Ceridian-UCLA index sees year-end surge

Jan. 18, 2011
The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index (PCI), a real-time measure of the flow of goods to US factories, retailers, and consumers, surged 2.4% in December 2010 and pushed the PCI above its previous 2010 peak established in May. This performance, combined with November’s 0.4% increase, was enough to offset three previous consecutive months of decline

The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index (PCI), a real-time measure of the flow of goods to US factories, retailers, and consumers, surged 2.4% in December 2010 and pushed the PCI above its previous 2010 peak established in May. This performance, combined with November’s 0.4% increase, was enough to offset three previous consecutive months of decline.

“The latest PCI data further evidences the positive economic sentiment felt since the start of the New Year,” said Ed Leamer, chief PCI economist and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. “However, we have not entirely escaped the summer doldrums as the three-month moving average is still below its July 2010 level.”

On a year-over-year basis, the PCI increased 4.1% in December, in line with the November and October year-over-year comparisons. Growth in December comes on top of a strong year-ago performance whereas the previous 11 months of year-over-year growth in 2010 were up against relatively weak prior year comparisons. However, that the 4.1% growth figure is only slightly higher than the 3% growth characteristic of a normal economy.

Early indications also show December retail sales performance played out as stated in the PCI’s November announcement: “The holiday sales season will likely be better than last year, but potentially disappointing versus current expectations in the marketplace.” Much of the December PCI increase is attributable to the fact that the week between Christmas and New Years was stronger than usual. Even though December overall was 3% below the previous December peak month in 2007, diesel fuel purchases in the inter-holiday week exceeded 2007 levels.

The PCI tracks closely on a monthly basis to the Industrial Production Index (to be released later this month) and GDP. Though the forecasts for subsequent growth remain weak, the December surge translates into a favorable growth of industrial production by 0.6%. Similarly, the PCI outlook for fourth quarter 2010 GDP is more optimistic, but is still expected to be less than current consensus estimates.

In addition, the PCI provides data for the nine Census regions. Eight of the nine regions experienced positive growth this December, compared with only five of nine in November. New England, however, was down again—0.5%—following two previous monthly declines.

The complete December report and additional commentary are available at www.ceridianindex.com or by contacting [email protected].

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