Wednesday morning econorama
First, mortgage applications dropped precipitously in the week ended December 21. The overall index fell 7.6%, with the refi index off 8.5% and the purchase index down 6.6%. The purchase index -- at 394.5 -- is now at its lowest since February. It's worth pointing out that the Mortgage Bankers Association figures can be somewhat volatile around the holidays due to problems with seasonal adjustments. But taken at face value, these figures suggest housing activity is downshifting again in December.
Second, jobless claims are on the rise. Initial filings rose 1,000 to 349,000 in the week ended December 22. Meanwhile, continuing claims surged by 75,000 to 2.713 million. That's a level we haven't seen since late 2005.
Third, durable goods orders inched up just 0.1% in November, versus expectations for a gain of 2%. One key measure of business spending -- nondefense capital goods orders excluding aircraft (yes, it's a mouthful!) -- fell 0.4%. A team of crack economists polled by Reuters expected to see a 0.5% rise in this key measure.
If you're looking for signs of economic weakness, you hit the trifecta today. These reports all show the economy is downshifting -- the same message we got yesterday from reports of lackluster holiday sales.