The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for June, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $360.2 billion, a decrease of 0.5 percent from the previous month, but 4.8 percent above June 2009.
Total sales for the April through June 2010 period were up 6.8 percent from the same period a year ago. The April to May 2010 percent change was revised from -1.2 percent to -1.1 percent.
Retail trade sales were down 0.6 percent from May 2010, but 5.0 percent above last year. Nonstore retailers sales were up 12.1 percent from June 2009 and gasoline stations sales were up 8.8 percent from last year.
The only believable number in the report is gasoline sales. Otherwise the problem is in Census Bureau methodology.
The advance estimates are based on a subsample of the Census Bureau’s full retail and food services sample. A stratified random sampling method is used to select approximately 5,000 retail and food services firms whose sales are then weighted and benchmarked to represent the complete universe of over three million retail and food services firms. Responding firms account for approximately 65% of the MARTS dollar volume estimate.
The methodology misses stores that went out of business and have no retail sales. Circuit City is a prime example but also note that thousands of small strip mall stores are now shuttered as well. Some of that volume went to the surveyed stores making it appear sales went up.
The only accurate way of computing retail sales is to look at state sales tax data. Even then, tax data can be misleading because one needs to factor in changes in tax policy, notably states increasing sales tax rates.
For example, a rise in the sales tax rate from 7% to 8% would result in a 14% increase in sales tax collections (all other things being equal).
The Rockefeller Institute reports "The growth in state tax revenues is not an indication of broad state fiscal recovery, but is mostly driven by legislated changes [massive tax increases] in two states — California and New York."
The Census Bureau came out this morning with a report on “Manufacturer’s Shipments, Inventories and Orders” for October. The report was bullish as it showed new orders for manufactured goods rising for the sixth time in seven months. But, more importantly, it also showed that manufacturers are adding inventory which means that production is now outstripping demand, adding to upside potential for GDP this quarter.
The report states:
New orders for manufactured goods in October, up six of the last seven months, increased $2.1 billion or 0.6 percent to $360.5 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. This followed a 1.6 percent September increase. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.5 percent.
Shipments, up four of the last five months, increased $3.1 billion or 0.8 percent to $368.0 billion. This followed a 1.3 percent September increase.
Unfilled orders, down thirteen consecutive months, decreased $2.9 billion or 0.4 percent to $730.8 billion. This was the longest streak of consecutive monthly decreases since the series was first published on a NAICS basis in 1992. This followed a 0.4 percent September decrease. The unfilled orders-to-shipments ratio was 5.82, up from 5.79 in September.
Inventories, up following thirteen consecutive monthly decreases, increased $1.8 billion or 0.4 percent to $493.0 billion. The inventories-to-shipments ratio was 1.34, down from 1.35 in September.
While inventories have been pared less slowly in the past, they have now dropped to the point where producers are increasing production so much they are adding inventories.
We should expect this to increase hours worked and income for existing workers first. Only then will temp staff and then permanent staff be taken on. Nevertheless, this is another welcome sign of recovery.
"We’re leveling off! We’re leveling off!"—so is the hope of TTT, Helicopter Ben, Larry the Wall Street Lackey and the rest of Team Obama. "This recession is leveling off!"
No it’s not: The unemployment figures just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are totally cosmetic: We lost a whole lot more than 531,000 unemployed.
First, the "seasonal adjustment", which is a black box that can tweek me into looking like Dumbo the flying elephant. They’re knocking off ±65,000 workers for no clearly discernible reason. Second, notice that the Census Bureau hired 60,000 people last month. Those workers (by definition) are temporary, and are a net cost to the economy, as they will not be adding marginal utility to any economic sector, the census being merely a social expenditure.
Those two items alone turn 530,000 new unemployed into 655,000.
Now notice how, once again, previous months’ figures have been readjusted. This time, the readjustments weren’t so bad—a mere 30,000 more unemployed in February, turning that month’s official totals to 681,000, and another 30,000 for March, making that month’s official number 699,000, just shy of that magic 700,000 monthly number (BTW, remember back in the good old days when 300,000 monthly unemployed was"shocking"?)
But notice too: When those more realistic numbers were released, the markets were more or less copacetic—at least they weren’t nervously contemplating another suicidal round of cliff-diving, as we currently are. Ever since the October ’08 release of Sept. ’08 unemployment, when arguably the BLS numbers had a role in triggering the sell-off of that very nasty month, the unemployment numbers have been generally rosy whenever there’s been general nervousness in the markets around the time of the number’s release. I know this sounds crazy-man paranoid, but bear with me: Every time the markets have been nervous,the BLS numbers look pretty good, or at least not that bad, relatively speaking—and then the next month the figures are very quietly revised, sometimes by as much as 35% on the upward side.
I will bet one double Quarter Pounder with cheese and bacon that next month, the revisions of the April numbers will be on the order of an additional 85,000 unemployed. My guess is that, discounting the Census Bureau hirings, April saw 680,000 newly unemployed workers.
It was another bloody week in the stock market (S&P 500 index dropped -3.1%), and any half-glass full data was interpreted as half-empty. The week was epitomized by a Citigroup report entitled “World Economy Trapped in a Death Spiral.” A sluggish monthly jobs report on Friday, which registered a less than anticipated addition of 151,000 jobs, painted a we...
Greg Ip had a piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday discussing the debt burden in the USA and how low interest rates have “moved back” the “hands on the doomsday debt clock”. The article touches on the important topic of entitlement spending and whether it’s sustainable, but does so in a manner that misleads readers about why this might be a problem.
For instance, Ip says that “higher federal borrowing puts upward pressure on interest rates”. This is classic “crowding out”,...
Tech averages had the weakest start, Powerful gap downs had set things off, but buyers were able to make a comeback into the close. However, morning gaps remain. Volume climbed to register as distribution, which for the Nasdaq was the second day of distribution in a row.
The Nasdaq 100 is on the fiftth day of selling in a row. The August swing low wasn't fully tested. Bulls will be looking for a bullish 'morning star' where today's candlestick 'hammer' is followed by an opening gap, then a rally for the rest of the day. Should this emerge, then a move to test 4,300 is next. If there is a weak open, then any chance for a bullish 'hammer' based on today's action is signifi...
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Throughout the past 30 days of wild volatility, here’s what I didn’t do.
Panic. Worry. Sell.
In fact, the best I did was add to a couple of positions yesterday. The world was already in an uncertain state for the past 3+ years. It’s just that with the market rising, we pushed the issue to the back of our mind and ignored it.
A number of systemic, structural forces are intersecting in 2016. One is the rise of non-state, non-central-bank-issued crypto-currencies.
We all know money is created and distributed by governments and central banks. The reason is simple: control the money and you control everything.
The invention of the blockchain and crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin have opened the door to non-state, non-central-bank currencies--money that is global and independent of any state or central bank, or indeed, any bank, as crypto-currencies are structurally peer-to-peer, meaning they don't require a bank to function: people can exchange crypto-currencies to pay for goods and services without a bank acting as a clearinghouse for all these transactions.
Last year, the S&P 500 large caps closed 2015 essentially flat on a total return basis, while the NASDAQ 100 showed a little better performance at +8.3% and the Russell 2000 small caps fell -5.9%. Overall, stocks disappointed even in the face of modest expectations, especially the small caps as market leadership was mostly limited to a handful of large and mega-cap darlings.
Notably, the full year chart for the S&P 500 looks very much like 2011. It got off to a good start, drifted sideways for...
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Baxter Int. (BAX) is splitting off its BioSciences division into a new company called Baxalta. Shares of Baxalta will be given as a tax-free dividend, in the ratio of one to one, to BAX holders on record on June 17, 2015. That means, if you want to receive the Baxalta dividend, you need to buy the stock this week (on or before June 12).
Back in December, I wrote a post on my blog where I compared the performances of various ETFs related to the oil industry. I was looking for the best possible proxy to match the moves of oil prices if you didn't want to play with futures. At the time, I concluded that for medium term trades, USO and the leveraged ETFs UCO and SCO were the most promising. Longer term, broader ETFs like OIH and XLE might make better investment if oil prices do recover to more profitable prices since ETF linked to futures like USO, UCO and SCO do suffer from decay. It also seemed that DIG and DUG could be promising if OIH could recover as it should with the price of oil, but that they don't make a good proxy for the price of oil itself.
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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