Jobless claims rise back above 370,000. After all the swings in employment related to Hurricane Sandy and the holiday's, we are back to where we started. No major gains, nor losses. Since the recession began 6 years ago, our economy continues to slog along. By now, in a normal environment, the recession which "officially" ended in summer of 2009 would have passed, we would have seen a recovery boom which didn't happen, and we would be looking towards the next recession which occurs every few years. We are not in a normal environment however and that should be abundantly clear by now. We've seen massive and unprecedented stimulus that hasn't really produced any recovery, so when the next recession comes, it is likely to have crippling effects on our economy and financial markets. Given the evidence of slowdown in several major countries around the world, 2013 looks to be the year which we will see this next recession and it will probably hurt worse than a normal, periodic recession simply because we are still on economic life-support, so to speak.
European unemployment rate hit a new record of 11.8%. The difference between the countries is what is interesting. Germany is low at 5.4% while Spain hit a new high of 26.6%. The youth unemployment rate in Spain is upwards of 60%! France's unemployment rate has risen to 10.5%. It is no surprise with these numbers that Eurozone retail sales fell 2.6% year over year.
Earnings season has begun and many companies are reporting positive returns. Good earnings should help the financial markets rally in the short term however keep in mind that many earnings estimates were scaled back after 3rd quarter came in soft.