"Economists are pessimists: they've predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions."
--Barry Asmus

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Friday, January 14, 2011

And, On The Heels Of That, More Domestic Economic Data Than You Can Shake A Stick At!

The United States, not to be outdone by its European relatives, has a massive stack of economic data coming out today as well.  CPI, Retail Sales, Industrial Production, and Consumer Sentiment.
Starting with the CP, the Street is expecting to see a 0.4% increase for December (up 30 bps), with the "core"[1] unchanged.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, CPI is actually up a seasonally-adjusted 0.5% for the month (and a unadjusted 1.5% for the year).  Food prices were up only 0.1% for the month (1.5% for the year) and energy prices were up 4.6% for the month (7.7% for the year) but, since they don't really count[2], you'll be gratified to know that "core" CPI only increased 0.1%.  So, even though an average 24.6% of your budget saw a 7.7% increase in costs, you'll be gratified to know that you didn't really see all that much change in your living expenses[3].
So, on to Retail Sales, where the Street - feeling optimistic on the preliminary good news about the holiday season - is expecting to see a 0.8% increase in sales for December (with a 0.7% increase even taking out auto sales).  The results?  Well, according to the US Census Bureau, they really weren't as good as hoped for.  Seasonally adjusted, retail sales were up only 0.6%[4] for December (6.6% for the year).  Ex-auto, sales were up only 0.5% for the year.
So far, not so good.  Maybe Industrial Production will be better.  The Street is looking for a 0.5% increase for December, with a capacity utilization rate of 75.6% (a mildly optimistic 40 bps improvement).  The actual data comes to courtesy of the Federal Reserve, where we learn that we have a 0.8% increase, handily beating expectations.  For the year, industrial production is up 5.9%.  And capacity utilization?  That's at a level of 76%, also handily beating expectations.
That was a nice bright spot.  Let's see if Consumer Sentiment continues the trend.  December 2010 consumer sentiment was at 74.5%, and the street is looking for a 50 bps improvement to 75.0%,  The actual data is out (but not yet up on the web site), showing that consumer sentiment shrank to 72.7%.  Ouch.
[1]  Again, don't get me started.
[2]  Volatility, don't y'know.  Skews the results, don't y'know.  Can't be trusted, dashed blighters.
[3]  I got started, didn't I?
[4]  With a margin of error of +/-0.4%, so that could actually be anywhere from 0.2% to 1.0%.

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