Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve Weekly Indicators

- by New Deal democrat

The last week of 2009 was a very quiet one for monthly data. Case-Schiller house prices were flat. Improving Consumer confidence was confirmed by the Conference Board. Manufacturing in the Chicago region improved substantially. The American Trucking Association reported that the
ATA Truck Tonnage Index Jumped 2.7 Percent In November
The latest gain boosted the SA index from 103.6 (2000=100) in October to 106.4, its highest level in a year.
Turning to the weekly indicators I use to gauge how well the economic expansion is being sustained:

The ICSC reported same store sales for Christmas week were up as follows:
Dec 26 +2.3 +0.4
Dec 19 +0.4 +0.6
Dec 12 +2.4 +0.4
Dec 5 +2.6 -1.3

Similarly, Shoppertrak reported that sales increased 8.8% for the week ending December 26 compared with 2008. You may recall that last week, sales only declined -1.2% YoY even though the East Coast Megalopolis was crippled by a blizzard.

Railfax reports that all categories of carloads except for coal were up, and up substantially, from the same week last year. Autos in particular are up 52% YoY. The story is similar on a 4 week basis. Also, autos are about even with last year on a quarterly basis. Since auto manufacturers were cutting drastically in Q4 2008, this is added evidence of a rebound in that sector that is likely to show up in the December auto sales figure next week.

Between the railfax transportation data and the retail store sales data, it certainly appears that December's retail sales are likely to be a strong number.

The BLS reported the lowest initial jobless claims since August 2008 at 432,000. Although much of the decline in this number may be an overreaction of seasonal adjustments, the trend for the last two months is still down strongly.

The EIA reported that gasoline went up about 1 cent to just over $2.60 last week. Essentially the price of gas has been flat for the last two months. Usage increased slightly more compared with last year.

The Daily Treasury Statement for December 29 indicated $137.4M in withholding taxes paid so far this month, compared with $149.8M for the same date last year, indicating government finances are still under severe stress.

Finally, closing this last post of mine for 2009. let me wish all readers a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year. Next week, in addition to reporting on the plethora of important new data, I hope to post both a review of my own work for 2009 and an outlook for 2010.