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Category: Research - Topic: Economics


Construction Spending decreased 0.8% in August
Posted: October 1, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Wednesday)

The U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce announced today that construction spending during August 2014 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $961.0 billion, 0.8 percent (±1.8%) below the revised July estimate of $968.8 billion. The August figure is 5.0 percent (±2.3%) above the August 2013 estimate of $915.3 billion. During the first 8 months of this year, construction spending amounted to $623.1 billion, 6.8 percent (±1.5%) above the $583.2 billion for the same period in 2013.

PRIVATE CONSTRUCTION
Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $685.0 billion, 0.8 percent (±1.0%) below the revised July estimate of $690.3 billion. Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $351.7 billion in August, 0.1 percent (±1.3%) below the revised July estimate of $352.1 billion. Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $333.3 billion in August, 1.4 percent (±1.0%) below the revised July estimate of $338.1 billion.

PUBLIC CONSTRUCTION
In August, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $275.9 billion, 0.9 percent (±2.8%) below the revised July estimate of $278.5 billion. Educational construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $62.3 billion, 2.9 percent (±4.4%) below the revised July estimate of $64.1 billion. Highway construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $83.3 billion, 0.6 percent (±6.3%) below the revised July estimate of $83.8 billion.


Help Wanted OnLine Labor Demand declined 137,200 in September
Posted: October 1, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Wednesday)

Online advertised vacancies declined 137,200 to 5,072,000 in September, according to The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine® (HWOL) Data Series released today. The August Supply/Demand rate stands at 1.84 unemployed for each advertised vacancy with a total of 4.4 million more unemployed workers than the number of advertised vacancies. The number of unemployed was 9.6 million in August.

“The September loss offsets most of August’s gain, resulting in only modest overall growth for 2014,” said Gad Levanon, Director of Macroeconomics and Labor Markets at The Conference Board. “Following a strong second quarter, the third quarter has ended basically flat.”

In September, the STEM-related occupations showed strength in Computer and Math (9,600), Architecture and Engineering (3,400), and Healthcare Practitioners (12,200), while other categories showed losses, including Office and Administrative (-40,600), Sales (-32,500), and Transportation (-22,900).


September Manufacturing ISM expanded at 56.6
Posted: October 1, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Wednesday)

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in September for the 16th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 64th consecutive month, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The September PMI® registered 56.6 percent, a decrease of 2.4 percentage points from August’s reading of 59 percent, indicating continued expansion in manufacturing. The New Orders Index registered 60 percent, a decrease of 6.7 percentage points from the 66.7 percent reading in August, indicating growth in new orders for the 16th consecutive month. The Production Index registered 64.6 percent, 0.1 percentage point above the August reading of 64.5 percent. The Employment Index grew for the 15th consecutive month, registering 54.6 percent, a decrease of 3.5 percentage points below the August reading of 58.1 percent. Inventories of raw materials registered 51.5 percent, a decrease of 0.5 percentage point from the August reading of 52 percent, indicating growth in inventories for the second consecutive month. Comments from the panel reflect a generally positive business outlook, while noting some labor shortages and continuing concern over geopolitical unrest.

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 15 are reporting growth in September in the following order: Wood Products; Primary Metals; Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Furniture & Related Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Printing & Related Support Activities; Computer & Electronic Products; Paper Products; Chemical Products; Transportation Equipment; Petroleum & Coal Products; and Textile Mills. The three industries reporting contraction in September are: Machinery; Plastics & Rubber Products; and Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components.


ADP National Employment Report increased by 213,000 in September
Posted: October 1, 2014 at 08:15 AM (Wednesday)

Private sector employment increased by 213,000 jobs from August to September according to the September ADP National Employment Report®. Broadly distributed to the public each month, free of charge, the ADP National Employment Report is produced by ADP®, a leading global provider of Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions, in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics. The report, which is derived from ADP’s actual payroll data, measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

Goods-producing employment rose by 58,000 jobs in September, up from 42,000 jobs gained in August. The construction industry added 20,000 jobs over the month, below last month’s gain of 23,000. Meanwhile, manufacturing added 35,000 jobs in September, the highest total in that sector since May 2010.

Service-providing employment rose by 155,000 jobs in September, down from 160,000 in August. The ADP National Employment Report indicates that professional/business services contributed 29,000 jobs in August, down from 37,000 in August. Expansion in trade/transportation/utilities grew by 38,000, up from August’s 30,000. The 5,000 new jobs added in financial activities was down slightly from last month’s number.

September’s jobs added number marks the sixth straight month of employment gains above 200,000. It’s a positive sign for the economy to see the 200,000-plus trend continue.

Job gains remain strong and steady. The pace of job growth has been remarkably similar for the past several years. Especially encouraging most recently is the increasingly broad base nature of those gains. Nearly all industries and companies of all sizes are adding consistently to payrolls.

Payrolls for businesses with 49 or fewer employees increased by 88,000 jobs in September. That’s up from 82,000 in August. Job growth was down significantly over the month for medium-sized firms. Employment among medium-sized companies with 50-499 employees rose by 48,000, down from 72,000 in August. Employment at large companies – those with 500 or more employees – increased by 77,000, up substantially from 48,000 the previous month. Companies with 500-999 employees added 5,000, up slightly from August’s 4,000.


Purchase Apps down, Refi's down in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Posted: October 1, 2014 at 07:00 AM (Wednesday)

Mortgage applications decreased 0.2 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending September 26, 2014.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 0.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 0.4 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 0.3 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index remained unchanged from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 1 percent compared with the previous week and was 11 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted conventional purchase index increased 1.3 percent to the highest level since July 2014.

The refinance share of mortgage activity remained unchanged at 56 percent of total applications from the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 7.6 percent of total applications.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 4.33 percent from 4.39 percent, with points decreasing to 0.31 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) decreased to 4.28 percent from 4.30 percent, with points decreasing to 0.15 from 0.22 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased to 4.07 percent from 4.08 percent, with points decreasing to 0.04 from 0.09 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 3.55 percent from 3.56 percent, with points remaining unchanged from 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 3.31 percent from 3.20 percent, with points increasing to 0.51 from 0.40 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.


Consumer Confidence declined in September to 86.0
Posted: September 30, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Tuesday)

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which had increased in August, declined in September. The Index now stands at 86.0 (1985=100), down from 93.4 in August. The Present Situation Index decreased to 89.4 from 93.9, while the Expectations Index dropped to 83.7 from 93.1 in August.

Consumer confidence retreated in September after four consecutive months of improvement. A less positive assessment of the current job market, most likely due to the recent softening in growth, was the sole reason for the decline in consumers’ assessment of present-day conditions. Looking ahead, consumers were less confident about the short-term outlook for the economy and labor market, and somewhat mixed regarding their future earnings potential. All told, consumers expect economic growth to ease in the months ahead.

Consumers assessed current conditions less favorably in September compared to a month ago. Their view of business conditions was virtually unchanged: those saying conditions are “good” fell minutely, from 23.5 to 23.4 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” held constant at 21.3 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the job market declined more appreciably, with the proportion stating jobs are “plentiful” falling from 17.6 percent to 15.1 percent. Those claiming jobs are “hard to get” was barely changed, at 30.1 percent versus 30.0 percent in August.

Consumers’ optimism about the short-term outlook declined considerably in September. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months fell from 20.8 percent to 18.6 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen rose from 9.9 percent to 12.0 percent. Consumers’ outlook for the labor market likewise took a downturn. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead fell from 17.8 percent to 15.2 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs rose from 15.2 percent to 17.8 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting growth in their incomes rose in September to 16.8 percent, compared to 15.5 percent in August. However, the proportion expecting a drop in income also rose—to 13.4 percent versus 11.6 percent a month ago.


Chicago Purchasing Managers Index decreased 3.8 points to 60.5 in September
Posted: September 30, 2014 at 09:45 AM (Tuesday)

The Chicago Business Barometer decreased 3.8 points to a still robust 60.5 in September, as Production and New Orders slowed while firms reported a record rise in stocks and a sharp increase in input prices.

With the latest fall, the Barometer ended Q3 at an average of 59.1, down from the weather boosted 63.7 rate seen in Q2, but still showing the US economy is growing at a healthy clip.

There was a surprisingly sharp increase in stocks with firms adding inventories of finished goods at the fastest pace since February 1973. Feedback suggested firms were preparing for robust sales forecasts and potential spikes in unplanned orders.

Despite September‘s fall, the Barometer stands above Q1‘s level and the 10-year average of 55.8, with respondents deeming activity levels as ”strong“ and “surging“, aided by ongoing demand, successful sales promotions and organic growth, all of which called for inventory builds.

The three ordering components fell back after strong readings in August. Production and New Orders, however, remained firm around 60, while Order Backlogs stood above 50 for the second consecutive month. A number of respondents reported that September’s slight slowing was expected to be temporary as businesses reported strong bookings through the end of October.

In contrast, Employment and Supplier Deliveries contributed positively to the Barometer, with the latter lengthening to the longest since April 2011.

There were tentative signs that demand pressures are starting to put some upward pressure on prices. In spite of the recent fall in oil prices, Prices Paid increased to the highest level since November 2012.

