Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Retail Sales in August

The most recent retails sales report released by the Department of Commerce suggested that there is no sign of double dip in the economy. The report counts receipts of stores that sell durables and non-durables.

Retail sales in August beat the median forecast of 0.3 percent with components more positive than not. Overall retail sales in August continued to improve, gaining 0.4 percent, following a 0.3 percent rebound in July.

Among the gainers are gasoline station sales (up 1.9 percent),  food & beverages (up 1.3 percent) and clothing (up 1.2 percent), health & personal care, sporting goods & hobby stores, general merchandise, nonstore retailers, and food services & drinking places.

Among the losers are 1.1 percent fall in electronics & appliances and a 0.9 percent decline in miscellaneous stores. Motor vehicle & parts dealers decreased 0.7% while furniture & home furnishings slipped 0.5 percent. Building materials and garden equipment sales were flat.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Healthcare Reform Part II

In my previous write-up on this topic, I talked about inclusion of preventive services. Today, I’ll discuss including children with pre-existing conditions into the health-care system. According to a new report , there are 5 million children under the age of 18 who has pre-existing conditions. So far, insurance companies had been denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act recognized the need for brining in all those children with pre-existing conditions into the system. So accordingly, health plans beginning on or after September 23, 2010 for new plans and existing group plans, “The new law includes new rules to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to children under the age of 19 due to a pre-existing condition.”

Now the law says that from this year no children should be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

This is a very good step to consumer protection. But there are some loopholes in this law. The law states that children cannot be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, but it did not say that all children need to be covered. So, insurance companies can stop offering coverage to these children till 2014, when everyone need to be offered insurance. Anticipating that the insurance companies would read through these fine prints, the Health and Human services announced a Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan that will “offer coverage to uninsured Americans who have been unable to obtain health coverage because of a pre-existing health condition”.

So will this provision of Health-Care Reform help the consumers?

The actual benefits will be delayed till 2014 for sure.


by Roy Tutu

About the author:

Roy Tutu is the publisher of the blog, “ephemeralthinking.com” – a blog that covers topics related to economics, business, society and entertainment.

Roy is an economist with a passion for writing. According to Roy, “our informal conversations leap from one topic to another, transforming and reshaping our views and opinions. Ephemeralthinking.com is an avenue that brings in such informal discussions to curious readers.”

Contact Roy Tutu at roytutu@ephemeralthinking.com

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Petroleum and Natural Gas Weekly Report

According to EIA reports on Thursday,
U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) decreased by 1.9 million barrels from the previous week to 359.9 million barrels, giving an immediate boost to the crude oil market price. However, the inventory is high compared to the same period last year.

Among the petroleum products, total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 0.2 million barrels last week, distillate fuel inventories decreased by 0.4 million barrels, and both are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year.

Total products supplied over the last four-week period has averaged 19.6 million barrels per day, up by 0.7 percent compared to the similar period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline demand has averaged 9.4 million barrels per day, up by 1.1 percent from the same period last year. Distillate fuel demand has averaged 3.8 million barrels per day over the last four weeks, up by 9.4 percent from the same period last year.
In the meantime, stock in natural gas rose 58 billion cubic feet in the September 3 week, higher than expected.
Note: Financial markets have begun to monitor closely crude oil inventory since 2004. It is general believed that sharp price hikes in crude oil accompany falling inventories while price declines concur with rising inventories.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Economic Indicators September 9, 2010

