Monthly Economic Update August 2016

THE MONTH IN BRIEF The post-Brexit bounce turned into a sustained rally across July. Second-quarter earnings were not as gloomy as anticipated, and core economic indicators often matched or surpassed expectations. Housing news was generally good, and the latest jobs report showed employers hiring in spectacular fashion. Panic did not spread through European markets; in fact, July was a great month for European (and global) equities. Precious metals shone brightly, but energy futures fell hard. July did end with a troubling initial estimate of Q2 GDP that seemed to suggest the U.S. economy would stall without its current, strong level

TWO STRAIGHT MONTHS OF IMPRESSIVE JOB GAINS The Department of Labor provided Wall Street and Main Street with some great news Friday. Last month, the population of Americans with full-time jobs rose by 255,000. About 70,000 of the workers hired in July found employment within the professional and business services sectors. In addition, the huge June hiring gain was revised slightly upward to 292,000. As labor force participation increased to 62.8% in July, the headline jobless rate stayed at 4.9% while the broader U-6 measure of unemployment came in at 9.7%; the average wage rose 0.3%. Across the past year,

CONFIDENCE INDICES HOLD STEADY Rising half a point from its previous reading, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index finished July at 90.0. The Conference Board’s monthly household confidence gauge came in at 97.3 last week, near its (revised) June mark of 97.4.1 ROUNDING UP THE LATEST REAL ESTATE NEWS New Census Bureau data shows new home sales up 3.5% in June after a 6.0% May setback. Pending sales of existing homes increased 0.2% in June, reported the National Association of Realtors. The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index (20-city composite) rose 0.9% in May, putting its annualized gain at 5.2%.1  ECONOMY

GAINS IN HOME BUYING & HOUSING STARTS June brought a 1.1% rise in existing home sales. Analysts, polled by the Wall Street Journal, had forecast a 0.7% decline. In its new report, the National Association of Realtors said 33% of June sales involved first-time buyers, which was a 4-year peak. New Department of Commerce data showed housing starts up 4.8% last month.1 SOME EARLY EARNINGS SEASON NUMBERS According to the latest Zacks Earnings Trend report, 68.9% of 103 S&P 500 companies reporting so far this season have beaten estimates and 56.3% have topped revenue projections. Zacks now forecasts a 3.6%

Two SIGNS OF A STRONGER ECONOMY Retail sales improved 0.6% in June, according to the Commerce Department, and the core gain was 0.7% with auto buying and home improvement purchases factored out. Industrial production rose 0.6% in June, making up for a 0.3% May loss. Both indicators could be taken as hints of solid second-quarter growth.1 CORE INFLATION IS OUTPACING HEADLINE INFLATION In the year ending in June, the headline Consumer Price Index increased just 1.0%. According to the Department of Labor, the average 12-month gain in the past decade is 1.7%. The yearly gain in the core CPI, however,

Economic Update

A REASSURING JOBS REPORT June was the best month for hiring since October. Employers added 287,000 new jobs to their payrolls last month; analysts polled by Bloomberg forecast a gain of 180,000. The headline unemployment rate rose to 4.9% in the Department of Labor’s latest report, a reflection of more Americans looking for work. The broader U-6 rate, including the underemployed, fell a tenth of a point to 9.6%.1 STRONG SERVICE SECTOR GROWTH IN JUNE Rising 3.6 points, the Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing purchasing manager index came in at a June mark of 56.5. The index was last above

THE QUARTER IN BRIEF As the first half of 2016 ended, the economy seemed to be repeating the pattern seen in 2014 and 2015 – a poor first quarter giving way to a better second quarter. Monthly indicators showed improvements in consumer spending, retail sales, and manufacturing. Consumer confidence also rose. The quarter did see a decline in the pace of hiring, and the red-hot housing sector cooled a bit. Oil prices rebounded, which really helped equities. For the first time in history, a country voted to leave the European Union. News of that vote stunned financial markets worldwide in

