Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quick Notes for the Day - June 3

Bernanke on the Hill - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Wednesday that a gradual recovery remains on track for this year, and inflation would remain low given the slow pace of recovery. "The recent data also suggest that the pace of economic contraction may be slowing," Bernanke said in a cautiously optimistic scenario. He said a technical end of the recession could occur later this year.

Economic items that Bernanke pointed to included consumer spending that has been flat since the turn of the year, activity in the housing market that has shown some signs of bottoming, companies that are continuing to lower inventories, and that in turn should spur production in the coming months.

"We continue to expect overall economic growth to bottom out and then turn up later this year," Bernanke said. "The recovery will only gradually gain momentum and...economic slack will diminish slowly."

As we have discussed many times in this blog that unemployment is one of the slowest lagging indicators, Bernanke said that the future points to "sizable job losses and further increases in unemployment" over the next few months.

Tons of Economic Data - This morning had a flurry of economic data reports:

ADP Employment Services said private companies slashed 532,000 jobs in May, after a downwardly revised 545,000-job drop in April. The private-payroll report was only slightly weaker than some economists had predicted and comes two days before the government's closely watched monthly employment report.

The Institute for Supply Management said the non-manufacturing sector contracted at a slower pace in May, but didn't improve as much as economists had anticipated. The ISM nonmanufacturing index rose to 44% from 43.7% in April. Economists were expecting an increase to 46%.

The Commerce Department reported that factory orders rose 0.7% in April. Excluding transportation, factory orders climbed by 0.1% in the month. Shipments, meanwhile, fell by 0.2% in April.

Inventories on Oil, Gas Send Futures Lower - U.S. commercial crude inventories rose by 2.9 million barrels last week as reported by the EIA, while analysts surveyed by Platts had expected a decline of 2 million barrels. Additionally, the EIA reported that total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 200,000 barrels last week, much less than the drop of 1.5 million barrels that had been forecast. Crude oil futures dropped 2% to around $67 per barrel on the news.

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