Mixed Inflation Numbers: July 8 – 12

Core consumer prices rose, but core wholesale prices did not. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending July 12.

#1Core inflation firmed in June. Consumer Price Index (CPI) gained 0.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the month, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Growth in the headline CPI measure was modest as energy prices fell 2.3 percent (including gasoline CPI dropping 3.6 percent) and food prices held steady. Core CPI, which removes the impact of energy and food, jumped 0.3 percent, its most significant single-month increase since January 2018. Rising were prices for used cars/trucks (+1.6 percent), apparel (+1.1 percent), medical care services (+0.4 percent), shelter (+0.3 percent), and new vehicles (+0.1 percent). Over the past year, CPI has risen 1.6 percent while the core measure of consumer prices has a 12-month comparable of +2.1 percent.Consumer Prices 2017-9 071319

#2…While wholesale prices did not. The Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand inched up by a seasonally adjusted 1/10th of a percentage point during June, matching its May increase. The core wholesale price measure, which nets out foods, energy, and trade services, was unchanged after having jumped 0.4 percent during the two prior months. PPI for final demand goods dropped for a second consecutive month with a 0.2 percent decline. Energy PPI plummeted 3.1 percent, pulled down by plunging wholesale gasoline prices (-5.0 percent), while food PPI grew 0.6 percent (corn prices: +19.9 percent). PPI for final demand services increased 0.4 percent, boosted by trade services PPI (i.e., margins at retailers and wholesalers) jumping 1.3 percent. Over the past year, final demand PPI has grown 1.7 percent (its smallest 12-month comparable since January 2017) while the year-to-year change in core wholesale prices was +2.1 percent.

#3Job openings softened (slightly) in May, hiring more so. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there were a seasonally adjusted 7.323 million job openings at the end of May, off 49,000 from the previous month but up 2.8 percent from a year earlier and keeping it very near the data series high. Industries with sizeable year-to-year percentage increases in job openings included construction (+32.3 percent), accommodation/food services (+8.6 percent), manufacturing (+8.3 percent), and professional/business services (+7.1 percent). Hiring slowed 4.4 percent during May to 5.725 million workers (-2.3 percent vs. May 2018). Also falling were the number of people leaving their job as separations decreased by 192,000 to 5.495 million (May 2018: 5.495 million). The number of people quitting their job—3.425 million—was up 2.5 percent from a year earlier while those affected by a layoff—1.760 million—was down 2.8 percent from May 2018.

#4Small business owner sentiment took a step back in June. The Small Business Optimism Index from the National Federation of Independent Business lost 1.7 points during the month to a seasonally adjusted reading of 103.3. This followed a 1.5 point gain during the prior month. Only three of the index’s ten components advanced during the month: current inventories, expected credit conditions, and plans to increase inventories. Falling during June were index components linked to earnings trends, whether it was a good time to expand, real sales expectations, plans to make capital outlays, plans to increase employment, and current job openings. The press release noted increased “uncertainty” on weighing on business owner sentiment.

#5The U.S. budget deficit continued to track well ahead of last year’s pace. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service reports that the U.S. government had collected $2.609 trillion over the first nine months of FY2019, a 2.7 percent increase over the comparable nine months during the prior fiscal year. Meanwhile, outlays totaled $3.356 trillion during those same nine months, 6.7 percent ahead of the previous year’s total. As a result, the U.S. government has run up a budget deficit totaling -$747.1 billion from the period of October 2018 to June 2019, well ahead of the year-to-date deficit for the first nine months of FY18 of -$607.1 billion. The Bureau currently forecasts a budget deficit for FY19 of -$1.092 trillion

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
Jobless Claims (week ending July 6, 2019, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 209,000 (-13,000 vs. previous week; -3,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 219,250 (-0.7% vs. the same week a year earlier).
FOMC MinutesConsumer Credit (May 2019, Outstanding Consumer Credit (not mortgages) Balances, seasonally adjusted): $4.088 trillion (+$17.1 billion vs. April 2019, +5.2% vs. May 2018).
Wholesale Trade (May 2019, Inventories of Merchant Wholesalers, seasonally adjusted): $679.1 billion (+0.4% vs. April 2019, +7.7% vs. May 2018).

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Kevin’s current employer. No endorsements are implied.

Hiring Bounced Back: July 1 – 5

The labor market rebounded in June. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending July 5.  

