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Friday, April 21, 2017

Existing-Home Sales Rose in March

Existing-home sales increased 4.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million in March, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This is the highest level in the past ten years.
"The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain. Sales will go up as long as inventory does."

The total housing inventory rose 5.8% to 1.83 million homes available for sale, while the median existing home price stood at $236,400, a 6.8% increase from March 2016.

Distressed sales were 6% of the total in March, which are down from 8% a year ago. Five percent of sales were foreclosures and 1% were short sales. On average, foreclosures and short sales sold for discounts of 16% and 14%, respectively.

Read the NAR release.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Beige Book: Economic Expansion Continues to Pick Up

Economic activity continued to expand at a modest to moderate pace across the twelve Federal Reserve Districts over the period from mid-February to the end of March, according to the just-released Federal Reserve Beige Book.

Consumer spending varied this period as reports of stronger light vehicle sales were accompanied by somewhat softer readings in non-auto retail spending. Manufacturing continued to expand at a modest to moderate pace across the Districts. Non-financial services continued to expand steadily while energy-related businesses noted improved conditions.

Employment expanded across all Districts at a modest to moderate pace. Labor markets once again remained tight and employers in most Districts reported having more difficulty filling low-skilled positions, although labor demand was stronger for higher skilled workers. Modest wage growth was seen in most Districts, while prices rose modestly since the previous report.

Read the full Federal Reserve report.
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Industrial Production Increased in March

Industrial production increased 0.5% in March after a 0.1% February increase. Over the last year, industrial production was up 1.5%.
Manufacturing output decreased 0.4% in March, its first loss since August 2016. Production of durable goods fell 1.7%, while nondurables rose 2.1% during the month. Capacity utilization for manufacturing increased by 0.3 percentage point to 75.3%, a rate that is 3.1 percentage points below its long-run average.

The mining index increased 0.1% in March as gains in oil and gas extraction were mostly offset by declines in coal mining and in nonmetallic mineral mining.

The utilities index rose 8.6% in March, the largest increase in the history of the index.

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Housing Starts Declined in March

Housing starts fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.215 million in March, 6.8% below the revised February rate of 1.303 million, but 9.2% above the March 2016 rate.
Housing activity increased in only one out of the four regions as the Northeast saw housing starts jump 12.9%. The West, Midwest, and South experienced declines of 16.0%, 16.2%, and 2.9%, respectively.
New building permits increased during the month, rising 3.6% to 1.260 million. Permits were up 17.0% from the March 2016 rate.

Housing completions were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.205 million, up 3.2% from the revised February estimate and 13.4% above the March 2016 rate.

Read the Census release.
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Builder Confidence Remained Solid in April

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index fell to 68 in April, a three point decrease from March’s reading of 71.

“Even with this month’s modest drop, builder confidence is on very firm ground, and builders are reporting strong interest among potential home buyers,” said NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald, a home builder and developer from Kerrville, Texas.

All three HMI components declined in April, but remained at healthy levels. The component measuring current sales conditions fell three points to 74, the component measuring sales expectations decreased three points to 75, and the component measuring buyer traffic fell one point to 52.

The regional three-month moving averages for HMI scores were mixed. The Northeast fell two points to 46 while the Midwest and West rose one point to 68 and 77, respectively. The South held steady at 68.

Read the NAHB release.
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Friday, April 14, 2017

Retail Sales Fell in March

There were $470.8 billion in retail and food service sales in March, down 0.2% from the previous month and up 5.2% from March 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. February’s estimate was revised from up 0.1% to down 0.3%.
Core retail sales – excluding automobiles and parts – were unchanged for the second consecutive month. Year-over-year core sales increased 5.0%.

Retail trade sales declined 0.2% from February and are up 5.5% from last year. Sales at nonstore retailers decreased 0.6% from February, while increasing 11.9% year-over-year.

Sales at gasoline stations declined 1.0% during the month, but are up 14.3% from a year ago.

Read the Census release.
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CPI Decreased 0.3% in March

The Consumer Price Index decreased 0.3% in March on a seasonally adjusted basis. Over the last 12 months, the all-items index rose 2.4%.
Prices for all items less food and energy, the “core CPI,” decreased 0.1% in March, down from February’s 0.2% increase. The index rose 2.0% for the 12 months ending in March.

The food index increased 0.3%. Prices for food at home rose 0.5%, its largest increase since May 2014, while prices for food away from home increased 0.2%. Over the past 12 months, food prices are up 0.5%.

The energy index decreased 3.2% in March. The gasoline index posted a decline of 6.2% following a 3.0% February decrease.

Read the BLS release.
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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Producer Prices Declined 0.1% in March

Producer prices fell 0.1% in March, seasonally adjusted, after climbing 0.3% in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Producer prices rose 2.3% for the twelve months ended March 2017, which is the largest increase since the twelve months ended March 2012.
The index for final demand goods also fell 0.1% in March. The decrease was led by a 2.9% decline in the index for final demand energy. However, the index for final demand goods less food and energy rose 0.4%.

