Thursday, September 29, 2011

Some "good" news, some concerns

There were a few pieces of somewhat good economic news released today; "somewhat good" means they point to slow growth as opposed to a recession.  Unemployment claims declined by quite a bit, to below 400,000, but this would need to continue in upcoming weeks to confirm that it was not a fluke (seasonal and technical factors played some role in the decline according to the Labor Dept.).  The BLS released preliminary estimates of revisions to employment data which indicated that there were 192,000 more jobs than originally estimated as of March 2011, 140,000 of which were in the private sector (revisions will be made official in Feb 2012).  That would still leave the economy down 6.7 million jobs since the start of the recession, but every little bit helps!  Finally, new estimates indicate that the economy grew at a 1.3% in the second quarter, slightly more than previously estimated.  Inventories increased at a slower rate than previously estimated while consumption was stronger than earlier estimates.

One piece of data that I follow closely is the risk premium for investment-grade corporations (Baa corporate bonds).  It reached a post-Depression record in late 2008 of just over 6% before declining to about 2.5% following the end of the financial crisis.  As of yesterday, it was back up to 3.39%, the highest for any non-recessionary period other than immediately after 9/11.  That suggests that there is significant stress in financial markets, most likely due to the poor economic outlook and risk aversion resulting from the European debt crisis.