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
In today’s Outside the Box, Lacy Hunt and Van Hoisington of Hoisington Investment have the temerity to point out that since the Great Recession officially ended in 2009, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has been consistently overoptimistic in its projections of US growth. They simply expected QE to be more stimulative than it has been, to the tune of about 6% over the past four years – a total of about $1 trillion that never materialized.
Given that dismal track record, our authors ask why we should believe the Fed’s prediction of 2.9% real GDP growth for 2014 and 3.4% for 2015 – particularly with QE being tapered into nonexistence.
Kevin Gosztola over at Firedoglake does some excellent work, and his latest story about the recent activities of perjuring Director of National Intelligence for the U.S., James Clapper, is no exception. To provide a little context, the Washington Post ...
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I have been saying this for a while: You can't have a housing recovery unless actual home buyers are involved.
We are very far away from seeing the housing market reach its 2005 highs ... and as time passes, it becomes clearer that this generation may never see them again.
How can I say that?
What we have seen in the housing market since then, but mostly since 2012, in my opinion, is nothing more than a dead-cat bounce scenario -- an increase in prices after a massive decline. The chart below shows how far off we are from the housing prices of 2005.
Bunge Limited (BG) is the world’s largest processor of soybeans. It is also a major producer of vegetable oils, fertilizer, sugar and bioenergy.
When commodities got hot in 2007-08, Bunge’s EPS shot up and the stock followed, rising 185% in 19 months.
The Great Recession took its toll on operations, dropping EPS to a low of $2.22 in 2009. Since then profits have recovered. They ranged from $4.62 - $5.90 in the latest three years. 2014 appears poised for a large increase. Consensus views from multiple sources see BG earning $7.04 - $7.10 this year and then $7.83 - $7.94 in 2015.
Shares in Las Vegas Sands Corp. (Ticker: LVS) are up sharply today, gaining as much as 5.7% to touch $80.12 and the highest level since April 4th, mirroring gains in shares of resort casino operator Wynn Resorts Ltd. (Ticker: WYNN). The move in Wynn shares appears, at least in part, to follow a big increase in target price from analysts at CLSA who upped their target on the ‘buy’ rated stock to $350 from $250 a share. CLSA also has a ‘buy’ rating on Las Vegas Sands with a $100 price target according to a note from reporter, Janet Freund, on Bloomberg. Both companies are scheduled to report first-quarter earnings after the closing bell on Thursday.
Yesterday, the market continued its winning ways for the fifth consecutive day. The S&P 500 closed within 1% of its all-time high, and the DJI was even closer to its all-time high. Healthcare, Energy and Technology led the sectors while Financials, Telecom, and Utilities finished slightly in the red. All three sectors in the red are typically flight-to-safety stocks, so despite lower than average volume, the market appears poised to make new highs.
Mid-cap Growth led the style/caps last week, up 2.87%, and Small-cap Growth trailed, up 2.22%. This week will bring well over 100 S&P 500 stocks reporting their March quarter earn...
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[Facebook] The social network is only weeks away from obtaining regulatory approval in Ireland for a service that would allow its users to store money on Facebook and use it to pay and exchange money with others, according to several people involved in the process.
The authorisation from Ireland’s central bank to become an “e-money” institution would allow ...
I just wanted to be sure you saw this. There’s a ‘live’ training webinar this Thursday, March 27th at Noon or 9:00 pm ET.
If GOOGLE, the NSA, and Steve Jobs all got together in a room with the task of building a tremendously accurate trading algorithm… it wouldn’t just be any ordinary system… it’d be the greatest trading algorithm in the world.
Well, I hate to break it to you though… they never got around to building it, but my friends at Market Tamer did.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, hobos and tramps,
Cross-eyed mosquitoes, and Bow-legged ants,
I come before you, To stand behind you,
To tell you something, I know nothing about.
And so the circus begins in Union Square, San Francisco for this weeks JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Will the momentum from 2013, which carried the S&P Spider Biotech ETF to all time highs, carry on in 2014? The Biotech ETF beat the S&P by better than 3 points.
As I noted in my previous post, Biotechs Galore - IPOs and More, biotechs were rushing to IPOs so that venture capitalists could unwind their holdings (funds are usually 5-7 years), as well as take advantage of the opportune moment...
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