Commenting on the Chicago Report, Chief Economist of MNI Indicators said, ”Activity levels remained buoyant in September and point to continued firm economic growth. Moreoever, the record pace of stockbulilding suggests firms are increasingly confident that things will keep improving.“


S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices gained 0.6% in July
Posted: September 30, 2014 at 09:00 AM (Tuesday)

Data through July 2014, released today by S&P Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, show a significant slowdown in price increases. Nineteen of the 20 cities saw lower annual returns in July. Las Vegas, Miami and San Francisco were the only cities to report double-digit annual gains. Cleveland’s rate remained unchanged at +0.9% for the 12 months ending July 2014.

In July, the 10-City and 20-City Composites increased 0.6% and the National Index 0.5%. Although all cities but one gained on a monthly basis, 17 saw smaller increases in July as compared to last month. Although New York saw a lower gain this month, it was the only city where prices rose over one percent. San Francisco posted its largest decline of 0.4% since February 2012.

The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 5.6% annual gain in July 2014. The 10- and 20-City Composites posted year-over-year increases of 6.7%.

The broad-based deceleration in home prices continued in the most recent data. However, home prices continue to rise at two to three times the rate of inflation. The slower pace of home price appreciation is consistent with most of the other housing data on housing starts and home sales. The rise in August new home sales -- which are not covered by the S&P/Case-Shiller indices – is a welcome exception to recent trends.

The 10- and 20-City Composites gained 6.7% annually with prices nationally rising at a slower pace of 5.6%. Las Vegas, one of the most depressed housing markets in the recession, is still leading the cities with 12.8% year-over-year. Phoenix, the first city to see double-digit gains back in 2012, posted its lowest annual return of 5.7% since February 2012.

While the year-over-year figures are trending downward, home prices are still rising month-to-month although at a slower rate than what we are used to seeing over the past couple of years. The National Index rose 0.5%, its seventh consecutive increase. At the bottom was San Francisco with its first decline this year and the only city in the red. New York tended to underperform over the past few years but it was on top for the last two months.

As of July 2014, average home prices across the United States are back to their levels posted in the spring of 2005. The National Index was up 0.5% over June 2014 and 5.6% above July 2013.

As of July 2014, average home prices across the United States are back to their autumn 2004 levels. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks, the peak-to-current decline for both Composites is approximately 16-17%. The recovery from the March 2012 lows is 28.6% and 29.3% for the 10-City and 20-City Composites.

While all cities continue to continue to post year-over-year gains, not one managed to show improvement. San Francisco decelerated the most from an annual return of +13.2% last month to +10.3% in July. Cleveland remained steady at +0.9% year-over-year and continued to underperform the other MSAs by a wide margin.

San Francisco declined 0.4%, but the rest of the cities saw gains ranging from 0.1% to 1.1%. Miami was the only city to show improvement from +0.6% in June to +0.8% in July. Charlotte and Cleveland remained at 0.4% and 0.5%, respectively. Dallas and Denver continue to set new peaks while Detroit remains the only city below its January 2000 value.


Paychex-IHS Small Business Jobs Index decreased to 100.85 in September
Posted: September 30, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

While the Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index grew 0.13 percent in the past 12 months through September, the national index decreased to 100.85 with the pace of small business employment growth continuing to slow slightly. Coming off its April peak of 101.26, the index is still trending higher than any quarter prior to 2014, indicating consistent employment growth conditions persist. An increase in small business job growth drove the East South Central region into the lead among regions. Wisconsin continues to lead the state index, and Seattle claimed the top spot among metro areas.

Though still performing stronger than in 2013, the small business job market has cooled a bit in the second half of 2014. At 100.85, the Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index contracted again in September, remaining below the 101 level it exceeded from January through July. Year-over-year gains continue to trend positively, 0.13 percent, as the index is higher than at any time in the second half of 2013.

For the second consecutive month, the Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index is showing a mixed story for small businesses employment growth. While the growth rate has slowed in four of the past five months, the index continues to show positive year-over-year gains.

Year-over-year index growth remains positive, but declined 0.22 percent for the quarter; East South Central region takes over top index spot; Wisconsin maintains lead as the top ranked state; Seattle rises to the top among metro areas


ICSC Chain Store Sales decreased by 0.2% in Sept 27 Wk
Posted: September 30, 2014 at 07:45 AM (Tuesday)

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index increased 3.6% for the week ending September 27 - relative to the prior year. On a week-over-week basis, sales declined slightly by 0.2%.

"Weather generally was not favorable for seasonal demand, but business was brisk for a number of retail segments," said Michael Niemira, ICSC research consultant. "According to the ICSC-GS consumer tracking survey business was very strong for wholesale clubs, dollar stores, electronic stores, apparel stores and discounters - but weak at online only stores, grocery stores and office supply stores. Overall September sales should increase by a healthy 4-5%," he added.


Texas Manufacturing Activity increased again in September
Posted: September 29, 2014 at 10:30 AM (Monday)

Texas factory activity increased again in September, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, rose markedly from 6.8 to 17.6, indicating output grew at a faster pace than in August.

Other measures of current manufacturing activity also reflected significantly stronger growth in September. The new orders index climbed 5 points to 7.5. The capacity utilization index surged to 20.2 after dipping to 3.6 in August, with nearly a third of manufacturers noting an increase. The shipments index rebounded to 15.9 after falling to 6.4 last month.

Perceptions of broader business conditions were more optimistic this month. The general business activity index moved up to a reading of 10.8, nearly four points above its nonrecession average of 7. The company outlook index rose from 1.5 to 5.8, due to a larger share of firms noting an improved outlook in September than in August.

Labor market indicators reflected continued employment growth and longer workweeks. The September employment index posted a fourth robust reading, holding fairly steady at 10.6. Twenty-four percent of firms reported net hiring compared with 14 percent reporting net layoffs. The hours worked index rose to a five-month high of 9.5, indicating a stronger rise in hours worked than in recent months.

Upward pressure on prices eased slightly in September, while wage pressure increased. The raw materials price index fell seven points to a reading of 19.5. The finished goods price index also fell but to a lesser degree, edging down from 9.1 to 7. The wages and benefits index, however, ticked up for the second month in a row and came in at 26.2, its highest reading since before the Texas recession began in mid-2008.

Expectations regarding future business conditions remained optimistic in September. The index of future general business activity fell from 18.7 to 12.1, while the index of future company outlook rose from 30.1 to 32.3. Indexes for future manufacturing activity generally moved down in September but remained in solidly positive territory.

The Dallas Fed conducts the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey monthly to obtain a timely assessment of the state’s factory activity. Data were collected Sep. 16–24, and 105 Texas manufacturers responded to the survey. Firms are asked whether output, employment, orders, prices and other indicators increased, decreased or remained unchanged over the previous month.

Survey responses are used to calculate an index for each indicator. Each index is calculated by subtracting the percentage of respondents reporting a decrease from the percentage reporting an increase. When the share of firms reporting an increase exceeds the share reporting a decrease, the index will be greater than zero, suggesting the indicator has increased over the prior month. If the share of firms reporting a decrease exceeds the share reporting an increase, the index will be below zero, suggesting the indicator has decreased over the prior month. An index will be zero when the number of firms reporting an increase is equal to the number of firms reporting a decrease. Data have been seasonally adjusted as necessary.


Pending Home Sales Index declined 1.0% in August
Posted: September 29, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Monday)

Pending home sales slowed modestly in August but contract signings remain at their second-highest level over the past year, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All major regions experienced declines except for the West, which rose for the fourth consecutive month.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, fell 1.0 percent to 104.7 in August from 105.8 in July, and is now 2.2 percent below August 2013 (107.1). Despite the slight decline, the index is above 100 – considered an average level of contract activity – for the fourth consecutive month and is at the second-highest level since last August.

Contract signings are holding steady and fewer distressed sales and less investor activity is likely behind August’s modest decline. Fewer distressed homes at bargain prices and the acknowledgement we’re entering a rising interest rate environment likely caused hesitation among investors last month,” he said. “With investors pulling back, the market is shifting more towards traditional and first-time buyers who rely on mortgages to purchase a home.

According to NAR’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 81 percent of first-time buyers in 2013 who financed their purchase obtained a conventional or FHA loan. Overall, first-time homebuyers have been less prevalent from the housing recovery, representing less than a third of all buyers each month for the past two years.

First-time buyer participation should gradually improve despite tight credit conditions and the inevitable rise in rates. The employment outlook for young adults is brightening and their incomes finally appear to be rising. Jobs and income gains will help repay student debt and better position first-time buyers, setting the stage for improved sales growth in upcoming years.

The PHSI in the Northeast slipped 3.0 percent to 86.5 in August, but is still 1.6 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index fell 2.1 percent to 102.4 in August, and is 7.6 percent below August 2013.

Pending home sales in the South decreased 1.4 percent to an index of 117.0 in August, unchanged from a year ago. The index in the West rose for the fourth consecutive month (2.6 percent) in August to 102.1, but still remains 2.6 percent below August 2013.

Existing-home sales are expected to be stronger in the second half of the year behind improved inventory conditions, continuously low interest rates and slower price growth. Overall, Yun forecasts existing-homes sales to be down 3.0 percent this year to 4.94 million, compared to 5.09 million sales of existing homes in 2013. The national median existing-home price is projected to grow between 5 and 6 percent this year and 4 and 5 percent next year.


