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The States of the Union & Global Economy This week's business news schedule is headlined by President Obama's first State of the Union Address and the Global Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. That said, an overflowing week's worth of corporate earnings reports offers ample opportunity for blind side catalyst.
As far as the economic slate is concerned, Monday offers a relatively quiet start to the week, with only one economic report due. Existing Home Sales will be reported for the month of December at 10:00 a.m. Home sales have picked up right on cue since last spring, as the Fed and the feds have done all they can to stabilize the real estate marketplace. The Federal Reserve's free money moves have brought mortgage rates down significantly, and the feds have offered significant stimulus to first-time homebuyers and almost everyone else of late. Existing Home Sales Inventory, which is determined partly by the annual rate of sales reported monthly, has drained; heck prices have even stabilized.
Still, Pending Home Sales dropped 16% in November, due to anticipation of the expiration of the first-time homebuyer tax credit. Odds are that Existing Home Sales will show a commensurate decline over the next couple months, as it takes some four to six weeks for the sale of a home to close. Pending sales measures when sales are entered into contract and Existing Sales measures closings. Thus, the Pending metric offers an indication of forward Existing Sales. Economists have not missed that point, and are forecasting the annual pace of Existing Home Sales fell to 5.9 million in December, down from 6.54 million in November.
In foreign affairs, markets in Brazil are closed Monday. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev meets with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as he works to broker an agreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. With the election concluded in the Ukraine, Russia's recently appointed (August) Ambassador travels to Kiev for the first time. A few days before the anniversary of their strange encounter on the stage in Davos, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Turkish President Erdogan will both be in the world news on Monday. Peres travels to Germany to meet with government officials there, while Erdogan meets with the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan to discuss broader cooperation.
International events light up the early news wire on Tuesday. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) releases its latest world economic outlook in Washington. The early wire should carry important news from Japan as well. The Bank of Japan (BOJ) is slated to meet and is expected to keep to the status quo in its monetary policy. Meanwhile, markets in Australia and India will be closed Tuesday.
A day after meeting with Erdogan, President Karzai heads to Germany (from where Shimon Peres will have just left) to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Meanwhile in Turkey, Afghanistan's neighbors continue to confer. In Nigeria, where the world is unsure of who is running the country, the Nigerian Senate will discuss the health status of its President Umaru Yaradua. In Honduras, military officials face charges related to last year's coup.
In the US, the Congressional Budget Office will publish its outlook for 2010. At some point this week, Congress will have to determine the fate of Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke, as his current term expires on Sunday (We Are Debating Bernanke's Chairmanship Here). The Federal Reserve will not be taking any time off while Congress decides, as it kicks off its two-day Federal Open Market Committee policy meeting on Tuesday.
The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) returns to its normal reporting schedule this week. Look for the Same-Store Sales data in the pre-market as usual. Last week's report, covering the period ended January 16, showed sales gained some steam, rising 2.6% on a year-to-year basis (compared to the prior week's 1.7% rate). On a weekly basis, sales improved 2.0%, after dropping 3.0% the prior week. Seems as though weather may have played a role in that prior week period, though we initially speculated that post holiday bare shelves on tight retail inventory management could have led to a smaller bottom line. Given what looks like make-up sales in this latest period, it seems something else may have played a role in restraining purchases of necessities. Weather is an easy target. Whatever the case, the true trend will play out over the next few weeks.
The S&P Case Shiller Home Price Index is due at 9:00 AM Tuesday. Though the report covers old data, popular press and television media are in love with it. We already know December's pricing environment improved, based on the Existing Home Sales Report just published by the National Association of Realtors. So, therefore, why would this report covering the month of November impact trading? The FHFA House Price Index will follow S&P's report at 10:00 a.m., but also covers November; and is limited to transactions that later involve their purchase or securitization by Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM) or Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE).
