- All three U.S. stock indexes red, Dow down most
- Real estate is biggest S&P sector loser, Energy up most
- STOXX down ~0.9%
- Crude, dollar, Bitcoin up; gold ~flat
- U.S. 10-yr Treasury yield ~1.75%
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RELEASE THE HOUNDS – ER, DATA: A FRIDAY ECON WRAP-UP (1100 EST/ 1600 GMT)
A torrent of data was released on market participants like a pack of dobermans on Friday, chock full on mostly unpleasant surprises which provided fresh reminders that U.S. consumers and the economy are still being dogged by Omicron, hot inflation and a tangled supply chain.
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Line-by-line, the decline was broad based, with non-store retailers (which includes online and catalog), and department stores suffering the biggest declines, tumbling by 8.7% and 7.0%, respectively.
The causes of this unpleasant surprise are largely inter-related. Spiking COVID cases kept shoppers at home, wile pandemic-related supply issues kept goods scarce and prices high.
“December was a rough month for the American consumer,” writes Anu Gaggar, global investment strategists at Commonwealth Financial Network. “Between higher prices, empty shelves, consumers sick from omicron, and holiday shopping pulled forward, retail activity declined even more than expected, and November numbers were also revised lower.”
Additionally, many consumers – in reaction to those supply challenges – seem to have started their holiday shopping earlier than usual, benefiting the October number at December’s expense.
Core retail sales, which strips out autos, gasoline, building materials and food services, and is the closest proxy for the personal consumption component of GDP, posted an even bigger unexpected drop, plunging by 3.1%.
That is particularly dour news, considering the fact that the consumer shoulders about 70% of U.S. economic growth.
Speaking of the consumer, attitudes have been following mercury levels lower this month.
The University of Michigan’s preliminary take on January Consumer Sentiment (USUMSP=ECI) delivered a print of 68.8, below the even 70 consensus.
Attitudes regarding the current situation edged lower, but pessimism regarding near term expectations did the most damage.
Inflation weighed heaviest on consumers’ minds in the opening weeks of 2022, with near- and long-term inflation expectations heating up to 4.9% and 3.1%, respectively.
“While the Delta and Omicron variants certainly contributed to this downward shift, the decline was also due to an escalating inflation rate,” writes Richard Curtin, chief economist with UMich’s Surveys of Consumers. “Three-quarters of consumers in early January ranked inflation … as the more serious problem facing the nation.”
Which provides a tidy segue.
The falling cost of petroleum prices was largely responsible for the decline, adding another voice to the growing chorus that the stubbornly persistent inflation wave, which has moved the Federal Reserve to shorten its timeline for tightening its COVID-era monetary policy, is at or past its peak.
Year-on-year, import price growth cooled down, shedding 1.3 percentage points to a still-blistering 10.4%.
However, Mahir Rasheed, U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, also expects “import prices should begin to unwind in Q2 with energy prices moderating and domestic demand cooling as the Fed pivots to tightening monetary policy.”
Despite the December decline, the series remains hotter that other major indicators, all of which continue to cruise at an altitude far above the Fed’s average annual 2% inflation target.
Another unwelcome surprise arrived courtesy of the Federal reserve’s industrial production (USIP=ECI) report, which showed output unexpectedly slipped by 0.1% in the last month of 2021.
Manufacturers disappointed even more, with factory output dropping 0.3% in defiance of the 0.5% growth economists projected.
“We expected a soft headline, because wamer-than-usual weather reduced demand for heating energy, and natural gas extraction plunged by 7.9%,” says Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “But the softness in manufacturing is disappointing, and it can’t all be blamed on the ongoing supply problems in the auto sector, where production fell 1.3%.”
Capacity utilization (USCAPU=ECI) also zagged where it was expected to zig, inching nominally lower to 76.5% instead of rising to 77%.
Even so, capacity use, a measure of economic slack, remains slightly above where it was just before a global health crisis threw a monkey wrench into the works.
Taken together the Fed’s report is a stark reminder of the sorry state of the global supply chain, which continues to limp along under the weight of booming demand, scarcity of materials and lack of workers.
Lastly, in more ancient news, the value of goods in the store rooms of U.S. businesses (USBINV=ECI) increased by 1.3% in November, bucking the trend by hitting the expectations bulls eye.
The Commerce Department data bodes well for fourth quarter economic growth, hinting that private inventories’ contribution could stay out of the negative column, where it sat in the first half of 2021.
All three major U.S. stock indexes were red, with cyclicals and economically sensitive transports (.DJT) down the most.
BANK STOCKS STUMBLE AS Q4 EARNINGS GATE OPENS (1005 EST/ 1505 GMT)
Some of the biggest U.S. banks kicked off earnings season on Friday with a sickening thud for investors with JPMorgan (JPM.N) tumbling 4.8% and Citigroup (C.N) down 2.4% after their reports. Only Wells Fargo shares were in demand with a 1.4% gain.
The S&P 500 bank index (.SPXBK) was last trading down 2.0% on the day after hitting an intraday record high in the previous day’s session. It ended up Thursday 10.4% so far for 2022 after rising 32.3% in 2021.
While JPMorgan – the largest U.S. bank that is a barometer of the economy’s health – beat Wall Street’s expectations even as it reported a 14% profit decline due to a slowdown in trading which offset a stellar performance in investment banking.
Trading revenue fell 13% while investment banking revenue surged 28% thanks to a bumper deal year. read more
UBS analyst Erika Najarian wrote in a note ahead of the conference call that JPM’s slides show its outlook for $77 billion in expenses is 6% above consensus.
“This does not fit the “beat and raise” narrative investors have for banks in 2022,” she said.
Citigroup reported a 26% slump in fourth-quarter profit on Friday as it took a hit from higher expenses and weakness at its consumer banking unit. read more
However, Wells Fargo beat analyst profit estimates in the quarter as a rebound in U.S. economic growth encouraged more customers to take loans and the bank kept a tight lid on costs. read more
WALL STREET POISED TO REMAIN RISK-OFF (0915 EST/1415 GMT)
Stock futures on Wall Street traded lower on Friday after U.S. retail sales dropped in December instead of staying flat and banking results at the start of earnings seasons failed to provide a reason for budging the risk-off sentiment.
Retail sales fell 1.9% after rising 0.2% in November, the Commerce Department said, while economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales unchanged.
Shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) slid after it posted a 14% decline in fourth-quartre earnings due to a slowdown in the company’s trading arm. But results sailed past analysts’ estimates on stellar results from its investment banking unit. read more
Citigroup (C.N) also slid after the the bank reported a 26% drop in quarterly profit. But the company exceeded market expectations as strong gains in its investment banking business cushioned the blow from higher expenses. read more
But shares of Wells Fargo & Co gained in pre-market trade after posting a greater-than-expected rise in fourth-quarter profit. read more
Futures for the Dow Industrials , S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were all down about 0.8% prior to the opening bell.
Here’s a snapshot the market:
FOR FRIDAY’S LIVE MARKETS’ POSTS PRIOR TO 0900 EST/1400 GMT – CLICK HERE: NL8N2TU3IM
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