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 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.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.4 percent in November, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months the index increased 1.8 percent before seasonal adjustment, the first positive 12-month change since February 2009.
Most of the change was due to energy; gasoline was up sharply (as we saw yesterday in the PPI.)
Core was a literal zero.
Food was up a bit, but I continued to be puzzled by the difference between gasoline and "fuel oil."
Why? Because "fuel oil" (that is, heating oil) is exactly the same thing as #2 diesel – that is, road diesel fuel. The only difference is the tax (and the presence of dye in the heating oil to denote that the tax has not been paid.) But for the legal (tax) issues you can run "heating oil" in your diesel car or truck, and vice-versa – they are identical products.
Used vehicles were also up materially – a reflection of the distortion from "cash for clunkers" still present in the data (it hit its maximum in October at +3.4%) Prices for new vehicles were also up (again, the maximum was in October) – again denoting the "back-door" bailout of the automakers from cash-for-clunkers. Unlike the new vehicle deal however, which you got a tax credit for, the buyer of a used car just got plain old-fashioned screwed through price-jacking caused by constraints in supply. (Just wait though – in the new year when people can’t make the payments on those CFC deals, you’ll see what happens to used car prices…. supply and demand you know.. )
Medical care was up as usual (gee, how come it keeps rising faster than overall inflation?) and shelter costs were down (remember, this is not "housing", as that would expose reality – it is "owners equivalent rent")
All in all a blah report – but given the PPI that’s expected – the fun and games in the CPI report resulting from yesterday’s PPI should show up in a month or two.
Colonial Pipeline Co., which operates the largest pipeline linking U.S. Gulf Coast refiners and East Coast markets, will limit shipments of gasoline because orders exceed the company’s ability to deliver fuel on time.
The Alpharetta, Georgia-based company issued the requirement, known as an allocation, in a bulletin to shippers for the 70th cycle. The restriction applies to shipments on Colonial pipelines north of Collins, Mississippi.
Companies will be able to ship a pro-rated portion of their original nomination, based on their shipping history over the past year, according to Colonial.
With the assistance of Jane Van Ryan at API, I contacted to Steve Baker at Colonial Pipeline, to find out what is happening. I discovered the oversubscription seems to be related to refinery shutdowns in the Northeast.
Many of you will remember that Colonial Pipeline is the big pipeline that carries finished oil products from the Gulf Coast up to the Northeast part of the United States.
Map showing route of Colonial Pipeline
I live in the Atlanta area, so I remember when there have been gasoline disruptions because of inadequate supply. This has happened twice: once following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and again in September 2008, following two gulf hurricanes.
When I inquired, I found out that there are really two parallel pipelines. One carries only gasoline products; the other carries distillate products. The line that is running short of capacity is the gasoline pipeline. (If only one is running short of capacity, it is not too surprising that it is the gasoline line. Distillate products like diesel fuel are now in very abundant supply; gasoline is at closer to normal levels.)
When I asked why demand was so high for gasoline pipeline capacity, one of the reasons mentioned was that shutdowns in refinery capacity in the
It seems the Fed head is confident that we are on our way back (despite cutting forecasts) - well he should be given his efforts - but as the following chart shows, arguing that downside risks have diminished seems not to fit too well with macro reality...
The question is - if the macro situation is so clearly weak, juist why is he is discussing a taper (if not because he knows he has broken the markets)
No change to the statement as expected and Ben is speaking now. Basically he is dovish – one takeaway which I mentioned quite a few months ago but he reiterated today. The 6.5% unemployment rate is a threshold NOT a trigger. What that means is if inflation is benign when 6.5% unemployment returns, the Fed will be in no rush to raise interest rates. i.e. the goalposts are soft, nor hard. The market rallied on that… but it's not new news really.
Also the majority of members do not anticipate selling MBS off the balance sheet – this is part and parcel with the view that the balance sheet will not...
We no longer have a free market. The world’s financial asset prices have become a plaything of central banks and the sovereign wealth funds of a few emerging powers.
