February 2012 Flash Report

Yesterday, the ECB offered €530 billion in loans to aid Eurozone banks. This month, the ECB also bailed out Greece (again). Bond holders (mainly Eurozone banks) are set to take a massive haircut on their Greek debt. For now, it appears market fears have been quelled. Fourth quarter US GDP growth was revised up to 3.0% (prior estimate of 2.8%). In February, the Case Shiller housing price index came in unexpectedly weak. Durable goods orders dropped 4% (artificially-driven by the expiration of stimulus tax credits in December). The good news is that consumer confidence soared in February, nearing 2008 levels. However, the same survey indicated that consumers are planning to make fewer home and auto purchases in the coming months. The really bad news is that gasoline prices have risen dramatically over the last month, now approaching $4 per gallon across the US. So, despite lower heating bills (particularly in the Northeast US) and a continuation of the payroll tax cut, higher gas prices may still drive consumer spending lower.

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