Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quick Notes for the Day - December 17

Senate Committee Approves Bernanke Nomination - The Senate Banking Committee on Thursday approved the nomination of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term 16 to 7 which now means it will go to the full Senate for a final confirming vote.

The Senate is not expected to take up the nomination until some time in January (his term expires on January 31). While approval is widely expected, Bernanke faces an unusual amount of opposition from lawmakers who are disgruntled over the Fed's bailout of financial firms.

Leading Indicators Rise 0.9% - The Conference Board reported that the index of leading economic indicators rose 0.9% in November versus 0.3% in October. This rise marked the eighth straight month of rising indicators. Overall, six of the 10 leading indicators were positive, and the index is up at a 9.6% annual pace over the last six months.

"Looking ahead, we can expect a slowly improving economy through 2010," said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board.

In November, six of the 10 leading indicators improved: the interest-rate spread, stock prices, jobless claims, average hours worked in manufacturing, the real money supply, and building permits. Three indicators were negative: consumer expectations, delivery times, and capital equipment orders. The index for new orders for consumer goods was unchanged.

Initial Jobless Claims Rise - Initial jobless claims rose by 7,000 last week to 480,000 which was more than expected by Wall Street. Most analysts had predicted a drop to around 465,000. The news put a damper on the morning to start the session.

Gold Down on Stronger Dollar - On the jobless claims news, gold futures fell close to 2% to about $1,114 an ounce.

Manufacturing Improves - According to data released by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, manufacturing improved in November. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve's index on manufacturing improved more than expected to 20.4 this month from 16.7.

Natural Gas Rises Sharply - Natural gas rose 7% after the Energy Information Administration reported a drop in natural gas supplies. After nearly nine months of build-ups, natural gas in storage fell for the second week in a row, this time by 207 billion cubic feet, the EIA said. The drop was much bigger than expected. Analysts surveyed by Platts expected no more than a 4 billion cubic feet withdrawal.

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