So much for the Empire Manufacturing index being a harbinger of an economic pick up. With virtually everyone on Wall Street expecting a positive print, with the average at +5.00, the actual number of -3.76 comes as yet another confirmation of the (f)utility of Wall Street groupthink. While it was a modest bounce from the June -7.79, this first July manufacturing indication, which coming negative means the contraction is now well into its second month, and has ugly undertones for Q3 GDP, which we expect most banks will revise their expectations lower in the aftermath of yesterday's JPM downgrade of the US economy. And while there was some good margin news with Prices Paid dropping by 13, or more than Prices Received which declined by 6 points, a far more troubling indicator this month is the collapse in the Number of Employees Index to 1.11 from 10.20, or the lowest of 2011. This is not good for July NFP numbers after the already atrocious June employment data. Elsewhere on the inflationary front, CPI missed expectations of a -0.1% drop, instead printing at -0.2%, the lowest since June 2010. The reason was the 4.4% plunge in the Energy Index, the largest drop since December 2008. That said, the core CPI was unchanged at 0.3%, higher than expectations of 0.2%, due to increases in prices for shelter, apparel, new vehicle, used cars and trucks and medical care. In other words: all the things that people need right after food and gas. We would venture to guess that in addition to S&P < 1,000, core CPI coming in negative is the other QE3 gating factor.