MAIN STREET SUSTAINS ITS OPTIMISM America’s two most respected consumer confidence indices just improved. The University of Michigan’s final April household sentiment gauge rose a full point from its initial reading to 98.8 last week, and the Conference Board’s index came in at a great 128.7 for April – 1.7 points higher than its March mark.1   HOW FAST DID THE ECONOMY GROW IN Q1? According to the Department of Commerce, the annualized pace of growth was 2.3%. That beat the 2.0% consensus forecast from MarketWatch. The Federal Reserve believes the economy will expand 2.7% this year.1,2 SPRING BRINGS THE HOME

CONSUMERS BOUGHT MORE IN MARCH According to a report from the Department of Commerce, retail sales jumped 0.6% last month. That was the biggest monthly gain recorded since November (and the first monthly advance of 2018). Sales of cars and trucks were up 2.0%, making March the best month for that category since September.1  CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY INCREASES New Census Bureau data shows housing starts improved 1.9% in March; also, building permits rose 2.5%. In February, permits fell 4.1% and starts declined 3.3%.2     INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT RISES 0.5% This March gain reported by the Federal Reserve followed a (revised) 1.0% advance

CONSUMER SENTIMENT INDEX DESCENDS SLIGHTLY In its initial April edition, the University of Michigan’s survey of household sentiment saw its index decline to 97.8 from its final March reading of 101.4. The survey’s chief economist, Richard Curtin, believed that “uncertainty surrounding the evolving [U.S.] trade policy” affected the reading, but he added that “confidence still remains relatively high.”1   A SURPRISE RETREAT FOR THE HEADLINE CPI Economists polled by assumed the Consumer Price Index would rise 0.1% in March. Instead, it fell by that amount, largely due to a dip in gasoline costs. Core consumer inflation increased 0.2% and matched

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

HAS CONSUMER SPENDING MAINTAINED ITS PACE? A new Department of Commerce report states that consumer spending rose 0.2% in February as consumer incomes improved 0.4%. These numbers replicated January’s gains. Even so, the personal savings rate hit a 6-month peak of 3.4% in February, suggesting that spending may have leveled off in the first quarter. Newly revised data shows that the economy was very healthy in the fourth quarter. Real consumer spending (personal spending adjusted for inflation) increased 4.0% while Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.9% annual rate. (The previous Q4 GDP estimate was 2.5%.)1,2     STILL PLENTY OF