Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Fourth of July! (excerpt)

In addition to barbeques and fireworks, the Fourth of July weekend is also a big one for big discount sales. Consumers are certainly in a happy mood. The Consumer Confidence Index rose from 94.6 during May to 101.4 during June, remaining near recent cyclical highs. The labor market continues to improve, with the percentage of consumers saying that jobs are plentiful at 21.4% last month, a new cyclical high and the best reading since February 2008.

An index of pending existing home sales rose in May to the highest since April 2006. That’s yet another sign of improving consumer confidence. The puzzle, though, is that Census data on household formation show that they continue to be all renters. This suggests that most of the housing transactions are between younger current owners who are trading up and older current owners who are trading down. First-time homebuyers seem to be missing in action. That may be because the Millennials are saddled with student debt, postponing getting married, and renting apartments in cities, as we discussed last week.

Finally, I should note that the five available regional business surveys for June are showing an upturn from their winter/spring soft patch. The average of the composite business indexes for the Fed Districts of New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Kansas, and Dallas rose to 0.7 last month, the first reading above zero since February. That’s still relatively weak, suggesting that there may still be some soft spots in the economy. The Dallas survey is especially weak because the oil industry in Texas has been hard hit by lower oil prices.

Today's Morning Briefing: Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. (1) Fireworks on July 4 in US, July 5 in Greece, and July 6 in the markets. (2) Another panic attack followed by another relief rally? (3) Greece will either be kicked out or kicked down the road. (4) US fundamentals improving relative to rest of world, but valuation is a problem. (5) S&P 1500 forward earnings bottoming and turning up. (6) Consumers are in a spending mood as labor market continues to improve. (7) Housing sales looking up, although all new households are renting. (8) Trading up and down. (9) Regional business surveys still show a few soft spots. (10) Focus on market-weight-rated S&P 500 housing-related industries. (More for subscribers.)

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