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Friday, November 28, 2014 12:43 PM


Conflicting Shopping Headlines: NY Times "Brisk Sales", Yahoo "Black Friday Shopping Crowds Thin"


Here's a pair of conflicting stories regarding Black Friday shopping.

Crowds Thin

Yahoo!Finance reports Black Friday Shopping Crowds Thin After Thanksgiving Rush.

Mall crowds were relatively thin early on Black Friday in a sign of what has become the new normal in U.S. holiday shopping: the mad rush is happening the night of Thanksgiving and more consumers are picking up deals online.

"It just looks like any other weekend," said Angela Olivera, a 32-year old housewife shopping for children's clothing at the Westfarms Mall near Hartford, Connecticut. "The kind of crowds we usually see are missing and this is one of the biggest malls here. I think people are just not spending a lot."
Brisk Sales

The New York Times reports Black Friday Sales Are Brisk, Retailers Say, Bolstered by Online Deals.
Parking lots at some shopping malls filled up around the country on Friday, as shoppers kept up the tradition of scouring stores for holiday deals even though some retailers had been open on Thanksgiving and even overnight.

Big retailers, many of whom kicked off sales Thursday evening, reported brisk traffic overnight. Walmart said that 22 million shoppers streamed through stores across the country on Thanksgiving Day, more than the number of people who visit Disney’s Magic Kingdom in an entire year, the retail giant pointed out.

Still, as retailers jump-start their deals earlier and more sales move online, Black Friday itself is starting to fade in importance.

Target said its best-selling goods in store were the Element 40” TV, the Xbox One, iPads and Nikon’s L330 camera. In the first hour of stores opening, Target sold 1,800 TVs per minute and 2,000 video games per minute, the retailer said in a release. Keurig’s K40 brewer and Dyson’s DC50 vacuum were other top sellers, Target said.

Economists are closely watching whether retailers can entice shoppers to spend during what retailers consider the biggest shopping weekend of the year, especially after a year of lackluster sales so far. A brightening economic outlook, and ever-cheaper gas prices, are starting to lift consumer confidence. But there are also signs of lingering wariness among consumers, after what has been an uneven economic recovery marked by anemic wage growth, especially for low-income households.

And online, which makes up a bigger share of holiday sales each year, retailers have been offering Black Friday deals for many days now, stretching what was once a one-day shopping frenzy into a week or more of sales.

Online retailers have also driven the heavier-than-ever discounting this year. Amazon has priced out many of the country’s biggest retailers in the big-ticket holiday items, offering a Samsung 55-inch 4K flat-screen television for $899. Dealnews.com, which closely tracks Black Friday deals, declared Amazon’s deal “without a doubt” the cheapest name-brand 4K television it had ever seen.

IBM Digital Analytics, which tracks online shopping transactions in the United States, said sales rose 12 percent between midnight and 6 p.m. Eastern time Thanksgiving Day.
Is traffic up or down? Perhaps it varies by region. Two safe bets: Online shopping is up, and Black Friday is losing importance as shopping is spread out over more days.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

11:09 AM


Japan Household Spending Down 4%, CPI Drops to 0.9%; Bankruptcies Soar in Yen Collapse


In spite of the Yen falling 35% since 2011, Japan once again borders on deflation. Please consider Japan’s CPI falls to 0.9%.

Japanese core inflation last month fell below 1 per cent to a 13 month low, just weeks before prime minister Shinzo Abe heads to the polls to garner fresh support to push back a scheduled rise in sales tax.

Core consumer prices, all prices excluding fresh food, slowed to an annual pace of 2.9 per cent growth year-on-year in October, in line with forecasts. Stripped of any impact of the sales tax rise in April, core prices are up 0.9 per cent.

Highlighting the scale of the challenges facing the Abe administration, data released on Friday also showed households further tightening their purse-strings.

Household spending fell 4 per cent year-on-year, the seventh consecutive decline since the national sales tax was raised from 5 to 8 per cent in April. Retail sales dropped 1.4 per cent, reversing two months of gains.

