NAM: Good economic news to end 2013
Holiday Spending Up 3.5%. Bloomberg News (12/27, Rupp, Timberlake) reports that retail sales “rose 3.5 percent during the holiday season this year, helped by deep discounts at malls and purchases of children’s apparel and jewelry, MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse said.” Sales of “holiday-related categories, such as clothing, electronics and luxury goods, rose 2.3 percent from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24 compared with a year earlier, the Purchase, New York-based research firm said today.”
In its lead story, the CBS Evening News (12/26, lead story, 2:20, Axelrod) characterized the Mastercard Spending Plus numbers, along with those compiled by the National Retail Federation, as “disappointing.” CBS (Brown) added, “Deep discounts and extended hours couldn’t get Americans to spend as much as stores expected” so now retailers are “cutting prices even more.” Still, the piece portrayed the coming days as likely to be key in ultimately determining what kind of holiday sales year this is going to be.
Jobless Claims Down Sharply Last Week. The Wall Street Journal (12/27, Portlock, Subscription Publication) reports that first-time jobless claims fell 42,000 to 338,000 for the week ending December 21, according to new data from the Department of Labor. That’s the first drop in three weeks, and the Journal says that it is in line with a slowly improving labor market. While a Labor spokesman said that there were no special factors impacting the data, claims around the holidays can bounce around. Meanwhile, the four-week moving average, which irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 4,250 to 348,000.
Reuters (12/27, Lange) reports on the jobless claims numbers and says that economists its surveyed expected claims to come in at 345,000.
Consumer Confidence Hits Four-Month High. Bloomberg News (12/27, Jamrisko, Chandra) reports that its Consumer Comfort Index rose to minus 27.4 in the month ended December 22, “the fifth straight gain, from minus 29.4.” The rise came “as an improving job market and holiday discounts put Americans in the mood to shop.” The component measuring whether it is a good time to make a purchase “advanced to the second-highest level since 2007, signaling a pickup in the spending that accounts for almost 70 percent of the economy.”
Home Prices Continue To Rally. The CBS Evening News (12/26, story 8, 1:20, Axelrod) reported that there was “new evidence” that the housing market “has made it back from the depths of the recession,” as the Federal government reported this week that “home prices rose half a percentage point in October.” CBS (Blackstone) then focuses on the hot market in San Francisco, where home prices are up 50% since 2009.
Stocks Continue To Make Gains. The Wall Street Journal (12/27, Dieterich, Subscription Publication) reports that the stock markets continued to rise, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising for a sixth straight session and hitting another all-time high. The Dow was up 122.33 points to 16479.88, while the S&P 500 rose 8.70 points to 1842.02. The Nasdaq Composite Index, meanwhile, rose 11.76 points to 4167.18.
The Washington Post (12/27, Mui) says that Christmas “may be over but Wall Street is still brimming with holiday cheer.” Markets “markets generally move higher during the holiday season, then pare the gains in the new year,” but this time, analysts say the momentum is “particularly notable in the face” of the Fed’s taper.
USA Today (12/27, Shell, Cummings) reports that the “so-called ‘Santa Claus rally’ powers on” with Thursday’s gains. Meanwhile, the 10-year Treasury bond “touched 3% on Thursday for the first time since September, a level it has not closed above since the summer of 2011, according to Yahoo Finance,” a change which comes as “investors continue to price in less bond purchases from the Federal Reserve and an improving U.S. economy.”
The Wall Street Journal (12/27, Zeng, Subscription Publication) reports that the rise in Treasury bonds may signal a new baseline for increased interest rates, which could impact the economy and financial markets worldwide. The 10-year note is a key rate, used as a marker for the cost of borrowed money for consumers and businesses.