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Housing Starts & Permits Weaker, Tiffany Beats

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Much of our focus on economic data lately is in anticipation of the Fed meeting Tuesday and Wednesday next week, where odds are basically as a #1 seed versus a #16 that interest rates are going up 25 basis points for Jay Powell’s inaugural session as new Fed Chair. Mostly, analysts appear to be looking for signs of inflation accelerating in our current economy. Yet for every signal that may be happening, we see something else that walks some of that sentiment back.

Take this morning’s Housing Starts and Permits reports for example, where we see a pullback in both measures for the month of February: -7% on new starts and -5.7% on the forward-indicating permits. And while this downturn in permits met estimates exactly, starts were roughly double the losses analysts were expecting. Last month, 1.236 million new seasonally adjusted, annualized housing starts were initiated, while 1.298 million permits were signed.

This data has plenty of information “below the fold,” and often the headline can be somewhat misleading as a result. For today’s report, single-family starts actually went up; it was the multi-family units that were lagging. This betrays some of the disappointment here, as single-family units are generally of higher value and thus signs of an economy strengthening further.

Then again, should we have seen big growth in starts and permits for last month, we may have seen evidence in the pre-market of inflation/interest rate jitters in the major indexes. But we don’t — the Dow looks to open up 41 points, the Nasdaq +17 and the S&P 500, which has yet to get off the mat this week, is trading up ahead of the bell 7 points.

Tiffany Tops Q4 Estimates

Luxury retailer Tiffany & Co. (TIF - Free Report) reported earnings ahead of the bell today, beating the Zacks consensus on the bottom line by 4 cents per share to $1.67, whereas revenues of $1.33 billion topped the $1.30 billion expected. These figures represent growth on the bottom line of 15% and on the top by 8.5%.

Guidance for full-year 2018 was pushed up measurably above the Zacks estimate of $4.09 per share to a range of $4.25-4.45. Traders look to be selling this news, however — shares are trading down 5% in today’s pre-market. For more on TIF’s earnings, click here.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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