The market was remarkably flat today despite a flurry of economic news including new claims for unemployment, the producer price index, census data on poverty, and Craigslist officially shutting down its section for sex ads (thereby forcing wealthy scumbags to seek other arrangements).  The most important, and frankly confusing, of the economic reports was the (No) Labor Department’s new claims for unemployment figures which showed a decline from last week to 450k and an upward increase of last week’s 451k to only 453k.  Money McBags was willing to bet two shares of NTZ that the upward revision would be to at least 470k so it’s a good thing he didn’t make that bet because then he would have been out ~$7 (though as NTZ is going to $0, he’ll eventually be out that money anyway).

As we all learned here last week, Karissa Shannon is hot (even with her so early 2000s tramp stamp).  But as we also learned last week, the government estimated last week’s new claims for unemployment number for 10 of the 50 states (not including the states of confusion, despair, or utter bliss) when those states didn’t send in their numbers due to the Labor Day holiday.  Since government number crunchers are likely as good at realistically estimating data as economists, sell side analysts, and lobotomized dik-diks (which is very very badly), Money McBags was certain their estimates would have been further off than General Custer’s estimate of the number of Native Americans at Little Big Horn or Time Warner’s estimates as to the value of AOL.  So new claims coming in at only 450k this week (though they will be revised upwards next week) and last week’s number being revised up only 2k is shocking, and Money McBags can’t believe it didn’t rally the market.  Afterall, the 450k was 9k below analyst guesses and if one doesn’t care about absolute numbers, it was a slight positive.

In other macro news, PPI was up slightly more than forecast thanks to an unusual spike in the demand for water sports videos (that pun may take a second or two) as producer prices rose .4%.  The rise is well below inflationary targets and when one strips out food and energy costs (because why include things which people actually buy?), core PPI was only .1% vs. .3% analyst guesses.  Some economists worry that the uptick being so small could signal deflationary pressures starting to mount while other economists believe that the small uptick signals deflation will be averted, so as always, economics proves to be .0001% science and 99.9999% making shit up.  In the final bit of macro news, the Philly Fed announced that manufacturing in the region contracted, likely the result of rabid Eagles fans burning down manufacturing facilities after Kevin Kolb threw his first incomplete pass.  The Philly Fed’s index came in at -.7 while analysts had expected it to come in at 2, but to be fair, those were economists making the guesses so the fact that they could even guess a non-imaginary number (like boogerteen) should be applauded.

One more interesting note on the current state of the US Economy is that according to the census bureau, the poverty rate rose last year to 14.3% which is the highest since 1994 and the second statistically significant (gaussian bell curve be damned) rise in the rate in 5 years.  And that number may even be understated as according to the Census bureau the weighted average poverty threshold, to be known from here on out as the “Americans Need Aid Line,” or more familiarly, ANAL, was actually lower in 2009 than in 2008 because the “average annual CPI-U for 2009 was lower than the average annual CPI-U for 2008,” and Money McBags believes in the accuracy of anything called a CPI-U as much as he believes in aliens, supply side economics, and feelings.  43.6MM people are now so impoverished that they have to look up to see the seemingly unattainable and yet oh so aspirational ANAL (as opposed to Alexis Texas who usually just needs to look backwards to see the anal) and thus one in seven Americans earn as much in a year as the great robber barons of the day like the inconceivable Lloyd Blankfein and the likely incontinent John Paulson scrape off of their well whitened teeth after a light mid-morning snack of caviar and unicorn fetuses (or is it feti?).  But hey, we’ll always have the housing bubble.

Internationally, Treasury Administrative Assistant Timothy Geithner is getting all up in China’s tea cup again about their policy of artificially keeping the yuan too low against the dollar.  Geithner is threatening to label China as a “currency manipulator” in the next foreign-exchange report and if that doesn’t work, rumors are he’ll try to hit them with his purse.  When told that they may be labeled “currency manipulators,” the Chinese government simply responded “I know you are but what am I” before yelling “no backsies” and slamming the door shut.  Finally, UK retail sales unexpectedly dropped by .5% as people grow concerned about job security, tax increases, and the dye that goes in to black jeans potentially being hazardous to their health.

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As for stocks, F drove away from the market after Barclay’s upgraded them to “outperform” and raised their price target to $16 based on operational improvements and US consumers’ love of shitty cars.  Also Fed Ex failed to deliver and traded off by 4% despite profit doubling and sales rising 18% as they missed analyst guesses by $.01 and guidance for Q2 was also $.01 below guesses.

In small cap news, KIRK competitor PIR put up a very nice Q with 11% comp store sales growth (though off of a very easy 7.6% decline last year), gross profit expansion from 28.5% to 36.9%, and cash increasing to $186MM.  The company also decreased clearance activity and reduced vendor and supply chain costs which is almost exactly the opposite of what KIRK did, so well done PIR, and once more with feeling, fuck you KIRK.  KIRK will always be the poorman‘s (or woman‘s) PIR and while they are not exact competitors as PIR sells furniture and shit while KIRK just sells shit, there is enough overlap to cause one to scratch one’s head and wonder why KIRK was unable to execute as well as PIR.  There is obviously a reason why KIRK trades at a discount to PIR, and KIRK was coming off of tougher comps, but management tone’s could not have been more different so if KIRK did not have a ~30% cash cushion and a ridiculously low multiple (thus bad news already being priced in to the stock), Money McBags would be staying further away from KIRK than Jets players now have to stay away from Ines Sainz (who is welcome to visit the award winning When Genius Prevailed’s lockerroom any time).  While it is disappointing to see such contrasting quarters, and it may make KIRK more of a show me story than a Heidi Montag sex tape (because, please, please show Money McBags that story), Money McBags is fine with waiting on the name for another quarter to see if they can once again deliver (and remember, KIRK only missed guesses by $.01 while PIR only beat guesses by $.01, but like a small Georgia town, it’s all relative).

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