Trade deficit climbs, initial jobless claims high, Dow and S&P set new record closes

The economic news over the last month seems to have followed a pattern of “one step forward, one step back”. After last week’s good Gross Domestic Product and (at least on the toplines) jobs reports, one should have expected this batch of bad news, unlike the CNBC headline writer who broke out the “unexpectedly” word for this Reuters dispatch:

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, but an upward revision to the prior week’s figure suggested the labor market recovery remained gradual.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 5,000 more applications received than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to fall to 330,000 last week….

Separate data showed the U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in September as imports rose to their highest level in almost a year, which could probably see third-quarter growth estimates trimmed.

The Commerce Department said the trade gap increased 8.0 percent to $41.8 billion, the largest since May. August’s shortfall on the trade balance was revised slightly to $38.7 billion from the previously reported $38.8 billion. Economists polled by Reuters had expected the trade deficit to widen a bit to $39.0 billion in September.

ZeroHedge noted that the trade deficit with China is the worst on record, and that this fresh data from the last month of the third quarter will likely reduce, on its own, the 3rd-quarter Gross Domestic Product by 0.2-0.4 percentage points from the advance 2.8% real growth.

In the not-so-distant past, initial jobless claims establishing a new higher normal and a trade deficit that, as ZeroHedge noted, was worse than the worst estimate from Bloomberg’s group of economists, would have put the bears in charge on Wall Street. That didn’t exactly happen:

The Dow and the S&P 500 index ended at new highs on Thursday after comments from Janet Yellen, the U.S. Federal Reserve Chair nominee, suggested the Fed’s accommodative policies would continue as long as the economy remains fragile.

I think Roger Waters captured it best in “Have a Cigar” – “If we tell you the name of the game, boy, we call it ‘Riding the Gravy Train’.”

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David Strom 6:01 AM on June 06, 2023