Personal Income increased 0.3%, Spending increased 0.5%
Posted: September 29, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Monday)

Personal income increased $47.3 billion, or 0.3 percent, and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $35.2 billion, or 0.3 percent, in August, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $57.5 billion, or 0.5 percent. In July, personal income increased $35.9 billion, or 0.2 percent, DPI increased $24.6 billion, or 0.2 percent, and PCE increased $0.5 billion, or less than 0.1 percent, based on revised estimates.

Real DPI increased 0.3 percent in August, compared with an increase of 0.1 percent in July. Real PCE increased 0.5 percent, in contrast to a decrease of 0.1 percent.


University of Michigan Consumer Confidence increased in September to 82.5
Posted: September 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Friday)

Consumer confidence posted a healthy September gain due to more favorable prospects for the domestic economy as well as more favorable personal income expectations. The September reading, the second highest in the last seven years, points toward renewed strength in consumer spending. While the September rebound brought confidence back to its highest levels since the Great Recession, confidence has repeatedly failed to move above this level. The improved income expectations recorded in September have the potential to reinvigorate personal financial optimism that is the key driving force of behind large discretionary expenditures, especially those involving debt. Needless to say, it will take repeated and cumulative gains to reverse the impact of stagnant incomes on spending.

Economy Expected to Improve
The recent survey recorded widespread reports that the economy had improved and the economy was expect to continue to post gains in the year ahead. The creation of jobs is the most important aspect of a strengthening economy for consumers. On this count, consumers expected modest growth in jobs in the year ahead. The unemployment rate, however, was expected the remain largely unchanged rather than to post substantial improvement.

Higher Income Gains Expected
More households expected income gains in the year ahead in the recent survey than anytime in the last six years—since September of 2008. Just as importantly, the median increase of 1.1% expected by all households was the highest since late 2008. While still meager, this improvement, along with a decline in the expected inflation rate, meant that more households expected their income gains to keep pace or exceed the rate of inflation.

The Consumer Sentiment Index was 84.6 in the September 2014 survey, up from 82.5 in August and 77.5 in last September’s survey. The entire September gain was concentrated in the Expectations Index, which rose to 75.4 from 71.3 one month ago and 67.8 one year ago. Although the Current Conditions Index slipped to 98.9 in September from 99.8 in August, the August reading was the highest since July of 2007.

The defining aspect of the current recovery has been that optimism about future prospects has not improved in advance of actual economic gains. Typically, optimism generates increased spending which helps to improve current economic conditions. Surprisingly, an improved economy has not sparked renewed optimism, at least until recently. The renewal of income growth is particularly important for sparking increased consumer spending in the year ahead. Moreover, given the anticipated changes in monetary policy, strong income gains will be needed to bolster spending given the diminished positive role of household wealth.


2Q2014 GDP final estimate increased 4.6%
Posted: September 26, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Friday)

Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 4.6 percent in the second quarter of 2014, according to the "third" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP decreased 2.1 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the "second" estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the increase in real GDP was 4.2 percent. With the third estimate for the second quarter, the general picture of economic growth remains the same; increases in nonresidential fixed investment and in exports were larger than previously estimated).

The increase in real GDP in the second quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), exports, private inventory investment, nonresidential fixed investment, state and local government spending, and residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

Real GDP increased 4.6 percent in the second quarter, after decreasing 2.1 percent in the first. This upturn in the percent change in real GDP primarily reflected upturns in exports and in private inventory investment, accelerations in nonresidential fixed investment and in PCE, and upturns in state and local government spending and in residential fixed investment that were partly offset by an acceleration in imports.


Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Activity edged higher in Sept
Posted: September 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM (Thursday)

Growth in Tenth District manufacturing activity edged higher in September, and producers’ expectations for future activity maintained the solid level of the previous survey. Price indexes showed a mild decline from the previous month, and expectations for future price growth were mixed. Several firms continued to comment about difficulties finding qualified labor, resulting in some wage pressures.

The month-over-month composite index was 6 in September, slightly higher than 3 in August but lower than 9 in July. The composite index is an average of the production, new orders, employment, supplier delivery time, and raw materials inventory indexes. The growth in manufacturing activity continued to occur primarily at durable goods-producing plants. Nondurable goods-producers experienced only a modest rise, with activity at some food processing plants continuing to decline in the face of higher beef prices. The production index increased from 4 to 12, and the shipment index also grew from a reading of 2 in August to 14. The employment index increased significantly from -4 in the last survey period to 7 in September. Most other month-over-month indexes eased compared to August’s readings. The new orders and backlog of orders indexes both declined modestly. The inventory indexes also both experienced moderate declines, with materials now at -6 and finished goods at -1.

Year-over-year factory indexes were mostly higher this survey period. The composite year-over-year index rose to 15, as compared to the previous survey reading of 13. The production index was moderately higher at 14, while capital expenditures and backlog of orders were also moderately higher. The volume of shipments index increased from 10 to 16 and the materials inventory increased from 15 to 18. The volume of new orders and number of employees were also slightly higher. Conversely, supplier delivery time and finished goods inventories indexes were lower at 12 and 8, respectively.

Most of the future factory indexes were mildly lower compared to August, although the future composite index maintained its level of 17 due to strong expectations for production. The future production and future volume of shipments indexes were both at their highest levels in 5 months. The future volume of new orders and future backlog of orders also increased slightly. In contrast, the future new orders for export index fell to 0 from a previous level of 9. Both future inventories indexes declined with future materials inventory declining the most, from 7 to 2.

The majority of price indexes experienced a decline this month. The month-over-month raw materials price index was steady at 20, while the finished goods price index decreased from 6 to 2. The year-over-year finished goods price index eased slightly once again, but the raw materials price index dropped from 55 to 45. The future raw materials price index also declined, yet the future finished goods price index saw its first increase in four months.


DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer slumped by 0.9%
Posted: September 25, 2014 at 10:06 AM (Thursday)

For the week ending September 13 2014, the DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer slumped by 0.9 percent to 98.4, wiping out the gain of 0.7 percent from last week. The biggest factor that contributed to the performance of this week’s barometer was chain store sales, which plummeted by a sharp 2.5 percent, after three consecutive weeks of positive growth. As to the production side, almost all indexes declined, especially auto production and electric output, which fell by 7.5 and 4.3 percent, respectively.

On a year-over-year basis, the barometer showed a gain of 0.9 percent, which compares to an average -3.3 percent decline over the Great Recession (ended in June 2009 according to the NBER). After flat lining in 2006, and declining from 2007 through 2009, the barometer bounced back in 2010 to rise by 3.4 percent, which was the strongest increase since 1994 (+4.0 percent), but not so impressive when compared to an -8.0 percent drop in 2009. The rate of increase for the 2013 slowed to 0.7 percent following 1.5 percent in 2012.

The smoothed version of the barometer, which attempts to account for weekly volatility, dipped slightly by 0.1 percent to 98.7. Its year-over-year growth rate was 1.2 percent.


Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Increase 12,000 to 293,000
Posted: September 25, 2014 at 08:37 AM (Thursday)

In the week ending September 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 293,000, an increase of 12,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 280,000 to 281,000. The 4-week moving average was 298,500, a decrease of 1,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 299,500 to 299,750. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.8 percent for the week ending September 13, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending September 13 was 2,439,000, an increase of 7,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 3,000 from 2,429,000 to 2,432,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,460,250, a decrease of 22,250 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since June 9, 2007 when it was 2,458,250. The previous week's average was revised up by 750 from 2,481,750 to 2,482,500.


New Orders for Durable Goods Decreased 18.2%, Ex-Trans Up 0.7%
Posted: September 25, 2014 at 08:32 AM (Thursday)

New orders for manufactured durable goods in August decreased $54.5 billion or 18.2 percent to $245.4 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today. This decrease, down following two consecutive monthly increases, followed a 22.5 percent July increase. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.7 percent. Excluding defense, new orders decreased 19.0 percent. Transportation equipment, also down following two consecutive monthly increases, drove the decrease, $55.6 billion or 42.0 percent to $76.8 billion.

Shipments of manufactured durable goods in August, down following two consecutive monthly increases, decreased $3.7 billion or 1.5 percent to $246.1 billion. This followed a 3.7 percent July increase. Transportation equipment, also down following two consecutive monthly increases, drove the decrease, $3.9 billion or 5.1 percent to $72.5 billion.

Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in August, up sixteen of the last seventeen months, increased $7.4 billion or 0.6 percent to $1,165.0 billion. This was at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis in 1992 and followed a 5.3 percent July increase. Transportation equipment, up eleven of the last twelve months, led the increase, $4.3 billion or 0.6 percent to $742.1 billion.

Inventories of manufactured durable goods in August, up sixteen of the last seventeen months, increased $1.7 billion or 0.4 percent to $403.0 billion. This was at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis and followed a 0.4 percent July increase. Transportation equipment, also up sixteen of the last seventeen months, led the increase, $0.6 billion or 0.4 percent to $129.9 billion.

Nondefense new orders for capital goods in August decreased $49.5 billion or 36.3 percent to $86.8 billion. Shipments increased $0.1 billion or 0.2 percent to $79.7 billion. Unfilled orders increased $7.1 billion or 1.0 percent to $731.8 billion. Inventories increased $0.6 billion or 0.3 percent to $184.1 billion. Defense new orders for capital goods in August increased $0.4 billion or 5.4 percent to $8.8 billion. Shipments increased $0.1 billion or 0.9 percent to $9.7 billion. Unfilled orders decreased $0.9 billion or 0.6 percent to $158.3 billion. Inventories increased $0.1 billion or 0.5 percent to $23.9 billion.