The drop in core inflation comes not even 10 days after Haruhiko Kuroda, Bank of Japan governor, warned that a fall below 1 per cent was “possible”, in a reversal of comments made just four months ago.
Bankruptcies Soar in Yen Collapse

Here's an interesting note regarding bankruptcies that I picked up from ZeroHedge: As Japanese Bankruptcies Soar, Goldman Warns "Further Yen Depreciation Could Be A Net Burden"
According to a recent bankruptcy survey by Tokyo Shoko Research, there were 214 bankruptcies due to the weak yen in January-September 2014, which is 2.4 times the 89 seen in January-September 2013. Far more of the bankruptcies were in the nonmanufacturing sector—81 in transport, 41 in wholesale trade, 19 in services, and 11 in retail—than in the manufacturing sector (44), which is consistent with our analysis based on the input/output tables.

Surprisingly, the number of bankruptcies since 2013 due to yen depreciation far surpasses the number of bankruptcies in 2009-2011 due to yen appreciation.
Bankruptcies Caused by Falling Yen



The Japanese consumer is faced with a falling yen, much higher taxes, and counting taxes prices much higher. The only saving grace for Japan has been falling energy prices.

Yet, prime minister Shinzo Abe Wants inflation and more of it. It's madness.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 27, 2014 9:09 PM


Crude Plunges Following OPEC Decision to Not Cut Production


For five consecutive months OPEC produced over its alleged quota. Nonetheless, and in spite of falling prices and pleas from Venezuela to restrict production, OPEC decided to take no action.

In the wake of the news, West Texas Intermediate plunged nearly 7% and Brent fell over 8%.

WTI Crude Futures



Brent Crude Futures



Please consider OPEC Fails to Take Action to Ease Glut as Crude Plunges.

OPEC took no action to ease a global oil-supply glut, resisting calls from Venezuela that the group needs to stem the rout in prices. Futures slumped the most in more than three years.

The group maintained its collective production ceiling of 30 million barrels a day, Ali Al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, said yesterday after the 12 nations met in Vienna. Brent crude dropped as much as 8.4 percent in London, extending this year’s decline to 34 percent.

Canada’s producers big and small will have to tighten their belts to prepare for declining profits.

“This is a pretty big shock,” said Justin Bouchard, an analyst at Desjardins Securities Inc. in Calgary. “There’s no question there’s going to be a slowdown. Even the big guys will have to look at their capital spending plans.”

Western Canada Select, the Canadian benchmark, has lost more than a third of its value since June, in step with declines for West Texas Intermediate and the international gauge Brent. WCS traded yesterday at $55.94 a barrel, the lowest in the world.
Venezuela Burns Through Currency Reserves

Bloomberg reports Venezuela Burns Through Third of New Chinese Money in a Week
Venezuela’s international reserves declined $1.3 billion in the week after President Nicolas Maduro transfered $4 billion of Chinese loans to the central bank.

The country’s reserves dropped to $22.2 billion today, according to central bank data. A collapse in global oil prices pushed Venezuela’s foreign currency holdings to an 11-year low earlier this month.

Maduro on Nov. 18 ordered the Chinese loan proceeds to be moved from an off-budget fund, so that they would show up in reserves and help boost investor confidence in an economy beset by the world’s highest inflation and widest budget deficit. The following day, Venezuelan bonds rose the most in six years in intraday trading.

“If the plan was to calm the bondholders, then burning through a third of that money in five working days doesn’t do it in any way,” Henkel Garcia, director of Caracas-based consultancy Econometrica, said in a telephone interview.
Hyperinflation in Venezuela

Foreign reserves are the only reason why Venezuela's currency (the Bolívar) is not completely worthless. Nonetheless, inflation already exceeds 60% annually.

In September, Venezuela's Bolívar Hit Record Low on Black Market.
The plummeting Venezuelan currency breached a new, symbolic low of 100 bolívares per dollar on the black market Friday, according to market-tracking websites, in a sign of the worsening greenback shortage faced by President Nicolás Maduro's government.

Economists say the bolívar is collapsing as Venezuelans clamor for dollars to protect themselves from an inflation rate topping 60%. But the government, which tightly restricts access to dollars, has cut the supply this year, prompting the value of the bolívar to plunge in unofficial street transactions.

The lack of dollars—evidenced by mounting debts with private companies such as airlines and importers that service the country—has sparked fears of a potential default, since the country has more than $6 billion in bond payments due over the next three months.
I suspect it will not be long before Venezuela is forced to halt bond payments. Should that happen, the Bolívar would likely collapse to zero in short order.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

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