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US Economics Week Ahead: 2010 Starts with a Bang

December 31st, 2009 Michael McDonough Comments off

It is a good thing investors will have the entire weekend to recover from their New Year’s celebrations, because 2010 is starting with a bang, at least in terms of economic data.  Undoubtedly, the week’s most critical release will be Friday’s employment report, where excitement is building that payrolls could show their first monthly advance since gaining 120K jobs in December 2007. What a difference a year makes, considering it was announced last year that payrolls fell -524K December.  Leading up to this release data-centric investors will analyzing both the ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing’s employment indices along with the ADP employment report for clues toward Friday’s release.

Other significant indicators this week include manufacturing ISM on Monday, pending home sales on Tuesday, non-manufacturing ISM and FOMC minute on Wednesday, and jobless claims and chain store sales on Thursday.  The manufacturing ISM should remain above 50 for the fifth consecutive month; however, weakness in some of the Fed’s regional manufacturing survey could place some negative pressure on the index leading to only a marginal gain from November’s release.  The FOMC minutes should prove to be a non-market moving event simply providing further details behind the Fed’s eventual exit strategy and the termination of its unprecedented accommodative policies.  Pending home sales should help provide some insight behind the health of home sales after the would-be expiration of the first time home buyer tax credit on November 30th.  Finally, chain store sales on Thursday will provide one of the first detailed looks at the holiday shopping season.

Fed speakers will be relatively active next week with Chairman Bernanke, Vice Chairman Kohn, and Atlanta Fed President Lockhart opening the week up on Sunday participating in a panel discussion for the American Economic Association in Atlanta.  On the earnings front, Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), Constellation Brands (STZ), Family Dollar Stores (FDO), and Monsanto (MON) are all expected to report this week.  Also, look for headlines from the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show that starts next week and could attract over 100K visitors.

Here is the rest of this week’s US calendar:

Monday, Jan. 4

10:00 a.m. EST: December’s ISM Manufacturing Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): The Manufacturing ISM Index should remain above 50 for the fifth consecutive month, but experience only a marginal gain from November’s reading of 53.6.  Weakness in some of the Fed’s regional surveys could place downward pressure on this month’s release; however, some of this pressure should be alleviated by the fact that in November the ISM New Orders index came in at a relatively robust 60.3.  It will be important to continue monitoring the ISM’s new orders, employment, and prices paid index for implications toward the future and other sectors of the economy.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for an ISM reading in December of 54.8, compared to 53.6 in November.

10:00 a.m. EST: November’s Construction Spending (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): Construction spending will likely remain weak in November, and downward revisions to past data are likely to continue.  Construction spending was unchanged in October, but after revisions declined by -1.6% in September.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a decline in construction spending of -0.5%.

10:15 a.m. EST: Dennis Lockhart, the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President, will give a speech on government crisis response to the American Economic Association.

Tuesday, Jan. 5

December’s Motor Vehicle Sales (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): Attractive dealer year-end incentives during December will likely help boost motor vehicle sales during the month.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast for domestic vehicle sales is an annual pace of 8.4 million units, compared to 8.2 million a month prior.

7:45 a.m. EST: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This weekly index tracks aggregate store sales across major US retailers, accounting for roughly 10% of total retail sales.  Given recent data supporting an increasing US saving rates and a worsening employment situation, this index could face some downward pressure.  Last week’s number rose +0.4% compared to an increment of +0.6% a week prior.

8:55 a.m. EST: Redbook (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): The Redbook is a weekly measurement of chain stores, discounters, and department store sales.  This indicator tends to be less significant than the ICSC-Goldman Store Sales in forecasting retail sales.  According to the Redbook store sales rose 1.9% last week on a yearly basis.

10:00 a.m. EST: November’s Factory Orders (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): After rising 0.6% in October, factory orders should continue to rise in November on the back of relatively strong durable goods orders and refinery orders stemming from higher energy prices.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a rise in factory orders of 0.4%.

10:00 a.m. EST: November’s Pending Home Sales (Risk: Downside, Market Reaction: Significant): This release should help quantify the impact of what would have been the expiration of the first time homebuyer tax credit on November 30th.  It is expected that a wave of buyers rushed to close their purchases before the end of the month to qualify for the first time home buyer tax credit.  Mortgage applications have recently been on the decline to supporting this theory.  It is expected that an extension/expansion of the program will eventually bring a new group of home purchasers into the market.

Wednesday, Jan. 6

7:00 a.m. EST: MBA Mortgage Applications (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): The MBA was closed last week so this week’s release will include two weeks of data. This index, which tracks new mortgage applications tend to be a reasonable forward looking indicator for home sales, but issues including customers filling out numerous applications could skew the index.  Applications fell 10.7% two weeks ago after rising 0.3% a week prior.  Refinance applications fell 10.1%, while purchase applications dropped -11.6%.  A wave of buyers, filling out multiple mortgage applications, that were looking to take advantage of the first time home buyer tax credit–originally set to expire on Nov. 30th–have already completed their transactions, and have recently reduced the demand for mortgages.    However, the recent extension of the first time home buyer tax credit should eventually bring a new set of buyers into the market, which could help support the purchase index over the coming months.

7:30 a.m. EST: December’s Challenger Job Cut Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This index measures the number of announced corporate mass layoffs, but does not take into account the timing of the actual layoffs.  Meaning layoffs announced in November may not actually take place until December, or even take place slowly over an extended period of time.  I anticipate this report will show continued improvements as companies have mostly completed large scale layoffs.