Revised seasonally adjusted July figures for all manufacturing industries were: new orders, $558.5 billion (revised from $558.3 billion); shipments, $508.4 billion (revised from $507.4 billion); unfilled orders, $1,157.6 billion (revised from $1,158.2 billion); and total inventories, $653.5 billion (revised from $653.8 billion).


New Home Sales in July at annual rate of 504,000
Posted: September 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Wednesday)

Sales of new single-family houses in August 2014 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 504,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 18.0 percent (±16.3%) above the revised July rate of 427,000 and is 33.0 percent (±21.7%) above the August 2013 estimate of 379,000.

The median sales price of new houses sold in August 2014 was $275,600; the average sales price was $347,900. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of August was 203,000. This represents a supply of 4.8 months at the current sales rate.


Purchase Apps down, Refi's down in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Posted: September 24, 2014 at 07:00 AM (Wednesday)

Mortgage applications decreased 4.1 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending September 19, 2014.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 4.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 5 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 7 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 0.3 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent compared with the previous week and was 16 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 56 percent of total applications from 57 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 8.0 percent of total applications.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) increased to 4.39 percent, the highest rate since May 2014, from 4.36 percent, with points increasing to 0.35 from 0.20 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) increased to 4.30 percent from 4.24 percent, with points increasing to 0.22 from 0.16 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA increased to 4.08 percent, the highest rate since May 2014, from 4.03 percent, with points increasing to 0.09 from 0.05 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages remained unchanged at 3.56 percent, with points increasing to 0.26 from 0.25 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate remained unchanged from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 3.20 percent from 3.19 percent, with points increasing to 0.40 from 0.29 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.


Richmond Fed's Current Activity Index up to a reading of 14
Posted: September 23, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Tuesday)

Fifth District manufacturing activity continued to grow at a moderate pace in September, according to the most recent survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Shipments and the volume of new orders picked up this month. Manufacturing employment also strengthened this month, while average wages rose at a slower pace and the average workweek lengthened.

Manufacturers remained optimistic about future business conditions. Survey participants expected faster growth in shipments and in the volume of new orders in the six months ahead. Producers looked for increased capacity utilization and anticipated rising backlogs. Expectations were for longer vendor lead times.

Survey participants anticipated steady growth in the number of employees and the average workweek during the next six months. Additionally, they expected faster growth in wages.

Prices of raw materials and finished goods rose at faster pace in September compared to last month. For the six months ahead, manufacturers expected slower growth in prices paid, and anticipated faster growth in prices received.

Overall, manufacturing conditions strengthened in September. The composite index for manufacturing moved to a reading of 14 following last month's reading of 12. The index for shipments edged up one point, ending at 11, while the index for new orders also gained one point, finishing at a reading of 14. Manufacturing employment strengthened this month. At an index of 17, the September indicator gained six points from last month’s reading of 11.

Backlogs rose at a slower pace this month; the index settled at a reading of 6. Additionally, capacity utilization grew at a slower pace, moving the index down four points ending at 13. Vendor lead time shortened, moving the index to 10 from a reading of 16 last month. Finished goods inventories rose at a faster pace compared to a month ago. The index gained seven points, ending at 23. Raw materials inventories increased at a faster rate compared to last month. That gauge moved to 20 from 17.


ICSC Chain Store Sales increased by 0.1% in Sept 20 Wk
Posted: September 23, 2014 at 07:45 AM (Tuesday)

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index increased 4.1% for the week ending September 20 - relative to the prior year. On a week-over-week basis, sales increased 0.1%.

"According to the ICSC-GS consumer tracking survey business over the past week was strong for apparel stores, dollar stores, wholesale clubs and discounters. Business was also strong at electronic stores - possibly buoyed by the release of Apple's iPhone 6," said Michael Niemira, ICSC research consultant. "September is a high-volume month and I expect sales to continue to show a healthy trend - increasing by 4-5%," he added.


Existing-Home Sales decreased 1.8% in August
Posted: September 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Monday)

After four consecutive months of gains, existing-home sales slipped in August as investors paying in cash retreated from the market, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Sales increases in the Northeast and Midwest were outweighed by declines in the South and West.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, decreased 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million in August from a slight downwardly-revised 5.14 million in July. Sales are at the second-highest pace of 2014, but remain 5.3 percent below the 5.33 million-unit level from last August, which was also the second-highest sales level of 2013.

Sales activity remains stronger than earlier in the year, but fell last month as investors stepped away. There was a marked decline in all-cash sales from investors,” he said. "On the positive side, first-time buyers have a better chance of purchasing a home now that bidding wars are receding and supply constraints have significantly eased in many parts of the country.

As long as solid job growth continues, wages should eventually pick up to steadily improve purchasing power and help fully release the pent-up demand for buying.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in August was $219,800, which is 4.8 percent above August 2013. This marks the 30th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of August declined 1.7 percent to 2.31 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.5-month supply at the current sales pace. However, unsold inventory is 4.5 percent higher than a year ago, when there were 2.21 million existing homes available for sale.

All-cash sales were 23 percent of transactions in August, dropping for the second consecutive month (29 percent in July) and representing the lowest overall share since December 2009 (22 percent). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 12 percent of homes in August, down from 16 percent last month and 17 percent in August 2013. Sixty-four percent of investors paid cash in August.

A gradual decline in investor activity, many who pay in cash, is good for the market and creates more opportunity for buyers who rely on financing to purchase a home.

On the subject of mortgage financing Realtors® applaud the recent policy change to eliminate post-payment interest charges on FHA-insured single-family mortgages. The prepayment penalty placed an unfair and unreasonable burden on consumers who already face high housing and closing costs.

The percent share of first-time buyers remained unchanged in August from July at 29 percent. First-time buyers have represented less than 30 percent of all buyers in 16 of the past 17 months.

Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales – represented 8 percent of August sales, remaining in the single-digits for the second straight month and down from 12 percent a year ago. Six percent of August sales were foreclosures and 2 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 14 percent below market value in August (20 percent in July), while short sales were discounted 10 percent (14 percent in July).

Properties typically stayed on the market in August longer (53 days) than last month (48 days) and a year ago (43 days). Short sales were on the market for a median of 135 days in August, while foreclosures sold in 53 days and non-distressed homes typically took 52 days. Forty percent of homes sold in August were on the market for less than a month.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell for the fourth consecutive month to 4.12 percent in August from 4.13 percent in July, and remains at the lowest rate since June 2013 (4.07 percent).

Single-family home sales slipped 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.46 million in August from 4.54 million in July, and are now 4.9 percent below the 4.69 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $220,600 in August, up 5.2 percent from August 2013.

Existing condominium and co-op sales declined 1.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 590,000 units in August from 600,000 in July, and are now 7.8 percent below the 640,000 unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price was $213,900 in August, which is 2.1 percent higher than a year ago.


Chicago Fed National Activity decelerated in August
Posted: September 22, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Monday)

Led by declines in production-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) decreased to –0.21 in August from +0.26 in July. Two of the four broad categories of indicators that make up the index decreased from July, and two of the four categories made negative contributions to the index in August.

The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, decreased to +0.07 in August from +0.20 in July, marking its sixth consecutive reading above zero. August’s CFNAI-MA3 suggests that growth in national economic activity was somewhat above its historical trend. The economic growth reflected in this level of the CFNAI-MA3 suggests limited inflationary pressure from economic activity over the coming year.

The CFNAI Diffusion Index, which is also a three-month moving average, decreased to +0.14 in August from +0.23 in July. Forty-five of the 85 individual indicators made positive contributions to the CFNAI in August, while 40 made negative contributions. Forty-two indicators improved from July to August, while 43 indicators deteriorated. Of the indicators that improved, 12 made negative contributions.

Production-related indicators made a contribution of –0.17 to the CFNAI in August, down from +0.24 in July. Manufacturing production decreased 0.4 percent in August after rising 0.7 percent in July, and manufacturing capacity utilization declined to 77.2 percent in August from 77.6 percent in the previous month.

Employment-related indicators made a neutral contribution to the CFNAI in August, down from +0.10 in July. The unemployment rate decreased to 6.1 percent in August from 6.2 percent in July, while nonfarm payrolls increased by 142,000 in August after rising by 212,000 in the previous month.

The contribution of the sales, orders, and inventories category to the CFNAI edged up to +0.08 in August from +0.04 in July. The Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ New Orders Index rose to 66.7 in August from 63.4 in July, reaching its highest level since April 2004.

The contribution of the consumption and housing category to the CFNAI ticked up to –0.12 in August from –0.13 in July. Consumption indicators, on balance, improved, pushing the category’s contribution higher. However, housing starts declined to 956,000 annualized units in August from 1,117,000 in July, and housing permits decreased to 998,000 annualized units in August from 1,057,000 in the previous month.

The CFNAI was constructed using data available as of September 18, 2014. At that time, August data for 51 of the 85 indicators had been published. For all missing data, estimates were used in constructing the index. The July monthly index was revised to +0.26 from an initial estimate of +0.39. Revisions to the monthly index can be attributed to two main factors: revisions in previously published data and differences between the estimates of previously unavailable data and subsequently published data. The revision to the July monthly index was due primarily to the latter.


