 34.3 hours, where it has been since September. Even worse, average earnings declined this month with the average hourly wage dropping 2 cents an hour to  $23.18. So, I think we can say that the drop in the unemployment rate is mainly due to people leaving the labor force, as the rate of job creation is weak.  Also, the lack of change in the workweek, and decline in wages implies that hiring pressure among firms is essentially non-existent as there has been no increase in the workweek for three months, and a glut of labor still exists as upward pressure on wages reversed this month. The only positive thing I can glean from this report comes from the household survey, where the number of respondents who are employed rose 278,000 to 140,580,000.

Monster.Com reports their employment index fell 4 points in November to 147 as online recruitment slowed.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 1 Dec 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

Today’s chain-store results do NOT confirm the widespread anecdotal reports of a strong Black Friday week, trending at a same-store year-on-year 2.5%.

Initial jobless claims rose 6,000 to 402,000 in a short Thanksgiving week, which clouds the results.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index remained steady at -50.2 compared to the previous -50.1.

The ISM Manufacturing Index rose to 52.7, and many of the sub-indexes rose sharply, a good sign for the economy.

Construction spending rose 0.8% last month, which is nice, even though it’s rising from an extremely depressed base.

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Dale Franks
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