8:15 a.m. EST: December’s ADP Employment Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): The ADP Employment report is considered a good window into Friday’s critical payroll number.  Any significant swings in this release combined with unexpected shifts in the manufacturing and non-manufacturing ISM employment indices could shift the consensus forecast for Friday’s employment release.

10:00 a.m. EST: December’s ISM Non-Manufacturing (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): After unexpectedly falling below 50 in November, investors will have the opportunity to decide whether this is the beginning of a new trend or a one off event.  Investors will also be paying close attention to the non-manufacturing ISM’s employment index, which could have some sway over the whisper number ahead of Friday’s employment report.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a reading of 50.4 compared to 48.7 a month prior.

10:30 a.m. EST: EIA Petroleum Status Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report measures US domestic petroleum inventories.  Large unanticipated swings in this index could have a significant impact on energy prices.  Last week this report showed a decline of -1.5 million barrels versus a drop of -4.9 million barrels a week prior.

2:00 p.m. EST: FOMC Minutes (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): The FOMC minutes should provide additional details behind the Fed’s eventual exit strategy and the termination of its unprecedented monetary easing.  However, I think it is still too early in the year to anticipate anything tremendously market moving from this report.

Thursday, Jan. 7

Chain Store Sales (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): The market will be looking closely at this report as it is the first detailed report covering the holiday shopping season.  Early reports have indicated that the holiday shopping season may have been more robust than some had anticipated, but considering last year’s base this may not be as positive as it sounds.  Nevertheless, higher is better; I anticipate the strongest results will come from discount retailers as consumers grow increasingly budget conscious.

6:00 a.m. EST: Monster Employment Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): Given the added significance of this week’s employment report this typically overlooked employment index could garner some extra attention. This survey conducted by Monster Worldwide Inc. measures online job demand.  According to the company, “The trend in online job availability has been largely flat for most of the year and remained so in November,” said Jesse Harriott, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at Monster Worldwide. “While job losses have continued to ease, businesses remain cautious about adding to their payrolls in light of sustained economic uncertainty.”

8:30 a.m. EST: Jobless Claims (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): Initial claims fell 22K last week to 432K, after falling 28K a week prior.  It is important to note that the Christmas holiday, and the seasonal adjustment around it, could be skewing last week’s data.  The four week moving average improved to 460,250 from 465,250.  Improving initial jobless claims are indicative of fewer job losses in the BLS’s monthly employment report; however, the job situation will still get worse before it gets better.

10:30 a.m. EST: EIA Natural Gas Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report highlights domestic natural gas inventories, which could have a significant impact on the energy sector.

1:00 p.m. EST: Tom Hoenig, the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President, will give a speech on the economic outlook.

4:30 p.m. EST: Fed Balance Sheet & Money Supply—Current Week’s Release (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): Since the Fed’s shift to quantitative easing, the balance sheet has become one method to measure to the Fed’s effectiveness.  The market will pay close attention to the reserve bank credit component, which measures factors supplying   providing reserves into the banking system.  The Fed’s balance sheet shrank marginally last week to US$2.219trn from US$2.221trn, due to marginal reduction in the Fed’s agency MBS.    The fed’s balance sheet has slowly been shifting away from emergency lending facilities to Treasuries, agency debt, and mortgage-backed securities to help moderate long-term interest rates.

Friday, Jan. 8

8:30 a.m. EST: December’s Employment Situation (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Very Significant): The current Bloomberg consensus is for a change in payrolls of 0, versus a decline of -11K in November.  Individual forecasts range from -50K to +40K.  A steady reduction in the number of initial unemployment claims bodes well for improving payroll data, but I think we could see an eventual reversal of seasonal hires as the holiday shopping season comes to a close in the months ahead.  I will be paying close attention to the index’s temporary employment index, which recently has been improving, and is a good forward looking indicator toward payrolls.  I continue to believe, despite a potentially positive reading in December, the employment situation will get worse before it stabilizes and begins to improve, albeit gradually, in 2Q10.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast for the unemployment rate is 10.0%, unchanged from November.

10:00 a.m. EST: Wholesale Trade (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This indicator measure the level of inventories and sales by US wholesalers.  It is generally considered a good forward looking indicator toward trends in consumer behavior as stores typically ramp up inventories prior to any anticipated increment in sales.  It is important to note that this data is on a two month lag.

1:35 p.m. EST: Jeffrey Lacker, the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank President, will speak at the Maryland Bankers Association “First Friday” Economic Outlook Forum.

3:00 p.m. EST: November’s Consumer Credit (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): I anticipate that little has changed in this sector, and we should continue to see a decline in consumer credit in the face of consumers less willing to borrow and banks less willing to lend.  November would be the tenth consecutive month consumer credit has declined.  In October consumer credit declined by -$3.5 billion, after declining by a revised -$8.9 billion in September.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a decline of consumer credit outstanding of -$5.0 billion for November.

Enjoy the weekend!

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Dell Set to Ride Approaching IT Replacement Cycle

December 30th, 2009 Michael McDonough Comments off

Back in October I mentioned I had a rather bullish view on the tech sector going into 2010, but the only name I mentioned at the time was Apple (APPL).  Recently, I’ve been speaking with quite a few money managers and one name in the sector has been coming up more than most others, and that’s Dell (DELL).  Looking ahead to 2010, low capital costs for businesses combined with increasing confidence will likely lead to increments in business investment and spending on equipment and software.  Investors have already seen hints of this with a 1.5% seasonally adjusted annualized increment in 3Q09 equipment and software investment.  This is likely only the tip of the iceberg, and Dell is well positioned to take advantage of the approaching IT replacement cycle.

