Something Weathermen Can Accurately Predict: Retail Sales? (YahooFinance)
Paul Walsh, vice president of data analytics at The Weather Channel, predicts that retail sales will heat up in his extended seven-day forecast, as he “… expects spring apparel to fly off the shelves as the weather warms up next week.” His analysis is supported by recent Yahoo! search data which indicates that American consumers already have turned their thoughts toward warm weather, even though temperatures are trailing their historic averages. Specifically, searches for sunglasses are 140 percent higher than they were during the same 30-day period last year. This spike, along with Walsh’s “forecast,” could give retailers (and, thus their investors) reason for optimism, even as they extend sales on spring-time inventory that hasn’t moved as hoped.
No News Is Good News in the Euro Zone (Reuters)
Investors can take the latest from the European Union (EU) statistics office as a case of “no news is good news.” It reported today that the jobless rate remained at 12 percent across the euro zone. Even though this figure was right in line with analysts’ estimates — and remains unchanged from January — it still pressures the European Central Bank to cut rates further. Highlights, or lowlights, within that overall figure, include a jobless rate of 23.9 percent for people under age 25 in the EU; and rates higher than 50 percent for both Greece and Spain. According to French President Francois Hollande, the last three years of austerity measures in Europe, resulting in increased unemployment, also could end up spelling significant change, “Prolonging austerity today risks… the certainty of making governments unpopular so the populists will swallow them whole when the time comes.” Let’s hope that’s not the case.
Far East Markets Mixed on Euro-U.S. Data Combination (Bloomberg)
East Asian markets led off the profit parade today as European stocks surged, while Spanish and Italian bond yields dropped. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng, Shanghai’s Shenzen CSI 300 and S&P’s ASX 200 Index all notched slight gains today (each less than one percent). The notable exception, of course, was the Japanese Nikkei 225, which lost 1.08 percent during today’s session. However, this loss was seen more as a consequence of the yen rising to a four-week high — despite government efforts to the contrary — and U.S. manufacturing rates missing analysts’ estimates. Investors hoping to make headway in Far East markets will need a more concerted effort for sustained gains.