US equity markets are getting a boost this morning from better than expected news on several fronts. First-time unemployment benefits claims fell last week from a revised 385,000 in the previous week to 366,000, the lowest level in three years.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia also released its business outlook survey today, and its index of current activity rose from 3.6 last month to 10.3. Here’s what the bank had to say about the increase:
The percentage of firms reporting increases in activity (25 percent) exceeded the percentage reporting decreases (15 percent). The index for current new orders showed a similar improvement, increasing 8 points. The shipments index, at 6.7, was mostly flat. Twice as many firms reported declines in inventories (30 percent) as reported increases (15 percent) and the current inventory index fell 22 points to -14.9.
News on the labor market was not so upbeat:
Labor market conditions continue to show overall improvement, but indexes edged down this month. Twenty percent of the firms reported an increase in employment; 10 percent reported a decrease. The current employment index remained positive at 10.7, only 1 point lower than in November. The average workweek index also remained positive but fell nearly 9 points.
A similar report from the New York Federal Reserve Bank posted a business activity index gain from 0.6 in November to 9.5 in December, its highest level in seven months. The US current account deficit in the third quarter of 2011 was also lower by about $14.4 billion than the deficit in the second quarter of the year.