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Mixed Economic Reads Ahead of Thanksgiving Holiday

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Markets closed politely but decisively in the green this Hump Day, directly ahead of Thanksgiving on lower overall trading volume and mixed but valuable economic prints both before the open and afterwards. The Dow gained 97 points in the session, +0.78%, the S&P 500 was +0.60%, the Nasdaq hit just below 1%, +0.99%, while the small-cap Russell 2000 came in at a slighter +0.17%.

Earlier today, S&P Manufacturing PMI for November came out much lower than expected: 47.6 versus 50.0 in the consensus estimate and 50.4 reported for the previous month. The difference between above and below 50 determines expansion versus contraction, and is the first print below this mark since the early months of the Covid pandemic. Output and new orders fell sharply in the month, and purchase activity reached its lowest monthly level since May 2020. Firms continue to work through historically high inventory levels.

For S&P Services PMI, the headline figure of 46.1 missed the 48.0 expected and the 47.8 reported for October. High inflation and high interest rates combined to deflate services this month, to levels not seen since May 2020. Backlogs of work and capacity pressure were down. Even still, businesses remained optimistic they’ll see some turnaround on these metrics going forward for the next year, as pricing pressures continue to ease noticeably.

Now for the unexpected good news: the November University of Michigan survey for consumer confidence posted 56.8 this morning, nicely above the 54.9 analysts and the preliminary read of 54.7. We’re off the June lows of 50 but still a ways off the December 2021 pace of 70.6. Meanwhile, 5-year inflation expectations remained steady at +3.0% month over month. Again, we see participants looking to sunnier climes into the new year, as the U.S. economy continues to avoid a clear recession to this point.

Finally, New Home Sales for October rose higher than expected, to 632K from an expected 570K and a downwardly revised 588K for September, and a month-over-month rise of +7.5%. Impressive gains in the South (+16%) and Northeast (+45.7%) helped offset a big drop in the Midwest (-34.2%). The median price of new homes sold in the month reached $493K. Homes left to sell is up +21.4% year over year, with 8.9 months supply of new homes.

We are off Thursday in observance of Thanksgiving Day, and we will keep Ahead of Wall Street dormant until we return on Friday. That will be a half-day of trading; markets will close at 1pm ET. We’ll have some initial takes on Black Friday, although with the large disbursement of the holiday shopping season — not only in terms of early discounts but brick-and-mortar versus online, as well — we don’t expect the major impact to retailers’ bottom lines from this event as we had in years past.

With that, Happy Holiday — gobble gobble!

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