from Karim: January looks ok so far

Agreed with Karim. So far no signs of actual damage from the FICA hike. Even bonds now indicating same.

The problem is personal- it’s hard for me to fathom FICA going up that much without some meaningful damage to GDP.

So I remain on the sidelines pending more Jan data.

ICSC 3% Retail Sales Growth Maintained for January, Fiscal Year (ICSC) January sales growth is tracking above ICSC’s 3% estimate for the month, even with a slight moderation of yoy sales growth as the month has progressed. All Super Bowl shopping will fall in January this year, so sales should gain momentum as the month closes. January U.S. store traffic growth continued to slow in the third week of the month, rising 3.1%, as stores transition from post-holiday clearance to more everyday merchandise. Traffic at enclosed malls remained unchanged yoy and apparel stores declined by low-single digits for the first time since the lull in early December. The 12% month-to-date traffic gain stems from large increases in early January. U.S. same store sales excluding Wal-Mart rose 2.7 percent in Dec. from a year earlier.

ICSC index drops every January but this year higher than last, as Karim indicated.

January auto sales seen continuing 2012’s strong pace (Reuters) Auto sales in January are expected to continue the torrid pace set at the end of last year, with sales rising as much as 15 percent. J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, in a joint press release, said they expect U.S. retail sales in January to reach the highest rate in five years. Including fleet sales to commercial customers, the research firms expect an annual sales rate for the month of 15 million vehicles. That would follow the strong showings in November and December, when the rate topped 15 million. “The year is off to a fast start, which bodes well for the remainder of 2013,” J.D. Power Senior Vice President John Humphrey said.

Strongest manufacturing expansion since March 2011 (Markit) The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI rose to 56.1 in January from 54.0 in December. The output index rose to 57.2 from 54.5, the new orders index rose to 57.7 from 54.7, the new export orders index fell to 51.3 from 52.6, and the backlog of orders index fell to 49.5 from 50.3. Manufacturers reported a further rise in production levels during January. Companies attributed faster output growth to an increase in new orders. Overall incoming new work rose at the fastest rate since May 2010, largely reflecting higher demand in the domestic market. New export orders continued to increase, up for the third month running, albeit at a slower rate than in December. Asia was mentioned by survey respondents as a key source of new business.