The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index is up at 10:00 AM. The Index rose 2.9 points in December, reaching 52.9. The gain was supported by an improvement in consumer expectations, while the Present Situation Index dipped to near a record low, reaching 18.8. This month, with the labor environment still suffering, we are surprised to find economists expect the index to move to 53.5. Look for something short of that, in our view.
Look for State Street's Investor Confidence Index at 10:00 a.m. In December, the index moved 3.1 points higher, to 103.9, thanks to confidence gained in Asia. North American Confidence improved by only 0.9, to 103.1 last month. We know by recent market activity and sour news that confidence in Asia took a dip last week, while European and North American confidence remain strained. So, the market may be unenthused by any gain reported in this report.
The World Economic Forum kicks off in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday, where the topic of discussion will be - you guessed it, the state of the global economy. This annual meeting draws the world's most powerful people and most intelligent minds.
Last year's event was memorable for many reasons, but what sticks out in my mind is the on stage exchange between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli President Shimon Peres. It concluded with Erdogan storming off the stage feeling insulted by the moderator who was more concerned about dinner getting cold than the airing of these intriguing point of views. See our coverage of last year's Davos exchange here (including video).
Must see TV returns, as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner joins his predecessor, Hank Paulson, in an appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Panel. Geithner has been getting testy lately, and might be getting tired of being placed on trial week after week. We think he is most likely to resign among Obama's team, as a life in the private sector probably does not look all that bad to him from his current vantage point. The poison of choice on Wednesday will be the AIG (NYSE: AIG) bailout.
The Mortgage Bankers Association report on mortgage activity trends will be first to the wire on Wednesday. We covered the mortgage trends report in-depth last week, so please see our report via the link here.
Following Monday's Existing Home Sales data, New Home Sales are up for report on Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m. Unlike Existing Homes, the annual pace of New Homes Sales dropped precipitously in November (-11%) to 355K. The difference between New and Existing Home Sales is clear, and we discussed it in October in the article linked to here. Like existing properties, the monthly fluctuation was partly influenced by the on-again off-again first-time homebuyer tax credit.
Economists are forecasting December will produce a New Home Sales rate of 370K, based on Bloomberg's survey, but that consensus was generated before existing sales missed by a mile. Still, inventory in the new home market was last measured at 7.9 months, based partly on the weak sales rate in November. This gives new homes a chance, but we would not bet on it.
The New York Society of Security Analysts takes up the outlook for natural gas on Wednesday. The EIA reports on Petroleum Inventory at 10:30 a.m. Last week's data, covering the week ended January 15, showed commercial crude oil inventory decreased by 0.4 million barrels. Oil stocks remain above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Motor gasoline inventory increased by 3.9 million barrels, and is also above the upper limit of the average range due to light consumption in a still relatively subpar economic environment. Distillate fuel inventory decreased by 3.3 million barrels, but is still above the upper boundary of the average range. Distillates are affected by seasonal factors, as is motor gasoline.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will publish its policy statement at the conclusion of its two-day meeting Wednesday at 2:15 p.m. The FOMC is widely expected to keep the fed funds target rate steady at 0% to 0.25%, especially after last week's pick up in weekly jobless claims.
President Obama delivers his first State of the Union Address before Congress on Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. The highly intense speech to the nation comes just one week after his toughest political week yet, thanks to the loss of the Senate seat in Massachusetts and harsh criticism delivered on recent financial regulation proposals. We criticized one of those here in our article, "Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee."
In overseas activity, Porfirio Lobo Sosa will be inaugurated as the president of Honduras. Protests are expected throughout the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the German Parliament regarding its Afghanistan policy. Poland, and the world (except Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) will reportedly unveil its latest trend setting product, a multimedia tablet that will reportedly allow users to read ebooks, among other applications. Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) will hold its analyst day Wednesday's.
