Sunday, May 26, 2013

Weekly Indicators: no one here gets out alive edition

 - by New Deal democrat

April monthly data reported this past week included new and existing home sales, both up modestly, and durable goods orders, up significantly, but still less than March's decline.

And in very sad news, my favorite rock musician from my childhood, Doors' keyboardist Ray Manzarek, died at age 74.

Let's start our look at the high frequency weekly indicators again with transport:


Railroad transport from the AAR
  • +5300 or +1.9% carloads YoY

  • +1400 or +2.3% carloads ex-coal

  • +8500 or +3.5% intermodal units

  • +13,600 or +2.6% YoY total loads
Shipping transport Rail transport had a third decent week after turning negative for three recent weeks.  The Harpex index continues to improve slowly from its January 1 low of 352, and the Baltic Dry Index remains above its recent low.

Consumer spending Gallup's YoY comparisons have generally been extremely positive since last December, and were so again this week.  The ICSC varied between +1.5% and +4.5% YoY in 2012, while Johnson Redbook was generally below +3%. This week both were in the upper part of those ranges.

Employment metrics

Initial jobless claims
  •   340,000 down 20,000

  •   4 week average 339,500 down 250
American Staffing Association Index
  • 93 unchanged w/w, down -0.1% YoY

Tax Withholding
  • $125.3 B 17 days into May vs. $112.4 B last year, up $12.9 B or +11.5%

  • $149.0 B for the last 20 days vs. $133.7 B last year, up $15.3 B or +11.4%
Initial claims declined after spiking last week, and remain within their recent range of between 325,000 to 375,000.  The ASA has deteriorated to the point of being essentially unchanged from last year as well. Tax withholding was robust compared with the first few months of the year.

Housing metrics

Housing prices
  • YoY this week +6.8%
Housing prices bottomed at the end of November 2011 on Housing Tracker, and averaged an increase of +2.0% to +2.5% YoY during 2012. This weeks's YoY increase is tied with its 6 year record.

Real estate loans, from the FRB H8 report:
  • unchanged w/w

  • unchanged YoY

  • +2.1% from its bottom
Loans turned up at the end of 2011 and averaged about 1% gains YoY through most of 2012.  In the last several months the comparisons have softened significantly.

Mortgage applications from the Mortgage Bankers Association:
  • -3% w/w purchase applications

  • +10% YoY purchase applications

  • -12% w/w refinance applications
This year purchase applications have finally established a slightly rising trend.  Refinancing applications were very high for most of last year with record low mortgage rates, but decreased slightly since then.

Interest rates and credit spreads
  •  4.74% BAA corporate bonds up +0.09%

  • 1.93% 10 year treasury bonds up +0.10%

  • 2.79% credit spread between corporates and treasuries down -.01%
Interest rates for corporate bonds, although rising in the last month, have generally been falling since being just above 6% two years ago in January 2011, hitting a low of 4.46% in November 2012.  Treasuries have fallen from about 2% in late 2011 to a low of 1.47% in July 2012. Spreads have varied between a high over 3.4% in June 2011 to a low under 2.75% in October 2012.

Money supply

  • +0.1% w/w

  • -2.3% m/m

  • +10.3% YoY Real M1

  • +0.1% w/w

  • +0.2% m/m

  • +5.8% YoY Real M2
Real M1 made a YoY high of about 20% in January 2012 and has generally been easing off since.  This week's YoY reading increased sharply.  Real M2 also made a YoY high of about 10.5% in January 2012.  Its subsequent low was 4.5% in August 2012. It has increased slightly in the last couple of months.

Oil prices and usage
  •  Oil $93.83 down -$2.19 w/w

  • Gas $3.67 up +$0.07 w/w

  • Usage 4 week average YoY -3.3%
The price of a gallon of gas, after declining sharply in March and April, has risen again in May. The 4 week average for gas usage remained negative after previously spending nine weeks in a row being positive YoY.

Bank lending rates The TED spread recently increased again, but is still near the low end of its 3 year range.  LIBOR remained at its new 52 week low and is close to a 3 year low.

JoC ECRI Commodity prices
  • down =0.33 to 125.16 w/w

  • +4.61 YoY
After months of gradual deterioration, two weeks ago there were no negatives in the weekly indicators. Last week was a great big "meh." This week was mixed but more positive than negative.

Positives included the decrease in initial jobless claims, house prices, and YoY purchase mortgage applications. Money supply was positive. Overnight bank rates are somnolent. Consumer spending was strong again. Rail traffic had another decently positive week.

Negatives included real estate loans, temp staffing, increasing bond rates, and the Baltic Dry Index, but these were all minor.

Sooner or later, we all belong to the ages. And the ages don't care. So enjoy today.