U.S. Leading Economic Index increased 0.2%
Posted: September 19, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Friday)

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. increased 0.2 percent in August to 103.8 (2004 = 100), following a 1.1 percent increase in July, and a 0.7 percent increase in June.

The LEI continued to rise in August, although at a slower rate than in July. The LEI’s six-month growth trend has been held back slightly by lackluster contributions from housing permits and new orders for nondefense capital orders. Despite concerns about investment picking up, the economy should continue expanding at a moderate pace for the remainder of the year.

The leading indicators point to an economy that is continuing to gain traction, but most likely won’t repeat its stellar second quarter performance in the second half. Meanwhile, the CEI, a measure of current economic activity, continued to expand through August, amid improving personal income, employment and retail sales. However, industrial production registered a slight decrease for the first time in seven months.

The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index® (CEI) for the U.S. increased 0.2 percent in August to 109.7 (2004 = 100), following a 0.1 percent increase in July, and a 0.3 percent increase in June.

The Conference Board Lagging Economic Index® (LAG) for the U.S. increased 0.3 percent in August to 125.1 (2004 = 100), following a 0.3 percent increase in July, and a 0.4 percent increase in June.


Philadelphia August Outlook Suggests continued expansion
Posted: September 18, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

Firms responding to the Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey indicated continued growth in the region’s manufacturing sector in September. Although the current activity index fell from its relatively high reading in August, the other broad indicators increased from their readings last month. The survey’s indicators for future manufacturing conditions reflect general optimism about growth in activity and employment over the next six months.

Indicators Reflect Continuing Growth
The diffusion index for current activity fell from a reading of 28.0, its highest reading since March 2011, to 22.5 this month. The current new orders and shipments indexes edged higher this month, however, increasing 1 point and 5 points, respectively. Indexes for both unfilled orders and delivery times were positive this month, suggesting continued strengthening conditions.

The survey’s indicators for labor market conditions suggest notable improvement this month. The employment index increased 12 points to its highest reading since May 2011. The percentage of firms reporting increases in employment (26 percent) exceeded the percentage reporting decreases (5 percent). The workweek index was positive for the seventh consecutive month but fell nearly 9 points.

Price Indexes Increase Moderately
Over 31 percent of the firms reported higher input prices this month, just slightly higher than the level reported last month. The prices paid index increased 2 points. The prices received index, which reflects firms’ own final goods prices, also edged slightly higher, from 4.2 to 8.8. The percent of firms reporting higher prices (13 percent) exceeded the percentage reporting lower prices (4 percent), although nearly 80 percent of the firms reported steady prices.

Firms Expect Increases in Employment
Most of the survey’s indicators of future growth declined from their 22-year high readings reached last month. The future general activity index decreased 10 points. The future indexes for new orders and shipments also decreased this month, declining 7 and 9 points, respectively. Firms raised their expectations about employment growth over the next six months. Nearly 44 percent of the firms are expecting growth in their employment levels over the next six months, compared with 37 percent last month. The future employment index increased sharply, from 24.7 to 39.6, its highest reading since September 1983.

In Special Questions, firms were asked to estimate their total production growth for the third quarter ending this month along with expected growth for the fourth quarter. Firms anticipating increases in third quarter production (59 percent) exceeded those anticipating decreases (29 percent). Firms expect average production growth of 2 percent in the third quarter. With regard to the fourth quarter, the percentage of firms forecasting acceleration in the rate of their production growth (54 percent) was greater than the percentage forecasting deceleration in growth (21 percent).

The September Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey suggests continued expansion of the region’s manufacturing sector. Firms reported continued increases in overall activity, new orders, shipments, and employment this month. The survey’s future activity indexes remained at high readings, suggesting continued optimism about manufacturing growth. Firms were more optimistic about employment increases over the next six months.


DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer rose by 0.7%
Posted: September 18, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

For the week ending September 6 2014, the DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer rose by 0.7 percent to 99.3 from last week, reaching the second highest level since the Great Recession (the highest peak was in July 5 this year). This week’s barometer is driven by both consumption and production indexes. Chain store sales jumped 0.8 percent after being flat the prior week. As to the production side, auto production bounced back by 10.8 percent following an 8.6 percent drop last week; and electric out continued with its strong momentum.

On a year-over-year basis, the barometer showed a gain of 1.6 percent, which compares to an average -3.3 percent decline over the Great Recession (ended in June 2009 according to the NBER). After flat lining in 2006, and declining from 2007 through 2009, the barometer bounced back in 2010 to rise by 3.4 percent, which was the strongest increase since 1994 (+4.0 percent), but not so impressive when compared to an -8.0 percent drop in 2009. The rate of increase for the 2013 slowed to 0.7 percent following 1.5 percent in 2012.

The smoothed version of the barometer, which attempts to account for weekly volatility, climbed by 0.2 percent to 98.9. Its year-over-year growth rate was 1.4 percent.


Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Decrease 36,000 to 280,000
Posted: September 18, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

In the week ending September 13, the a dvance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 280,000, a decrease of 36,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 315,000 to 316,000. The 4-week moving average was 299,500, a decrease of 4 ,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 304,000 to 304,250. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.8 percent for the week ending September 6, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending September 6 was 2,429,000, a decrease of 63,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for insured unemployment since May 19, 2007 when it was 2,417,000. The previous week's level was revised up 5,000 from 2,487,000 to 2,492,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,481,750, a decrease of 18,250 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since June 23, 2007 when it was 2,477,250. The previous week's average was revised up by 1,250 from 2,498,750 to 2,500,000.


August Housing Starts down 14.4%, Permits down 5.6%
Posted: September 18, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

BUILDING PERMITS
Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 998,000. This is 5.6 percent (±1.4%) below the revised July rate of 1,057,000, but is 5.3 percent (±1.7%) above the August 2013 estimate of 948,000. Single-family authorizations in August were at a rate of 626,000; this is 0.8 percent (±1.5%)* below the revised July figure of 631,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 343,000 in August.

HOUSING STARTS
Privately-owned housing starts in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 956,000. This is 14.4 percent (±7.9%) below the revised July estimate of 1,117,000, but is 8.0 percent (±11.2%)* above the August 2013 rate of 885,000. Single-family housing starts in August were at a rate of 643,000; this is 2.4 percent (±9.7%)* below the revised July figure of 659,000. The August rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 304,000.

HOUSING COMPLETIONS
Privately-owned housing completions in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 892,000. This is 3.2 percent (±13.0%)* above the revised July estimate of 864,000 and is 16.9 percent (±14.7%) above the August 2013 rate of 763,000. Single-family housing completions in August were at a rate of 591,000; this is 8.2 percent (±9.7%)* below the revised July rate of 644,000. The August rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 292,000.


Federal Open Market Committee Press Conference
Posted: September 17, 2014 at 02:30 PM (Wednesday)


FOMC target funds rate still 0 - 1/4%, QE now $15 bil
Posted: September 17, 2014 at 02:00 PM (Wednesday)

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in July suggests that economic activity is expanding at a moderate pace. On balance, labor market conditions improved somewhat further; however, the unemployment rate is little changed and a range of labor market indicators suggests that there remains significant underutilization of labor resources. Household spending appears to be rising moderately and business fixed investment is advancing, while the recovery in the housing sector remains slow. Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth, although the extent of restraint is diminishing. Inflation has been running below the Committee's longer-run objective. Longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace, with labor market indicators and inflation moving toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee sees the risks to the outlook for economic activity and the labor market as nearly balanced and judges that the likelihood of inflation running persistently below 2 percent has diminished somewhat since early this year.

The Committee currently judges that there is sufficient underlying strength in the broader economy to support ongoing improvement in labor market conditions. In light of the cumulative progress toward maximum employment and the improvement in the outlook for labor market conditions since the inception of the current asset purchase program, the Committee decided to make a further measured reduction in the pace of its asset purchases. Beginning in October, the Committee will add to its holdings of agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $5 billion per month rather than $10 billion per month, and will add to its holdings of longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $10 billion per month rather than $15 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. The Committee's sizable and still-increasing holdings of longer-term securities should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative, which in turn should promote a stronger economic recovery and help to ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with the Committee's dual mandate.

The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months and will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability. If incoming information broadly supports the Committee's expectation of ongoing improvement in labor market conditions and inflation moving back toward its longer-run objective, the Committee will end its current program of asset purchases at its next meeting. However, asset purchases are not on a preset course, and the Committee's decisions about their pace will remain contingent on the Committee's outlook for the labor market and inflation as well as its assessment of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee today reaffirmed its view that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy remains appropriate. In determining how long to maintain the current 0 to 1/4 percent target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess progress--both realized and expected--toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments. The Committee continues to anticipate, based on its assessment of these factors, that it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends, especially if projected inflation continues to run below the Committee's 2 percent longer-run goal, and provided that longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored.

