Futures were indicating lower around 8:00 AM this morning on the East Cost. With no major economic report on the wire, the focus is on the depressed state of small businessmen expressed through the NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index. The data came in better than expected by economists, but the group has a real honest way of reporting, noting that the index remains below prior recession trough levels. That really brings things into perspective for investors.
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Small businessmen weighed in on the economy this morning in the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) monthly Small Business Optimism Index. The NFIB data showed improvement, but there’s “no surge in confidence” according to the organization. The index gained 1.9 points in February, rising to 90.8, up from 88.9 in January. Economists expected the index to improve to a mark of 90.1, so expectations were tempered. What helps to put things into perspective is that the index is currently below the troughs of both the 1991 – 1992 and 2001 – 2002 recessions. So in a period of supposed growth, small businessmen feel worse than they did in the depths of previous recessions. Chew on that.
The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) reported its weekly same-store sales data for the period ending March 9 this morning. The data showed a 0.7% week-to-week sales gain, versus the prior period increased of 0.2%. On a year-to-year basis, sales were up 1.8%, versus the prior week’s measure of 1.8%. Redbook’s year-to-year comparison is due later this morning. Holidays and weather come to play at this time of year and make it hard for a good read, but this latest report is somewhat free of noise and still soft. The year-to-year sales gains are not keeping up with inflation at this point.
At 2:00 PM, investors will want to see the latest Treasury Budget. The February budget usually carries a significant deficit, averaging $159.1 billion over the last 10 years. Economists see a deficit of $205 billion for this February. January’s budget produced a $2.9 billion surplus, though excluding special calendar factors, the data would have shown a $13 billion deficit.
A Senate panel will publicly vet Mary Jo White Tuesday, the nominee to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). New York City’s ban on big drinks goes into effect, and we expect to break the communist measure immediately if possible.
The corporate schedule includes several conferences and corporate events. The Barclays (NYSE: BCS) Healthcare Conference highlights presentations by Actavis (NYSE: ACT), Agilent Technologies (NYSE: A) and Laboratory Corporation of America (NYSE: LH). The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Consumer & Retail Conference highlights a presentation by Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT). Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) is holding a technology briefing on Software Defined Networking.
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