Here’s the most important financial data that you need to know to be fairly well informed. Each Friday evening I post the data of 8 financial market’s, and 10 economic indicator’s weekending scorecard. As of 1/18/2013:

FINANCIALS: The stock market increased a bit, home mortgage interest rates dropped some, although only slightly, oil futures increased indicating future increase in gasoline costs. Another Recession Coming?*  Could be, on the negative employment is only improving very slowly, consumer Holiday spending vs last year was off, manufacturing output remains down, high Federal deficit and debt, versus some positive indications in automobile sales, residential real estate and household debt reduction.

  • Mortgage Rates DECREASE: 30-year last/this week: 3.51%/3.47, 15-year 2.85%/2.84%
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average INCREASE from 13,488 to 13,649 (avg. of 30 companies, highest all time 14,164 10/9/07)
  • S&P 500 INCREASE from 1472 to 1485 (all time 1565 10/9/2007)
  • US Treasury’s DECREASE: 2-Year Note from .257% to .267%, 10-Year Note from 1.869% to 1.845%
  • Crude Oil Futures INCREASE from $93.73 to $95.56
  • Gold prices INCREASE from $1,662 to $1,684 (High $1,895 9/6/11) per ounce
  • Euro INCREASE from 1.3344 to 1.3377 (2011 high 1.48 5/11, all time 1.59 7/2008)
  • US Dollar Index INCREASE from $79.53 to $80.04

RECESSION WATCH SCORECARD: *

FINANCIALS:* 4 NEGATIVE vs 3 POSITIVE :|

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - Positive, GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.7%, for the third quarter, however this would only add up to 2.1% for 2012. We really need to see GDP in the 4% – 6% range to have a fueled economic recovery.
  • Manufacturing output - Negative, this is a good indication of how industry is doing; it was modestly increasing this past winter, leading to some guarded optimism, but for almost the last 6 months it has decreased to Spring 2009 levels.
  • US Consumer Spending - Negative, is currently at 82 compared to peaks last year of 96 in March, and 64 one year ago. Overall the past 12 months hasn’t been strong, and holiday spending was down. Economists watch consumers’ spending trends to try to track their confidence in the economy. The more confidence consumers have, the more willing they are to spend money.
  • US Household Debt Service - Positive, as a percentage of people’s disposable income is at 10.69% (June) and has been steadily decreasing from its 10 year high of about 14% in the 3rd quarter of 2008.
  • The Federal Deficit - Negative, is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to be $1.1 trillion for 2013; this will make 5 years in a row it has exceeded $1 trillion, and this doesn’t include all the money our Federal government borrows.
  • The US National debt - Negative exceeds $16.4 trillion.
  • Consumer Price Index - Positive annualized monthly growth rate through November for the CPI in 2012 was 1.80%. The long term-term average annualized rate of 3.63%. The CPI is the most common indicator of inflation.

JOBS: 1 POSITIVE, 0 NEGATIVE, 2 STAGNANT :|

  • Monthly change in non-farm payrolls – Flat: 155,000 new jobs were added in December, compared to 146,000 added in November, and 171,000 in October.
  • Unemployment – Flat: December’s rate of 7.8 matched the revised November rate of 7.8% (previously estimated to be 7.7% – which would have been the lowest since December 2008). This is better than some 2012 months over 8% – showing very little improvement. However, keep in mind this ‘Official Unemployment’ rate only tracks those who are without jobs and have actively sought work within the past 4 weeks. Since this statistic does not track all people who are not working, some websites report that the ‘Real Unemployment’ rate is about 15% when all able-bodied people of working age are considered. For a historical perspective: The unemployment rate during the Great Recession peaked at 10.10% in October 2010. In 2012 it has varied in the range of 8.10% – 8.30%, so we are not seeing a lot of change this year. It could be worse when you consider that during the Great Depression it peaked at about 25% in 1933.
  • Initial Jobless Claims for Unemployment Insurance – Positive: The four week rolling average, decreased to 359,000 compared to  last week. Looking back 52 weeks it averaged about 373,000,  we are seeing a slight improvement. This number is much better than it was in 2009 when it peaked at over 650,000, better than 2010 when it went from nearly 500,000 to the the low 400,000′s and for 2011 when claims were in the low to mid 400,000′s. The lowest we have seen this rate in 10 years is 282,000 in January of 2006, and the earlier part of the last decade we saw the average similar to what we are seeing now. During the Great Depression from 1929 – 1941 there was not the same level of unemployment insurance that we have today, although unions may have had some. It wasn’t until the Social Security act encouraged it in 1935. Today we have the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax to fund state agencies.

*For an overview of GDP, Unemployment and Recession indicators, see previous article A primer on recession indicators, Gross Domestic Product and Unemployment.

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