1. From the American Association of Railroad’s weekly report on rail traffic: Lumber shipments were up by 19.8% vs. the same week last year (+12.2% YTD), petroleum products by 44.4% (+40.2% YTD), and motor vehicles and equipment by 19.2% (+21.4%). Conclusion: Housing, oil, and cars are booming.
2. Mortgage rates are starting to head up, they increased for the third straight week to the highest levels since early July (3.62% for the 30-year fixed rate and 2.88% for the 15-year). The 10-year treasury yield is the highest since May at 1.80%.
3. From Wednesday’s CPI report: Natural gas prices have fallen by 12.7% over the last year, saving consumers millions, if not billions, of dollars.
4. From yesterday’s Census report on construction: Building permits increased in July by 29.5% compared to a year ago, reaching the highest level since August 2008, almost four years ago.
5. The Bloomberg U.S. Financial Conditions Index is at the highest level in more than a year.
6. The S&P Volatility Index (“fear index”) was at the lowest level this week since July 2007, more than five years ago.