US data continues to improve

The German Finance Minister Mr Schaeuble promised to provide assistance to Portugal a short while ago – his remarks, which were not intended to be public, were caught on an open mike. Holland’s Finance Minister De Jager is the most recent to offer Portugal assistance. As I keep banging on, Portugal will be rescued, as will Ireland, Spain……..Interestingly, the Portuguese cabinet approved the fiscal compact;

My German friends point out that construction and consumer spending remains robust. Whilst the IFO number next week should be positive, I remain wary (ex the US) about German exports, especially to newer markets such as China.
Interestingly more comments from Mrs Merkel about measures to increase growth and reduce unemployment, rather than the old austerity, austerity, austerity. However, its action that’s needed. I appreciate that Mrs Merkel has problems domestically if she helps out/proposes more fiscal measures, but the situation in the PIIGS is deteriorating and action is needed;

EZ March consumer confidence came in at -19.0, slightly better than the -19.8 expected and higher than the -20.3 reported in February;

US jobless claims declined by 5k to 348k, the lowest since February 2008 and marginally better than the forecast of 350k. The less volatile 4 week moving average declined by approx 1k to 355k. The number of people receiving jobless benefits declined by 9k in the week to 10th March, to 3.35mn. 38 States reported a decline in claims;

US January home price index was flat, as opposed to +0.7% in the previous month;

US leading indicator index rose by +0.7% in February, the most in 11 months and above forecasts of +0.6%. The decline in unemployment and the narrowing of the interest rate spread were the main positive contributors. January was revised slightly lower to +0.2%. 8 out of the components that make up the LEI were positive – ISM new orders and consumer expectations for business conditions were negative. The index of coincident indicators rose by +0.2% for the 2nd month. The lagging indicators index also rose by +0.2%. Just reconfirms the improving US economy;

The recent rise in US bond yields has increased mortgage rates to the highest for 5 months – the 30 year is currently 4.08%. Refi’s are beginning to decline as a result, down -7.4% in the week ended 16th March from the previous week. Whilst mortgage rates are higher, they remain at historically low levels. A fear that rates may rise further may encourage prospective homeowners to buy sooner, rather than later;

Canadian January retail sales rose by +0.5%, as opposed to the +1.7% expected – ex autos -0.5%, as opposed to the forecast of +0.4%. However, December retail sales was revised higher to flat, as compared with -0.2% (ex auto to +0.3% from flat previously);

Spot Brent is down a bit more further – around US$123.50. The Euro is off it’s lows at US$1.3190. Spanish 10 year remains above 5.50%. US markets closed between -0.4% (Nasdaq) and -0.7% down, but off their lows. Gold is about -0.5% lower at US$1642.

No blogs for the next few days as I’m in Paris – you lucky people. Unfortunately for you I will start again next Tuesday.



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