Saturday, April 13, 2013

Summary for Week ending April 12th

by Calculated Risk on 4/13/2013 08:57:00 AM

It was a very light week for economic data, but the key report - March retail sales - was disappointing. Consumer sentiment was also weak in early April.

However initial weekly unemployment claims declined sharply, and the number of job openings is at the highest level since 2008. So there was a little good economic news.

Not much has changed for the economic outlook - we are still looking at sluggish growth for the next couple of quarters due to the payroll tax increase and sequestration budget cuts, but the economy should continue to grow with housing leading the way.

Here is a summary of last week in graphs:

Retail Sales declined 0.4% in March

Retail Sales Click on graph for larger image.

On a monthly basis, retail sales decreased 0.4% from February to March (seasonally adjusted), and sales were up 2.8% from March 2012. Sales for January and February were revised down.

This graph shows retail sales since 1992. This is monthly retail sales and food service, seasonally adjusted (total and ex-gasoline).

Retail sales are up 26.2% from the bottom, and now 11.2% above the pre-recession peak (not inflation adjusted)

Retail sales ex-autos decreased 0.4%. Retail sales ex-gasoline decreased 0.2%.

Excluding gasoline, retail sales are up 23.5% from the bottom, and now 10.4% above the pre-recession peak (not inflation adjusted).

Year-over-year change in Retail SalesThe second graph shows the year-over-year change in retail sales and food service (ex-gasoline) since 1993.

Retail sales ex-gasoline increased by 3.3% on a YoY basis (2.8% for all retail sales).

This was below the consensus forecast of no change in retail sales.  Lower gasoline prices subtracted from retail sales - after boosting sales in February.

BLS: Job Openings increased in February, Most since May 2008

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey Jobs openings increased in February to 3.925 million, up from 3.611 million in January. The number of job openings (yellow) has generally been trending up, and openings are up 11% year-over-year compared to February 2012.  This is most job openings since May 2008.

Quits were unchanged in February, and quits are up 7% year-over-year and at the highest level since 2008. These are voluntary separations. (see light blue columns at bottom of graph for trend for "quits").

Not much changes month-to-month in this report, but the trend suggests a gradually improving labor market.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims decline to 346,000

The DOL reported: "In the week ending April 6, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 346,000, a decrease of 42,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 388,000. The 4-week moving average was 358,000, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week's revised average of 355,000."

The dashed line on the graph is the current 4-week average. The four-week average of weekly unemployment claims increased to 358,000 - the highest level since February.

Weekly claims were below the 365,000 consensus forecast.  

Preliminary April Consumer Sentiment declines to 72.3

Consumer SentimentThe preliminary Reuters / University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for April declined to 72.3 from the March reading of 78.6.

This was well below the consensus forecast of 79.0. There are a number of factors that impact sentiment including unemployment, gasoline prices and, for 2013, the payroll tax increase and even politics (sequestration, default threats, etc).

Sentiment is mostly moving sideways at a fairly low level (with ups and downs).