The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for December, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $353.0 billion, a decrease of 0.3 percent (±0.5%)* from the previous month, but 5.4 percent (±0.5%) above December 2008. Total sales for the 12 months of 2009 were down 6.2 percent (±0.2%) from 2008. Total sales for the October through December 2009 period were up 1.9 percent (±0.3%) from the same period a year ago.
Now remember, Census has some funny methodology in that they don’t count sales unless both the prior and current month is returned by the same store. This means they overstate sales during declines in the economy, and understate them during expansions.
Looking inside the report we see a number of surprises in the year-over-year numbers.
Electronics were down – so much for the so-called "strong Christmas sales" in that category that everyone on ToutTV has been crowing about.
Food and beverage purchases were up – price inflation?
Gasoline was up huge, accounting for a huge percentage of the year/over/year increase all on its own. Gee, that happens when the gas price goes up a lot, right?
Indeed, while there were positive changes in other categories (online was up 10%, as just one example) gasoline sales increased in dollar volume by thirty-four percent and accounted for a stunning $8.7 billion of the total $17.9 billion increase – roughly half.
What’s there to like in here? I say "little or nothing" – gas sale increases are not positive, they’re negative as most gasoline demand is inelastic (you need it to get to work) as is food.
The bright lights, such as they were, had clothing up 5% and general merchandise up 2%, both annualized.
Rather uninspiring when one considers that the inelastic components were the big movers on the positive side and that’s not good for discretionary spending capacity.
Overview of retail sales in November. On the surface, retail sales exceeded expectations, but there are a few underlying problems--for instance, increases in gasoline prices, sampling changes, and an unclear effect of a seasonal adjustment. - Ilene
Sales at U.S. retailers rose more than expected in November as consumers spent more on gasoline and a wide range of other goods, data showed on Friday, raising hopes of a self-sustaining economic recovery.
The Commerce Department said total retail sales increased 1.3 percent last month, the largest advance since August, after rising by a downwardly revised 1.1 percent in October. It was the second straight monthly gain. Sales in October were previously reported to have increased 1.4 percent.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales gaining 0.7 percent last month. Overall sales in November were boosted by strong receipts from gasoline stations, increased purchases of motor vehicles and parts, building materials and electronic goods among others. Gasoline sales surged 6 percent, the largest increase since June.
Compared to November last year, sales were up 1.9 percent, the first year-on-year gain since August 2008, a Commerce official said.
The Commerce Department reported that retail sales rose more than expected last month, up 1.3 percent in November after a gain of 1.1 percent in October. The November gain was the biggest increase since a 2.4 percent surge in August and brings the year-over-year change (unadjusted for inflation) back into positive territory for the first time in 15 months.
This came as something of a surprise to analysts because retailers across the country had been reporting lackluster sales during the holiday shopping season so far.
Though the overall increase was paced by a 6.0 percent gain in gasoline station sales, due largely to higher gasoline prices, gains were broad based, only three of the 13 retail sales categories posting declines. Excluding gasoline,
So, according to the Fed's academic experts, the US economy is not, well, the US economy, it's not Y = C + I + G + NX, it's not the product of all goods and services created in the United States... it's this:
Which, for those confused, is precisely what it appears to be: a bunch of dots drawn on a piece of paper, not to be confused with this following random bunch of dots drawn on a piece of paper, which however is far more indicative of what the US economy is really like.
Whether the problem is with low interest rates themselves or the fact that rates still aren’t low enough to ignite a new credit boom is not clear. What is clear is that the world’s money center banks are facing a brutal downsizing. From today’s Wall Street Journal:
U.S. stock-index futures were little changed, after disappointing results from Alcoa Inc. offset optimism from a winning streak that’s put the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index on track for its best week of the year.
1) The shares of one of my largest short positions (~3%), Exact Sciences, crashed by more than 46% yesterday. Below is the article I published this morning on SeekingAlpha, explaining why I think it’s still a great short and thus shorted more yesterday. Here’s a summary:
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force’s Colorectal Cancer Screening Draft Recommendation issued yesterday is devastating for Exact Sciences’ only product, Cologuard.
I think this is the beginning of the end for the company.
My price target for the stock a year from now is $3, so I shorted more yes...
Bulls can be happy with today's progress. What weakness emerged today was reversed by the close, a change on yesterday's action where sellers dumped in the last few minutes of trading. Volume climbed to register an accumulation day.
The S&P finished at the 50-day MA, but beyond that there is plenty of room beyond that to run to the next level of resistance at 2,045. Technicals are net bullish.
The Nasdaq pushed off its 20-day MA and has another 50 points of maneuver before it gets to its 50-day MA. Technicals are not yet net bullish, but they are close.
Uncertainty about the health of the global economy led investors to flee U.S. equities during Q3, primarily driven by worries about China's growth prospects and the Federal Reserve’s decision to not raise rates. Sure, there are plenty of real and perceived headwinds, but on balance it seems that a recession here at home is not in the cards. And when you consider sentiment and the technical picture, it appears that a continuation of Friday’s bounce is in store. The question remains as to whether the seasonally strong Q4 will be able to propel the bulls through levels of resistance that have built up.
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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.
Kim Parlee interviews Phil on Money Talk. Be sure to watch the replays if you missed the show live on Wednesday night (it was recorded on Monday). As usual, Phil provides an excellent program packed with macro analysis, important lessons and trading ideas. ~ Ilene
The replay is now available on BNN's website. For the three part series, click on the links below.
Part 1 is here (discussing the macro outlook for the markets)
Part 2 is here. (discussing our main trading strategies)
Part 3 is here. (reviewing our pick of th...
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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