When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent. The Committee currently anticipates that, even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels, economic conditions may, for some time, warrant keeping the target federal funds rate below levels the Committee views as normal in the longer run.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Janet L. Yellen, Chair; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Lael Brainard; Stanley Fischer; Narayana Kocherlakota; Loretta J. Mester; Jerome H. Powell; and Daniel K. Tarullo. Voting against the action were Richard W. Fisher and Charles I. Plosser. President Fisher believed that the continued strengthening of the real economy, improved outlook for labor utilization and for general price stability, and continued signs of financial market excess, will likely warrant an earlier reduction in monetary accommodation than is suggested by the Committee's stated forward guidance. President Plosser objected to the guidance indicating that it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate for "a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends," because such language is time dependent and does not reflect the considerable economic progress that has been made toward the Committee's goals.


Builder Confidence rises 4 points in August to 59
Posted: September 17, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Wednesday)

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes rose for a fourth consecutive month in September to a level of 59 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released today. This latest four-point gain brings the index to its highest reading since November of 2005.

Since early summer, builders in many markets across the nation have been reporting that buyer interest and traffic have picked up, which is a positive sign that the housing market is moving in the right direction.

While a firming job market is helping to unleash pent-up demand for new homes and contributing to a gradual, upward trend in builder confidence, we are still not seeing much activity from first-time home buyers. Other factors impeding the pace of the housing recovery include persistently tight credit conditions for consumers and rising costs for materials, lots and labor.

All three HMI components posted gains in September. The indices gauging current sales conditions and traffic of prospective buyers each rose five points to 63 and 47, respectively. The index gauging expectations for future sales increased two points to 67.

Builder confidence also rose across every region of the country in September. Looking at the three-month moving average for each region, the Midwest registered a five-point gain to 59, the South posted a four-point increase to 56, the Northeast recorded a three-point gain to 41 and the West posted a two-point increase to 58.


2Q2014 Current Account Deficit Decreased
Posted: September 17, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Wednesday)

The U.S. current-account deficit—a net measure of transactions between the United States and the rest of the world in goods, services, primary income (investment income and compensation), and secondary income (current transfers)—decreased to $98.5 billion (preliminary) in the second quarter of 2014 from $102.1 billion (revised) in the first quarter. The deficit decreased to 2.3 percent of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) from 2.4 percent in the first quarter. The decrease in the current-account deficit was largely due to a decrease in the deficit on secondary income. In addition, the surpluses on services and primary income increased. These changes were partly offset by an increase in the deficit on goods.


Consumer Price Index decreased 0.2% in August, Ex Fd & Engy was unch%
Posted: September 17, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Wednesday)

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) decreased 0.2 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 1.7 percent before seasonal adjustment.

The seasonally adjusted decline in the all items index was the first since April 2013. The indexes for food and shelter rose, but the increases were more than offset by declines in energy indexes, especially gasoline. The energy index fell 2.6 percent, with the gasoline index declining 4.1 percent and the indexes for natural gas and fuel oil also decreasing.

The index for all items less food and energy was unchanged in August; this was the first month since October 2010 that the index did not increase. While the shelter index increased and the indexes for new vehicles and for alcoholic beverages also rose, these advances were offset by declines in several indexes, including airline fares, recreation, household furnishings and operations, apparel, and used cars and trucks.

The all items index increased 1.7 percent over the last 12 months, a decline from the 2.0 percent figure for the 12 months ending July, and the smallest 12-month change since March. The index for all items less food and energy also rose 1.7 percent over the last 12 months. The food index has risen 2.7 percent over the span, while the energy index has increased 0.4 percent.


Real Average Hourly Earnings increased by 0.4% in August
Posted: September 17, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Wednesday)

Real average hourly earnings for all employees increased by 0.4 percent from July to August, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This increase stems from a 0.2 percent increase in the average hourly earnings and a 0.2 percent decrease in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). The change in real average hourly earnings is the largest 1-month percentage increase since November 2012.

Real average weekly earnings increased by 0.4 percent over the month due to the increase in real average hourly earnings and an unchanged average workweek.

Real average hourly earnings increased 0.4 percent, seasonally adjusted, from August 2013 to August 2014. The increase in real average hourly earnings, combined with an unchanged average workweek, resulted in a 0.4 percent increase in real average weekly earnings over this period.


Purchase Apps up, Refi's up in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Posted: September 17, 2014 at 07:00 AM (Wednesday)

Mortgage applications increased 7.9 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending September 12, 2014. The previous week’s results included an adjustment for the Labor Day holiday.


The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 7.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 19 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 10 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 5 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 14 percent compared with the previous week and was 10 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

“Application volume rebounded coming out of the Labor Day holiday, even as rates increased to their highest level in the last few months,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Chief Economist. “Given the volatility in activity around the long weekend, it can be helpful to look at the change over a two week span: refinance applications are down 1.4 percent while purchase applications are up 2.1 percent. Purchase volume continues to track almost ten percent behind last year’s levels.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 57 percent of total applications, the highest level since February 2014, from 55 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 7.6 percent of total applications.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) increased to 4.36 percent, the highest level since June 2014, from 4.27 percent, with points decreasing to 0.20 from 0.25 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) increased to 4.24 percent from 4.15 percent, with points decreasing to 0.16 from 0.23 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA increased to 4.03 percent from 3.97 percent, with points decreasing to 0.05 from 0.08 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 3.56 percent from 3.44 percent, with points decreasing to 0.25 from 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 3.19 percent from 3.12 percent, with points decreasing to 0.29 from 0.45 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.


Treasury International Capital Data for July 2014
Posted: September 16, 2014 at 04:00 PM (Tuesday)

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today released Treasury International Capital (TIC) data for July 2014. The sum total in July of all net foreign acquisitions of long-term securities, short-term U.S. securities, and banking flows was a monthly net TIC inflow of $57.7 billion. Of this, net foreign private inflows were $84.9 billion, and net foreign official outflows were $27.1 billion.

Foreign residents decreased their holdings of long-term U.S. securities in July; net sales were $3.9 billion. Net purchases by private foreign investors were $1.9 billion, while net sales by foreign official institutions were $5.8 billion. U.S. residents increased their holdings of long-term foreign securities, with net purchases of $14.7 billion.

Taking into account transactions in both foreign and U.S. securities, net foreign sales of long-term securities were $18.6 billion. After including adjustments, such as estimates of unrecorded principal payments to foreigners on U.S. asset-backed securities, overall net foreign sales of long-term securities are estimated to have been $48.3 billion in July.

Foreign residents decreased their holdings of U.S. Treasury bills by $6.8 billion. Foreign resident holdings of all dollar-denominated short-term U.S. securities and other custody liabilities decreased by $6.0 billion. Banks' own net dollar-denominated liabilities to foreign residents increased by $112.0 billion.


Producer Price Index was unch% in August, ex Fd & Engy unch%
Posted: September 16, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

The Producer Price Index for final demand was unchanged in August, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Final demand prices advanced 0.1 percent in July and 0.4 percent in June. On an unadjusted basis, the index for final demand increased 1.8 percent for the 12 months ended in August.

In August, a 0.3-percent rise in prices for final demand services offset a 0.3-percent decrease in the index for final demand goods.

Within intermediate demand, prices for processed goods fell 0.3 percent, the index for unprocessed goods declined 3.3 percent, and prices for services moved up 0.2 percent.


ICSC Chain Store Sales dropped by 2.6% in Sept 13 Wk
Posted: September 16, 2014 at 07:45 AM (Tuesday)

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index increased 3.0% for the week ending September 13 - relative to the prior year. On a week-over-week basis, sales dropped 2.6%.

"According to the ICSC-GS consumer tracking survey business over the past week was healthy overall and strong for wholesale clubs, dollar, discount, electronics, and furniture stores," said Michael Niemira, ICSC research consultant. "This past week saw the tail end of back to school demand and is still a bit before fall apparel demand will fully kick in. With both back to school and fall apparel mixing in throughout the month, I expect sales to continue to show a healthy trend - increasing by 4-5%," he added.


Industrial Production edged down 0.1%
Capacity Utilization decreased 0.3% to 78.8%

Posted: September 15, 2014 at 09:15 AM (Monday)

The index of industrial production edged down 0.1 percent in August, and the index for manufacturing output decreased 0.4 percent; the declines were the first for each since January. The gains in July for both indexes were revised down. The declines in total industrial production and in manufacturing output in August reflected a decrease of 7.6 percent in the production of motor vehicles and parts, which had jumped more than 9 percent in July. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, factory output rose 0.1 percent in both July and August. The production at mines moved up 0.5 percent in August, and the output of utilities rose 1.0 percent. At 104.1 percent of its 2007 average, total industrial production in August was 4.1 percent above its year-earlier level. Capacity utilization for total industry decreased 0.3 percentage point in August to 78.8 percent, a rate 1.0 percentage point above its level of a year earlier and 1.3 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2013) average.


Empire State Manufacturing Survey Conditions expanded at a robust pace
Posted: September 15, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Monday)

The September 2014 Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicates that business activity expanded at a robust pace for New York manufacturers. The headline general business conditions index rose thirteen points to 27.5, a multiyear high. The new orders index moved up three points to 16.9, and the shipments index advanced two points to 27.1. The unfilled orders index fell three points to -10.9. The prices paid index declined three points to 23.9, indicating a slower pace of input price increases, while the prices received index climbed nine points to 17.4, suggesting a pickup in the pace of selling price increases. Employment indexes showed a slight increase in employment levels and hours worked. Indexes for the six-month outlook conveyed a high degree of optimism about future business conditions.

