The Overnight Report: Devil In The Data

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By Greg Peel

The Dow closed down 28 points, or 0.2%, while the S&P lost 0.2% to 1353 and the Nasdaq fell 0.4%.

I am declaring today's Report a "cliff" discussion free zone.

It's official ? the eurozone is in recession. This assumes one pays any heed to a recession definition of two consecutive negative quarters, but the region's net GDP fell by 0.1% in the September quarter following a 0.2% contraction in June. The last December quarter was also negative, but March was flat meaning no official "recession" claim has been made to date. It's all semantics of course.

Growth in Germany and France was unable to offset the negative drag from the south (Greece down 7.2%, for example) although a 1.1% contraction for the Netherlands suggests the rot is spreading. The ECB is concerned even the German economy will soon go into "recession".

The Poms were also in for a bit of a shock last night. Retails sales in the UK have been weak, but economists have been forecasting a slow turnaround in fortunes, with October sales forecast to have fallen only 0.1%. There were thus some dropped jaws when the result came out at minus 0.8%.

Across the pond, the first trickle of impact of SS Sandy is beginning to be felt in the data. I usually don't highlight US weekly new jobless claims because they are volatile and flip-flop backwards and forwards in numbers usually around 10,000, but last week's jump in claims of 78,000 to 439,000 is a stand-out. It took a long time for the trend to fall below 400k ? a level considered to roughly be the balance between rising or falling unemployment ? and in one fell swoop we're back over that level again.

The New York Fed's Empire State manufacturing index came in at minus 5.2 this month. The data also suggest a Sandy impact, although this index has been in contraction for four months now and the October number was minus 6.2. More notable was the plunge in the Philadelphia Fed's index to minus 10.7 from minus 5.7. The Philly Fed region also covers areas impacted by the storm.

Economists suggest this is only the beginning of Sandy-affected data releases. The flow-through impact probably won't be most noticeable until the March quarter 2013, they believe. Of course we've seen such disaster impacts before (think Japanese tsunami or Queensland floods) which dip initially but bounce back subsequently as the clean up/rebuild economic boost is felt. Wall Street will be wary of reacting too negatively to Sandy data.

Overall data nevertheless had Wall Street trading down from the open last night, again, and fears of another all-out war in the Middle East overhung. The good news is that last night's session was not another straight move down with acceleration towards the close, but a bumpier ride that saw the Dow recover from being 74 points down with half an hour to go. Are the bargain-hunters warming up? Do they feel there's an over-exaggeration of fear over...whoops, I'm not going to mention that.

What we're not seeing, with regard to Israel's fresh round of bellicosity, is any panic in oil markets. There was a bit of a bump up on Wednesday night, but neither Israel or Palestine produces oil (the real fear relates to Iran's support of Hamas) and economic data such as the eurozone GDP offer up a weaker picture for global energy consumption. Last night Brent fell US67c to US$107.34/bbl and West Texas fell US92c to US$85.40/bbl.

The push and pull of major currencies under QE regimes ? US, Japan, UK and eurozone eventually ? has meant the US dollar index is just hanging around of late. It was little changed at 81.07 last night. The Aussie meanwhile continued its risk-off slide by losing 0.4% to US$1.0331. Gold is looking like it, too, might be coming under some liquidation pressure despite global QE, falling US$11.60 to US$1714.10/oz last night.

Base metals all moved in opposite directions last night, but 1% moves either way were about the limit. Spot iron ore rose another US40c to US$122.80/t.

The SPI Overnight was up 6 points.


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