Jobless Claims totaled 397k, 21k above expectations and rose from a revised 371k last week. Even with the higher than forecasted reading, initial claims are below 400k for the 4th week in the past 5 and the 4 week average is at 392k. Continuing Claims fell by 20k and Extended Benefits fell by a net 201k. As seen in the recent payroll figures, the labor market is clearly getting better but the process is in fits and starts and the pace of gains still remain mediocre. The Jan Trade Deficit was almost $5b higher than expected at $46.3b and is the highest since Aug. Positively, total $ exports rose to an all time record high but Imports rose at a faster in Jan (still below its record) led by a rise in petro imports. I estimate the wider than expected deficit can negatively impact GDP, all else equal, by up to .4 of a % pt.
China reported an unexpected trade deficit in Feb of $7.3b which was impacted by the Lunar holiday in the beginning part of the month. As trade was pushed into Jan because of the holiday, it’s best to combine Jan and Feb and by doing so, China still reported a deficit of $850mm. Copper is near a 3 month low in response as a moderation in China’s property market is the main priority of central planners. The Yuan also fell to a 2 week low as the trade news may lessen some of the FX political heat on China. The Bank of Korea followed Vietnam and Thailand this week and raised interest rates by 25 bps to 3% but real rates remain firmly negative as Feb CPI in Korea rose 4.5% y/o/y. Moody’s downgraded Spain 1 notch to Aa2 but just puts them in line with S&P ahead of Friday’s EU summit to discuss what to do next with the EFSF. The BoE left rates unchanged as expected notwithstanding elevated inflation levels.