#1Job creation recovered in June. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that nonfarm payrolls expanded by a seasonally adjusted 224,000 during the month, a sharp surge versus May’s 72,000 created jobs and just above April’s 216,000 payrolls jump. Private sector employers added 191,000 workers (up from an 83,000 gain in May), split between 154,000 in the service sector and 37,000 in the goods-producing sector. Industries adding the most jobs in June included professional/business services (+51,000), health care/social assistance (+50,500), transportation/warehousing (+23,900), and construction (+21,000). Average weekly private sector earnings of $959.76 represented a 2.8 percent increase over the past year.Yearly Wage Increases 070519

A separate survey of households has the unemployment rate inching up 1/10th of a percentage point to 3.7 percent (just above its multi-decade low) as 335,000 people entered the labor force during the month. The labor force participation rate grew by 1/10th of a percentage point to 62.9 percent—the same measure for adults aged 25 to 54 also added 1/10th of a percentage point to 82.2 percent. The median length of unemployment grew by a half week to 9.6 weeks while the number of part-time workers seeking a full-time opportunity essentially held steady at 4.347 million. The U-6 series, the broadest measure of labor underutilization published by BLS, eked out a 1/10th of a percentage point increase to 7.2 percent (just above its almost 19-year low achieved last month).

#2The U.S. trade deficit hit a 2019 high in May. The Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis report that while exports grew by $4.2 billion to a seasonally adjusted $210.6 billion (-1.3 percent versus May 2018), imports surged by $8.5 billion to $266.2 billion (+3.3 percent versus May 2018). The resulting trade deficit of -$55.5 billion was up $4.3 billion from April and was a five-month high. The goods deficit blossomed by $4.4 billion to -$76.1 billion while the services surplus widened slightly (+$0.1 billion) to +$20.6 billion. The former resulted from imports of goods swelling $8.1 billion (including from imported automobiles, crude oil, capital goods, and semiconductors), overwhelming the $4.0 billion increase in exported goods (including capital goods, consumer goods, soybeans, and automobiles). The U.S. had its largest goods deficits with China, the European Union, Mexico, and Japan.

#3Factory orders dropped in May. New orders for manufactured goods decreased for the third time in four months with a 0.7 percent decline to a seasonally adjusted $493.6 billion, per the Census Bureau. Transportation goods orders shrank 4.6 percent, hurt by contracting orders for civilian (-28.2 percent) and defense (-15.5 percent) aircraft. Net of transportation orders inched up 0.1 percent, with increased orders for furniture (+3.3 percent), electrical equipment/appliances (+1.0 percent), machinery (+0.8 percent), computers/electronics (+0.7 percent), and primary metals (+0.1 percent). Declining were orders for fabricated metal products (-0.3 percent) and nondurables (-0.2 percent). Meanwhile, shipments grew 0.1 percent to $504.3 billion (its third gain in four months), with shipments unchanged for the month net of transportation goods. Unfilled orders declined 0.5 percent to $1.171 trillion (its third drop in four months) while inventories expanded for the eighth time in nine months with a 0.2 percent increase to $694.1 billion.

#4Purchasing managers suggest a slower pace of economic growth in June. The Institute for Supply Management’s PMI (the headline index from its Manufacturing Report on Business) slipped by 4/10ths of a point to 51.7. While this was the PMI’s lowest reading since October 2016, it also was the measure’s 34th straight month above a reading of 50.0 (the threshold between an expanding and contracting manufacturing sector). Three of five PMI components took a step back in June—new orders, inventories, and supplier deliveries—while the other two—production and employment— both advanced. Twelve of 18 tracked manufacturing industries reported growth, led by furniture, printing, and textiles. The press release noted that survey respondents “expressed concern about U.S.-China trade turbulence, potential Mexico trade actions and the global economy.”

The NMI, the headline index from ISM’s Nonmanufacturing Report on Business, declined by 1.8 points in June to a reading of 55.1. The NMI has been above the critical 50.0 threshold for an impressive 113 months, but this is the measure’s lowest reading since July 2017. Only one NMI component (supplier deliveries) grew during the month, while the other three declined (employment, business activity/production, and new orders). Sixteen of 18 tracked nonmanufacturing industries reported growth, led by real estate. The press release characterized survey respondents’ sentiment as “mixed,” as a “degree of uncertainty exists due to trade and tariffs.”

#5Construction spending decelerated in May. The Census Bureau places the seasonally adjusted annualized rate of construction put in place at $1.294 trillion, down 0.8 percent from April and 2.3 percent below the year-ago pace. Residential construction spending dropped 0.7 percent to an annualized $953.2 billion, 6.3 percent less than that of a year ago and its lowest reading since January 2017. Falling were spending on both private sector nonresidential (-0.9 percent) and residential (-0.6 percent) spending. Reversing recent trends, public sector construction spending also slowed, slumping 0.9 percent to an annualized $340.6 billion. Despite May’s decline, public construction spending remained 10.8 percent ahead of its year-ago pace.

