Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quick Notes for the Day - August 20

Conference Board's Indicators Rise, See Bottom of Recession - The Conference Board announced Wednesday that for the fourth straight month, the index of leading economic indicators rose with July posting a rise of 0.6%. The Conference Board said an economic recovery may begin soon and that the recession is bottoming out. The interest rate spread was the largest positive contributor, while a reading on consumer expectations was the largest negative contributor. Overall, six of the 10 indicators were positive contributors, three were negative, and one was steady. The six-month growth rate for the overall index hit its highest level since mid-2004.

Philly Fed Reports Factory Activity Turned Positive - For the first time in 10 months, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's index turned positive with August's number much stronger than expected. The survey's business activity index rose to 4.2 in August from minus 7.5 in July, exceeding even the most optimistic forecasts and reaching its highest point since November 2007. The index is points to signs of the health of the manufacturing sector, and the reading is further evidence that the recession is either at or near the end.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a reading of minus 2.0, in a range of minus 8 to plus 3. Any reading above zero indicates expansion in the region's manufacturing sector. New orders rose to 4.2 from minus 2.2 in July, also the highest since November 2007. The employment index rose to minus 12.9 from minus 25.3 last month.

Jobless Claims Rise - The Labor Department reported that initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose by 15,000 to 576,000 in the week ending Aug. 15. It was the highest level since July 25. The four-week average of initial claims also rose, by 4,250 to 570,000, and continuing claims climbed as well. For the week ending Aug. 8, continuing claims rose by 2,000 to 6.24 million. It was also the highest since July 25.

UK Retail Sales Rise - Retail sales in Great Britain rose 0.4% in July for a 3.3% rise compared to the same month last year. Economists had predicted a flat monthly reading and a 2.5% annual jump.

Obama Administration Looks to Cut 2009 Deficit Projection - According to Reuters citing US officials, the Obama administration is looking to cut its budget deficit forecast for fiscal 2009 to $1.58 trillion versus the current $1.84 trillion estimate from May. An administration official said the drop in the projected deficit was due to the elimination of $250 billion that had been earmarked for possible financial rescues, the report said. Officials were cited as saying the government's budget office would announce the new projection next week.

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