March 26, 2015

Initial Unemployment Claims (032615): 282K SA, Raw Claims 10 Percent Below Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:42 am

From the Department of Labor:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending March 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 282,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 291,000. The 4-week moving average was 297,000, a decrease of 7,750 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 304,750.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 247,256 in the week ending March 21, a decrease of 12,986 (or -5.0 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 4,371 (or -1.7 percent) from the previous week. There were 274,072 initial claims in the comparable week in 2014.

According to Yahoo Business’s Economic Calendar, the result beat expectations of 290,000, while Briefing.com predicted 300,000.

There was no meaningful difference in the seasonal adjustment factors (88.5 during same week last year, 87.8 for the current week).

The raw claims number is enouraging.

Although I do need to remind readers every once in a while that “covered employment” — the number of people eliigible for unemployment benefits if they are laid off or let go without cause (133.40 million) — is still lower than it was at its peak six years ago (133.90 million), today’s result is very good.

March 25, 2015

As Durable Goods Deterioration Continues, AP Hides the Decline

The Census Burau’s February Durable Goods report, released at 8:30 a.m. today, “unexpectedly” (Bloomberg did the U-word honors) came in with a seasonally adjusted 1.4 percent decline compared to the 0.2 increase analysts expected. Additionally, January’s increase was revised down to 2.0 percent from 2.8 percent. Not adjusting for inflation, unadjusted (i.e., actual) February orders came in 2.3 percent below February 2014. Pending adjustments to February’s figures, seasonally adjusted durable goods orders have declined by 5.3 percent in the past four months.

Despite all of this, the Associated Press’s primary story on durable goods by Martin Crutsinger was gone from its Top Business Stories page by 2 p.m.

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March 21, 2015

Starbucks and USA Today Claim Their ‘Race Together’ Intentions ‘Are Pure,’ But Results Aren’t

The Associated Press’s most recent story on the controversial Starbucks USA Today “Race Together” campaign came out Wednesday evening.

In that story, AP Food Industry Writer Candice Choi quoted Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at his company’s annual shareholders’ meeting predicting that “Some in the media will criticize Starbucks for having a political agenda,” but that “Our intentions are pure.” Perhaps they are, but I suspect that certain materials company and USA Today have produced in connection with the campaign won’t pass any readers’ “pure intentions” test. Take USA Today’s “How Much of What You Know About Race Is True?” test. Full contents follow the jump.

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March 20, 2015

Politifact Rates Cruz’s Truthful Statement on 17-Year Global Warming Pause ‘Mostly False’

Over at Hot Air, I saw that Seth Meyers, as he was figuratively grilling Texas Senator Ted Cruz on his “Late Night” program — the first rule of these shows is that conservatives get attacked, while liberals get coddled — made his case for global warming by saying, “I think he world’s on fire literally.” I checked outside just a moment ago and “literally” saw no burning bushes or other burning objects, so I can say that Meyers, at least in regards to this small corner of the world, is “literally” wrong. In the language of Politifact, the leftist pretend-fact check site, he has his “pants (figuratively) on fire.”

One would think that a fact-checker would have gone after Meyers for his out-of-control hyperbole. Not a chance. Instead, Politifact’s Lauren Carroll went beyond what was seen last week at the Washington Post, which could not bring itself to admit that Cruz told a relevant truth when he observed that the federal tax code has far more words than the Bible. Carroll went full Orwell, labeling Cruz’s absolutely correct observation that there has been no evidence of global warming in satellite-based data for 17 years “Mostly False.”

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Not News: Three More Years of Projected Economic Mediocrity

In all the hoopla over the Federal Reserve’s Wednesday’s signals over its intentions to raise interest rates, its significant downgrades to expected growth of the U.S. economy during the next several years have mostly been ignored.

The Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, has played a part in that. Both of the wire service’s reports following the Fed’s actions and predictions on Wednesday saved its downwardly revised growth projections for very late paragraphs, even though reporter Christopher Rugaber described them as indicators of a “much slower” economy than was anticipated just a few months ago. Further, the Fed’s revised projections indicate that what is by far the longest streak of economic mediocrity since World War II will likely continue unchecked.