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
Jobless Claims (week ending June 29, 2019, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 221,000 (-8,000 vs. previous week; -8,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 222,250 (-0.1% vs. the same week a year earlier)

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Kevin’s current employer. No endorsements are implied.

A Signal Change: June 17 – 21

The Fed sees increased business conditions uncertainty. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending June 21.

#1The Fed held still but sent a more dovish signal. The statement released after this past week’s meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) noted that the U.S. economy was growing at a “moderate rate,” the labor market was “strong,” and that consumer spending had “picked up.” But the committee also saw business investment as being “soft” and that core inflation was remaining below its two-percent target rate. As a result, the FOMC voted to maintain the fed funds target rate at a range between 2.25 and 2.50 percent (one voting member desired a rate cut). Further, the statement turned dovish with language saying that uncertainties “have increased. Nevertheless, the committee believed “sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective as the most likely outcomes.” Notable in the economic projections released in conjunction with the policy statement was that eight of the 17 FOMC participants expects one or two quarter-point rate cuts before 2019 ends. Only one participant anticipates a rate bump in 2019. Further, seven FOMC participants have the fed funds target rate below the current range into 2021.FOMC Projections June 2019 062119

#2Forward-looking economic indicators suggest business activity mellowed in May. The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) held steady at 118.1 for the month and has risen by only a half point since last December. Just five of the LEI’s ten components made a positive contribution to the measure, led by consumers’ expectations for business conditions. The coincident index added 2/10ths of a point to 105.9, up a mere 3/10ths of a point since last December. All four coincident index components made positive contributions to the measure. The lagging index pulled back by 2/10ths of a point to 107.0 (up 7/10ths of a point to 106.3), with only one of seven components improving during May (the ratio of consumer installment credit outstanding to personal income). The press release noted that the LEI’s reading “clearly points to a moderation in growth towards 2 percent by year end.”

#3Existing home sales grew for the first time in three months in May. Sales of previously owned homes increased 2.5 percent during the month to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 5.34 million units. Even with the gain, the National Association of Realtors’ measure of existing home sales was 1.1 percent under its year-ago pace. Sales increased in all four Census regions, led by increases of 4.7 percent and 3.4 percent in the Northeast and Midwest, respectively. The only region with a favorable 12-month comparable, however, was the South with a 1.3 percent gain. Inventories of unsold homes expanded to their largest level since last July to 1.92 million units (+4.9 percent versus April 2019 and +2.7 percent versus May 2018) but remained at a tight 4.3 month supply. The press release stated that “[t]he purchasing power to buy a home has been bolstered by falling mortgage rates, and buyers are responding.”

#4Starts of single-family homes slowed in May. The Census Bureau tells us housing starts slipped 0.9 percent during the month to a seasonally adjusted 1.269 million units, representing a 4.7 percent drop from a year earlier. While starts of multi-family units (e.g., condos) jumped 13.8 percent on both a month-to-month and year-to-year basis, they dropped for single-family homes 6.4 percent versus April 2019 and 12.5 percent versus May 2018. Looking towards future activity, permitting activity inched up during May as the annualized count of issued building permits grew 0.5 percent to 1.294 million permits (-1.5 percent versus May 2018). Permits for single-family homes rose 3.7 percent but fell a matching 3.7 percent for permits of homes with five or more units. Housing completions slumped 9.5 percent during the month to an annualized 1.213 million units, a 2.8 percent decline from a year earlier

#5Only one state enjoyed significant jobs growth in May. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nonfarm payrolls grew at a statistically significant rate in only Washington state during the month while remaining “essentially” unchanged in the other 49 states and the District of Columbia. (Note a few weeks earlier, the BLS reported that nonfarm payrolls grew by a relatively modest 75,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis during May.) Over the past year, nonfarm payrolls have increased in 24 states, led by Texas (+286,300), California (+282,700), and Florida (+214,500).

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
Jobless Claims (week ending June 15, 2019, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 216,000 (-6,000 vs. previous week; -3,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 218,750 (-0.5% vs. the same week a year earlier).
Housing Market Index (June 2019, Index (>50=More Homebuilders View Housing Market as “Good” than “Bad,” seasonally adjusted): 64 (May 2019: 66, June 2018: 68).
Treasury International Capital Flows (April 2019, Net Foreign Purchases of U.S. Securities, not seasonally adjusted): +$36.4 billion (March 2019: -$27.8 billion, April 2018: +$22.6 billion).

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Kevin’s current employer. No endorsements are implied.