Dell 1Y Performance

Dell 1Y Performance

Source: Google Finance

Dell has faced some downward pricing pressure over the last several months after a disappointing 3Q09 earnings report.  However, part of this slack could have been due to the late October release of Windows 7, which likely caused consumers to postpone PC purchases until the 4th quarter.  Additionally, I believe a number of analysts are underestimating the probability and the magnitude of an IT replacement cycle in 2010, giving the stock more upside potential once the cycle materializes.  Roughly 25% of Dell’s revenues are derived from the company’s commercial PC hardware segment, with another 11% coming from server equipment; both segments are poised to benefit from an IT replacement cycle.  According to Dell, PC’s currently installed are on average 9 to 12 months older than the historical average, which should add some fuel to the approaching cycle.

Additionally, as you can see from the chart below, since November Dell has significantly underperformed the NASDAQ’s Computer Index, and I believe it is only a matter of time before Dell begins playing catch-up.  The managers I spoke with fervently believe the stock should be valued somewhere between $20 and $24, and have indicated to me that they have put their money where their mouths are.  The downside risk is of course that the IT replacement cycle does not materialize or is weaker than expectations.

Dell vs. NASDAQ Computer Index

Dell vs. NASDAQ Computer IndexSource: Yahoo Finance

List of my Equity Based Global Macro Investment Ideas:

Trading IdeasSource: Bloomberg

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Categories: Company Specific, Equity Markets, US Tags:

Chicago PMI Moves Higher

December 30th, 2009 Michael McDonough Comments off

The Chicago PMI’s better than anticipated reading of 60.0 in December from 56.1 a month prior continues to indicate improving business conditions throughout the Chicago area–and a potentially positive forward looking indicator toward December’s ISM. All of the indicator’s components, excluding inventories, have moved above the break-even point of 50. The most noteworthy jump was in the employment index, which rose to 51.2 from 41.9 a month prior. This is the first time the Chicago PMI’s employment index has demonstrated growth since November 2007-a potential positive for payrolls.

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Categories: Data Release, GDP, US Tags:

US Economics Week Ahead: Quiet for the Holidays

December 24th, 2009 Michael McDonough 2 comments

The last week of 2009 bears some good news for investors, and that is there isn’t much of it.  The week ahead could very well be the quietest week of 2009.  However, not all is still, there are several quasi-important releases related to housing, consumer confidence, and manufacturing.  Data-centric investors will be analyzing the Dallas and Kansas City fed’s manufacturing reports along with the Chicago PMI for clues toward December’s ISM reading.  The week’s most lauded release should be December’s consumer confidence report on Tuesday.  Confidence should see a nice jump on what is generally perceived as an ongoing economic recovery.  Jobless claims could face some pressure this week on the back of inclement weather in the northeast, which has the potential to reduce employment in weather sensitive industries.  The treasury will be auctioning $118bn in notes during the week tying the record (set last month); the results of this auction could have some impact on markets.  Also, be on the lookout for after Christmas sales by retailers looking to bolster sales and attract customers who received store gift cards in their stocking.  In any case, enjoy the quiet week and have a great holiday!

Here is the rest of this week’s US calendar:

Monday, Dec. 28

10:30 a.m. EST: December’s Dallas Fed’s Texas Manufacturing Outlook (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This index is not highly publicized, but tracks manufacturing activity within the Dallas Feds jurisdiction.  Last month’s survey suggested, “Texas factory activity showed its first signs of growth in more than a year, according to business executives responding to November’s Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key indicator of state manufacturing conditions, turned positive for the first time since July 2008. Other key indexes of current factory activity—including capacity utilization, shipments, new orders and growth rate of orders—also moved into positive territory.

4:30 p.m. EST: Fed Balance Sheet & Money Supply—Prior Week’s Release (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): Since the Fed’s shift to quantitative easing, the balance sheet has become one method to measure to the Fed’s effectiveness.  The market will pay close attention to the reserve bank credit component, which measures factors supplying   providing reserves into the banking system.  The Fed’s balance sheet jumped last week to US$2.218trn from US$2.169trn, due increased purchases of agency MBS.    The fed’s balance sheet has slowly been shifting away from emergency lending facilities to Treasuries, agency debt, and mortgage-backed securities to help moderate long-term interest rates.

Tuesday, Dec. 29

7:45 a.m. EST: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This weekly index tracks aggregate store sales across major US retailers, accounting for roughly 10% of total retail sales.  Given recent data supporting an increasing US saving rates and a worsening employment situation, this index could face some downward pressure.  Last week’s number rose +0.6% compared to a drop of +0.4% a week prior.

8:55 a.m. EST: Redbook (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): The Redbook is a weekly measurement of chain stores, discounters, and department store sales.  This indicator tends to be less significant than the ICSC-Goldman Store Sales in forecasting retail sales.  According to the Redbook store sales rose 1.9% last week on a yearly basis.

9:00 a.m. EST: October’s S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): With the FHFA House Price Index moving higher in October after posting two weaker months, and  the Case-Shiller’s general upward trend over the prior five months—rising 3.1% during the third quarter—we should see another gain in October.

10:00 a.m. EST: December’s Consumer Confidence (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): An increment in the Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index to 72.5 from 67.4 in December should bode well for consumer confidence.  An improvement in confidence would be in-line with what is generally perceived as an economic recovery.   The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a reading of 47.5 compared to November’s reading of 53.0.

