While largely noise in the context of the big picture, last week's multi-year low in initial claims of 320K (revised upward as usual to 323K), driven in big part by the specific furlough situation at the automakers, reversed and rose by 13K to 330K, or 6K higher than expectations. This was the highest claims number since July 19, the biggest miss to expectations and also the largest weekly jump in 6 weeks. Notably, the entire move was due to seasonal adjustments: the unadjusted claims number declined even more, dropping from 283K to 279K, although with the market at a point where bad news is desperately needed to provide even the tiniest bounce to risk, the adjustment is now meant to distort the underlying data lower not higher.
While the utility of initial claims data in a regime dominated by 70% retention of part-time workers and in which even the Fed says the distortion of the labor force participation rate makes unemployment numbers skewed to the downside, those who follow the weekly claims number will be happy (or maybe sad) to learn that there were 333K new initial claims filed in the week ended August 3, just 2K below expectations and 5K above last week's upward revised 328K (from 326K). No states claims were estimated in the past week the DOL reported. The good news: the four-week average fell to the lowest since November 2007. The bad news: this number is hardly horrible enough to send futures soaring.
If our leaders could have recognized the signs ahead of time, do you think that they could have prevented the financial crisis of 2008? That is a very timely question, because so many of the warning signs that we saw just before and during the last financial crisis are popping up again. Many of the things that are happening right now in the stock market, the bond market, the real estate market and in the overall economic data are eerily similar to what we witnessed back in 2008 and 2009. It is almost as if we are being forced to watch some kind of a perverse replay of previous events, only this time our economy and our financial system are much weaker than they were the last time around. We have been living so far above our means for so long that most of us actually think that our current economic situation is "normal."
Another week, another prior revision down and rise week-over-week in the initial claims data but the print was a modest beat. The smoother 4-week average has now hovered around 345k for 9 weeks as the down-trend of the year-to-date appears to have stalled (for now). Continuing claims dropped back from its July 4th aberration. We worry that with top-line revenues missing significantly in the most recent earnings season, firms will be left once again with only one option to meet Wall Street's EPS demands and wonder if the flat trend in claims for over 2 months now reflects that wait-and-see mode for layoffs (or hirings).
Everything is going to be just great. Haven't you heard? The stock market is at an all-time high, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that inflation is incredibly low, and the official unemployment rate has been steadily declining since early in Barack Obama's first term. Of course we are being facetious, but this is the kind of talk about the economy that you will hear if you tune in to the mainstream media. They would have us believe that those running things know exactly what they are doing and that very bright days are ahead for America. And it would be wonderful if that was actually true. Unfortunately, as I made exceedingly clear yesterday, the U.S. economy has already been in continual decline for the past decade.
In a world where bad news is good, the last thing stocks needed to put a dent in the latest spin that the September taper may be moved to December, was an improvement in claims - which is what they got moments ago when the DOL reported a big claims drop from a downward revised 358K (so it does happen) to only 334K, beating consensus of a 345K print. So Taper back on right? Not so fast. The pre-spun narrative is that July data is very "liquid" with car makers and factories either laying off (or not) workers more (or less) compared to historical seasonal patters. Indeed, the unadjusted claims number rose from 383K to 409K signifying that the only improvement was in the eye of the X-12-ARIMA seasonal adjustment bemodeler. And furthering the No-Taper cause were continuing claims which soared to 3.114 million, up 91K from the prior week, the largest 1 week jump since November, and up from the 2.953 million two weeks ago: the biggest 2 week jump since February 2009. Judging by the stock market reaction, where futures have jumped on the news, the GETCO algos have shifted back into good news is good news mode. For confirmation, we will have to see the Philly Fed today, where we expect either a huge beat or huge miss to both be catalysts for fresh all time market highs.
Not much in terms of economic data but lots of corporate news with the official Q2 earnings season kick off, as well as a plethora of Fed speakers which in a centrally-planned world, is all that matters.
Those expecting a massive, epic miss in Initial Claims to keep the critical Baffle with Bullshit narrative going into NFP, did not get it, with Initial Claims printing at 343K, in line with expectations of a 345K print, following the obligatory upward revision in last week's print from 346K to 348K. Continuing claims dropped from an upward revised 2987K to 2933K, below expectations of a 2958K number. And as has been the case for the past year, Americans collecting Emergency and extended claims continue to drop, with 1 million less Americans on EUCs now, at 1.66 million, compared to the 2.62 million a year ago. These are all people who ultimately drop out of the labor force and lead to a "better" unemployment rate. And while ADP and Claims were better than expected, it was the trade deficit that offset the good news, soaring 12% from a revised $40.1 billion to a whopping $45 billion, far above expectations of $40.1 billion, the worst miss in 7 months, and dragging all Q2 GDP forecasts lower with it. This was driven by a drop in exports of $0.5 billion offset by an increase in imports by $4.4 billion. The total May imports were $232 billion - the highest since March of 2012.
