Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekly Indicators

There wasn't a lot of monthly data reported this week, but what was reported came in all to the good. Consumer Credit came in with less of a decline than expected. Retail sales surprised strongly to the upside at +1.3%. The University of Michigan sentiment index regained its September highs. Wholesalers and other businesses' sales continued to increase and inventories continued to shrink for most businesses. Wholesalers began to rebuild their inventories.

Turning to the high-frequency weekly indicators I track to try to gauge the sustainability of the economic expansion, The ICSC reported that same store sales declined -1.3% from the week of Black Friday, but were still up 2.6% YoY. Nevertheless, this is the 4th decline in five weeks.

They also reported
same-store sales for December is projected to increase about 2.0 percent [and its] November-December holiday season forecast of an increase by about 1.0 percent.
Shoppertrak said that sales at U.S. retailers fell 0.3 percent last week YoY, down 18% from the week of Black Friday, and had fallen 0.1 percent in November as a whole.

The BLS reported that initial jobless claims rose to 474,000, but the 4 week moving average continued down to 473,750. The data is highly volatile at this time of year because of heavy seasonal layoffs, but the trend remains downward.

The EIA reported that gasoline prices were steady between $2.62-$2.70 for the 6th week in a row. Usage was slightly up in the last week and also YoY. The price of a barrel of Oil slipped to about $70, a necessity for continued economic recovery.

Rail traffic was up to year-high levels in basic, cyclical, and total traffic. Only intermodal traffic was not at a high for the year. Overall traffic was up again in the first week of December. This is a very strong showing. [Note: A couple of weeks ago a commenter asked me why I use Railfax instead to the AAR report. I forgot to get the graphs, but if you click on the AAR report, and compare the graph for total railcars + intermodals, and compare it with the Railfax graph of the 4 week average of total traffic (that already includes intermodals), you will see they are virtually identical. The difference is that the AAR report comes out once a month, whereas Railfax is updated weekly.]

Finally, The Treasury reported that as of December 9, withholding taxes paid for the month so far were $43,722M compared with $45,076M the same day last year, a decline of about 3%.