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US Economics Week Ahead: 2010 Starts with a Bang

December 31st, 2009 Michael McDonough

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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