Thursday, June 11, 2009

Loads of Economic Data

Several pieces of economic data have hit the tape this morning worth mentioning, most of them pointing to a slowdown in the rate of deterioration in the economy, but none of them particularly green shooty:
  • Retail sales rose 0.5% in May, posting the third increase in five months.  The increase was less than the 0.6% expected by economists and mostly due to increases in gas prices.  Excluding gas, retail sales were up 0.2%.  
  • Jobless claims fell by 24,000 to 601,000 for the week ended June 6th.  However, the number of people collecting benefits rose to a record 6.82 million.
  • Foreclosure activity decreased by 6% in May according to RealtyTrac.  Still, May was the third highest month on record and marked the third straight month when the number of properties with foreclosure filings exceeded 300,000.  Nevada, California, and Florida still the top foreclosure states.  Defaults and scheduled foreclosure auctions were both down from the previous month, bank repossessions were up 2%.  RealtyTrak expects REO activity to spike in the coming months as foreclosure moratoria expire across the country.
  • Yesterday's beige book released by the Federal Reserve showed that economic conditions "remained weak or deteriorated further" in all the Fed's districts.  The report offered a few glimmers of hope such as an increase in the hiring of temp workers, which typically precedes an improvement in the overall labor market.  Technology companies said that business was picking up, and real-estate agents in eight of the Fed's 12 districts "reported an uptick in sales."  The report didn't specify whether this could be accounted for by seasonality or jut the perennially chipper nature of real estate agents.  
All signs point to a possible stabilization of economic activity to much lower levels than what we are accustomed to.  Sure retail sales are up slightly, but how is it positive that the increase is due to higher gas prices?  Or that we are still running roughly 10% below last year's level of retail sales.  Seems highly unlikely that we will return to the era of reckless spending again, particularly since nobody can do cash out refis anymore to pay off their credit cards or buy a new car.  Speaking of refis, the recent high level of refinancing activity spurred by artificially low interest rates has dropped dramatically since treasury yields have started spiking.  The 10-year note hit 4% this morning, which historically is still very low, but clearly the Fed is not in control of this runaway train.  So much for quantitative easing...  

1 comment:

mrbogue said...

Credit card defaults rose in April.

Of course retail sales/travelling would rise! (I actually thought it would be higher than a paltry 0.5%)

People are doing exactly what I suspect, making a final round of purchases before defaulting on their credit cards.

I know about 3 unique individuals doing this (btw, I know very few people), as well as overheard several conversations in public about "buying lots of brand name luxury items and defaulting/claiming bankruptcy" People are angry at the banks and using their plastic to get "back", i'm not sure why so many people are doing it.. I wonder if it has something to do with Social Networking, sort of like a "critical mass" of credit card defaulting.

I personally think the wave of massive credit card defaults will lead us into the next leg down.