Business Activity Expands Robustly
Growth in business activity for New York manufacturers was solid, according to the September 2014 survey. The general business conditions index climbed thirteen points to 27.5, its highest level since late 2009. Forty-six percent of respondents reported that conditions had improved over the month, while 18 percent reported that conditions had worsened. The new orders index rose three points to 16.9, indicating a sturdy increase in orders, and the shipments index advanced two points to 27.1, pointing to a substantial increase in shipments. The unfilled orders index dropped three points to -10.9, suggesting that fewer orders remained unfilled over the month. The delivery time index was little changed at -5.4, and the inventories index, up seven points to -7.6, showed a decline in inventory levels for a third consecutive month.

Selling Prices Rise More Sharply
The prices paid index was slightly lower this month, falling three points to 23.9—a sign that input price increases were somewhat less widespread. The prices received index, however, jumped nine points to 17.4, indicating a pickup in the pace of selling price increases. Employment indexes pointed to a small increase in employment levels and hours worked: the index for number of employees fell ten points to 3.3, and the average workweek index dropped five points to 3.3.

Outlook Remains Bright
Optimism about future business conditions remained high. The index for future general business conditions was unchanged from last month at 46.7. The future new orders index fell five points to 45.6, and the future shipments index declined seven points to 47.5. Though both of these indexes were somewhat below their August levels, they remained high by historical standards. The index for expected number of employees dipped to 14.1, and the future average workweek index was 5.4. The capital expenditures index fell five points to 13.0, and the technology spending index edged down three points to 9.8.


Business Inventories up 0.4% in July
Posted: September 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Friday)

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that the combined value of distributive trade sales and manufacturers’ shipments for July, adjusted for seasonal and trading-day differences but not for price changes, was estimated at $1,360.3 billion, up 0.8 percent (±0.2%) from June 2014 and were up 5.3 percent (±0.6%) from July 2013.

Manufacturers’ and trade inventories, adjusted for seasonal variations but not for price changes, were estimated at an end-of-month level of $1,750.1 billion, up 0.4 percent (±0.1%) from June 2014 and up 5.9 percent (±0.4%) from July 2013.

The total business inventories/sales ratio based on seasonally adjusted data at the end of July was 1.29. The July 2013 ratio was 1.28.


U.S. Import Price Index declined 0.9% in August
Posted: September 12, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Friday)

Prices for U.S. imports decreased 0.9 percent in August following a 0.3-percent decline in July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Both the August and July drops in overall import prices were driven by lower fuel prices. U.S. export prices declined 0.5 percent in August, after ticking up 0.1 percent the previous month.


U.S. Retail Sales for August increase 0.6%, Ex-Auto up 0.3%
Posted: September 12, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Friday)

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for August, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $444.4 billion, an increase of 0.6 percent (±0.5%) from the previous month, and 5.0 percent (±0.9%) above August 2013. Total sales for the June through August 2014 period were up 4.5 percent (±0.7%) from the same period a year ago. The June to July 2014 percent change was revised from virtually unchanged (±0.5%)* to 0.3 percent (±0.2%).

Retail trade sales were up 0.6 percent (±0.5%) from July 2014, and 4.8 percent (±0.7%) above last year. Auto and other motor vehicle dealers were up 9.5 percent (±3.0%) from August 2013 and health and personal care stores were up 8.1 percent (±1.9%) from last year.


DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer unch%
Posted: September 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

For the week ending August 30 2014, the DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer remained at the same level, 98.6, from the prior week as minor gains in most indexes were entirely cancelled out by sharp drops in others. On one side, electric output and lumber production rose by 1.7 and 1.8 percent, respectively, in line with other minor gains in truck and steel production. However, on the other side, auto production plummeted by 8.4 percent this week as well as MBA’s purchase index and coal production, which declined by around 1.0 percent.

On a year-over-year basis, the barometer showed a gain of 1.1 percent, which compares to an average -3.3 percent decline over the Great Recession (ended in June 2009 according to the NBER). After flat lining in 2006, and declining from 2007 through 2009, the barometer bounced back in 2010 to rise by 3.4 percent, which was the strongest increase since 1994 (+4.0 percent), but not so impressive when compared to an -8.0 percent drop in 2009. The rate of increase for the 2013 slowed to 0.7 percent following 1.5 percent in 2012.

The smoothed version of the barometer, which attempts to account for weekly volatility, surged 0.1 percent to 98.6. Its year-over-year growth rate remained at 1.1 percent.


Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Increase 11,000 to 315,000
Posted: September 11, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

In the week ending September 6, the ad vance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 315,000, an increase of 11,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 2,000 from 302,000 to 304,000. The 4-week moving average was 304,000, an increase of 750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 302,750 to 303,250. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.9 percent for the week ending August 30, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending August 30 was 2,487,000, an increase of 9,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 14,000 from 2,464,000 to 2,478,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,498,750, a decrease of 15,500 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since June 30, 2007 when it was 2,489,500. The previous week's average was revised up by 3,500 from 2,510,750 to 2,514,250.


Wholesale Inventories up 0.1% in July
Posted: September 10, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Wednesday)

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that July 2014 sales of merchant wholesalers, except manufacturers’ sales branches and offices, after adjustment for seasonal variations and trading-day differences but not for price changes, were $458.6 billion, up 0.7 percent (+/-0.5) from the revised June level and were up 7.5 percent (+/-1.8%) from the July 2013 level. The June preliminary estimate was revised upward $0.7 billion or 0.2 percent. July sales of durable goods were up 0.4 percent (+/-0.9%)* from last month and were up 8.0 percent (+/-1.4%) from a year ago. Sales of metals and minerals, except petroleum were up 4.5 percent from last month. Sales of nondurable goods were up 1.0 percent (+/-0.7%) from June and were up 7.2 percent (+/-2.8%) from last July. Sales of grocery and related products were up 2.9 percent from last month and sales of petroleum and petroleum products were up 2.6 percent.

Total inventories of merchant wholesalers, except manufacturers’ sales branches and offices, after adjustment for seasonal variations but not for price changes, were $533.8 billion at the end of July, up 0.1 percent (+/-0.4%)* from the revised June level and were up 7.9 percent (+/-0.7%) from the July 2013 level. The June preliminary estimate was revised downward $0.5 billion or 0.1 percent. July inventories of durable goods were up 0.3 percent (+/-0.2%) from last month and were up 8.4 percent (+/-1.2%) from a year ago. Inventories of hardware and plumbing and heating equipment and supplies were up 1.8 percent from last month, while inventories of computer and computer peripheral equipment and software were down 4.0 percent. Inventories of nondurable goods were virtually unchanged (+/-0.7%)* from June, but were up 7.0 percent (+/-1.2%) from last July. Inventories of farm product raw materials were down 8.2 percent from last month, while inventories of drugs and druggists' sundries were up 3.2 percent.

The July inventories/sales ratio for merchant wholesalers, except manufacturers’ sales branches and offices, based on seasonally adjusted data, was 1.16. The July 2013 ratio was 1.16.


Purchase Apps down, Refi's down in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Posted: September 10, 2014 at 07:00 AM (Wednesday)

Mortgage applications decreased 7.2 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending September 5, 2014. This week’s results included an adjustment for the Labor Day holiday.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 7.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier, to the lowest level since December 2000. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 17 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 11 percent from the previous week, to the lowest level since November 2008. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 3 percent from one week earlier, to the lowest level since February 2014. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 14 percent compared with the previous week and was 12 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 55 percent of total applications from 57 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 7.5 percent of total applications from 7.8 percent the previous week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) increased to 4.27 percent, the first increase in four weeks, from 4.25 percent, with points increasing to 0.25 from 0.24 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) decreased to 4.15 percent from 4.22 percent, with points increasing to 0.23 from 0.19 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased to 3.97 percent from 3.99 percent, with points increasing to 0.08 from 0.03 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 3.44 percent from 3.48 percent, with points decreasing to 0.28 from 0.30 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 3.12 percent from 3.19 percent, with points remaining unchanged at 0.45 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.


Job Openings were 4.7 million in July
Posted: September 9, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Tuesday)

There were 4.7 million job openings on the last business day of July, little changed from June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The hires rate (3.5 percent) and the separations rate (3.3 percent) were unchanged in July. Within separations, the quits rate (1.8 percent) and the layoffs and discharges rate (1.2 percent) were unchanged. This release includes estimates of the number and rate of job openings, hires, and separations for the nonfarm sector by industry and by four geographic regions.

There were 4.7 million job openings on the last business day of July and the rate was 3.3 percent. The 1-month change in the number of openings was not significant for total private, government, all industries, and in all four regions. (See table 1.) Although the number of total nonfarm job openings was little changed in July, there were 799,000 more job openings in July than in January 2014. The largest increases since January were in retail trade, professional and business services, and health care and social assistance.

The number of job openings (not seasonally adjusted) increased over the 12 months ending in July 2014 for total nonfarm, total private, and government. The job openings level increased in several of the industries and in all four regions.


ICSC Chain Store Sales increased by 0.7% in Sept 6 Wk
Posted: September 9, 2014 at 07:45 AM (Tuesday)

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index increased 4.0% for the week ending September 6 - relative to the prior year. On a week-over-week basis, sales popped up by 0.7%.

