Friday, February 29, 2008

Update on the Horror Show

Last weekend I mentioned that this week's economic data was likely to read like a horror show. Well, how did things turn out? Here is a brief summary of the data points this week:

Track One is falling home sales:
"Purchases of new homes in the U.S. fell more than forecast in January as lending restrictions and plummeting prices kept buyers away.

Sales dropped 2.8 percent to an annual pace of 588,000, the fewest since February 1995, from a 605,000 rate the prior month, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The median price slumped a record 15.1 percent from a year earlier." -source

S&P Case-Shiller Home Prices Show 9.1% yoy decline for December

Track Two is inflation:
"On Tuesday the government announced the Producer Price Index rose 1.0% in January, while core inflation, stripping out food and energy costs, rose 0.4%. The PPI measures inflation pressures before products reach the consumer...

"It was a lot worse than expected," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard and Poor's, "and it shows the problems the Fed has with fighting inflation while also fighting recession." To keep the economy from slowing too much, the Federal Reserve has been cutting interest rates, but in doing so it risks creating a monetary environment conducive to inflation." -source

Track Three is a manufacturing slowdown:
"Orders for U.S. durable goods fell more than forecast in January as a slowing economy prompted companies to reduce spending...

Companies have put investment plans on hold as consumers rein in spending in the face of the biggest housing slump in a quarter century and near-record fuel costs. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, testifying before Congress today, may reiterate that policy makers are ready to keep lowering rates in a bid to avert a recession...

Other factory surveys in recent weeks have shown weakness. The Fed Bank of Philadelphia's index of business activity for February fell to the lowest level in seven years, while a New York Fed survey showed manufacturing in the region contracted for the first time in almost three years." -source

Track Four is flagging economic growth and job losses:
"The U.S. economy expanded less than forecast in the fourth quarter as domestic spending declined and exports prevented an overall contraction.

Gross domestic product rose at a 0.6 percent annualized rate, unchanged from the initial estimate last month, after a 4.9 percent gain in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said today in Washington.

"The first quarter will be ugly,'' said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York. "The strength of exports is what would keep us out of a recession if we don't go into one.'' ...

The Labor Department said initial claims for unemployment insurance climbed 19,000 last week to 373,000, higher than forecast. The level was the second-highest since a surge in claims in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"We have absolutely no momentum going into the first quarter,'' said Josh Shapiro, chief U.S. economist in New York at Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. "Things are looking pretty grim for the economy. If we're not in a recession already, we're very close.'' -source

Track Five is the consumer spending drop:
"Consumer spending in the U.S. rose more than forecast in January, reflecting a jump in prices that is eroding Americans' buying power.

The 0.4 percent rise in spending followed a 0.3 percent gain in December, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The Federal Reserve's preferred measure of inflation climbed 0.3 percent, the most in four months.

After adjusting for the increase in prices, spending stalled for a second month, raising concern the biggest part of the economy is faltering as fuel costs rise, property values fall and banks restrict lending. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke this week signaled the central bank is prepared to again lower the benchmark interest rate to revive growth." -source

And how about that ABK "bailout": Never materialized, or as they say on CNBC it "hit a snag."

You can't make this stuff up folks, things are getting ugly out there.

No comments: