Friday, August 21, 2009

Quick Notes for the Day - August 21

Bernanke Upbeat on the Global Economy - In a speech at the Fed's annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the global economy is now beginning to emerge from its worst crisis in generations. "After contracting sharply over the past year, economic activity appears to be leveling out, both in the United States and abroad, and the prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good." According to Bernanke, the downturn might have been much worse if central banks hadn't acted so forcefully last fall. "The world has been through the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression," he said. "As severe as the economic impact has been, however, the outcome could have been decidedly worse."

Global Manufacturing Data Sees Improvement - Data from around the world saw positives in the latest Purchasing Managers Index (PMI). A PMI above 50 shows growth in manufacturing. A PMI below 50 shows a contraction, but the slowing contraction which has moved the number closer to 50 has been seen as a dramatic improvement. For example, in France, the PMI rose to 50.2 in August from 48.1 in July, a 15-month high and above the 50 no-change threshold.

In Germany, the PMI rose to 49.0 in August, up from 45.7 in July, its highest reading in a year. The German services PMI rose to a 16-month high of 54.1 from 48.1 in July. The German composite output index rose to a 15-month high of 54.2 from a reading of 49.0 in July.

In the euro zone, the private-sector activity showed a composite PMI reading of 50.0 from 47.0 in July. The 50.0 number was the highest level of activity in 15 months. The euro-zone services PMI rose to 49.5 in August from 45.7 in July, setting a 15-month high, while the PMI for the manufacturing sector rose to a 14-month high of 47.9 from 46.3 in July.

4th Month Straight - Existing Home Sales Up - The National Association of Realtors reported Friday that sales of existing single-family homes and condos rose 7.2% in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.24 million which is the highest mark since August 2007. The streak of four months with gains on existing home sales is the longest streak of increases since 2004. "Momentum is building," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. Inventories of unsold homes remain elevated, with a 9.4-month supply at the July sales rate, matching the prior month's result. Without seasonal adjustment, the median sales price fell 15.1% in the past year to $178,400. Distressed properties accounted for 31% of sales in July.

Oil at Highest Level of 2009 - Oil rose above $74 a barrel on Friday to its highest level in 2009. Inventory data and the continued improvement and growth in the global economy are creating the rise in the price.

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