Mixed Reports on US Manufacturing, Retail Sales, Jobs Weigh on Stocks

A number of reports on the U.S. economy were released Thursday morning, offering what amounts to a mixed review of how the country is weathering the COVID-19 pandemic.

New claims for unemployment benefits dipped by 10,000 last week from a seasonally adjusted revised total of 1.31 million to 1.30 million for the week ending July 11. The revision cut the prior week’s total by 4,000. The unemployment rate dropped from a revised rate in the prior week of 12.2% to 11.9%.

A seasonally adjusted total of 17.34 million Americans are currently collecting unemployment benefits. The total reflects a drop of 422,000 from the prior week’s adjusted total of 17.76 million. At the May peak, nearly 25 million Americans had filed claims for unemployment benefits.

On an unadjusted basis, new claims rose to more than 1.5 million, up by nearly 109,000 week over week, while the total number of claims rose by nearly 840,000 to 17.36 million. This increase could indicate that the economic recovery is stalling as new cases of COVID-19 continue to pile up in some high-population states.

The Census Bureau reported Thursday that seasonally adjusted advance monthly retail and food services for June rose by 7.5% month over month to $524.3 billion and rose by 1.1% year over year. Total sales for the three-month period from April through June fell by 8.1% year over year.

Analysts had been expecting a 5.2% increase in month over month retail sales, so the 7.5% total represented an upside surprise. Excluding sales of automobiles, parts and gasoline, estimates also called for a rise of 5.2% compared with an actual rise of 6.7%.

Vehicle and auto parts sales rose by 7.5% year over year in June, while gasoline sales fell by 19.1%. Restaurant and bar sales were down by 26.3%, and clothing retailers saw sales drop by 23.3%.

Non-store (online) sales rose by 23.5% year over year, and grocery store sales rose by 11.7%.

The Census Bureau also reported Thursday that manufacturing and trade inventories and sales rose by 8.4% month over month in May to $1.28 trillion but were down 11.8% compared to the May 2019 total. Seasonally adjusted trade inventories fell by 2.3% to $1.93 trillion month over month and dipped by 4.8% year over year.

In the final economic report posted Thursday, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve branch released its most current manufacturing indicators for July, showing a slight dip of three points from June to an index value of 24.1, some 67 points higher than the −43.1 index score posted in May, and May’s index represented a full 13 percentage point improvement over April’s dismal 40-year lows.

The Philly Fed also noted that the bank’s employment reached positive territory for the first time since March, rising by 24 points month over month to 20.1. The index reading for new orders increased from a June value of 16.7 to 23.0 with nearly half of firms (47%) reported order increases this month.