10:00 a.m. EST: December’s State Street Investor Confidence Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): The State Street Investor’s Confidence Index measures investors’ tolerance to risk. According to the State Street report, “Across all regions, institutional investors are largely treading water; neither increasing nor reducing their aggregate holdings of risky assets,” commented Froot. “However, the aggregate figures mask some country- and region-specific views. This month, for example, institutional investors aggressively pared their holdings in selected markets, such as Australia, while continuing to add to their emerging markets holdings. Overall, investors are displaying some caution about the current level of equity valuations, and a desire to see more evidence of real economic activity and aggregate demand, particularly in the US, before adding to equity exposures.”

Wednesday, Dec. 30

7:00 a.m. EST: MBA Mortgage Applications (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This index, which tracks new mortgage applications tends to be a reasonable forward looking indicator for home sales, but issues including customers filling out numerous applications could skew the index.  Applications fell 10.7% last week after rising 0.3% a week prior.  Refinance applications fell 10.1%, while purchase applications dropped -11.6%.  A wave of buyers, filling out multiple mortgage applications, that were looking to take advantage of the first time home buyer tax credit–originally set to expire on Nov. 30th–have already completed their transactions, and have recently reduced the demand for mortgages.    However, the recent extension of the first time home buyer tax credit should eventually bring a new set of buyers into the market, which could help support the purchase index over the coming months.

9:45 a.m. EST: Chicago PMI (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): The Chicago PMI measures business activity in the mid-West, and is released one business day prior to the ISM. *I should note that the Chicago PMI is released several minutes early to subscribers, so the market could begin reacting to the data as early as 9:42 a.m.  This index is considered a forward looking indicator to the national ISM, so any large unexpected shifts in the Chicago PMI could impact trading.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a reading of 54.9, versus to 56.1 in November.  The PMI covers both the manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors.

10:30 a.m. EST: EIA Petroleum Status Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report measures US domestic petroleum inventories.  Large unanticipated swings in this index could have a significant impact on energy prices.  Last week this report showed an unexpected decline of -4.9 million barrels versus a drop of -3.7 million barrels a week prior.

3:00 p.m. EST: Farm Prices (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): Given the relationship between farms prices and food prices, this index could have significant implications on future headline CPI.

Thursday, Dec. 31

8:30 a.m. EST: Jobless Claims (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): Initial claims fell 28K last week to 452K, after rising 17K a week prior.  The four week moving average improved to 465,250 from 467,500.  Improving initial jobless claims are indicative of fewer job losses in the BLS’s monthly employment report; however, the job situation will still get worse before it gets better.  Last week’s inclement weather could place some pressure on this week’s claims data.

10:30 a.m. EST: EIA Natural Gas Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report highlights domestic natural gas inventories, which could have a significant impact on the energy sector.

11:00 a.m. EST: December’s Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Survey (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): Data-centric investors will be looking at the Kansas City Fed’s mostly overlooked manufacturing survey for clues toward December’s ISM release.  Specifically, these investors will be watching the surveys new orders and shipments components.

4:30 p.m. EST: Fed Balance Sheet & Money Supply—Current Week’s Release (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): Since the Fed’s shift to quantitative easing, the balance sheet has become one method to measure to the Fed’s effectiveness.  The market will pay close attention to the reserve bank credit component, which measures factors supplying   providing reserves into the banking system.  The Fed’s balance sheet jumped last week to US$2.218trn from US$2.169trn, due increased purchases of agency MBS.    The fed’s balance sheet has slowly been shifting away from emergency lending facilities to Treasuries, agency debt, and mortgage-backed securities to help moderate long-term interest rates.

Friday, Jan. 1

All Markets Closed—New Year’s Day!

Enjoy the weekend!

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A Review of my EQ Based Global Macro Trading Ideas

December 22nd, 2009 Michael McDonough Comments off

Today I wanted to quickly highlight the performance of my equity based trading strategies around my global macro economic investment thesis.

Emerging markets: I continue to believe that emerging-market growth and equity performance — especially in countries with a strong consumer base — will continue to outpace developed nations in 2010. Therefore, you should still consider long positions in iShares Brazil (EWZ) and iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 (FXI).

Risks in Brazil include an eventual uptick in the central bank’s Selic rate, which could stymie the country’s growth. In China, early inflationary warnings could eventually lead to tightening actions by the government that could hamper growth. Still, I believe upside potential outweighs the risks over the short term. For more details on this trade idea, please see my piece published on Oct. 9 titled “Easy Money is a Big Driver.”

Steel: The continuing global economic recovery combined with relatively conservative steel demand estimates for 2010 should help propel steel prices in the year ahead. In addition, the potential consolidation of inefficient Chinese steel mills may lead to reduced output, placing excess demand in a favorable pricing environment on South Korea’s Posco (PKX ) and Japan’s JFE Holdings. Strong demand in other emerging markets should help to support Gerdau (GGB). Risks to these investments include a weaker-than-anticipated global recovery or an oversupply of steel weighing on prices. See my column from Oct 16, “Coal Seeing Recovery in Foreign Demand,” for more thoughts on this theme.

Japan: Not much has changed on my bearish view toward the yen since I published a piece called simply, “How to Play Japan” back on Nov. 13. In fact, I would argue that support for any further yen appreciation has dissolved, creating a good entry point for a short position via puts on ProShares Ultra Yen (YCL) or a straight long position in ProShares UltraShort Yen (YCS). This trade depends heavily on timing, and I anticipate that the yen should move back above 100 per U.S. dollar over the coming months.Japan’s woes have recently been noticed by Moody’s, where a senior vice president was recently quoted by Bloomberg as saying, “Things we are most concerned about are the lack of well-articulated long-term fiscal consolidation and a debt reduction plan.”

