The Fuzzy Numbers Behind Initial Job Claims
1 hour ago
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Early this morning in Longview, hundreds of Longshore workers stormed the port, overpowered security guards, damaged rail cars and dumped grain at the center of a labor dispute that has spread to other ports in the state, officials said.
Six guards were detained for a couple of hours after 500 or more Longshoremen broke down gates about 4:30 a.m. and smashed windows in the guard shack, said Longview Police Chief Jim Duscha.
No one was hurt, and nobody has been arrested. Most of the protesters returned to their union hall after cutting brake lines and spilling grain from a car at the EGT terminal, he said.
Jobless claims continue to hold steady, up 2,000 to 414,000 in the September 3 week (prior week revised 3,000 higher to 412,000). The latest gain and the prior revision are however going in the wrong direction, lifting the four-week average 3,750 to 414,750 which is nearly 9,000 above the month-ago comparison. The Labor Department said Hurricane Irene did not affect the data though it does expect a small 2,000 to 5,000 upward revision for the September 3 week. Four states had to be estimated due to Labor Day.
Continuing claims fell 30,000 to 3.717 million in data for the August 27 week with the four-week average up 6,000 to 3.735 million. The unemployment rate for insured workers, which has been edging back and forth between 3.0 and 2.9 percent since February, is at 3.0 percent for the fourth straight week.
The steady rate of jobless claims does not point to optimism among employers which, also based on payroll data, remain reluctant to expand their workforces. Watch for comments later today on the jobs market from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Exports rebounded smartly in July, leading to a better-than-expected trade gap which narrowed to $44.8 billion from $51.6 the month before (originally $53.1 billion). The July trade gap was narrower than the consensus forecast for $51.9 billion. Importantly, exports rebounded 3.6 percent after dropping 2.2 percent in June. On the flip side, imports slipped 0.2 percent in July, following a 1.1 percent decline the month before.
The smaller trade gap came from shrinkage in all three major components. The improvement in the trade gap was led by the petroleum gap which shrank to $25.6 billion from $29.4 billion in June. The nonpetroleum goods gap also narrowed-to $34.1 billion from $36.6 billion the prior month. The services surplus grew to $15.8 billion in July from $15.5 billion the month before.
Looking at end use categories for goods, exports surged 4.8 percent while imports declined 0.3 percent in the latest month. The increase in exports was led by a $2.7 billion jump in industrial supplies, with increases also seen in capital goods excluding autos (up $2.2 billion) and automotive (up $1.3 billion). Modest declines were seen in consumer goods (down $0.6 billion) and food, feeds & beverages (down $0.1 billion).
The dip in imports by end use categories was led by a $2.5 billion drop in industrial supplies ($2.2 billion from crude oil). Food, feeds & beverages declined $0.3 billion. Import gains were seen in automotive (up $2.9 billion), capital goods excluding autos (up $0.3 billion), and in consumer goods (up $0.1 billion)
On a not seasonally adjusted basis, the July figures show surpluses, in billions of dollars, with Hong Kong $2.3 ($2.4 for June), Australia $1.7 ($1.4), and Singapore $1.2 ($1.0). Deficits were recorded, in billions of dollars, with China $27.0 ($26.7), OPEC $11.9 ($13.8), European Union $8.9 ($9.8), Japan $5.3 ($4.0), Mexico $4.9 ($6.4), Germany $4.2 ($4.0), and Canada $3.2 ($2.8).
Today's trade numbers are good news for manufacturers and for third quarter GDP. While today's jobless claims numbers were marginally disappointing, equities should like the export numbers. However, market focus is more on the speech by Fed Chairman Bernanke today and by President Obama on jobs this evening.
Low rates aren't boosting demand for refinancing or home purchasing, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association whose refinance index fell for the third straight week, down 6.3 percent in the September 2 week, with the purchase index up only 0.2 percent to hold near record lows. The 30-year mortgage rate, down nine basis points in the week to 4.23 percent, is near the record the low of last October. The 15-year rate, down eight basis points at 3.41 percent, is at a record low. This report offers very timely indications on the housing market as will this afternoon's commentary in the Beige Book.