1. International Trade
  • The overall U.S. trade deficit narrowed to $42.8 billion in July from $49.8 billion in June, much smaller than the consensus forecast for a $46.8 billion deficit.
  • Exports rebounded 1.8 percent, following a 1.3 percent decline in June. Overall imports declined 2.1 percent after increasing 3.1 percent the prior month. Nonoil imports fell 3.0 percent, following a 4.6 percent jump in June.
  • the boost in goods exports was led by a $2.3 billion jump in capital goods excluding autos. A large part of this--$1.4 billion-was civilian aircraft
  • The drop in imports was broad based though following a large overall increase in June.
  • Improvement in trade deficit adds a little lift to third quarter GDP growth. Manufacturers certainly will be happy about the resumption of export growth.
2.  Initial Jobless Claims
  • As a sign of improvement for the labor market, initial jobless claims fell substantially in the September 4 week.
  • Claims came in at 451,000 vs. 478,000 in the prior week (revised from 472,000). The 451,000 level is the lowest since July and the second lowest since May.
  • The Labor Department told Market News International that nine states had to be estimated due to delays tied to the holiday shortened week, but the government stressed that data since received confirm the improvement.
  • The four-week average fell nearly 10,000 to 477,750 and is only slightly higher than a month-ago.
  • Continuing claims show 4.478 million in data for the August 28 week with the four-week average at 4.488 million, the latter down mildly from the month-ago reading. The unemployment rate for insured workers is unchanged at 3.5 percent.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Economic Indicator September 8, 2010

1. ICSC-Goldman Store Sales

                                            Prior     Actual

Store Sales - W/W change    0.1 %  -0.4 %

Store Sales - Y/Y                 2.8 %    1.8 %
  • The ICSC-Goldman Store Sales index fell 0.4 percent in the September 4 week to pull down the year-on-year rate to plus 1.8 percent for the lowest reading since May.
  • Weather effects was cited to have curbed demand for buy-and-wear fall apparel.
  • The year-on-year rate is expected to plus 3.0 percent for the full month of September in what would be a continuation of trend
2. Beige Book
  • "Continued growth" but "with widespread signs of a deceleration."
  • Growth is described as "at a modest pace." Still, there is no talk of a double dip.
  • "Consumer spending appeared to increase on balance despite continued consumer caution that limited nonessential purchases."
  • "Reports on manufacturing activity pointed to further expansion, although the pace of growth eased according to several Districts."
  • Within manufacturing, weakness was largely related to construction while strength was in auto-related production, including production of steel. Some Districts reported that export demand was an important contributor to healthy manufacturing conditions.
  • No inflationary pressure on most final goods and services despite some upward pressure on grain and selected industrial materials
3.  MBA application

                                                              Prior    Actual

Purchase Index - W/W Change              1.8 %    6.3 %

Refinance Index - W/W Change             2.8 %   -3.1 %

Composite Index - W/W Change           2.7 %   -1.5 %

  • The MBA Purchase Applications index jumped 6.3 percent in the September 3 week and is at its highest level since May.
  • still well below levels prior to the April expiration of second-round housing stimulus and is still down nearly 40 percent year-on-year.
  • month-to-month change and the latest gain, the third in a row for this index, together with last week's jump in the pending home sales index, will raise hopes that the housing sector is now beginning to climb out of its post-stimulus valley.
  • The Refinance Index did slip 3.1 percent for its first decline in six weeks but it's still very strong as low rates draw in borrowers. The refinancing share of mortgage activity is at 82 percent of total applications. The average 30-year mortgage rate rose 7 basis points in the week to 4.50 percent.
4. Consumer Credit
  • Consumer borrowing fell again in July as households cut back on their credit card use for a 23rd consecutive month
  • Increase in auto loan is more than offset by declining other forms of consumer loans including credit card loans
  • The latest drop in overall borrowing was slightly higher than economists' expectations and followed a $1.02 billion decline in June, which was revised from an initial estimate that total credit had dropped by $1.3 billion that month.
  • Borrowing in the category that includes auto loans rose 0.6 percent in July after gains of 3.2 percent in June and 1.2 percent in May. The three monthly increases reflected a revival of auto sales this summer after automakers endured slumping sales during the recession.
  • Borrowing on credit cards fell by 6.3 percent in July after a bigger 7.5 percent June decline. This category has now fallen for a record 23 consecutive months as Americans have struggled to repair their household finances after the worst recession since the 1930s.