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Thursday, September 7, 2017

The super-powerful but slow-moving Hurricane Irma has so far claimed at least 8 lives in the Caribbean, and has not lost steam from its Category 5 status and one of the strongest storms to ever affect the Atlantic Ocean. Puerto Rico has not taken a direct hit but has been blacked out due to rain and winds; this morning Irma has the Dominican Republic and Haiti in its sights. The storm is not expected to make landfall in Florida until this weekend, most likely Sunday.

There is still a chance the hurricane will change direction and head back out to sea, but for now precautions are being taken, and rightly so: those who have not left their homes to escape the storm have cleaned out Home Depot (HD - Free Report) of supplies to combat the storm’s potential damage, and supermarkets and convenience stores are selling out of consumables, most notably drinking water. In breaking news, Miami Beach is now under mandatory evacuation as of this morning.

Hurricane Irma may well surpass Hurricane Harvey — which hit the Southeastern Texas coast not two weeks ago — as the most expensive storm in U.S. history. Oil refineries shutting and chemical plants experiencing fires are just a couple of the most immediate affects; soon we will find out what the payout will be from insurance companies such as Travelers (TRV - Free Report) .

Jobless Claims Surge in Harvey’s Aftermath

The impact of Harvey continues to be at crisis levels, and we even see it affecting Initial Jobless Claims, which have spiked to 298K last week, a surge of 62K from the previous week’s 236K. The latter figure is quite representative of the last year or so’s very modest claims totals, which mostly stayed between a healthy 225K-250K each week. The four-week moving average is now a smudge above 250K based on this latest read’s big jump — the largest since Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and its surrounding area nearly 5 years ago.

Continuing claims have not yet been affected by the storm: 1.94 million claims actually dropped by 5000 for the week. We expect this figure to ratchet up accordingly as joblessness continues to affect the regions of both Southeastern Texas and Florida coasts, should Hurricane Irma strike the area in and around Miami.

ECB Keeps Policy Unchanged

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” A most American phrase that might well be applied to European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi when he announced today he would keep interest rates unchanged and current quantitative easing (QE) program in place. The Eurozone has seen strides in economic improvement since the ECB has followed the U.S. Federal Reserve’s (since rescinded) approach of slashed interest rates and bond buybacks. Draghi’s decision to keep marginal lending at 0.25% and EUR 60 billion in buybacks per month through the end of 2017, as expected.

In his address today, Draghi said there is “still a need for substantial accommodation” and that currency volatility is a source of uncertainty. The ECB President also said low interest rates would remain past the bond-buying QE program.The euro monetary unit is up 1% versus the U.S. dollar in the pre-market following Draghi’s statement.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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