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

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Slow Day For Economic Measures

The three-day market weekend has dragged on into a fourth day, at least as far as economic data is concerned.  There's just not a lot due out today.
Great Britain reported CPI figures, which were bad.  CPI was up 60 bps for the month to 1.0%, missing expectations by 30 bps.  This brings it to 3.7% for the year (missing expectations by 30 bps as well).  Stripping out energy and food, core CPI was still up 0.7 bps, with annual core CPI hitting 2.9%.
Germany's ZEW[1] Survey is out as well, with mixed results.  This is a survey of business confidence, both about current and future conditions, and businesses are only marginally more confident about the present than they were in December.  For January, the Current Conditions Index climbed 20 bps to 82.6%, missing expectations by 40 bps.  On the other hand, Business Expectations (looking to the future) climbed 1,110 bps to finish out at 15.4, beating expectations by 700 bps.  From this,we learn that the German economy is confident, if they can just survive today.
Speaking of business confidence, the Empire State Manufacturing Survey has just been released by the New York Fed.  Last month, we came in at a level of 9.89 for the general business conditions index, and the Street is looking for a 14.0 for January.  The actual results are a 11.92 for the general business conditions index, missing expectations (obviously) but still showing improvement.  Most other current measures improved substantially as well.  The new orders index increased 1036 bps to 12.39, the shipments index improved 1,823 bps to 25.39, and the number of employees index climbed 1,183 bps to 8.42.  The supplemental questions revealed that a little more than half of respondents expect their workforce to increase in the year ahead, while only 15% expect to cut workers, with sales growth (or decline) driving the majority of the answers.
All of that is, of course, modestly good news.  This isn't a case of "as goes the Empire State Manufacturing Survey, so goes the nation", but this is watched as a first clue to how the nation's manufacturing is performing.
That's about it for today.  New Zealand will be reporting its CPI figures around 4:45 PM EST, and China throws out a horse-choking wad of data around 10 PM, but that will have much more of an impact on tomorrow.
I now return you to your regularly-scheduled round of worrying about the technology sector today.  It appears that Steve Jobs has proven that an apple a day does not necessarily keep the doctor away.
[1] That's the German acronym for "Center for European Economic Research".

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