Weekly Jobless Claims spiked in their last reporting, and Wall Street Greek readers were prepared for it. We had been warning of the obvious (to us anyway) over the past few weeks, that the holidays might have a soothing effect on employers hearts, which fortunately seem to still exist (though in small supply). Economists forecast initial claims will tally 440K in the week ended January 23, which would be a stark improvement from last week's 482K reading. The four-week moving average moved up 7K last week, to 448,250. Look for the report at 8:30 a.m., and we would take the "over" on this one.
December's Durable Goods Orders will be reported at 8:30. Orders increased a revised 0.7% in November, versus the initially reported 0.2% gain. Ex-Transportation, Orders increased a revised 1.5%. Philly, New York and Chicago area manufacturing reports have been relatively positive in recent checks, and the ISM Manufacturing Report's New Orders Index improved 5 points in December, to 65.5. So, all signs point toward a gain in December's Order report. Economists forecast Durable Goods Orders improved 1.6% in December (2.0% based on Barron's). Be careful, because this figure oftentimes moves big.
Look for the EIA's weekly Natural Gas Report at 10:30. Last week's data, covering the period ended January 15, showed natural gas inventory declined by 245 Bcf. This year's slope of net natural gas draw has been steeper than both last year's pace of usage and the five-year average. Natural Gas Storage now stands only 22 Bcf higher than last year's level and 6 Bcf below the five-year average for this time of year. At this rate, we seem to be heading toward a significant trough. We've been pointing this out to our readers for weeks now (just go back and look), and have looked toward natural gas prices and the stocks of producers like Encana (NYSE: ECA) for long ideas. Nat gas had traded at a relative discount to crude (in terms of BTU), but has since closed the gap (though I have not looked in a while - so your comments welcomed if your in the know).
The Fed's Balance Sheet and Money Supply Reports come due in the afternoon. Meanwhile, Republicans from the House of Representatives will begin a retreat on Thursday as they contemplate strategy from a new perspective.
Overseas, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is scheduled to address the world on his troubled nation's economic outlook and plans to resolve the debt crisis. Also look for the biggest conference of the week on Afghanistan to kick off in London, with the UN Secretary General, US Secretary of State, Afghanistan's President and the UK's Prime Minister all attending. In Tehran, the heads of the Iranian and Iraqi Foreign Ministry consular offices are getting together to discuss neighborhood issues.
Friday brings five economic reports with it, including the first reporting of GDP for the fourth quarter. Third quarter GDP was revised downward significantly in its last check up, to 2.2% growth, from 2.8%. Economists are looking for this preliminary reporting of Q4 2009 to show growth of 4.5%, according to Bloomberg's survey (4.6% by Barron's). Inventory building should have contributed nicely to growth this past quarter. The GDP Price Index is seen heating up, according to the economists, who see a 1.3% increase, against the 0.4% rise last quarter. The investment community will pick carefully through the data, and so will we, so be sure to be with us on Friday morning. Keep an eye on exports too, as Chinese demand is looking pretty hot.
Fourth Quarter Employment Costs should continue tempered by high unemployment and the resulting hiring and salary "freezes" in effect across American industry. Employment costs rose 0.4% in both Q2 and Q3 of 2009, and economists see the same for Q4.
Look for the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) at 9:45 on Friday. Economists see the pace of improvement slowing in January, as the index is seen slipping to 57.0 (57.4 at Barron's), from the revised 58.7 posted in December.
At 9:55, catch the final January reading of the Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. The Conference Board's measure will have already reached the wire earlier in the week and given insight into this reading for the close of January. Bloomberg's survey of economists shows expectations for improvement to 73.0, from a level of 72.8 in mid-January.
Finally, Farm Prices are due for report at 3:00 p.m. Overseas on Friday, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair will testify on his nation's role in the Iraq war. A Nigerian Court is scheduled to rule on a lawsuit seeking to implant Vice President Goodluck Jonathon into the President's office; this due to the illness of the president.
Rev up for the Daytona 500 on Saturday, with the start of the 48th Rolex 24 at Daytona at 3:30 PM.
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