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Economics Week Ahead: GDP & Earnings Steal the Show

July 25th, 2009 Michael McDonough

We have a rather tumultuous week in terms of economic data, which will focus on the US housing sector, consumer confidence, durable goods, and US GDP. The week kicks off Monday morning with the US Census Bureau reporting June’s new home sales. Recent housing data has been indicative of a bottom for the sector, so it will be important to see whether new home sales data confirms this trend. Mid-week the market will focus on June’s durable goods, with investors looking for any signs of a potential turnaround in industrial production, which experienced a 13.6%yoy decline in June. The week’s main economic event will take place on Friday with the Commerce Department’s release of the advanced 2Q09 GDP estimates. They will also be releasing changes to the benchmark methodology, which could cause some revisions to past data. But again, this week’s earnings calendar will overshadow most of the week’s economic news. Big names reporting this week include Chevron, Walt Disney, Travelers, Verizon, Viacom, Exxon Mobile, Amgen, Norfolk Southern, Genco Shipping, DryShips, Visa, and International Paper. There will also be a record US$115bn long-dated Treasury auction occurring this week, which coupled with better than anticipated earnings has put some downward pressure on Treasury prices.

Monday July 27th:

10:00AM: New Home Sales (Risk: Upward, Market Reaction: Significant): Attractive mortgage rates combined with tax incentives and relatively low home prices should place some upward pressure on this release, but sustained weakness in the labor market will prevent this index from realizing its full potential. The current Bloomberg consensus for new home sales is 350K, compared to last month’s reading of 342K.

Tuesday July 28th:

7:45AM: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales (Risk: Negative, 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 indicated a 0.5% gain in store sales over the previous week.

10:00AM: S&P Case Shiller Home Price Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Moderate: xx): The S&P Case Shiller HPI is reported monthly, but on a two month lag. Last month’s report showed the rate at which home prices were declining began diminish, with some major cities even experiencing modest gains. I anticipate this month’s release will reaffirm that trend. But, we would still need to see significant improvements in those regions, which were the hardest hit by the drop in prices, before we can see a strong overall recovery.

10:00AM: Consumer Confidence (Risk: Downside, Market Reaction: Significant): Weakness in the labor market could adversely impact consumer confidence, overshadowing the recent spike in equity prices. Supporting this is the fact that last week’s Reuters/UofM Consumer Sentiment Index fell to 66 in July from 70.8 a month prior. It will also be important to monitor changes in the expectations index, which has remained elevated, and could help buffer any negative surprises in the current conditions index. The current Bloomberg consensus forecast for July’s consumer confidence reading is 50.0, versus an outcome last month of 49.3.

10:00AM: Janet Yellen, San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President, speaks on the economic outlook to the Idaho/Oregon Bankers Association.

Wednesday July 29th:

7:00AM: MBA Purchase 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. Last week the purchase index rose 1.3%; while the refinance index increased by 4.0% on rising, but still relatively low mortgage rates.

8:30AM: Durable Goods Orders (Risk: Downside, Market Reaction: Significant): This index could face some negative pressure this month as June’s ISM, Philly Fed, NY Fed indices all indicated contractions in new orders. The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is a month over month change of -0.5%, compared to last month’s reading of 1.8%. In May this index was down roughly 26%y/y.

8:30AM: William Dudley, New York Federal Reserve Bank President speaks to the Association for a Better New York on factors driving U.S. growth and inflation.

10:30AM: EIA Petroleum Status Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This report indicates domestic petroleum inventories, which could have a significant impact on the energy sector.

2:00PM: Fed Beige Book (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This report, which is released two weeks before FOMC meetings, outlines economic conditions across the Fed’s 12 districts. Indications of a return to growth for any of the fed’s districts could produce some positive headlines.

Thursday July 30th:

8:30AM: Jobless Claims (Risk: Downside, Market Reaction: Significant): As expected, initial claims experienced a significant uptick last week to 554K from 522K, after two solid weeks of declines. This increase will likely be continued this week as erroneous seasonal adjustments from early auto plant closures continue to correct themselves. Nevertheless, barring recent data, I due anticipate we will see a modest recovery in claims data over the coming months.

10:00AM: 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.

4:30PM: 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. Last week the Fed’s balance sheet decreased to US$2.024trn from US$2.057trn. The fed’s balance sheet has slowly been shifting away from emergency lending facilities to Treasuries, agency debt and mortgage-backed securities to help bring down interest rates.

Friday July 31st:

8:30AM: GDP (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): This will be the key release for the week as investors continue trying to gauge the longevity of the current recession. The current Bloomberg consensus forecast for Real GDP (Q/Q) SAAR is -0.7%, compared to a prior reading of -5.5%. Additionally, the Commerce Department will be releasing their benchmark revisions, which could cause some revisions to past data. In the eyes of the market, this release will likely support the view that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But, make no mistake about it, we are still in the midst of a prolonged recession, which though easing likely won’t abate over the next several months. This data will also reaffirm the Central Bank’s current accommodative policy stance.

8:30AM: Employment Cost Index (Risk: Downside, Market Reaction: Marginal): The current Bloomberg consensus forecast for the ECI is a quarter over quarter change of 0.3%, compared to a first quarter reading of 0.3%. Interestingly, last quarter’s growth rate was the lowest in the 27 year history of this index. Weakness in the labor market combined with cost cutting, affecting benefits, could place some additional downward pressure on this index.

9:45AM: Chicago PMI (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): The current Bloomberg consensus forecast for the Chicago PMI Business Barometer Index is 44, versus June’s reading of 39.9. Any reading below 50 indicates a contraction. This index includes both manufacturing and non-manufacturing companies. It will be important to monitor the new orders, employment, and prices paid indices, all of which are currently well below the breakeven of 50.

3:00PM: Farm Prices (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): Given the relationship between farm prices and food prices, this index could have implications on future headline CPI and PPI.

Enjoy the weekend!

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