Trade/FOMC Preview/China Exports/Stimulus hangups

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Karim writes:

Trade: Exports up 2%, Imports up 2.3%. Imports ex-petroleum down 1% and consumer goods imports down 4.8%. Sector strength mainly in industrial goods (restocking), but indicators of final demand still look weak.

Don’t look for dramatic changes to FOMC statement; major focus will be on Treasury purchase language.

1) Econ assessment will turn slightly more positive; May mention signs of a nascent recovery, though underlying demand likely to remain weak for the foreseeable future. Inflation will remain subdued.

2) Exceptionally low FF rate for an ‘extended period’ will remain. I’d expect this phrase to be dropped about 3-4mths before they’d actually hike, with the first move possibly being a hike in the rate they pay banks on excess reserves.

3) Likely to indicate that Treasury purchases will not continue once the $300bn level has been reached, though they may restart the program in the future if needed. Language on other credit easing programs to stay intact.

China’s export model showing little bounce (latest data last night)

Some hangups with the stimulus package (courtesy of American General Contractors):

“President Barack Obama’s stimulus spending has run into a problem: A shortage of General Electric Co. water filters,” Bloomberg News reported on Thursday. “GE makes them in Canada. Under the program’s ‘Buy American’ rules, that means the filters can’t be used for work paid for by the $787 billion fund. Contractors are searching the U.S. in vain for filters as well as bolts and manhole covers needed to build wastewater plants, sewers and water pipes financed by the economic stimulus. As officials wait for federal waivers to buy those goods outside the U.S., water projects from Maine to Kansas have been delayed….the Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the water funding, has granted six waivers and has 29 petitions pending….The rules affect water projects most because highways and bridges have been constructed under Buy American regulations for the past 30 years, and not much stimulus money has been spent so far on public housing and schools, said Chris Braddock, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s associate director for procurement.”

“Gun-shy [school] administrators might undermine a federal stimulus program that encourages school construction by helping districts pay down debt,” the (Wisconsin) Daily Reporter reported on Monday. “Some district leaders say they gladly are accepting a piece of $125 million in no-interest bonds but are reluctant to invest the savings in new projects. ‘The climate out there is terrible and with the cuts made in the state budget, it’s just really difficult right now,’ said John Whalen, president of the Sun Prairie Area School District Board of Education. ‘I don’t anticipate this will encourage us to do more projects,’ he added. The district received $23 million in federal bonding, more than any other district in the state, though the bonding did not encourage additional construction. Sun Prairie used it to help pay off the $30 million it put on taxpayers for construction of a new high school and conversion of the old high school into a middle school. Both schools are scheduled to open in fall 2010. While Sun Prairie stands pat, other districts might jump at the opportunity. The School District of La Crosse received $6.6 million in bonds to help pay off debt from $18.5 million in expansion, renovation and upgrade projects.”