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RETAIL SALES PICK UP:  Over the past few months, U.S. retail sales numbers have been lackluster.  In March, sales rose at their fastest pace in a couple of years rising 1.6% from the prior month and 3.6% from March of last year.  Spending on autos, gasoline, furniture and clothing rose.


UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS GO DOWN YET AGAIN:  For the week ending April 13, there were only 192,000 initial claims for unemployment, the lowest figure since September 1969.


HOUSING STARTS DECREASE:  On the other hand, a leading indicator of economic health are the number of so-called “housing starts”.  In March, that number decreased by 0.3% from the prior month.  For the first three months of 2019, housing starts are down 9.7% from 2018.


SHORT AND UNEVENTFUL WEEK IN THE MARKETS:  Just before the busy time in the corporate earnings reporting calendar, markets experienced a mildly up and down week.  The U.S. markets ended on a high note on upbeat profit reports on some industrial companies such as Snap-On and United Rentals.  Of the 23 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported first quarter earnings so far, 19 have beaten analysts’ expectations.  Upbeat data on retail spending also helped buoy markets.  Negative manufacturing data from the Eurozone kept a damper on the positive mood throughout the week.

BIG EARNINGS WEEK:  This week, beginning Monday, a lot of U.S. corporations will be reporting their first quarter earnings.  Investors are hanging on whether these reports will beat or disappoint compared to expectations.  A lot of market movement this week will be driven by these reports.


OIL PRICES RISING:  Oil prices declined rather dramatically late last year.  They have risen just as dramatically in 2019.  Gasoline prices have mimmicked oil prices with a 60-cent-per-gallon increase since the beginning of the year.  According to gasbuddy.com, the average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. is now $2.82.  Why the oil price increase?  OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, has successfully slowed production rather dramatically this year, and is likely to continue with the lower production levels through the remainder of the year.  Venezuela and Libya continue to have production problems caused by unstable governments.  Sanctions against Iran have hindered supply.  China and the U.S. have become more stable economically, creating more demand.  Relief via increased production may be in sight.  Russia has signaled it may increase production again because it is losing market share to the U.S.  Canadian and U.S. production continue to rise.



RETAIL SALES PICK UP: https://www.census.gov/retail/marts/www/marts_current.pdf; https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/18/retail-sales-march-2019.html; https://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2019/04/retail-sales-increased-16-in-march.html;
UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS GO DOWN YET AGAIN: https://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2019/04/weekly-initial-unemployment-claims_18.html
HOUSING STARTS DECREASE:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-home-building-permits-fell-last-month-11555677349
OIL PRICES RISING: https://horsesmouth.com/a-stone-s-throw-from-a-new-high