Friday, December 4, 2009

Weekly Indicators

- by New Deal democrat

It is anti-climatic to say the least to post this message after today's NFP number, which at -11,000, blew away just about every prediction out there. September and October were also revised closer to 0 (remember when September's original -263,000 caused some serious navel gazing about whether there really was a recovery or not?). Hours worked in manufacturing were up, as were durable goods orders - both leading indicators. Aggregate hours worked also turned positive, for the first time since the start of the recession. Overtime was up. Wages were OK.

Earlier this week, auto sales for November were also strongly positive. On the negative ledger, both ISM Manufacturing and Non-manufacturing data came in weaker than expected, the latter going back into contraction and serious labor contraction there still indicated. Additionally,
November same store sales came in negative:

Overall, sales fell 0.3%, reversing the gains seen in September and October, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. The trade group had cut its November forecast twice to a sales increase of 3% to 4%.
Turning to the high-frequency weekly indicators, the BLS reported new jobless claims fell again, to 457,000. Together with today's NFP number, this does suggest that job growth may actually arrive this month.

Black Friday weekend sales were up.:
Sales at U.S. retailers rose an estimated 1.6 percent during the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend, the start to the key holiday shopping season, according to ShopperTrak
The ICSC weekly seasonally adjusted weekly data on U.S. chain store retail sales were unchanged WoW, but up +3.1% YoY.

Rail traffic, including cyclical traffic, was still going up through November 28. I haven't compared carefully with prior years for this week, but if memory serves correct, this is just about unprecedented.

The Daily Treasury Statement for November 30 showed $127.7M in withholding taxes paid for November, down about 6% from a year ago (one of the best comparisons this year] and up from the last two months. This may indicate that 3Q was the bottom for this number - one quarter after the recession's end, as was the prior pattern.

Gasoline usage continued its seasonal decline, and was only slightly ahead of last year.

Bottom line: this was an excellent week for almost all current data, except for retail services, which continue to look pretty awful.