July 2015

THE MONTH IN BRIEF In June, an overseas referendum affected American stocks more than any domestic event. The United Kingdom unexpectedly voted to leave the European Union, and news of the Brexit rocked financial markets worldwide. Even so, the S&P 500 began to recover quickly – it actually gained 0.09% for the month. Fresh economic reports made the U.S. look like the proverbial best house in a bad neighborhood – even if the economy was underperforming compared to past decades, America was at least faring better than some other nations and regions. While the latest jobs report was mystifying, personal

Economic Update

SOLID GAINS In CONSUMER SPENDING, CONFIDENCE Personal spending rose 0.4% in May, according to the Department of Commerce, complemented by a 0.2% advance for personal incomes. April’s consumer spending increase was revised up to 1.1%. The Conference Board’s monthly consumer confidence index also improved in June, heading north 5.6 points to a reading of 98.0.1 BEST ISM MANUFACTURING PMI in 16 Months The factory purchasing manager index, maintained by the Institute for Supply Management, reached 53.2 in June, a gain of 1.9 points to its highest reading since February 2015. As recently as February of this year, the PMI was

Economic Update

BREXIT VOTE BATTERS GLOBAL MARKETS The world reacted to the news Thursday night that U.K. voters had decided to leave the European Union. Germany’s DAX, France’s CAC-40, and Japan’s Nikkei 225 respectively ended their Friday trading sessions with losses of 6.82%, 8.04%, and 7.92%. Wall Street was not hit as hard, but the Dow fell 3.39% Friday, while the Nasdaq declined 4.12% and the S&P 500 retreated 3.60%.1,2 A GAIN FOR EXISTING HOME SALES IN MAY Last month, the pace of residential resales accelerated another 1.8%. According to the National Association of Realtors, the latest annual rate of 5.53 million

Economic Update

RETAIL SALES RISE another HALF-PERCENT This healthy May increase follows the 1.3% gain recorded by the Department of Commerce for April, and offers more evidence that the economy has rebounded from a sluggish first quarter. Core retail sales (minus auto and gasoline purchases) were up 0.4% last month.1 INFLATION CONTINUES TO FIRM According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices rose 0.2% in May while producer prices advanced 0.4%. While a drop in food prices tempered the gain in the Consumer Price Index, the core CPI (which strips out energy and food costs) was up 2.2% in a year,

Economic Update

A LITTLE LESS OPTIMISM IN EARLY JUNE On Friday, the University of Michigan’s initial June survey of consumer sentiment showed a slight retreat, with the index coming in at 94.3 versus its final May mark of 94.7. The survey’s chief economist, Richard Curtin, noted “consumers rated their current financial situation at the best levels since the 2007 cyclical peak largely due to wage gains” and also had “record low inflation expectations.” On the downside, consumers felt the economy was stronger a year ago.1 YELLEN OFFERS NO HINT OF SPRING RATE HIKE Speaking in Philadelphia last week, Federal Reserve chair Janet

Monthly Economic Update June 2016

THE MONTH IN BRIEF Investors did not exactly “sell in May and go away” – the S&P 500 gained 1.53% last month. Oil prices settled into a sweet spot of sorts; they were high enough to soothe analysts, but not so high as to portend gas price spikes for consumers. Fundamental indicators pointed to an economy leaving its first-quarter doldrums behind; the real estate market looked especially hot. Hiring moderated, but retail sales, personal spending, and inflation picked up. It was enough to stir questions about an interest rate hike, and certain Federal Reserve officials publicly entertained that possibility.1 DOMESTIC

