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A lot of economic data out today.  We’ll begin with the jobless claims.  Initial claims came in much better than expected at 550K.  Continuing claims, however, rose 69K to 6.31MM.   This is a bit of a mixed bag as its encouraging to see the decline in claims, but the continuing claims are a clear sign that hiring is not picking up any time soon.  Also, I find it astonishing that we’re painting 550K claims as a good thing this deep into a recession.  These are still staggeringly high figures.


Same store sales continued to show signs of weakness in the consumer sector.  Sales were weak across the board with Costco reporting a 6% decline, JC Penney reporting a 12.3% decline, Macy’s reporting -10.7% decline and Nordstrom’s reporting -7% decline.   ICSC’s chief economist Michael Niemira is optimistic however:

“This will likely mark a turning point.  The recession bottomed in July and going forward the economy will begin to support a better trend for the retailers’ sales. The easier comparisons will help in the tail end of the year.”

Patrick Byrne, of Overstock, is less optimistic:

“Consumers are still sitting on the wallets,” he told MarketWatch. “This is not going to be a U-shaped recovery.”

I think it’s safe to say that Byrne is correct.  The early back to school shopping has been very tepid and likely reflects the coming few months of sales.  Despite easier comps, the numbers are likely to come in very weak.

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