Economic Data Roundup: 3/15/12


Claims: We’re (Still) Out Of People To Fire

Nothing interesting here, right?

In the week ending March 10, the advance figure for  seasonally adjusted initial claims was 351,000, a decrease of 14,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 365,000. The 4-week moving average  was 355,750, unchanged from the previous week’s revised average of  355,750.

Well that looks pretty good.  What does the “big table” tell us from the last week of February (which is always a couple of weeks behind):

Oh, so we’re firing again but the older claimants are running out of benefits.

That’s an interesting development… let’s see if it continues.


PPI: What Do We Have Here?

Is this a breath of cool air?

The Producer Price Index for finished goods advanced 0.4 percent in February, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Finished goods prices rose 0.1 percent in January and decreased 0.1 percent in December. At the earlier stages of processing, the index for intermediate goods moved up 0.7 percent and crude goods prices increased 0.4 percent. On an unadjusted basis, the finished goods index rose 3.3 percent for the 12 months ended February 2012, the smallest year-over-year rise since a similar 3.3-percent advance in August 2010. (See table A.)

Hmmm… where’d it come from?  Well, let’s see.  Foods were flat but energy was up 1.3%.  The 12-month increase continued its decline, which is good.

So should we take from this that price pressures are easing?  For now, perhaps.  The rather-interesting story embedded in here, however is the crude goods price decline — on a 12-month basis, unadjusted, it is now basically flat.

Some will cheer this but it signals demand trouble, and that’s bad, not good.

We’ll see how many people pick up on it and whether it filters through into the CPI.


Empire Index: Here It Comes (Margin Destruction)

Yes, I know, this index was “up”.  Ok…

The March Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicates that manufacturing activity in New York State expanded at a moderate pace. The general business conditions index was little changed at 20.2, its fourth consecutive positive reading. The new orders and shipments indexes were both positive but slightly lower, indicating continued growth in orders and shipments, though at a somewhat slower pace than in the last month. The prices paid index rose a steep 25 points to 50.6, its highest level since summer 2011, and the prices received index was positive but two points lower than in February.

Here it is!  The cost-push “improvement” is going to bury these guys.  Oh sure, this makes the index “go up” for a while, but unless received prices keep pace with paid ones, the result is destruction of operating margin and thus profits.

Time’s up.


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