INFLATION NEARS 3% The federal government’s Consumer Price Index rose 2.9% across the 12 months ending in June, a level of annualized inflation last seen in February 2012. Yearly inflation has now increased for five straight months (although the headline CPI went north only 0.1% last month). The core CPI, which removes food and fuel costs, rose 0.2% in June, bringing its 12-month gain to 2.3%. Over the past 12 months, the cost of fuel oil climbed 30.8%; the cost of gasoline, 24.3%. Feeling the effect of those advances, the Producer Price Index rose 3.4% in the year ending in

ANOTHER STRONG MONTH FOR THE LABOR MARKET Employers hired 213,000 more workers than they laid off in June, according to the Department of Labor. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast a gain of 195,000. In the second quarter, net monthly job growth averaged 211,000. As the labor force participation rate increased 0.2% last month, so did the headline jobless rate: it rose 0.2% to 4.0%, moving north for the first time in almost a year. The U-6 rate, which includes underemployed Americans, also increased 0.2% to 7.8%. Annualized wage growth remained at 2.7%.1   BOTH ISM INDICES IMPROVED IN JUNE

HIRING WEAKENED IN MARCH Payrolls expanded by only 103,000 net new jobs last month, according to the latest employment report from the Department of Labor. Some economists wondered if harsh weather distorted the number (job growth was also poor in March 2015 and March 2017). The main jobless rate stayed at 4.1%; the broader U-6 rate, counting the underemployed, fell 0.2% to 8.0%, an 11-year low. Yearly wage growth was at 2.7%. Lastly, February’s huge net job gain was revised up by 13,000 to 326,000.1     TRADE TENSIONS PERSIST Thursday night, the Trump administration announced the possibility of $100 billion

FEWER HOMES ARE SELLING Demand is high, prices are high, and inventory is slim. In view of these factors, the 4.8% year-over-year fall for existing home sales just reported by the National Association of Realtors is not surprising. It represents the largest annual decline seen since August 2014. Other January NAR data showed homebuying down 3.2% from December levels and a median sale price of $240,500, up 5.8% in 12 months.1    FED MINUTES EMPHASIZE THE “GRADUAL” Minutes from the January Federal Open Market Committee meeting appeared Wednesday, and while FOMC members saw “substantial underlying economic momentum,” they also stated

The little things independent contractors should do before April. Do you freelance or run a business on the side? You have a complicated tax situation, all stemming from one fact – when you earn a paycheck, taxes are not immediately taken out of it. Many freelancers are caught off-guard when tax season arrives. They are stunned to realize how much tax they owe. If you would rather not be one of them, pay attention to these details. You should have all your 1099-MISC forms in hand by early February. If you earned more than $600 working for an employer during

THIRD QUARTER SAW SOLID ECONOMIC GROWTH Friday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis issued its first estimate of Q3 GDP: 3.0%. Its report showed increases in personal spending and business stockpiling offsetting a dip in home building. The economy grew 3% or more for a second straight quarter for the first time since 2014. Growth has averaged 2.2% per quarter since the end of the recession in 2009.1 NEW HOME SALES LEAP UP Unexpectedly, new home buying increased by 18.9% in September; the Census Bureau said that the sales pace reached a ten-year peak. The surge put the year-over-year gain for

What pre-retirees owe could compromise their future quality of life. The key points of retirement planning are easily stated. Start saving and investing early in life. Save and invest consistently. Avoid drawing down your savings along the way. Another possible point for that list: pay off as much debt as you can before your “second act” begins. Some baby boomers risk paying themselves last. Thanks to lingering mortgage, credit card, and student loan debt, they are challenged to make financial progress in the years before and after retiring. More than 40% of households headed by people 65-74 shoulder home loan

INFLATION SPIKED IN AUGUST Economists had long assumed consumer prices would rise abruptly at some point, and they certainly did last month. The Consumer Price Index increased 0.4% in August, its biggest one-month advance since its 0.6% gain in January. Higher gas prices were a major influence: they rose 6.3% for August. Core inflation was up 0.2% after four straight 0.1% monthly gains. Yearly consumer inflation is now at 1.9%. Wholesale inflation, as measured by the Producer Price Index, rose 0.2% in August to an annualized pace of 2.4%.1,2   RETAIL SALES STAGE A LATE-SUMMER RETREAT Americans cut back on

SEPTEMBER BRINGS A MEDIOCRE JOBS REPORT The Department of Labor’s latest employment snapshot shows payrolls expanding by 156,000 net new jobs in August. This was a retreat from the job gains of 200,000+ reported in both June and July. The headline jobless rate ticked up to 4.4%; the U-6 rate, which factors in the underemployed, held steady at 8.6%. Annualized wage growth remained stuck at 2.5%.1 POSITIVE NEWS FROM MAIN STREET Climbing once again, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index ascended 2.9 points to 122.9 in August. That topped the forecast of economists surveyed by MarketWatch, who anticipated a 122.5