Prices for final demand services ticked down 0.1% in March. More than half of the decline was due to the index for final demand services less trade, transportation, and warehousing, which decreased by 0.1%.

Read the BLS release.
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Small Business Optimism Held Strong in March

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index decreased 0.6 points in March to 104.7, maintaining the high level of post-election optimism. Three of the ten index components rose, while five declined.
Reported job creation has improved, as 51% of businesses reported hiring or trying to hire. However, 45% reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Sixteen percent of employers surveyed cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their top business problem. A seasonally adjusted net 16% of owners plan to create new jobs, up one point and a strong reading.

Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners expecting better business conditions fell one point to a net 46%. The percent of owners reporting higher sales in the past three months rose three points to 5%. Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes fell eight points to a net 18% of owners. Capital spending increased as 64% of owners reported capital outlays, up two points from February. The percent of owners planning capital outlays in the next 3 to 6 months rose three points to 29%, which is the highest reading since the financial crisis.

Credit conditions mostly held steady, as 4% of owners reported that all their borrowing needs were not met, an increase of one point. Only 2% of business owners surveyed reported that financing was their top business problem, unchanged from the past four months.

Read the NFIB report.
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Friday, April 7, 2017

Consumer Credit Growth Strong in February

Consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.8% in February, up from a 3.5% rate in January. Total outstanding credit increased $15.2 billion during the month (compared with $10.9 billion in January) to $3.79 trillion.
Revolving credit grew at an annual rate of 3.5% to $1.0 trillion, compared to a 3.2% decrease in January. Non-revolving credit rose at a 5.3% annual rate, or $12.3 billion, compared to January’s rate of $13.5 billion. Total non-revolving credit is now $2.79 trillion.
Federal government holdings of student loans continue to be the largest portion of non-revolving credit, comprising approximately 38% of outstanding credit. Depository institutions and finance companies are secondary and tertiary holders, with 25% and 22%, respectively, of outstanding non-revolving credit.

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98,000 Jobs Added in March

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 98,000 in March, a decline from February’s downwardly revised figure of 219,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate moved down to 4.5%. The majority of gains occurred in professional and business services and in mining.
Private-service providing industries added a net 61,000 jobs, led by gains in professional and business services, which added 56,000 jobs during the month, and by health care and social assistance, which added 17,000 jobs this month.

Goods-producing employment rose by 28,000 jobs during the month, as gains in mining led the way by adding 11,000 jobs.

The civilian labor force participation rate was 63.0%, unchanged from February. The number of long-term unemployed, those jobless for 27 weeks or more, was little changed at 1.7 million and accounted for 23.3% of the unemployed. The number of discouraged workers was 460,000, down from a year earlier.

Average hourly earnings increased by 5 cents to $26.14, after a 7-cent increase in February. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.7%.

Read the BLS release.
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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Job Cuts Rose in March

Employers announced plans to cut 43,310 jobs in March, according to a report issued by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. March’s announced cuts were 17% more than February’s. The month’s figure was 2% lower than March 2016.

The retail sector has led the way this year in job cuts, with 38,464 so far this year. This is 19% higher than the same period last year. The industry has, however, announced over 121,000 new jobs this year. The energy sector, on the other hand, has reported only 7,880 job cuts so far this year. This is an 84% decline in job cuts compared to this point last year.

“Cuts in the energy sector, which started en masse in mid-2014, were still occurring in the first quarter of 2016. The energy industry is no longer bleeding jobs, which is partly why job cut announcements have trended down,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Telecommunications companies were second to only retailers with 9,782 job cuts through March, 184% more than the total through the first quarter of 2016.

“Telecommunications providers, like other tech companies, are undergoing restructuring, losing jobs to automation, and pivoting to new projects,” said Challenger.

Read the Challenger Gray & Christmas release.
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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

FOMC Minutes: Shrinking of Balance Sheet Could Begin this Year

Fed officials expressed that they anticipate the reduction of the $4.5 trillion portfolio to begin later this year as interest rates continue to increase, according to the minutes of the meeting released today.

“Most participants anticipated that gradual increases in the federal-funds rate would continue and judged that a change in the (Fed’s) reinvestment policy would likely be appropriate later this year,” the minutes said.

The minutes showed most Fed officials in support of a gradual path of rate hikes, but open to a quicker pace if the economy heats up more than anticipated. On the more aggressive side were some of the hawks, arguing for a faster pace of hikes with the Fed near its 2% inflation goal.

On the topic of fiscal policy, the Fed officials do not expect any of President Trump’s expansionary policies to begin until 2018. The next policy meeting will take place May 2-3, 2017.