Economic Update

MAY SAW WEAKEST JOB GROWTH IN 5+ YEARS Did any economist foresee payrolls expanding by just 38,000 jobs in May? The median forecast compiled by MarketWatch projected a gain of 155,000, not the worst number since September 2010. The Department of Labor reduced March and April payroll gains by 59,000 in its new report, meaning monthly job creation averaged 116,000 in the past three months. As labor force participation declined 0.6% in May, the headline jobless rate fell to 4.7%. Annualized wage growth was at 2.5%.1,2 CONSUMERS FLEX THEIR PURCHASING POWER In better news, personal spending rose 1.0% in April

Economic Update

WILL THE FED MAKE A MOVE IN JUNE? In April, the Consumer Price Index advanced 0.4% – its largest monthly gain since February 2013. While a 10% leap in gasoline prices contributed to that rise, this and other recent signals of economic vigor may be influencing the Federal Reserve. Last week, minutes from the central bank’s April policy meeting showed Fed officials broadly agreeing that an interest rate hike could be appropriate next month if economic indicators strengthened and inflation accelerated. The CPI rose 1.1% in the year ending in April, but the yearly gain for the core CPI was

Economic Update

TWO HOUSING INDICATORS HIT MULTIYEAR HIGHS While monthly real estate indicators are often later revised, the latest numbers for new home buying and pending home sales are impressive, indeed. The Census Bureau reported a 16.6% jump in new home sales in April, putting them at an 8-year peak. Housing contract activity surged 5.1% last month, according to the National Association of Realtors, reaching a level unseen since February 2006. The Wall Street Journal had forecast just an 0.7% April gain for the NAR’s pending home sales index.1 Q1 GDP REVISED UP; DURABLE GOODS ORDERS UP 3.4% How much did the

Economic Update

A MAJOR JUMP FOR RETAIL SALES Friday, the Department of Commerce reported a 1.3% April gain in U.S. retail purchases. The core retail sales advance was also impressive at 0.9%. Minus car and truck buying, retail sales were still up 0.8% last month.1 IMPROVEMENT IN CONSUMER SENTIMENT The University of Michigan’s much-watched household sentiment index rebounded 6.8 points to 95.8 in its initial May reading. Surveys of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtin cited “frequent income gains, an improved jobs outlook, and the expectation of lower inflation and interest rates” as reasons for the sudden rise.2 WHOLESALE INFLATION PICKS UP The

Economic Update

APRIL JOBS REPORT RAISES QUESTIONS Employers hired 160,000 more workers than they let go last month, and that net job gain was the smallest since September. Does this suggest a job market losing steam, or does it hint at an economy nearing full employment? The hiring number may make the Federal Reserve reconsider the possibility of a June interest rate hike. Average hourly wages improved to $25.53 in April, up 2.5% year-over-year. While the main jobless rate remained at 5.0%, the U-6 rate, counting both the unemployed and underemployed, declined 0.1% to 9.7%.1 MORE EXPANSION IN FACTORY & SERVICE SECTORS

Monthly Economic Update May 2016

THE MONTH IN BRIEF The S&P 500 managed to advance 0.27% in April as many companies beat earnings and revenue forecasts. Some important commodities posted remarkable monthly gains. Existing home sales rebounded, and manufacturing seemed to have recovered from its winter slump. Hiring continued to impress, but consumer spending figures and consumer confidence indices did not. All in all, it was a relatively calm month, absent of much of the volatility seen in the first quarter.1 DOMESTIC ECONOMIC HEALTH In early April, the Labor Department reported a net gain of 215,000 jobs in March, placing the average monthly net job

Economic Update

INCOME OUTDISTANCES SPENDING Personal income rose 0.4% in March, yet the Commerce Department reported personal spending up just 0.1%. That mild uptick contributed to a poor first quarter for GDP; last week, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated Q1 growth at 0.5%.1 CONSUMER OPTIMISM DECLINES The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index dipped 1.9 points in April to 94.2. Also descending was the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index, which ended April at 89.0 after concluding March at 91.0.1,2 A ROUNDUP OF HOUSING NEWS New home sales fell 1.5% in March according to the Census Bureau, after a 0.4% retreat in