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Thursday, December 13, 2012

A day after the Fed came out with a fresh bond-purchase program, we have a coordinated easing action from global central banks and a flood of favorable looking economic data this morning. On the data front, we have neutral-looking data on Retail Sales and wholesale inflation and better than expected numbers on the Jobless Claims front. All of this very market friendly, but it  may not amount to much in the absence of the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ resolution.

Jobless Claims dropped a bigger than expected 29K last week to 343K. The four-week average, which smoothes out the week-to-week volatility, dropped by 27K to 381.5K. The Jobless Claims numbers have shaken off the Sandy effects and have now gone below pre-Sandy levels (it was in the 360K vicinity before the storm). This level of claims data, if sustained over the coming weeks, will be indicative of a notable positive momentum in the labor market. Hard to tell at this stage how sustainable this trend will turn out to be, but it nevertheless shows that the persistent downtrend in corporate capital spending has not carried into hiring decisions.

The Retail Sales data this morning came in weaker than expected on the ‘headline’, but the growth number excluding gasoline and automobile came in better than expected. The notable gains (in the ex-gasoline/auto category) were for non-store retailers, which primarily includes online merchants. This confirms the positive secular movement of consumer spending dollars to the web that online-only merchants like Amazon (AMZN - Analyst Report) have been cashing for a while. In fact, many traditional brick and mortar retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT - Analyst Report) and Target (TGT - Analyst Report) have been making concerted online pushes this holiday season. As such, while overall holiday spending this year appears to be comparable to trends last year, growth on the online front appears to be better than last year. Another positive in this morning’s November Retail Sales data is the drop in gasoline sales, primarily a function of lower prices.

There is a lot of economic data this morning, but the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ issue still remains unresolved. Some have started indicating that the issue may not get resolved before Christmas. To many of us the broad outlines of a deal are right in front of us, but somehow the leaders can’t seem to grasp it.

Sheraz Mian
Director of Research
 

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