Clarksville, TN – The economic calendar was light. Existing home sales were stronger than anticipated in March, but new home sales fell far short of expectations. Durable goods orders jumped 4.0%, but that reflected a surge in aircraft orders (which tend to be erratic). Ex-transportation, orders fell 0.2%.
Orders for core capital goods (nondefense and excluding aircraft) fell 0.5%, the seventh consecutive monthly decline. Unfilled orders (ex-transportation) fell further (not a good sign), while the inventory-to-shipment ratio continued to trend higher – both of these indicators bear watching, but neither is at a dangerous level.
Clarksville, TN – The economic data reports were mixed. Retail sales picked up in March, following a weak trend in the three previous months. Industrial production fell 0.6%, reflecting a plunge in oil and gas drilling and a decrease in the output of utilities (more normal temperatures).
Manufacturing output edged up 0.1%, with mixed results across industries. Building permits and housing starts fell in March, largely reflecting the usual volatility in the multi-family sector. Single-family permits, the key figure in the report, rose 2.1% (up 4.1% y/y).
Clarksville, TN – The economic data calendar was thin. Stock market participants finally got their chance to react to the disappointing employment data for March (the report was released on Good Friday).
However, the negative response was brief, as the market opened lower on Monday and then quickly turned up. The markets seemed to be looking for direction through the week, but failed to find much in the early earnings reports.
Clarksville, TN – The economic data were mixed, but generally disappointing, consistent with first quarter GDP growth closer to 0% (growth is widely expected to pick up again in the 2Q15). Consumer confidence improved more than anticipated in March and motor vehicle sales picked up.
However, the ISM manufacturing data suggested a slowdown in the factory sector (likely related to the stronger dollar, although survey respondents continued to note West Coast port delays).
Clarksville, TN – The economic data were mixed, adding little to the overall picture. Durable goods orders disappointed (again), with orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft (a rough proxy for business fixed investment) down for the sixth consecutive month. Unfilled orders are falling and inventories are outpacing shipments – both are bad signs, but neither is yet at a dangerous level.
Home sales figures were mixed. The third estimate of fourth quarter GDP growth came in at 2.2%, the same as in the previous estimate. This report included corporate profit data for 4Q14, which showed a moderate increase in domestic nonfinancial corporate profits, but a sharp drop in profits from abroad.
Clarksville, TN – As was widely anticipated, the Federal Open Market Committee removed the “patient” language from the policy statement, but indicated that “an increase in the target range for the federal funds rate remains unlikely at the April FOMC meeting.”
The FOMC noted that “economic growth has moderated somewhat” (vs. January’s “expanding at a solid pace”). In its Summary of Economic Projections, Fed officials lowered their forecasts for GDP growth and inflation. The dots in the dot plot (expectations of the appropriate year-end level of the federal funds rate) generally moved lower, implying a lower expected path of short-term interest rates in the months ahead.
Clarksville, TN – Retail sales results for February continued to disappoint and consumer sentiment slipped unexpectedly, but weather may have been a factor. The reports on import prices and producer prices both showed significant disinflationary pressure (which may be seen as delaying the Fed’s initial hike in short-term interest rates). Stock market volatility was elevated, with sharp moves day by day.
Market participants have grown increasingly worried about exchange rates. Around the world, exchange rates mostly fall under the jurisdiction of finance ministers (the Treasury in the U.S.), not the central banks.
Clarksville, TN – The economic data were mixed, but the February Employment Report was stronger than expected. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 295,000 (±105,000), with a revision to January of -18,000. The BLS indicated that the payroll survey missed most of the bad weather that hit last month.
The household survey showed that 328,000 could not make it to work due to bad weather, which is about average (it was 601,000 in February 2014). Average weekly hours held steady (no weather impact).
Clarksville, TN – Greece’s reform proposals were accepted by European finance ministers, effectively kicking the can down the road for another four months.
In her monetary policy testimony, Fed Chair Janet Yellen signaled that the Fed will begin to consider raising short-term interest rates on a meeting-by-meeting basis. Before then, the Fed will change its forward guidance (currently, the language suggests that the Fed can be “patient” in deciding when to raise rates).
Clarksville, TN – The minutes of the January 27th-28th Federal Open Market Committee meeting showed officials continuing to make preparations for policy normalization.
There was some debate about the risks of moving either too late or too soon. “Several” Fed officials feared that waiting too long to raise rates would risk higher inflation, but “many” (which in Fedspeak, is more than “several”) worried that a premature increase in rates could dampen the economic recovery and leave the Fed with limited options to correct course.
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