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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Before the opening bell this Thursday, as with most every Thursday, new Initial Jobless Claims figures have been released. Last week gave us new claims of 245K — exactly even with the previous week’s totals. Continuing claims ticked up a bit further to 1.943 million from 1.936 million the previous week.

Again, we’re looking at a healthy employment environment in the U.S. as calendar year 2017 winds to a close; only the late-summer hurricanes brought jobless claims higher than the desirable range of 225K-250K, with continuing claims at sub-2 million. These figures ought to indicate another strong month of employment when December non-farm payrolls data is released late next week.

The November advanced trade balance also came out during this morning’s pre-market, posting a deficit of $69.7 billion — the largest negative trade balance we’ve seen all year, and the biggest deficit since March 2015. Previously, October’s read had been $68.1 billion, and expectations ahead of the November headline were to have gone in the other direction.

Also, with 2017 holiday shopping season receding in the rearview mirror, we get the latest read for Retail Inventory — also for the month of November. Inventories rose 0.1%, swinging from -0.1% in the last report. Wholesale Inventory, on the other hand, was way up: +0.7%, more than double the consensus expectation. Again, this represents a swing from the negative in the previous month, from a slightly revised -0.5% in October. Next month’s Retail/Wholesale Inventories will bring us this year’s holiday season tallies.

Indexes are up slightly in today’s pre-market, both before and after this new economic data. Yesterday, while we saw the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 all close in the green, we saw the second-lowest trading volume of the year (behind Black Friday). Expect more of the same today and tomorrow; Friday, in fact, we see markets close early ahead of the New Year.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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