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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter Week Issues a String Of Positives

The last week of economic news has been quite notably positive.

Last Wednesday, March 31, started with the Mortgage Bankers Association reporting that its purchase index was up a very sharp 6.8 percent for the fourth gain in the last five weeks.

A few hours later Chicago's arm of the Institute of Supply Management reported that business activity in the Chicago region remains robust. According to according to Chicago area purchasers the ISM index came in at a very strong 58.8 -- a signal of significant economic growth relative to February.

A few minutes later, the government reported that factories are cranking it up right now with strong orders in February that followed even stronger orders in January and December. Factory orders rose 0.6 percent in February reflecting an upward revised 0.9 percent month-to-month rise in durable goods orders and a 0.3 percent rise in non-durable goods.

On Thursday April 1, Monster Worldwide reported that its index rose to 125 and is now up 11 points compared to January. Their report said the improvement is signaling that companies are starting to hiring again. Their index is a comprehensive monthly analysis of U.S. online job demand and is based on a real-time review of a large, representative selection of career sites and job boards, including Monster's own postings.

Subsequently, the auto sales in March proved much stronger than February. Sales of domestic-made cars and light trucks rose to an annual unit rate of 8.8M, up more than 15 percent vs. February's 7.6M rate.

In additional labor news on Thursday, fewer Americans filed jobless claims in the March 27 week. Initial claims for that week came in at 439,000 vs. 445,000 in the prior week. The four-week average fell 6,750 to 447,250 and is down roughly 20,000 from levels in February.

Shortly thereafter, the ISM released its March Manufacturing report on business which offered very convincing evidence of continued recovery. Their PMI index jumped 3.1 points to 59.6 well above all economists expectations. All the major components of the index showed strength and new orders continue to be particularly strong. Inventories -- which are a very key positive, soared to a very surprising 55.3 level which is indicative of a broad restocking effort in the sector.

And the big news on Friday was the positive jobs report. Private payrolls (which discount Census hiring and other government changes) jumped 123,000 in March, following an 8,000 rise in February and a 16,000 gain in January.

This week continued to post positive economic news.

On Monday, the ISM published its the non-manufacturing index. It came in at 55.4 for a solid month-to-month acceleration in March and the third month of growth in a row. The the manufacturing report, new orders again led the sub-indexes with a sizzling 62.3 reading -- the sharpest month-to-month acceleration in five years.

Co-incident with the ISM report release, the National Association of Realtors reported that pending sales for existing homes jumped 8.2%. The Realtor's Group, which compiles the data, also reported an increase in multiple offers in some markets. Further they reported that the Midwest was the strongest market in February, jumping 21.8%, with both the South, the biggest region, and the Northeast showing solid month-to-month gains.

And Tuesday the ICSC-Goldman reported a major increase in retail sales in both the April 3 week and for the month of March. Week-on-week, sales jumped 2.1% and year-on-year, sales surged 4.7% These rates are well beyond anything posted by Goldman so far during the recovery. ICSC-Goldman then sharply revised its full-month March sales from a year-on-year plus 3.0 to 3.5 percent to an 8 to 10 percent increase!

These results indicate enormous strength, beyond seasonal adjustments, for the Commerce Department's ex-auto ex-gas retail category. They continue to underscore our assertion that Q1 2010 GDP growth will come in much stronger than that of an already strong 2009 Q4.

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