This morning's claims data is a mixed bag. While claims dropped 6k week over week to 462k from 468k, the 4-week rolling average figure actually rose by 5k to 475k from 470k. The following chart shows the rolling average trend line. Below that we show the raw data.
Interpretation of this morning's data will probably boil down to the reader's prevailing view. If they're bullish they'll see the drop week over week as a positive, and if their bearish they'll see the backup in the rolling average as confirmation. Clearly, rolling claims are well outside our 3 standard deviation channel at this point. We remain cautiously optimistic that claims will have a tailwind in the weeks and months ahead, as we expect Census hiring to begin to exert downward pressure on claims this month and lasting through May/June.
Separately, Visa reported its February numbers this morning. The company's credit volume was up 2% in February vs. 1% in January, while debit volume was up 20% vs. 19% in January. Cross border volume was up 11% in February vs. 9% in January. We read this data as neutral on the margin. Easy comps in 1Q09 should, we think, be leading to stronger upside in early 2010 prints. That said, the comps are still moving in the right direction.
Joshua Steiner, CFA