Durable Goods Impacted by Airplane Deliveries

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Almost without exception, our weekly employment tallies in the form of Initial Jobless Claims are released before the bell every Thursday morning. Thanksgiving Week, however, is the outlier – 224K new jobless claims have hit the tape this Wednesday morning, up 3000 from the 221K reported last Thursday, which itself was revised up by 5000 claims.

These figures have been creeping up in recent weeks, but remain within our long-term range of 200-225K – depicting an historically excellent U.S. employment market, including jobless claims that had been heading to their lowest levels in half a century. Whether we buoy up out of this range in future weeks is unknown; we now enter a realm of temporary holiday retail and logistics jobs that will throw some static on the data. Even still, a range of sub-250K new jobless claims is still a very good place for us to be.

Continuing Claims dipped every so slightly to 1.668 million last week, and again we’re considering historic lows here. Anything sub-2 million continuing claims can be seen as a victory for the U.S. labor market, and it would stand to reason the week-to-week data would illustrate any changes to the jobs climate before the longer-term numbers would. Long story short: U.S., employment remains in a very good place.

Durable Goods orders for October, however, are a different story: -4.4% is well off the expected -2.6%. These are preliminary figures, but they do reflect some disappointment in larger purchases. Luckily, a breakdown of this data shows us where the culprit lies, and it is already a “known known”: Durable Goods, ex-Transportation, was +0.1%. Ex-Defense, we’re back down to -1.2%, while Non-Defense, ex-Aircraft was unched. This points to commercial aircraft, which might be interpreted (at least at first blush) as the problem of one company: Boeing BA .

This will come as no surprise to investors of Boeing or followers of the Dow index. The aircraft giant has received flak from its cancelled conference call on issues related to its 737 Max jet, which followed a crash in Indonesia of one of these planes. The 737 is perhaps the single most-important product Boeing makes right now, although it’s worth pointing out that aircraft deliveries often distort monthly Durable Goods numbers. (For example, Boeing showed gains of 63% in jet deliveries back in August; falling 21% in October feels less acute, comparatively.)

If there is one additional reason for concern regarding Durable Goods numbers, it is that Business Investment seems to have stalled. Month over month, this segment is unched for October, which points to two possible negatives: companies are concerned about putting money back into business in light of ongoing (and increasing?) trade tariffs, and that the monumental corporate tax cuts from the beginning of the year have either already completely dried up or just weren’t as impactful as advertised.

The G-20 Summit is coming up, however, so perhaps we’ll see some developments regarding the trade war between the U.S. and China which is a hallmark of the 2018 global economic environment. It’s unlikely one side will be willing to cave to the other at this stage, but anything resembling concrete progress is likely to be taken well by market investors.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Zacks will be off along with the trading floors Thursday, but will return bright and early Friday morning.

Mark Vickery

Senior Editor

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