Rail: Warren Buffett’s purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNI) provided a strong boost for railroads and provided Buffett with a bet not only on long-term U.S. recovery, but also on coal. I recommended CSX (CSX), Union Pacific (UNP) and Norfolk Southern (NSC) based on what I assumed to be Buffett’s investment thesis. These positions may not have the same short-term upside potential as some of my other ideas, but they should provide some longer-term value in your portfolio. My piece from Nov. 13, “Coal in Your Stocking: Hypocrisy, Senility or Common Sense?” has more information about this trading idea.

Agriculture: Ag products will see more demand as developing nations begin to eat more like developed countries. Ag stocks also provide investors with a good real-time hedge against inflation and thus far have lagged pricing increments seen in other commodities. I maintain my constructive long-term view on wheat, corn, sugar, soybean, cocoa and hogs. One way you might play these positions is through exchange-traded fund PowerShares DB Agriculture (DBA), which is unique in that it invests in actual commodities futures vs. agricultural companies. For more information on trades in the ag sector, please see my piece published on Nov. 20 called, “Talking Turkey on Agriculture Trends.”

China energy: Very little has changed since I first published my thesis on Chinese energy companies last week, “Three Ways to Play China Oil & Gas for 2010.” I still believe that PetroChina (PTR), Sinopec (SNP), and CNOOC (CEO) are all well positioned to take advantage of China’s growing energy and natural gas market in the year ahead.

Global Macro Trading IdeasSource: Bloomberg

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Existing Home Sales– Surprise to the Upside

December 22nd, 2009 Michael McDonough Comments off

November’s existing home sales rose 7.4% to 6.54 million units, after a marginal downward revision to 6.09 million units in October from 6.10. This increment was above market expectations, and likely driven primarily by what would have been the expiration of the first-time home buyer tax credit at the end of the November. The months’ supply of homes dropped to 6.5 in November from 7.0 in October and 11.0 in November 2008. Given the catalyst behind the recent surge in home sales and what is expected to be rising mortgage rates we could see some weakness in the data over the months ahead. But, a reduced inventory of homes and relatively stable prices are indicative of a bottom in housing.

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3Q09 GDP Revised Down, But 4Q Still Looks Strong

December 22nd, 2009 Michael McDonough Comments off

This morning’s unexpected downward revision of third quarter GDP to 2.2% from 2.8% was unexpected, but should be made up for by growth around 4.5% in the current quarter.  Looking at this morning’s data, several components were revised between the preliminary and final GDP estimate leading to a decline of -$17.3 billion. The revisions were mostly due to faster inventory liquidation, shrinking net export deficit, marginally lower consumer spending, and less nonresidential fixed investment.  Considering that this data is now three months old, and the outlook for the current quarter remains strong the market reaction from this surprise should be kept at a minimum. But, this data does highlight the fragility of the current economic recovery; lets not forget the preliminary estimate indicated third quarter growth of 3.5%.

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Categories: Data Release, GDP Tags:

US Economics Week Ahead: Retailers not Dreaming of a White Christmas

December 19th, 2009 Michael McDonough Comments off

Retailers are not dreaming of a white Christmas.  Whether a snowstorm impacting the Mid-Atlantic region this weekend will impact an arguably lackluster holiday shopping season is yet to be seen.  But, bad weather does have a tendency of keeping would be shoppers home, however, these shoppers will still have access to online stores, but given the proximity to the holiday, would likely be forced to dish out expedited shipping charges.  Despite the shortened week the market will be receiving several early Christmas presents including November’s new and existing home sales data, durable goods orders, personal income and outlays, and finally December’s final consumer sentiment reading.  Given the holiday many market participants will likely be away from their desks, which could cause higher than usually volatility on the back of light buying.  Investors will also be paying close attention to Thursday’s jobless claims data after disappointing data last week.

On the earnings front we will be hearing from Micron (MU), Red Hat (RHT), Walgreen (WAG), and Conagra (CAG).  Investors will also want to look for headlines from Iraq where it has been reported that Iran took over an oil well in the south of the country.  If the situation escalates, geopolitical instability in the Middle East not only has the potential cause a spike in oil prices, but could draw investors away from risk.  On oil, OPEC is scheduled to meet next week, and will likely keep production unchanged.  Enjoy the holidays.

Here is the rest of this week’s US calendar:

Monday, Dec. 21

8:30 a.m. EST: November’s Chicago Fed National Activity Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): The CFNAI is an index consisting of 85 separate data sets designed to encompass national economic activity and inflationary pressure. A reading of 0 indicates the economy is growing at the historical trend while a negative or positive result indicates the economy is growing below or above its historical average, respectively. Given the volatile nature of this index, the three-month moving average is typically quoted. This index remains somewhat obscure in the mainstream media and is likely to have a minimal impact on trading. This index has been trending upwards over the preceding nine months, and should show some improvement in November from its reading of -1.08 in October.

Tuesday, Dec. 22

7:45 a.m. EST: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This weekly index tracks aggregate store sales across major US retailers, accounting for roughly 10% of total retail sales.  Given recent data supporting an increasing US saving rates and a worsening employment situation, this index could face some downward pressure.  Last week’s number rose +0.4% compared to a drop of -1.3% a week prior.

