Economic Data Galore: Jobs, Confidence, Inflation, Housing & Manufacturing

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Thursday has been a very busy day when it comes down to economic releases.  We have seen data from the Conference Board on Consumer Confidence for December and National Association of Realtors data on existing home sales for December and 2010.  There was also more recent data from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve via “The Philly Fed” and we also saw improvements from the Labor Department on weekly jobless claims and continuing jobless claims.

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index in December rose 1.0% to 112.4, following a 1.1% increase in November and following a 0.4% gain in October.  Bloomberg had consensus estimates of 0.6% for the month.

The reading from the National Association of Realtors on existing home sales still has some mixed signals despite gains.  December’s existing home sales rose by 12.3% to 5.28 million units on an annualized basis.  Dow Jones had estimates of roughly 4.9 million on an annual rate. The problem is that for all of 2010, those figures were down 4.8%.  We also saw that the median existing home price was down 1.0% to $168,800.00.  There are still too many distressed sales as an overall percentage of the pie and the shadow inventory is still too large that is buried either in courts or in lender portfolios.

The Philadelphia Fed’s January Business Index came in at 19.3 versus 20.8 in December and versus Dow Jones consensus expectations of 19.5 for the month.  Prices paid rose to 54.3 from 47.9 and Prices Received rose to 17.1 versus 9.4 in December.  That means that as prices are rising they are being able to at least pass some of the costs further down the line.  The component for employment rose to 17.6 from 4.3 in December, new orders rose to 23.6 from 10.6 in December, and shipments rose to 13.4 from 5.2 in December.  Inventories rose as well to 6.8 from -5.9 in December.

The figure that was released from the Labor Department this morning showed that weekly jobless claims fell a larger than expected 37,000 in the week to 404,000 and the week before was revised to 441,000 from 445,000.  The army of unemployed measured by the continuing jobless claims fell by 26,000 down to a reading of 3,861,000.

All in all, these numbers are still supportive of a mild and ongoing recovery.  The employment data was better in weekly claims and in the Philly Fed and consumer confidence continued to improve.  The price components will be something to watch because that is the wholesale and retail inflation.

JON C. OGG