Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jobless Claims Jump, 1st Q GDP Anemic, Stocks Surge?

We've been officially in a financial twilight zone since about the middle of 2007. It was unofficial until the wheels of George W. Bush's second term as president began to fall off and the evils of crony capitalism began to appear. We all know what happened after that, but today's economic data and stock market reaction defies explanation of any rational kind except that the markets are completely out of whack, fed by the Fed's ZIRP and POMO.

Initial jobless claims printed this morning at 429,000, when the estimate was for 390,000. A miss of 39,000, especially when the economy is supposed to be improving, is pretty wide of the target and normally would cause a sell-off in stocks, since it signals trouble ahead. The last three reports on jobless claims all have come in over the "official" estimates, adding to the worry.

At the same time, the government released the first estimate of first quarter GDP, which has been revised downward over the past three months from 4 1/2% growth, to 3 1/2, to 3, and finally to 2%.

It didn't even make that. Estimated GDP for the first quarter was 1.8%, this on the heels of a 4th quarter 2010 final estimate of 3.1%. Blended, that puts annualized GDP at about 2.5%, which, in any sensible world, is under-achieving in a big way.

Normally, coming out of a recession, the economy grows at a 5% or higher clip for a few quarters and the Fed has to then apply the brakes by increasing the federal funds rate. However, in our current quagmire economy, we're not even hitting 3% annualized and interest rates are as low as they can be, effectively ZERO. This is truly distressing news, and anyone who thinks we're not headed right back into another recession (some believe the first one never actually ended), might be concerned or even downright perturbed.

Let's set the record straight. When a person's unemployment benefits run out - be they after 26 weeks, 60 weeks or the current standard for millions, 99 weeks, they no longer count in the BLS data, so the non-farms payroll report for April, which will be released a week from tomorrow, really does not count all the unemployed when they say the unemployment rate is 8.8% or whatever number they feel is appropriate.

Currently, REAL unemployment, measuring all the current UI recipients, plus those who have exhausted their benefits and are still without a job, is around 16-17%, maybe higher, and it's been at that level for the better part of three years.

Next, GDP growth has completely stalled out (the cynic in me wants to believe this is so we'll get a Republican president in 2012) and may turn negative, and that's will somewhere between $12 and $20 TRILLION in various forms of stimulus. Keep in mind, whenever a politician projects government budgets over any time frame longer than three years, that GDP growth is likely to be 3% or lower for the foreseeable future.

In other words, we are royally screwed and I'm not talking about tomorrow's wedding night of Prince William the Tragic.

The masters of the universe on Wall Street, however, apparently don't see any issues here, as they ramped up stocks after a slightly-declining opening 20 minutes.

Twilight Zone, folks. Rod Serling and the creepy music and all that.

Dow 12,763.31, +72.35 (0.57%)
NASDAQ 2,872.53, +2.65 (0.09%)
S&P 500 1,360.48, +4.82 (0.36%)
NYSE Composite 8,639.73, +30.45 (0.35%)

Gainers outnumbered losers, 3915-2644. 171 new highs and 28 new lows was the order of the day on the NASDAQ. Over on the NYSE, there were 355 new highs and 13 new lows. Volume, oh, why bother?

NASDAQ Volume 1,993,865,125.00
NYSE Volume 4,519,197,000

Crude oil futures were up on 10 cents today, closing at $112.86 on the NYMEX. As of %;40 PM EDT, spot gold was bid up $8.50, at $1535.80, another new record. Silver was up 48 cents, to $48.48, though it traded more than a dollar higher earlier in the day.

The $50 mark for silver may take some time to finally break through, but when it does, it will be an all-time high, and will likely tack on about another $6-8 in short order. Breaking through an all-time high, especially when the forces of central bankers and JP Morgan are shorting it with everything at their disposal will be a seminal event and likely signal the resumption of the gathering second great depression, of which we are already two-and-a-half years into.

When silver breaks loose, all manner of nastiness will be released onto the global economy. Markets are already strained to their limits, but when central banks and large money center banks see their currency finally debased and routed by "poor man's gold" (silver), market disruptions will become continuous events and price discovery mechanisms priced in Dollars, Euros or Yen will be completely lost, forever shattered.

The $50 mark on silver is coming, and soon, so best be prepared for all manner of craziness.

BTW: the Dollar Index fell to 73.118, and was as low as 72.87 today. The dollar index is quickly reaching for the lows of Spring 2008, around 71.58, and it's likely that level will be breached about the same time silver rockets ahead and gas prices in the US exceed $4.00 per gallon nationally. We're almost there!

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