8:30 a.m. EST: Third Quarter 2009 GDP (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): I anticipate that very little will change from the BEA’s preliminary estimate of third quarter 2009 GDP at 2.8%.  The preliminary estimate was down markedly from the BEA’s advanced estimate of 3.5%.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a reading of 2.8%.  This release should be a non-event barring any unforeseen revisions.

8:30 a.m. EST: Third Quarter Revised Corporate Profits (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): The importance of this release is somewhat muted given its timing toward the end of the 3Q09 earnings season.  However, since these profits tie into GDP growth, and do not always move lock step with individual corporations’ aggregate earnings data, the data can have an unexpected impact on growth.  The original 3Q09 corporate profits release indicated profits grew at 10.6%.

8:55 a.m. EST: Redbook (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): The Redbook is a weekly measurement of chain stores, discounters, and department store sales.  This indicator tends to be less significant than the ICSC-Goldman Store Sales in forecasting retail sales.  According to the Redbook store sales rose 1.5% last week on a yearly basis.

10:00 a.m. EST: November’s Existing Home Sales (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): Pending home sales rose 3.7% in October, which should bode well for November’s existing home sales.  Existing home sales jumped 10.1% in October, primarily due to buyers rushing contracts to take advantage of the first time home buyer tax credit prior to its original expiration in November.  The supply of existing homes continued to fall to 7.0 months from 8.0 months in September. The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a rate of existing home sales of 6.25 million in November versus 6.10 million in October.

10:00 a.m. EST: FHFA House Price Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) monthly house price index is compiled by using loan data provided by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which means all the data within the index consists of conventional mortgages within the limitations of the GSE’s.  The FHFA’s monthly purchase only index was unchanged in September, while August’s reading was revised down to -0.5% from -0.3%.  The monthly index tends to be relatively volatile, but should continue to trend up in-line with the Case-Shiller home price index.

Wednesday, Dec. 23

7:00 a.m. EST: MBA Mortgage Applications (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This index, which tracks new mortgage applications tends to be a reasonable forward looking indicator for home sales, but issues including customers filling out numerous applications could skew the index.  Applications rose 0.3% last week after rising 8.5% a week prior.  Refinance applications rose modestly be 0.9%, while purchase applications fell -0.1%.  A wave of buyers, filling out multiple mortgage applications, that were looking to take advantage of the first time home buyer tax credit–originally set to expire on Nov. 30th–have already completed their transactions, and have recently reduced the demand for mortgages.    However, the recent extension of the first time home buyer tax credit should eventually bring a new set of buyers into the market, which could help support the purchase index over the coming months.

8:30 a.m. EST: November’s Personal Income and Outlays (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): Personal income should continue to extend it gains, growing for a fifth consecutive month, while spending should also rise on stronger motor vehicle sales during November.  More importantly, headline and core CPI should remain relatively tame, placing inflationary concerns on the back burner, at least for the time being.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for an increase in income of 0.5% (0.2% in October), and an increase in spending of 0.6% (0.7% in October), while core PCE is anticipated to rise a modest 0.1% (0.2% in October) in November.

9:55 a.m. EST: December’s Final Consumer Sentiment (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): December’s preliminary consumer sentiment index jump to 73.4 from a reading of 67.4 in November.  Improving market conditions and some better than anticipated labor data during the month should provide a modest bump in December’s final sentiment reading.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a reading of 73.5.

10:00 a.m. EST: November’s New Home Sales (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): As with existing home sales, new home sales likely rose in November.  The rate of new home sales in October was the highest rate since September 2008, and November’s release should be even higher.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for the rate of new home sales to increase to 440K from 430K a month prior.

10:30 a.m. EST: EIA Petroleum Status Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report measures US domestic petroleum inventories.  Large unanticipated swings in this index could have a significant impact on energy prices.  Last week this report showed an unexpected decline of -3.7 million barrels versus a drop of -3.8 million barrels a week prior.

Thursday, Dec. 24

8:30 a.m. EST: November’s Durable Goods (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): Durable goods orders should recover a portion of October’s -0.6% decline on the back of stronger motor vehicle sales during the month.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for an increment in durable goods orders of 0.5%, versus a drop of -0.6% a month prior. Unfortunately, last month’s number excluding the volatile transportation component fell -1.3%.  Additionally, an unexpected jump in civilian aircraft orders last month (+50%) may have been overstated and I anticipate this could lead to a strong drop of this component in November.

8:30 a.m. EST: Jobless Claims (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): Initial claims rose 7K last week to 480K, after rising 17K a week prior. Despite the increment in last week’s claim data the four week moving average improved to 467,500 from 473,750.  Improving initial jobless claims are indicative of fewer job losses in the BLS’s monthly employment report; however, the job situation will still get worse before it gets better.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is expecting claims to come in at 470K, a decrease of -10K from last week.

10:30 a.m. EST: EIA Natural Gas Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report highlights domestic natural gas inventories, which could have a significant impact on the energy sector.

4:30 p.m. EST: Fed Balance Sheet & Money Supply (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): Since the Fed’s shift to quantitative easing, the balance sheet has become one method to measure to the Fed’s effectiveness.  The market will pay close attention to the reserve bank credit component, which measures factors supplying   providing reserves into the banking system.  The Fed’s balance sheet jumped last week to US$2.218trn from US$2.169trn, due increased purchases of agency MBS.    The fed’s balance sheet has slowly been shifting away from emergency lending facilities to Treasuries, agency debt, and mortgage-backed securities to help moderate long-term interest rates.

Friday, Dec. 25

All Markets Closed—Merry Christmas!

Enjoy the weekend!