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March 19, 2015

Initial Unemployment Claims (031915); 291K SA; Raw Claims 9 Percent Lower Than Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:24 am

Predictions:

  • Yahoo’s Business Calendar has a prediction from Briefing.com of 300,000 seasonally adjusted claims, with the “Market” expecting 293,000.
  • Bloomberg is only predicting “more” claims. Wow, way to go out on a limb, guys.

The thing to really watch for is the level of raw claims, which need to stay well below 300,000.

The report will be here at 8:30.

HERE IT IS (permanent link):

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending March 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 291,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 1,000 from 289,000 to 290,000. The 4-week moving average was 304,750, an increase of 2,250 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 250 from 302,250 to 302,500.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 259,671 in the week ending March 14, a decrease of 18,254 (or -6.6 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 19,127 (or -6.9 percent) from the previous week. There were 285,970 initial claims in the comparable week in 2014.

There was very little difference in the seasonal adjustment factor between this year (89.3) and the same week last year (88.5). That change brought seasonally adjusted claims this year about 2,000 higher than they would have been with last year’s factor.

The year-over-year claims drop was significant.

This week’s result was pretty strong.

March 18, 2015

Endless Mediocrity …

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:14 pm

is the most optimistic scenario:

ZeroHedgeOnNoFedHike031815

It will be amazing if we end up being that lucky.

__________________________________

UPDATE, 8:55 P.M.: More evidence of no intention to substantively change course —

The 15 FOMC (Fed Open Market Committee) participants who anticipate rate hikes to begin this year, project a median year-end Fed Funds Rate of only 0.625%. Only three months ago in its December 17th FOMC statement – those same 15 participants projected a median year-end 2015 Fed Funds Rate of 1.25%!

Over just the last three months, FOMC forecasts for the year-end 2015 Fed Funds Rate have been cut in half! The new projected year-end Fed Funds Rate of 0.625% would require a miniscule 2015 rate hike of only 50 basis points, which means the Fed isn’t serious about raising rates – and could soon change its mind and not raise rates at all!

Because, despite what the press and the administration say, the economy is still fundamentally weak.

March 17, 2015

AP Admits: ‘Economy Is Looking a Bit Paler’

Apparently, the sheer number of weak to awful economic reports seen during the past month or so finally led Josh Boak at the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, to acknowledge that “critical pieces of the economy remain troubled almost six years into the recovery.”

Boak’s belated timing is interesting, to say the least, given that the Federal Reserve is weighing whether or not to raise interest rates for the first time in six years several months from now. An economy that was supposedly giving President Barack Obama justification for taunting his opponents just three weeks ago is now suddenly “flashing some signs of weakness.” The message to Fed Chair Janet Yellen is: “Don’t raise interest rates. Once we know you won’t, we can go back to pretending the economy is fine.” Boak still downplayed how weak the data has been, which will be seen after the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

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Potemkin Recovery Upate: Housing Start, Permits Crater

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:05 pm

From the Census Bureau:

BUILDING PERMITS

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,092,000. This is 3.0 percent (±1.7%) above the revised January rate of 1,060,000 and is 7.7 percent (±2.0%) above the February 2014 estimate of 1,014,000.

Single-family authorizations in February were at a rate of 620,000; this is 6.2 percent (±0.9%) below the revised January figure of 661,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 445,000 in February.

HOUSING STARTS

Privately-owned housing starts in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 897,000. This is 17.0 percent (±9.5%) below the revised January estimate of 1,081,000 and is 3.3 percent (±12.5%)* below the February 2014 rate of 928,000.

Single-family housing starts in February were at a rate of 593,000; this is 14.9 percent (±10.0%) below the revised January figure of 697,000. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 297,000.

HOUSING COMPLETIONS

Privately-owned housing completions in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 850,000. This is 13.8 percent (±9.0%) below the revised January estimate of 986,000 and is 1.8 percent (±11.7%)* below the February 2014 rate of 866,000.

Single-family housing completions in February were at a rate of 595,000; this is 12.1 percent (±10.0%) below the revised January rate of 677,000. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 236,000.

Zero Hedge sums it up in one word: “Ugly.”

March 14, 2015

Imagine That: U.S. Leads World in ‘Unexpectedly’ Bad Economic News

The only surprise should be that anyone is surprised.