The global capital markets are seeing large moves in response not only to the Federal Reserve, though clearly that is a key impetus, but also to developments elsewhere. Here is a dispassionate review.
To get a sense of the momentous volatility in Japan, consider that the Nikkei225 is more or less in the same numeric ballpark as the Dow Jones, and that each and every day now it continues to have intraday swings of more than 500 points! Last night was no different following swing from 13100 on the high side to 12548 on the low, or nearly 600 points, with all this ridiculous vol culminating in a close that was just red however for a simple reason that the rumor of the Japanese Pension Fund reallocation taking place hit shortly before the close sending the USDJPY higher by 200 pips... only for the news to emerge as an epic disappointment when it was revealed that the GPIF would raise its target allocation to domestic equities from 11% to... 12%. So much for the "Great Japanese Rotation."
Anyone anticipating some earth-shattering release from the DOL in its weekly initial claims report as a guide what to expect tomorrow was disappointed following the release of a 346K print today, which was about as close to the 345K expected without the DOL losing all credibility. This followed last week's naturally upward revised 354K to 357K print, although the problem is that it appears this was it for the 'downward trend' in initial claims which goes back to the thesis that 7.5% unemployment is the new 4.4% unemployment. Continuing claims came better than expected at 2952K on 2974K expected. Also, damn it doesn't feel good to be a government worker - "there were 17,862 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending May 18, an increase of 551 from the previous week." Blame the sequester. There was no good news for veterans either: "Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 35,944, an increase of 614 from the prior week." Bottom line: a nebulous report which provides zero additional insight into what to expect in tomorrow's NFP and thus zero color into what the Fed may do with... "THE TAPER" dun dun dun.
One look at the 5%+ plunge in the Nikkei overnight and one would be allowed to wonder if this was it for Abenomics: with a 15% drop from recent highs, and the TOPIX Real Estate index down by more than 20%+ since mid-April, entering a bear market, what's worse is that even the "wealth effect" Mrs Watanabe fanatics would be excused from having much hope going forward. The problem, however, is that in a world in which only the USDJPY matters as a risk signal, and only the stock market remains as a last bastion of "hope", the overnight weakness pushing the dollar yen to just 50 pips above 100 threatened to crush the manipulated rally and force everyone to doubt the sustainability of central planning. So, sure enough, literally seconds we got the much needed stick save without which everything could have come tumbling down, namely based on an unsourced article out of Reuters that Japan's Public Pension Fund is considering a change to its portfolio strategy that could allow domestic equity share of investments to rise in rallying market. The immediate result was an instantaneous surge in the USDJPY which in turn dragged global risk higher across the board, simply due to what algos deemed as yet another procyclical last minute rescue. More importantly this was nothing but a squeeze catalyst coming at just the right time before market open to prevent a rout in global equities. Ironically, that we are back to the Reuters "sticksave" unsourced article, indicates just how weak the reality behind the scenes must be.
"The last 36 hours have perhaps been evidence as to what might happen if stimulus is withdrawn before the global recovery has been cemented and what might happen if Japan makes mistakes along the way to their attempted new dawn. With the Chinese data still ambiguous, Europe still in recession, Japan in the very early stages of a growth experiment and with the US recovery still historically very weak one has to say that liquidity has been the main market fuel in recent months. So central banks have to tread carefully and the Fed tapering talk and the BoJ's seemingly benign neglect policy towards JGBs has had the market fretting." - Deutsche Bank
One of the consequences of yesterday's endless Fed PR campaign was making it very clear that any good news going forward will be bad news for the market as it brings the T-word that shall not be named (wink wink Hilsenrath) that much closer. Which is why today's initial claims print, which just came in line with expectations at 340K, on consensus was looking for 345K, will hardly be a good thing for the market which now needs horrible economic data to assume that the taper will be delayed indefinitely. The last month's data was as always revised higher from 360K to 363K just so the media can claim an improvement of 23K for the week. Sure enough, futures not only did not ramp on the news, but are continuing to trade at the weak levels seen before the print. Continuing claims also came in better than the expected 3 million at 2.912 million, the first sub-3MM print since 2008. Hardly the bad enough news the market was looking for. And while the report in general was a big snooze, of note was the surge in California initial claims last week when the headline number soared, jumping to 15,060 due to "layoffs in the service industry." Will the weakness persist?
There was no surprise in today's Initial Claims data, which continued the downward trend seen in recent months (despite the data seen in the most recent JOLTS survey which was hardly as optimistic on recent labor trends as the NFP number of the weekly claims data), with the headline number dropping to 323K, down from an upward revised 327K, and below the expected 335K print. On the surface, and at least to algos, this continues to be good news. The question remains whether the improving claim trend is due to fewer layoffs, or a lower marginal detachment workforce due to the labor force participation rate which was at 33 year lows for the second month in a low. At this point any additional substantial drops below the 300,000 range will likely mean a major distortion in the labor force as this is where claims numbers were at a time when the economy was actually strong, as opposed to the current liquified stock-market manipulated sham.