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An Economic Wrestling Match For Our Future

December 14th, 2009 Michael McDonough Comments off

As the invisible hand of the market continues wrestling the imprudent hand of governments; consequences will be felt across the globe as one hand hits the table…

Government stimulus and monetary policy has undoubtedly led us out of one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression, but what impact will these policies have on the future?  Many economists agree that the current growth period has been significantly bolstered by fiscal stimulus, which has failed to substantially address a lack in final demand and create what many would consider to be a sustained recovery.  Let’s take a look at this chart published by Goldman Sach’s chief economist Jan Hatzius depicting his firm’s view on the medium term impact of the fiscal stimulus package on GDP:

GS Fiscal Stimulus on GDPSource: Goldman Sachs

Not pretty, especially considering there are no indications that final demand is prepared to take the lead as this recoveries growth engine.  Given the nature of politics and the election cycle it makes sense for some politicians to be more concerned over short-term outcomes versus long-term consequences, at least if they want to retain their jobs.  And who wants to be unemployed right now?

Funds for the government’s stimulus package do not just appear; they were borrowed.  Not only were they borrowed, but they were borrowed at teaser rates subprime Vegas home buyers would have been happy with several years ago.  It is my belief over the long-term the government’s soaring debt load combined with an eventual increment in rates will lead to substantially higher taxes in the US and lower growth prospects for the country.  What we have done is borrow from future growth for the gains we are realizing today.

Turning to the central bank, copious amounts of liquidity have been poured into the financial system to help stave off deflation and support asset prices.  These funds have not yet triggered significant inflationary concerns, because they have simply made up for a slowdown in the velocity of money.  What I mean is the fed’s injections counteracted an essential halt in lending markets; making up for borrowed money that would have existed to prop prices.  But, this also means that as banks turn back on the lending spicket excess liquidity in the system can quickly turn into fuel for inflation.  This will force the Fed to react by withdrawing liquidity from the system, and hiking the target rate.  The big question will if the fed can remove excess  liquidity faster than inflation can take root, and if so will unemployment still be at uncomfortably high levels?  Probably.

All of these questions will be answered in time, but I have no doubt we will be paying for today’s growth well into the future.  Will it be worth the price? We can only hope.

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US Economics Week Ahead: No Change by the Fed

December 12th, 2009 Michael McDonough Comments off

There is no doubt that this week’s FOMC meeting will steal the economic headlines, however, the result is likely to be rather anticlimactic.  I do not anticipate any major changes to the FOMC’s statement, and certainly no shift in the target rate—despite last month’s better than expected employment data.  The Fed will not view a single data point as the start of a trend, and regardless of being on their minds the employment data will not have a significant impact at this meeting.  After Wednesday we will inevitably be one meeting closer to an eventual rate hike, however, ahead of any hike the Fed would remove the phrase  ‘extended period’ from the statement, and I do not yet believe that is in the cards.

Other important indicators this week include the producer price index, consumer price index, and industrial production.  On the inflation front both headline producer and consumer prices will face some upward pressure due to higher energy and food prices, while the core releases should remain tame.  Industrial production will face some headwinds from a relatively mild month reducing utility output, which should be more than offset by manufacturing output.  An increase in aggregate manufacturing hours worked during the month help to support this belief.

During the week we will also hear earnings from FedEx (FDX), Best Buy (BBY), Nike (NKE), Oracle (ORCL), and Research in Motion (RIMM) to name a few.  In other news, the Senate Banking Committee is expected to vote Thursday on the reconfirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke.  Boeing is also expected to conduct its first test flight of their new 787 Dreamliner, after numerous delays. Finally, President Obama will attend the UN Climate summit in Copenhagen to push for several environmental initiatives.

Here is the rest of this week’s US calendar:

Monday, Dec. 14

Nothing

Tuesday, Dec. 15

First day of the FOMC meeting

7:45 a.m. EST: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This weekly index tracks aggregate store sales across major US retailers, accounting for roughly 10% of total retail sales.  Given recent data supporting an increasing US saving rates and a worsening employment situation, this index could face some downward pressure.  Last week’s number fell -1.3% compared to a drop of -0.1% a week prior.

8:30 a.m. EST: November’s Producer Price Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): Rising food and energy prices during the month will likely place some upward momentum on the November’s PPI.  However, increments in the core number should be only modestly positive after falling -0.6% in October.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a monthly increment in headline PPI of 1.0%, compared to 0.2% for the core release.

8:30 a.m. EST: December’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey (Risk: Negative, Market Reaction: Moderate): Recent weakness in the manufacturing sector, combined with a declining new orders index could place additional downward pressure on the NY fed’s manufacturing survey for December after falling 11 points to 23.51 in November.  Nevertheless, the current Bloomberg consensus forecast is anticipating a rise in the month to 25.0.  As always it will be important to monitor the new orders-a forward looking component—, prices paid, and employment aspects of the survey.

8:55 a.m. EST: Redbook (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): The Redbook is a weekly measurement of chain stores, discounters, and department store sales.  This indicator tends to be less significant than the ICSC-Goldman Store Sales in forecasting retail sales.  According to the Redbook store sales rose 1.2% last week on a yearly basis.

9:00 a.m. EST: October’s Treasury International Capital (TIC) Data (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report highlights the flow of financial instruments to and from the U.S. It indicates foreign demand for U.S. financial instruments and thus tends to have a stronger impact on the dollar and the bond markets than it does on equities.  But, given the recent record levels for treasury auctions, it will be interesting to monitor foreign demand for US debt.