Those who are used to how frequently the word “unexpectedly” appears in reports about disappointing economic data certainly won’t be at all shocked at a Friday Bloomberg News report by Steve Matthews and A. Catarina Saraiva telling readers that “U.S. economic data have been falling short of prognosticators’ expectations by the most in six years.” The report has three problems. First, it treats the latest U.S. jobs news as an upside surprise, when it’s really the result of difficult-to-justify seasonal adjustments. Second, it acts as if the appearance of lots of downside surprises in key areas is a recent phenomenon. Finally, it fails to explain a likely underlying cause, namely that Keynesian-trained economists and analysts can’t imagine that their models might be misleading them.

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March 13, 2015

‘Puzzled’ Bloomberg Pair Fret Over Plunging Consumer Spending, Completely Ignore Flat Incomes

The business press’s ability to keep up the appearances of “recovery is just around the corner” for over 5-1/2 years has been simultaneously amazing and disgusting.

One of their strategies has been to define a “new normal” which is only presented that way because everyone knows deep-down that as long as the left controls economic policy, the nation’s economy won’t ever really get any better than it currently is. Another involves lowering the bar. An example of that would be the ridiculous new definition of full employment as representing an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent. A third tactic, demonstrated in a Thursday Bloomberg report, is to feign ignorance.

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AP Touts High Jan. and Feb. Consumer Confidence, Ignores Sharp March Drop

The Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, is hard at work putting a brave face on a shaky economy.

Just one example: On Thursday, after February consumer spending fell sharply for the third straight month, the wire service’s Christopher Rugaber reported that “Freezing temperatures and snowstorms likely weighed on sales in February,” and that “steep drops in gas prices dragged down sales” in December and January. While that was largely accurate, Rugaber then looked ahead, citing consumer confidence, at that point at “its highest levels since the recession,” as a reason not to be concerned about the economy’s long-term health. But today, when the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index “unexpectedly” fell by over four points from 95.4 to 91.2, defying expectations that it would barely increase, a search on “University Michigan” (not in quotes) at its national site indicates that the AP didn’t report it.

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March 12, 2015

Bloomberg Prematurely Moves ‘Unexpected’ Plunge in Feb. Retail Sales Way Down Home Page

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:10 pm

Less than five hours after its release, the government’s news that retail sales fell by 0.6 percent in February — compared to a 0.3 percent increase expected by economists and analysts — is buried way down (about 6-8 screens, depending on your computer) on the home page of Bloomberg News, where the focus is supposed to be on developments in business and the economy.

Instead, the web site’s main top-of-page story on its home page at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time was about how “you” are getting richer. No, really:

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‘That Sinking Feeling Is First Quarter U.S. GDP’: Moody’s Estimates an Annualized 1.7 Percent

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:00 pm

At Moody’s, from what they let us see without paying an obscene annual subscription rate:

GDP now tracking less than 2% at an annual rate.

First quarter U.S. GDP is shaping up to be worse than we had anticipated, but temporary factors are at play and the economy will bounce back.

Sure it will.

From Moody’s “U.S. High Frequency GDP Model”:

… All told, first quarter GDP is now tracking 1.7% at an annual rate, down from 2.2% prior to February retail sales and January business inventories. Import prices caused some minor changes to tracking estimates for other components, including investment, but they weren’t significant.

They should keep their erasers handy. I don’t think they’re done revising their estimates downward.

Initial Unemployment Claims (031215): 289K SA; Raw Claims 8% Below Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:36 pm

Been under the weather a bit, so there’s some catching up to do.

From the Department of Labor:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending March 7, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 289,000, a decrease of 36,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 5,000 from 320,000 to 325,000. The 4-week moving average was 302,250, a decrease of 3,750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 1,250 from 304,750 to 306,000.

… UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 277,179 in the week ending March 7, a decrease of 38,387 (or -12.2 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 3,900 (or -1.2 percent) from the previous week. There were 302,311 initial claims in the comparable week in 2014.

This report is a bit of a relief, because raw claims came in significantly below 300,000 and below last year.

Zero Hedge is making a big deal out of the four-week average staying over 300,000, and we’re not out of the woods yet. But it’s a good start.

That said, as noted last week, we’re coming into a four-week stretch where prior-year raw claims came in below 300,000, so this year’s raw claims also need to stay there. Whether they will is the open question.