Another Week of Generally Solid Data
Initial unemployment claims increased 15,000, for the week ended December 24, 2011, to 381,000, but remained below the key 400,000 level.  The four-week moving average of claims fell to 375,000, the lowest level since June 2008.  Continuing claims increased 34,000 to 3.60 million, but the four-week moving average fell to 3.60 million, the lowest since September 2008.  The trajectory of unemployment claims data suggests an acceleration in job growth.

Pending home sales, which are contracts on existing homes, increased 7.3% in November after a 10.4% gain in October.  As a result, we are forecasting a 7.7% gain in existing home sales (counted at closing) in December, to a 4.76 million annual rate. 

The Richmond Fed index, a measure of manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region, increased to +3 in December from 0 in November.  The Kansas City Manufacturing Index fell to -4 in December from 4 in November, but the KC index has proven much less useful as an economic forecasting tool than other indexes, like Richmond.
Another more useful manufacturing survey, from a critical region for the industry, is the Chicago PMI, which ticked down slightly in December to a still strong 62.5 versus 62.6 in November.

Same-store chain store sales were up 4.5% from a year ago according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, 4.3% according to Redbook Research.  This is the high end of the range for this data in recent months.

Posted on Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 11:18 AM

These posts were prepared by First Trust Advisors L.P., and reflect the current opinion of the authors. They are based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable. Opinions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice. This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.