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World View & Market Commentary.
Forest first; Trees second.
Focused on Real & Knowable facts that filter through the "experts" fluff and media hyperbole. Where we've been, what the future may hold and developing a better way forward.
No worse but only little better is the indication for the June employment report based on initial jobless claims which edged only 1,000 lower in the June 25 week to 428,000. A look at the four-week average, up 500 in the week to 426,750, shows no change from the May 28 week. But this month-to-month comparison of the four-week average does show improvement through the month, including an important 14,000 improvement in the household-survey sample week of June 18 vs May 14 (426,250 vs 440,250).
Continuing claims have also been improving slightly from a month ago, down 12,000 in data for the June 18 week to 3.702 million to bring the unemployment rate for insured workers down one tenth to 2.9 percent.
The Labor Department cites no special factors skewing the data. There's no significant initial market reaction to today's report.
Mortgage applications for home purchases extended their June decline, falling 3.0 percent in the June 24 week in results that point to weakness for the month's home sales. Applications for refinancing fell 2.6 percent, but unlike purchase applications, have been trending higher most of the month. Mortgage rates fell significantly in the week, down 11 basis points for 30-year loans to an average 4.46 percent.
Indications are building that home prices are beginning to recover, the latest is Case-Shiller data for April that show no change in its adjusted composite index of 10 major metropolitan areas. Case-Shiller data are three-month moving averages which indicate actual gains for April given contraction in prior months. There's still a lot of cities showing negatives but many areas out West, where some of the heaviest of the price contraction hit, are now moving into positive ground including LA and San Francisco. Year-on-year, however, the contraction is deepening, to minus 3.1 percent though this reading is compared against stimulus-boosted sales a year ago.
Unadjusted readings are very positive though seasonality plays a big part in the housing market which benefits from warm weather. The unadjusted composite 10 index is up 0.8 percent in the month though the year-on-year rate remains negative at minus 3.1 percent (the same reading as the adjusted rate).
Today's report falls in line with recent price indications in both the existing and new home sales reports. Housing data tomorrow will be highlighted by pending home sales which the National Association of Realtors has already promised will be very strong.
Fed May Buy $300 Billion in Treasuries After QE2
The Federal Reserve will remain the biggest buyer of Treasuries, even after the second round of quantitative easing ends this week, as the central bank uses its $2.86 trillion balance sheet to keep interest rates low.
While the $600 billion purchase program, known as QE2, winds down, the Fed said June 22 that it will continue to buy Treasuries with proceeds from the maturing debt it currently owns. That could mean purchases of as much as $300 billion of government debt over the next 12 months without adding money to the financial system.
The central bank, which injected $2.3 trillion into the financial system after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008, will continue buying Treasuries to keep market rates down as the economy slows. The purchases are supporting demand at bond auctions while President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress struggle to close the gap between federal spending and income by between $2 trillion and $4 trillion.
“I don’t think the Fed wants to remove accommodation in any way, shape or form,” said Matt Toms, the head of U.S. public fixed-income investments at Atlanta-based ING Investment Management, which oversees more than $500 billion. “It’s quite natural for them to reinvest cash,” he said. “That effectively maintains the accommodative stance.”
In May, income growth was moderate but spending was flat largely on a dip in auto sales with gasoline appearing to also weigh down. Inflation news is mixed. Personal income in May rose 0.3 percent, matching the gain the month before. The latest figure came in lower than analysts' expectation for a 0.4 percent advance. Wages & salaries increased a modest percent, following a rise of 0.4 percent in April. This component was softened by no change in the government subcomponent.
Personal spending weakened in May, posting at no change, following a 0.3 percent boost the prior month. The median market forecast called for no change. By components, durables dropped 1.5 percent after no change in April. Nondurables dipped 0.3 percent, following a 0.2 percent rise the month before. Services gained 0.2 percent, following a 0.1 percent slip in April. Within PCEs, the drop in durables likely was related to shortages of autos dependent upon Japanese parts. The nondurables dip probably was due in large part to a decline in gasoline prices.
On the inflation front, the headline PCE price index eased to a 0.2 percent rise from 0.3 percent in April. However, the core rate edged up to 0.3 percent from 0.2 percent in April. The consensus projected a 0.2 percent rise for the core for the latest month.
On a year-ago basis, headline PCE inflation rose to 2.5 percent from 2.2 percent in April. Core PCE price inflation firmed to 1.2 percent on a year-ago basis from 1.1 percent in April.
Year on year, personal income growth for May printed at 4.2 percent, compared to 4.4 percent the month before. PCEs growth rose a year-ago 4.7 percent, down from 4.8 percent the prior month.
Today's personal income report adds to the "soft patch" scenario. Income is still growing but not at a strong enough pace for the latest month. And spending is flat. However, there are arguments that the softness is transitory. Improvement in employment would boost income. An easing of supply disruptions in the auto sector will likely lead a rise in durables spending. However, nondurables will likely weighed down by additional near-term declines in gasoline prices.