Julian Callow from Barclays says they are buying $1.8 trillion worth of AAA or safe-haven bonds each year from an available pool of $2 trillion. Nothing like this has been seen before in modern times, if ever.
The Fed, the ECB, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, et al, own $10 trillion in bonds. China, the petro-powers, et al, own another $10 trillion. Between them they have locked up $20 trillion, equal to roughly 2...
In advance of today's FOMC meeting outcome and Chairman Bernanke's press conference, let's take a quick look at a couple of items in the latest Wall Street Journal survey of economists -- this one conducted June 7-11. With the recent controversy over the direction of Treasury yields, a key issue addressed in the survey is where economists expect the 10-year yield to be across six timeframes: mid-year and year end 2013 through 2015.
The survey was sent to 52 economists, 46 of whom responded, and of the 46, some skipped individual survey questions. Here is a table showing the major response statistics: Low, Median (middle), Average (aka Mean), Mode (most frequent) and High.
As we readily see from the table, the responses for ...
On the heels of the American Medical Association's decision to officially recognize obesity as a disease, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Reps. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) introduced legislation today to help lower health care costs and prevent chronic diseases by addressing America's growing obesity crisis. The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act gives Medicare beneficiaries and their health care providers additional tools to reduce obesity by improving access to weight-loss counseling and new prescription drugs for chronic weight management, among other provisions.
Health care costs related to obesity total nearly $200 billion each year. Furthermore, nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and 42 percent of Americans are projected to become obese by 2030. Obesity increases the risk for chronic diseases ...
LZB - La-Z-Boy, Inc. – Shares in furniture producer, La-Z-Boy, Inc., increased as much as 3.9% to $19.80 at the start of the session, the highest level since 2004, ahead of the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report after the closing bell today. Options volume is up ahead of the report, with roughly 400 contracts in play this afternoon versus average daily volume of around 80 contracts. Trading in La-Z-Boy call options is outpacing puts, with the call/put ratio up above 4.3 as of the time of this writing. Some traders appear to be p...
The market responded well today to good economic news and to the positive and somewhat surprising response to the election of a moderate Iranian President. Some moderation in Turkey didn’t hurt either, and overnight positive markets in Asia and Europe gave bullish investors enough encouragement to buy equities broadly.
This drove all three major domestic indices up about 1% before a late small selloff left the S&P 500 Index up nearly 1% and the Nasdaq and Dow Jones Industrial Average both up well over 0.5%. We think it likely this week that the market will challenge highs set in late May.
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I am going to share with you how I manage my IRA and the power of reducing your cost basis. My goal each year is a 20% return in my IRA. Sometimes I make it and sometimes I don't, but I believe that all of my success is due to reducing my cost basis. To illustrate the power of reducing your cost basis here are some trades we did last year. These trades are taken from an educational portfolio we ran in a paper-trading account for a little more than a year.
We bought RIG on 5/15/2012 for $44.13, sold it on 1/18/2013 for $46 but booked a profit of $1,154.
We bought MT on 1/4/2012 for $19.24, sold it on 12/21/2012 for $15 but booked a profit of $454.
We bought CHK on 1/27/2012 for $21.93, sold it on 10/19/2012 for $18 b...
Stock market posts another record setting week, but the big news came after Friday’s close.
Courtesy of NASA
The stock market put on another record setting show with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSEARCA:DIA) closing at a record high 15,118 and the S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) closing at 1633.70, another all time closing high.
For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSEARCA:DIA) gained 1%, the S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) climbed 1.2%, the Nasdaq Composite (NYSEARCA:...
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Well, well, well....it is good to know that there are others in the scientific arena who believed that YMI Bioscience's data (cough - Gilead) is a better drug than Incyte's Jakafi. Now, the definitive data are still unknown, but there was enough evidence from a Phase 2 trial to take a small risk for a huge reward. So, let's forget about Apple (AAPL), and do nothing but biotechs from now until Congress passes universal health care coverage for prescriptions....and drive the prices down so that research and development is no longer feasible to conduct in the US. Even Seattle Genetics (SGEN) has been on a tear as of late...
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