9:15 a.m. EST: Industrial Production (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): A significant increment in manufacturing hours worked during the month—a positive for industrial production—will be partially offset by an anticipated decline in utility output, stemming from relatively mild weather across the country.  With this in mind the current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a monthly increment in industrial production of 0.6%, versus 0.1% in October, with capacity utilization rising to 71.2% from 70.7%

1:00 p.m. EST: December’s Housing Market Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): The NAHB Housing Survey, which measures home builder confidence, should continue to benefit from the extension/expansion of the first time home buyer tax credit.  However, numerous headwinds still exist for the sector so any improvements in December are likely to be modest.  The index was unchanged at 17 in November.

Wednesday, Dec. 16

7:00 a.m. EST: MBA Mortgage Applications (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This index, which tracks new mortgage applications tends to be a reasonable forward looking indicator for home sales, but issues including customers filling out numerous applications could skew the index.  Applications rose 8.5% last week after rising 2.1% a week prior.  Refinance applications climbed 11.1%, while purchase applications rose 4.0% on the back of attractive interest rates.  A wave of buyers, filling out multiple mortgage applications, that were looking to take advantage of the first time home buyer tax credit–originally set to expire on Nov. 30th–have already completed their transactions, and have recently reduced the demand for mortgages.    However, the recent extension of the first time home buyer tax credit should eventually bring a new set of buyers into the market, which could help support the purchase index over the coming months.

8:30 a.m. EST: November’s Consumer Price Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): As with the PPI, higher energy and food prices during the month will likely add some pressure on headline CPI, while core CPI should only show a modest rise. The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for an increment of 0.4% for the headline number, and 0.1% for core.  It may be important to note that headline CPI will likely experience its first year over year gain since February 2009.

8:30 a.m. EST: November’s Housing Starts (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): Housing starts look to be up in November on the back of good weather, after falling more than anticipated in October. Additionally, construction jobs declined by only -27K during the month compared to -56K in October. The Bloomberg consensus forecast anticipates starts to rise to 575K, versus 529K in October; I anticipate that new building permits should also rise during the month after declining by -4.0% a month prior—permits tend to be a forward looking indicator toward starts.

10:30 a.m. EST: EIA Petroleum Status Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report measures US domestic petroleum inventories.  Large unanticipated swings in this index could have a significant impact on energy prices.  Last week this report showed a decline of -3.8 million barrels versus a jump of 2.1 million barrels a week prior.

2:15 p.m. EST: December’s FOMC Announcement (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Very Significant): Despite being the week’s most eagerly anticipated piece of economic news, the outcome is likely to be somewhat anticlimactic.  I do not anticipate any major changes compared to November’s FOMC statement, and certainly no shift in the target rate.  The Fed will not view one month of better than anticipated employment data as a trend, and thus it is very unlikely to have a significant impact at this meeting, however, it will be on their minds.  Nevertheless, we will be one meeting closer to an eventual rate hike, but I do not yet anticipate the removal of the key phrase ‘extended period’ from the FOMC’s statement.  The Fed will likely reiterate that employment is still lagging and that “with substantial resource slack likely to continue to dampen cost pressures and with longer-term inflation expectations stable, the Committee expects that inflation will remain subdued for some time”.

Thursday, Dec. 17

8:30 a.m. EST: Third Quarter’s Current Account (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): The third quarter current account deficit likely widened on the back of a wider trade deficit stemming from more expensive energy imports.  The current account deficit totaled $99 billion in the second quarter.

8:30 a.m. EST: Jobless Claims (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): Initial claims rose 17K last week to 474K, after falling 5K a week prior. Despite the decline in last week’s claim number the 4 week moving average improved to 473,750 from 481,500.  Improving initial claims are indicative of fewer job losses in the monthly employment report; however, the job situation will get worse before it gets better.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is expecting claims to come in at 465K, a decrease of -9K from last week.

10:00 a.m. EST: November’s Leading Indicators (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): November’s leading indicator index will likely show its 8th consecutive month of positive readings.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is expecting a +0.7% rise for the month, compared to a +0.3% increment in October.  The biggest positive contributions for the index will likely come from the yield curve, initial jobless claims, and the average workweek, while the University of Michigan’s consumer expectations index should be the largest negative factor.

10:00 a.m. EST: December’s Philadelphia Fed Survey (Risk: Negative, Market Reaction: Moderate): As with the NY fed survey, recent weakness in the manufacturing sector will likely place some downward pressure on the Philly fed survey.  The survey’s six month expectations index peaked at 60.1 in June and has since fallen to 36.8 in November—this tends to be an ominous sign for the spot reading.  Nevertheless, the current Bloomberg consensus forecast is anticipating only a modest decline to 16.5 from 16.7 in November.  However, the forecast range goes from a high of only 18.0 to a low of 6.9.

10:30 a.m. EST: EIA Natural Gas Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report highlights domestic natural gas inventories, which could have a significant impact on the energy sector.

4:30 p.m. EST: Fed Balance Sheet & Money Supply (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): Since the Fed’s shift to quantitative easing, the balance sheet has become one method to measure to the Fed’s effectiveness.  The market will pay close attention to the reserve bank credit component, which measures factors supplying   providing reserves into the banking system.  The Fed’s balance sheet shrank last week to US$2.169trn from US$2.186trn, primarily due to a reduction in long-term loans to banks.    The fed’s balance sheet has slowly been shifting away from emergency lending facilities to Treasuries, agency debt, and mortgage-backed securities to help moderate long-term interest rates.

Friday, Dec. 18

Quadruple Witching

Enjoy the weekend!

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