Today's Morning Coffee covers Manpower's Employment Outlook Survey, the Greek Prime Minister's visit to the White House, geopolitical jostling over Iran and the regular ISCS Sales Report. "The Greek" earned clients a 23% average annual return over five years as a stock analyst on Wall Street. While writing for Wall Street Greek and others, he presciently predicted the financial crisis and housing and banking failures of the Great Recession. Visit the front pages of Wall Street Greek now to see our current coverage of business news, global financial markets, real estate, shipping, fine art, technical analysis and global affairs.
A report produced by Manpower Inc. (NYSE: MAN) shows employers are still tentative to hire new full-time employees. The survey shows a general expectation for hiring to increase by just 5% in the second quarter, versus the prior year degree of activity. Last year's Q2 outlook was for a 2% decline in staffing. Still, the good news for the still employed bunch of you is that 73% of employers expect they will keep staffing levels stable. That's a significant number, the highest ever recorded by Manpower. Also, the good news is wide spread, as 12 of 13 industries surveyed all agree they will be hiring. Finally, 94% of metropolitan areas show plans for stable to positive employment.
Greek PM Visits Obama
A few days after critical meetings with Chancellor Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Sarkozy of France, Greek Prime Minister Papandreou meets President Obama in Washington DC. The Greek PM is not asking for American financial aid, however, Prime Minister Papandreou is seeking President Obama's support against the speculators he blames for intensifying the heat on his nation's problem. The PM believes investors pushed Greece's cost of borrowing significantly higher needlessly, and some conspiracy theorists have even placed blame with several large hedge fund investors, who they also believe intended to weaken the euro versus the dollar. We expect the Greek PM will have something to say about the debt rating agencies as well, especially Standard & Poor's (NYSE: MHP), which helped push Greece into the fire by issuing a public warning against Greece's sovereign debt rating. As we all know, the agencies (S&P, Moody's (NYSE: MCO) and Fitch) are not in the government's favor these days, illustrated best by Dennis Kucinich's statement, "this is criminal!" Thus far, the government has not done more than slap the hands of the agencies.
Also in DC, at the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) meeting, White House Economic Advisor Christina Romer and Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans will give key speeches.
Sales Improved, but What's Next?
The International Council of Shopping Centers reported same-store sales for the week ended February 27. Normalizing weather helped sales, perhaps some of it pent up by cabin fever, to grow 2.9% on a week-over-week basis. Year-to-year, sales also increased by 3.4%. We think the weekly data shows the affect of weather, or the absence of bad weather in the latest reporting period. This while the yearly burst may show that cabin fever release of pent-up demand.
Last week's report showed weather affected week-to-week volatility, as sales fell -0.8%. On a year-over-year basis, however, sales improved just 0.7% over the prior year's weak results. Despite the good news today, we expect that retail sales may be slowing in growth pace in the months ahead, as periods come up against normalizing prior year results. The early year 2009 data was excessively weak, and thus easy to beat.
Iran, Israel, the US and China
In geopolitical news, Vice President Biden is in Israel, offering a show of public support to Israel. The US hopes to impose bone crushing sanctions on Iran, especially with regard to its critical gasoline imports. Meanwhile, Iran is begging China to stand against American efforts in the United Nations, as it seeks to rally the world community for broader more effective sanctioning. China will stand against sanctions, as it would prefer to keep an important source of its energy from disruption. The question is, what will it take to keep China from interferring against an eventual military strike against Iran. We expect guarantees will be issued China that Iran's oil infrastructure will not be struck. That said, China's intentions may not be fully understood by America and its allies, and any failure to follow through on assurances to China might find extremely unfortunate counter-actions out of China.
Corporate News Drivers
In corporate news, an FDA panel will be considering the case for InterMune's (Nasdaq: ITMN) treatment for lung scarring. Panasonic (NYSE: PC) will be unveiling its newest high-end cameras. Chevron (NYSE: CVX) and Foot Locker (NYSE: FL) will hold analyst meetings. The travel industry kicks off its confab at ITB-Berlin.
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