Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Morning Economic Assessment

The US Industrial economy (if pipeline scheduling is correct) continued to ease last week, while consumer spending inched modestly higher.

The Production Index (In terms of its 28-day moving average of gas-flow scheduling into US industrial facilities) dropped for its fifth straight week, easing to 116.8 (vs last weeks 117.0), and at its lowest point since November 24th, 2010. In its raw dailies (above), the measure was somewhat flat with just a bit of re-softening late in the week.

The Consumption Index, conversely, again showed a sliver of strength (2nd up-week in a row) by rising to 124.3 (from last weeks revised 123.8). In its raw dailies the measure continued to show the firmness of the prior weeks-end, though the week only was modestly bullish vs seasonals.

The Inventories measure (the cumulative weekly difference between the Production Index and the Consumption Index), long in decline, continues its attempt to flatten out as consumption trends have been falling faster that production.

Overall, gas-flows continue to look like mush, with the economy continuing to recede from its May-31st peak... implying negative GDP growth for the third quarter is likely. Whether the present "micro-recession" extends long enough to become "official" looks to me to continue to be mostly dependent on the US Federal Reserve (who, judging by their actions, must like 9% unemployment)... with government having the ability to only make things worse, not better.

Government ineptitude appeared to hit a new high last week, with the President talking up tax hikes (doubled-down to $3 trillion from $1.5 trillion last week), as key Republicans lobbied the Federal Reserve to end the monetary stimulus of its recent quantitative-easing programs. The Federal Reserve, for its part, entertained itself by doing the "Chubby-Checker-Twist"... sending global stock and commodities markets reeling.

However, the smallest of slivers of hope is appearing, in that consumption is trying to make a turn the last couple of weeks, even while industry retrenches and investment retreats. The consumption index remains meekly above the production index, so we are hanging on just above levels where downward spirals can commence, hence the economy is trying to make a stand.