Read the FOMC Minutes.
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ISM: Non-Manufacturing Sector Grew in March

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index registered 55.2 points in March, 2.4 percentage points below February’s figure. This was the 87th consecutive month of growth. Fifteen non-manufacturing industries reported growth in March, while three reported contraction.
Growth in the Business Activity Index decreased 4.7 points to 58.9. Fourteen industries reported increased business activity and two reported decreased activity. Respondents noted new capital budgets, increasing optimism, and strong price increases.

Non-manufacturing employment grew for the 37th consecutive month. The index decreased 3.6 percentage point to 51.6. Nine industries reported increased employment, while six reported decreased employment.

The New Orders Index fell 2.3 points to 58.9. Some respondents commented that they had added additional business with existing customers.

Supplier deliveries slowed for the 15th consecutive month, as the index registered 51.5 points (readings above 50 for this index indicate slower deliveries). Eight industries reported slower deliveries, while three reported faster deliveries.

Read the ISM release.
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ADP: 263,000 Jobs Added in March

The non-farm private sector added 263,000 jobs in March, according to the ADP National Employment Report. February’s figure was revised down to 245,000. Service-providing jobs accounted for most of the month’s growth, while goods-producing employment were strong as well.
Growth was widespread in March with businesses of all sizes seeing strong increases, with strong gains for small and medium-sized businesses. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees added 118,000 jobs, while medium-sized businesses with 50-499 employees added 100,000 jobs. Large businesses added 45,000 jobs.

“The U.S. labor market finished the first quarter on a strong note,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “Consumer dependent industries including healthcare, leisure and hospitality, and trade had strong growth during the month.”

Service-providing employment rose by 181,000 jobs, driven by the professional and business services sector which added 57,000 jobs. Leisure and hospitality jobs, along with health care and social assistance, also increased, adding 55,000 and 46,000 jobs, respectively. Goods-producing employment increased by 82,000 jobs. The construction industry led the gain, adding 49,000 jobs.

Read the ADP report.
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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Manufactured Goods Orders Rose in February

New orders for manufactured goods increased 1.0% to $476.5 billion in February, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The February reading followed a 1.5% January increase.
New orders for manufactured durable goods jumped 1.8% to $236.0 billion, the second consecutive month of growth. Orders for transportation equipment drove the increase, rising 4.4% to $80.5 billion.

Shipments of manufactured durable goods increased 0.3% to $239.4 billion. This followed a virtually unchanged January decrease.

Inventories of manufactured durable goods decreased 0.2% to $385.2 billion.

Read the Census release.
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International Trade Balance Narrowed in February

The U.S. international trade deficit narrowed in February to $43.6 billion, down from $48.2 billion in January, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The overall decrease reflected a $0.4 billion increase in exports along with a $4.3 billion decrease in imports.
The goods deficit decreased $4.6 billion to $65.0 billion, while the services surplus increased less than $0.1 billion to $21.4 billion.

Exports of goods rose $0.4 billion to $128.5 billion in February, driven by increases in consumer goods. They saw a jump of $0.7 billion, largely due to an increase in pharmaceutical preparations. Exports of services increased less than $0.1 billion to $64.4 billion.

Imports of goods decreased $4.2 billion to $193.4 billion, mostly due to a decrease in consumer goods, which fell by $3.1 billion. Imports of services decreased less than $0.1 billion to $43.0 billion in February.

Read the Census/BEA release.
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Construction Spending Increased in February

Construction spending increased 0.8% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual level (SAAL) of $1,192.8 billion, according to the Census Bureau. January’s spending estimate was revised to a rate of $1,183.8 billion. February’s figure is 3.0% greater than the February 2016 estimate of $1,157.7 billion.
Total private construction rose to $917.3 billion SAAL, up 0.8% from the revised January estimate of $910.0 billion.

Private residential construction was $484.7 billion SAAL, 1.8% above January’s rate.

Private nonresidential construction was $432.7 billion, 0.3% below January’s estimate.

Public construction increased 0.6% to $275.5 billion SAAL, largely due to growth in educational and highway construction projects.

Read the Census release.
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Manufacturing Sector Expanded in March

The ISM Manufacturing Index registered 57.2 points in March, down 0.5 percentage point from the previous month, according to the Institute for Supply Management. March’s reading indicates a seventh consecutive month of expansion in manufacturing, as readings over 50 points denote expansion. Of the eighteen manufacturing industries, seventeen reported growth while none reported contraction.
The Employment Index increased 4.7 points to 58.9 in March, indicating expansion for the sixth consecutive month. Fourteen industries reported expansion, while three reported a decrease in employment.

The New Orders Index decreased 0.6 percentage point to 64.5 in March, indicating growth for the seventh consecutive month. All eighteen industries reported increases in new orders.

Export orders increased 4.0 points to 59.0, indicating growth for the thirteenth consecutive month. Eleven industries reported growth while only one of the eighteen reported a decrease in new export orders.

The inventories index registered 49.0 points, down 2.5 points from the previous month. This reading indicates that raw materials inventories are contracting.

Read the ISM release.
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