Friday, April 16, 2010

Weekly Indicators

- by New Deal democrat

The biggest monthly news this week had to be the blowout retail sales report, up 1.6% including autos (as Toyota's rebates caused a huge increase in its sales), and up 0.6% excluding autos. YoY real retail sales are up over 5.0%.

Inflation, at 0.1%, was tame. Housing permits and starts were up strongly. Permits are up 187,000 from their bottom 11 months ago.

The Philly and Empire State indexes also showed strong growth for the first part of April.

Turning to the high frequency weekly numbers, first of all, a reminder that I track these as an attempt to see in real time how sustainable the Recovery is.

The ICSC reported that seasonally adjusted weekly same store sales we up 4.0% YoY and up 0.1% from the previous week.
Some of this was due to the change in the week of the easter holiday this year vs. last. Shoppertrak did not report overall foot traffic or sales.

The E.I.A. reported that gasoline cost $2.86 a gallon. On Friday Oil was priced near $84.50/barrel. Usage for last week as markedly above last year, 9.325 million barrels per day vs. 8.944 million barrels per day, as was the 4 week average. . While Oil futures remained in contango (prices rising as we go further out into the future, prices do not reach $90 until the December 2011 contract, and the 2018 contract sells for $95.08. This suggests to me that the futures market believes that higher prices now would not be sustainable. Neverthelss, Oil is getting extremely close to the point where it may cause a marked slowdown in the economy.

The BLS reported that new jobless claims were only 484,000, a big negative surprise. The BLS blamed it on Cesar Chavez day?!? The 4 week average went up to 458,000, the highest in a month.

Railfax continued to show strong gains in cyclical goods, as almost 160,000 carloads were moved on average in the last 4 weeks, well above the 120,000 bottom, and nearing the 2008 peak of 180,000+ carloads. Intramodal loads, generally a proxy for imports, did slow.

The Daily Treasury Statement shows that for the first ten reporting days of April, 2010 is running ahead of 2009, $67.0B vs. $64.3B, or about +4%. The 4 week moving average of tax receipts continues to show this year ahead of last year, $118.9B vs. $110.3B, or a YoY improvement of +7.8%.

Together with the strong retail sales numbers, the tax receipts suggest that April is going to be another strong month for nonfarm payrolls, although how much of that will be census jobs is obviously an issue.

With the exception of the initial jobless claims, the weekly numbers show that the Recovery is strong and advancing.