Friday, July 23, 2010

Weekly Indicators: One tiny cheer for Housing edition

- by New Deal democrat

This week we finally got some good -- in the sense of being un-bad -- news about housing. Housing Permits for June actually improved slightly over the dismal May. Purchase Mortgage applications took a tiny step upward from the deep sub-basement they have fallen into. As expected, LEI's declined significantly for the first time in over a year.

In addition to slight improvement in purchase applications, refinance applications also continued to improve. It does seem that quite a few people are able to take advantage of the extremely low rates being offered. This bodes well for households continuing to shed debt, and to be able to save at the same time.

The ICSC reported same store sales for the week ending July 16 rose 4.2% vs. a year earlier, the best showing in over two months. They were also up 1.4% WoW. Once again, Shoppertrak did not issue a public report this week.

Gas stabilized at $2.72. It has been in this range for going on two months. The 4 week average of usage remians up substantially (about 2%) from last year.

The BLS reported 462,000 new jobless claims this week. This was up substantially from last week. This data series is particularly noisy and difficult to read now, with both the auto plant non-closures and filings by laid off census workers figuring into the mix.

Railfax gave up another poor report. Cyclical traffic remains substantially up from last year, but is declining whereas last year it was improving. Baseline traffic is actually slightly worse than last year. Only intermodal traffic, signalling imports and exports, continues to show improvement. Even compared with last year, motor vehilce loads have fallen off a cliff. By the way, they have premiered some excellent interactive new graphs that you should peruse.

Interestingly, the Railfax auto data is at odds with, which is forecasting that July bargain hunters will push auto sales up to a SAAR of 12 million, it's best showing ex-C4C in nearly two years.

The American Staffing Association failed to report this week.

There is unabashed continued good news in the
Daily Treasury Statement. July is continuing the pattern of improvement over last year's numbers, $95.9 B vs.$88.5 B last year, a gain of over 8%. For the last 20 reporting days, we are also up 11%, $131.0 B vs. $117.7 B. This series has been kicking butt on a YoY basis for the last seven weeks, even with about 75% of the census layoffs having taken place at about the same time. I continue to suspect that there is more strength in payrolls than has been showing up in the official numbers for May and June.

M1 was down 1.5% this week, but on a YoY basis for the month of July so far, is up 3% (meaning “real M1” is up about 2%). M2 is up 0.2% this week, or about 1.8% YoY for July so far (meaning “real M2” is up about 0.7%). A reminder that recessions have in the past coincided with a negative real M1 and real M2 less than 2.5%.

This was the best week we've had in a while for the short-term data -- but that is mainly because nothing awful happened.