Friday, May 7, 2010

Weekly Indicators: Hurray for Jobs! edition

- by New Deal democrat

The Big Number for the week had to be the 290,000 jobs added in April. February and March were also revised higher. Since bottoming in December (exactly as I said it would), the economy has added almost 600,000 jobs -- unless you want to go with the household survey, by which measure it has added 1.6 million jobs! Most other data were similarly strong, except for a tepid ISM non manufacturing report, and the showing that people spent more than they earned in April. Wages are not holding even with inflation so far this year.

The high frequency weekly data continued to show a strengthening recovery:

▪ The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) reported same store sales up only +0.4% vs. a year ago, and down -0.4% from last week.

They expect same-store sales for the entire month of April to be flat to slightly lower.

Shoppertrak reported retail sales increased 4.2% last week YoY and up 3.8% WoW.

Both yearly and weekly sales increased last week as retailers experienced theannual spike in consumer activity as Mother’s Day approaches. Showing additional retail strength, ShopperTrak estimates April sales were positive as compared to the same period last year despite only containing three shopping days for Easter due to the 2010 calendar shift – as opposed to April 2009 which contained most of the holiday’s spending.

“Right now our data continues to point to some recovery in retail as April was positive despite losing some solid shopping days due to the retail calendar shift,” said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak. “Looking ahead we anticipate sales will slow a bit following Mother’s Day but will grow again toward the end of May as Memorial Day and graduations draw near.”
The Department of Energy reported that the price of gasoline went up four cents to $2.90 per gallon. Gasoline demand for the week was up by almost 4 million barrels vs. a year ago. Inventory still is high and climbing. This is the second bullish report in a row, but gasoline is only 10 cents under the psychological $3/gallon mark where I suspect there will be a significant bite. On the other hand, with the turmoil in Europe, Oil slid to ~$75 a barrel by noon Friday.

The BLS reported that last week's initial jobless claims totaled 444,000. The 4 week moving average was reduce to 459,000. This series remains in a downtrend, albeit a more muted downtrend than last year.

The American Staffing Association's weekly report showed that

During the week of April 19–25, 2010, temporary and contract employment increased 0.82%, raising the index one point to a value of 87
This was the 11th straight week of increases in temporary hires. Increases in temporary staffing are a leading indicator, so this bodes well for the jobs report.

Railfax recorded yet another strong week. Baseline, cyclical, and total – are continuing to increase, and continuing to increase at a rate faster than last year. cyclical traffic conintues its strong rise, only about 10% off its peak now. Intermodal traffic, which is a proxy of imports/exports, also remains substantially ahead of last year. Crushed stone and lumber, Railfax’s “recession watch” traffic, increased yet again, and crushed stone in particular is increasing strongly.

Finally, Daily treasury receipts continue their surge ahead of last year. As of May 5, 2010, for the last 20 reporting days, $129.8B in withheld taxes had been collected vs. $121.0B last year, a gain of $8.8B or +7.4%. So far, May 2010 is also running ahead of May 2009, $34.4B vs. $30.4B. April ended with Tax receipts up 4% vs. a year ago, $139.4B vs. $133.8B in 2009.

This week was a big win for the bulls on the economy, regardless of what the stock market may do.

P.S. Over the weekend, I'll reveal the location of the courtyard and jacuzzi I showed you last week!