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US Week Ahead: The Start of September…

August 29th, 2009 Michael McDonough

This week brings the onset of a notoriously bad month for returns, and given the week’s vast array of critical data, the ball is sure to start rolling in one direction or another.  First let me apologize if this week’s calendar seems somewhat abridged, as I am on vacation, and am writing it amid the sounds of seagulls and breaking waves.  This week’s key releases are the ISM manufacturing report, which has the chance to move above the breakeven point of 50 for the first time in roughly 20 months, and August’s employment report, which is likely to show continued deterioration.  Other notable reports include motor vehicle sales  on Tuesday, which will help us better comprehend the full magnitude of the government’s ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program, the ISM non-manufacturing report, and the release of the FOMC minutes, which will help investor’s gain a finer understanding of the Fed’s bias.  It is a busy week, so I recommend paying close attention.

Monday August 31st:

9:45AM: Chicago PMI (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): This Chicago PMI measures business activity in the mid-West, and is released one day prior to the national ISM index.  In July most of the index’ components experienced gains, supporting a recovery in the US.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast for August’s release is 48.0, compared to a previous reading of 43.4.  It will be important to pay close attention to any significant changes to the new orders, employment, and prices paid indices, all of which are currently below the breakeven of 50.  Last month the PMI stated, “If this were an average recession, it would end four months after the low point in the Barometer, suggesting an end of the recession in August 2009. A more conservative rule would draw an analogy to the 1981-82 recession, since this is not working out to be an average recession. Using that rule, the end of this recession would be projected to be 9 months after the lowest value of the Chicago Business Barometer. With March as our best current estimate of that minimum, the recession is projected to end in December 2009.”

3:00PM: 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.

Tuesday September 1st:

Motor Vehicle Sales (Risk: Upside, Market Reaction: Moderate): Motor vehicle sales will likely be up significantly on the back of the government’s ‘Cash for Clunker’ program.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for sales is10.5mn, compared to the previous month’s sales of 8.3mn.

7:45AM: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales (Risk: Downward, 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 rise of 0.6% in store sales compared to a decline of -0.9% a week prior.

10:00AM: ISM Manufacturing Index (Risk: Upside, Market Reaction: Significant): The ISM has experienced seven straight months of gains, and given this trend and improvement in other manufacturing indicators has the potential to move above the breakeven point of 50 this month.  This belief is strengthened by strong performance of the ISM’s new order index last month, which came in at 55.3. The current Bloombeg consensus forecast is for a reading of 50.5, compared to July’s reading of 48.9.

10:00AM: Construction Spending (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Moderate): Increased activity in the residential and government sectors will likely be offset by diminishing spending on the commercial structures, leading the no significant changes in construction spending.  The current Bloomberg consensus is for a 0.0% change from last month, compared to an increment of 0.3% a month prior.

10:00AM: Pending Home Sales (Risk: Upside, Market Reaction: Moderate): Large increments in new mortgage applications and general improvements in the housing sector will likely sustain upward momentum in pending home sales.  Pending home sales were up 3.6% a month prior.  Pending home sales tends to be a reasonable forward looking indicator to final home sales, however, not all pending sales become final.

Wednesday September 2nd:

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 overall index increased for the fourth consecutive week with a gain of 7.5%; while the refinance index rose 12.7% and the purchase index rose 1.0% on the back of relatively low mortgage rates and declining home prices.

7:30AM: Challenger Job Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This index measures the number of announced corporate mass layoffs.  But, this data does not take into account the timing of the actual layoffs.

8:15AM: ADP Employment Report (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): The ADP Employment report is considered a reasonable window into Friday’s critical payroll number.  Last month, however, the ADP reported indicated job losses of -371K, while payrolls declined by only -247K.

8:30AM: Productivity & Costs (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This will be the final release of 2Q productivity and labor costs.  It is unlikely there will be significant changes from the preliminary numbers, which showed a significant 6.4% increase in productivity and a -5.8% decline for unit labor costs.  In fact the current Bloomberg consensus forecast calls for no changes in either indicator.

10:00AM: Factory Orders (Risk: Upside, Market Reaction: Marginal): Increased durable goods orders largely on the back of the US government’s ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program will likely supply positive momentum for factory orders.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for an increment of 2.3%, compared to 0.4% a month prior.

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.  Last week this report showed an increase in inventories of 0.2mn barrels after declining -8.4mn a week prior.

2:00PM: FOMC Minutes (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): Given the three week lag between the FOMC meeting and the release of the minutes this should have only a marginal effect on trading. But, the minutes could elaborate the rationale behind the FOMC’s decision, and give some clues to future decisions, in which case the market could move on the release.

Thursday September 3rd:

Chain Store Sales (Risk: Downside, Market Reaction: Moderate): Chain store sales probably came under pressure again last month, as consumers reduced spending on the back of weakness in the labor market.  In fact, a recent survey by the National Retail Federation found that families this year will be spending on average US$549 versus US$594 last year on back to school goods.  This along with other negative factors should adversely impact this summer’s retail sales.

Monster Employment Index (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Marginal): This survey conducted by Monster Worldwide Inc. measures online job demand.

8:30AM: Jobless Claims (Risk: Neutral, Market Reaction: Significant): Initial claims fell last week by 10K to 570K. Claims should marginally improve over the coming months as weakness in the labor market slowly abates. But, make no mistake about it these levels are still uncomfortably high, and will continue to adversely impact the US payroll data for some time.  The current Bloomberg consensus for this week’s initial claims number is 562K.  In fact using a simple regression analysis claims at their current levels would indicate a decline in payrolls of roughly 500K, however, recently this model has been exaggerating the actual effect on payrolls, but nevertheless is a cause for concern going forward.

10:00AM: ISM Non-Manufacturing Index (Risk: Upside, Market Reaction: Moderate): August’s non-manufacturing ISM should show continued improvement, but remain below the breakeven mark of 50.  In July the new orders component came in below 50 at 48.1, and is not expected to break above 50 this month either.

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 rose to US$2.049trn from US$2.037trn a week prior.  The fed’s balance sheet has slowly been shifting away from emergency lending facilities to Treasuries, agency debt, and mortgage-backed securities to helping to control interest rates.

Friday September 4th:

8:30AM: Employment Report (Risk: Downside, Market Reaction: Very Significant): Elevated levels of initial jobless claims will likely place continued pressure on payrolls.  The current Bloomberg consensus forecast is for a decline in payrolls of -200K, and an unemployment rate of 9.6%.  I believe the consensus forecast for payrolls may be somewhat optimistic, and will be looking for additional hits in this week’s ADP and ISM employment indices.

Enjoy the weekend!

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