Economic Roundup: December 20, 2010

Mark Ott

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W.J. Bradley Mortgage Capital Corp.

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Retail sales for November nearly doubled expectations, hitting $378.7 billion, an increase of 0.8 percent from October, and 7.7 percent over November 2009, according to the latest Census Bureau data released last week.
Concurrently, the National Federation of Independent Business's Index of Small Business Optimism increased by 1.5 points to 93.2, the highest since December 2007. While encouraging, the NFIB said November's sentiment was still in "recession territory."
"Nowhere is there evidence of a 'surge' as experienced in 1983 after the deep recessions of 1980-82," the NFIB added.
While small businesses might have guarded optimism, November's quickened retail pace followed a pleasantly unexpected 1.7 percent jump in October, a trend some industry watchers considered encouraging.
"There's no question this will be the strongest quarter for consumer spending since before the recession," Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial, told Bloomberg. "The economy has pretty good momentum going into the New Year."
The consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.1 percent in November on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week. This was slightly below analyst expectations of 0.2 percent. Over the last 12 months, the all-items index increased 1.1 percent before seasonal adjustment.
Meanwhile, producer prices jumped ahead of expectations, with November's producer price index for finished goods rising by 0.8 percent, according to the Bureau. On an unadjusted basis, prices for finished goods rose 3.5 percent for the 12 months ending November 2010.
Housing construction for November was a mixed bag according to the Census Bureau, which reported last week that construction permits for private homes were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000 for the month, which was 4.0 percent below October's revised rate of 552,000. That said, construction starts on private homes for the month were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 555,000, which was 3.9 percent above October's revised estimate of 534,000.
In terms of single-family homes, permits for November were at a rate of 416,000, which was 3 percent above October's revised figure of 404,000. Starts on single-family homes in November were at a rate of 465,000, which was 6.9 percent over October's revised figure of 435,000.
Next week will see a somewhat abbreviated calendar of economic announcements due to the pending holiday break.
On Wednesday, the National Association of REALTORS® will release existing-home sales data for November, which is expected to reach 4.68 million, in comparison to October's 4.43 million. The Census Bureau will follow up with new-home sales data on Thursday. November's figure is expected to increase to 305,000 from October's 283,000.
Also on Thursday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis will report personal income and spending for November, which were expected to be a mixed bag, respectively dipping and remaining flat from October's figures. Similarly, the University of Michigan will report its consumer sentiment for December, which is expected to drop to 73.7 from November's 74.2.



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