"According to the ICSC-GS consumer tracking survey business over the past week was healthy overall and strong for department, apparel, discount, electronics and furniture stores," said Michael Niemira, ICSC research consultant. "September tends to have the third highest volume in sales during the year, capturing the last of the back-to-school shopping and fall merchandise demand. I expect sales for the month to continue to show a healthy trend - increasing by 4% to 5%," he added.


NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose 0.4 points to 96.1
Posted: September 9, 2014 at 07:30 AM (Tuesday)

August’s Optimism Index rose 0.4 points to 96.1 making it the second highest reading since October 2007. Expectations are still glum, although improving grudgingly. More owners still think business conditions will be worse in six months than think they will be better. Few see the current period as a good time to expand. The outlook for improvements in real sales volumes faded. Interest in borrowing continues to remain at record low levels; owners are satisfied with inventories and aren’t planning a lot of investment. There is still no evidence that we are about to ramp up spending and hiring to “3 percent” GDP growth levels.

The good news, no recession signal. The bad news, no expansion signal. The NFIB Optimism Index was steady at the high end of its fairly narrow tunnel of moderately poor performances. A persistent up-trend in reported increases in average selling prices snapped, probably in response to unexpectedly weak consumer spending. Capital spending showed a bit more life, along with a hike in plans to continue it. But employment indicators were flat. Job openings increased, anticipating a lower unemployment rate but not more jobs as job creation plans faltered. There just wasn’t a lot of good GDP news in the numbers, just a “more of the same” picture. Spending and hiring seem to be driven mostly by population growth and the need to replace depreciated assets. Weak consumer spending is not helping. Strong exports do not help most small businesses. Manufacturers and some transportation companies benefit but not most others.

The litany of issues that need to be addressed have been laid out by observers for years now, but there is little progress in Washington on any of them. And new ones are being added along the way. Consumer sentiment (Reuters/University of Michigan) is as low in August as it was a year ago and the readings this year are no better than the weak December, 2013 reading. Only 11 percent of consumers think government is doing a “good” job, 48 percent say “poor”. Incomes are rising only for the top 10 percent and they don’t spend enough of that income to compensate for the weak spending of the 90 percent.

Manufacturing is doing well, but there are not many jobs there. However, the small business and consumer segments are not strong and that means economic growth cannot fundamentally be strong. Government spending will not be a major source of stimulus. So, the plodding on continues.


Consumer Credit Increased at an annual rate of .75%
Posted: September 8, 2014 at 03:00 PM (Monday)

In July, consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 9-3/4 percent. Revolving credit increased at an annual rate of 7-1/2 percent, while nonrevolving credit increased at an annual rate of 10-1/2 percent.


Employment Trends Index increased in August to 121.29
Posted: September 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Monday)

The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) increased in August. The index now stands at 121.29, up from 120.62 (an upward revision) in July. This represents a 6.4 percent gain in the ETI compared to a year ago.

The strong increase in the Employment Trends Index in recent months signals robust job growth through the fall. The disappointing employment numbers for August seem to be a one-month deviation from a stronger trend.

August’s increase in the ETI was driven by positive contributions from seven of its eight components. In order from the largest positive contributor to the smallest, these were: Percentage of Firms with Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now, Industrial Production, Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers, Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales, Number of Temporary Employees, Job Openings, and Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get.”


August Employment increased by 142,000
Unemployment Rate dropped to 6.1%

Posted: September 5, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Friday)

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 142,000 in August, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 6.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains occurred in professional and business services and in health care.

In August, both the unemployment rate (6.1 percent) and the number of unemployed persons (9.6 million) changed little. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons were down by 1.1 percentage points and 1.7 million, respectively.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates in August showed little or no change for adult men (5.7 percent), adult women (5.7 percent), teenagers (19.6 percent), whites (5.3 percent), blacks (11.4 percent), and Hispanics (7.5 percent). The jobless rate for Asians was 4.5 percent (not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) declined by 192,000 to 3.0 million in August. These individuals accounted for 31.2 percent of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 1.3 million.

The civilian labor force participation rate, at 62.8 percent, changed little in August and has been essentially unchanged since April. In August, the employment-population ratio was 59.0 percent for the third consecutive month but is up by 0.4 percentage point from a year earlier.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed in August at 7.3 million. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

In August, 2.1 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 201,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

Among the marginally attached, there were 775,000 discouraged workers in August, little changed from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.4 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in August had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 142,000 in August, compared with an average monthly gain of 212,000 over the prior 12 months. In August, job growth occurred in professional and business services and in health care.

In August, the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was 34.5 hours for the sixth consecutive month. The manufacturing workweek edged up by 0.1 hour to 41.0 hours, and overtime was unchanged at 3.4 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was 33.7 hours for the sixth consecutive month.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 6 cents in August to $24.53. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.1 percent. In August, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 6 cents to $20.68.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised from +298,000 to +267,000, and the change for July was revised from +209,000 to +212,000. With these revisions, employment gains in June and July combined were 28,000 less than previously reported.


ISM Non-Manufacturing Index grew at 59.6%
Posted: September 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew in August for the 55th consecutive month, say the nation's purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The NMI® registered 59.6 percent in August, 0.9 percentage point higher than the July reading of 58.7 percent. This represents continued growth in the Non-Manufacturing sector. The August reading of 59.6 percent is the highest for the composite index since its inception in January 2008. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased to 65 percent, which is 2.6 percentage points higher than the July reading of 62.4 percent, reflecting growth for the 61st consecutive month at a faster rate. This is the highest reading for the index since December of 2004 when the index also registered 65 percent. The New Orders Index registered 63.8 percent, 1.1 percentage points lower than the reading of 64.9 percent registered in July. The Employment Index increased 1.1 percentage points to 57.1 percent from the July reading of 56 percent and indicates growth for the sixth consecutive month. The Prices Index decreased 3.2 percentage points from the July reading of 60.9 percent to 57.7 percent, indicating prices increased at a slower rate in August when compared to July. According to the NMI®, 15 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in August. Respondents' comments vary by business and industry. The majority of the comments reflect continued optimism in regards to business conditions. Some respondents indicate that there may be some tapering off in the recent strong rate of growth in the non-manufacturing sector.

INDUSTRY PERFORMANCE
The 15 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in August — listed in order — are: Construction; Retail Trade; Management of Companies & Support Services; Educational Services; Transportation & Warehousing; Wholesale Trade; Information; Public Administration; Other Services; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Health Care & Social Assistance; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Finance & Insurance; Accommodation & Food Services; and Real Estate, Rental & Leasing. The two industries reporting contraction in August are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; and Mining.


DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer picked up by 0.2%
Posted: September 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

For the week ending August 23 2014, the DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer picked up by 0.2 percent to 98.6 as most indexes reversed their weakening trend. Chain store sales surged 0.6 percent, after declining for two consecutive weeks. MBA’s purchase index also bounced back by a solid 2.6 percent following three weeks of negative performance. As to the production side, electric output and coal production rose by 4.8 and 2.1 percent, respectively, although it was partially offset by weak performance in lumber production.

On a year-over-year basis, the barometer showed a gain of 1.2 percent, which compares to an average -3.3 percent decline over the Great Recession (ended in June 2009 according to the NBER). After flat lining in 2006, and declining from 2007 through 2009, the barometer bounced back in 2010 to rise by 3.4 percent, which was the strongest increase since 1994 (+4.0 percent), but not so impressive when compared to an -8.0 percent drop in 2009. The rate of increase for the 2013 slowed to 0.7 percent following 1.5 percent in 2012.

The smoothed version of the barometer, which attempts to account for weekly volatility, remained at 98.5 for three successive weeks. Its year-over-year growth rate was 1.1 percent.


Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Increase 4,000 to 302,000
Posted: September 4, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

In the week ending August 30, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 302,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 298,000. The 4-week moving average was 302,750, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 299,750. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.9 percent for the week ending August 23, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending August 23 was 2,464,000, a decrease of 64,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for insured unemployment since June 16, 2007 when it was 2,453,000. The previous week's level was revised up 1,000 from 2,527,000 to 2,528,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,510,750, a decrease of 13,750 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since July 7, 2007 when it was 2,509,250. The previous week 's average was revised up by 250 from 2,524,250 to 2,524,500.


2Q2014 Productivity Growth Increased 2.3%
Posted: September 4, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

Nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased at a 2.3 percent annual rate during the second quarter of 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, as hours increased 2.6 percent and output increased 5.0 percent. (All quarterly percent changes in this release are seasonally adjusted annual rates.) From the second quarter of 2013 to the second quarter of 2014, productivity increased 1.1 percent as output and hours worked rose 3.2 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively.

Labor productivity, or output per hour, is calculated by dividing an index of real output by an index of hours worked of all persons, including employees, proprietors, and unpaid family workers. The measures released today were based on more recent source data than were available for the preliminary report.

Unit labor costs in nonfarm businesses edged down 0.1 percent in the second quarter of 2014, and increased 1.7 percent over the last four quarters.

Manufacturing sector productivity increased 3.3 percent in the second quarter of 2014, as output increased 6.9 percent and hours worked increased 3.5 percent. The increase in output was the largest since the second quarter of 2010 (11.6 percent). Productivity increased 3.4 percent in the durable goods sector and increased 4.7 percent in the nondurable goods sector. Over the last 4 quarters, manufacturing productivity increased 2.1 percent, as output increased 3.7 percent and hours increased 1.6 percent. Unit labor costs in manufacturing decreased 1.6 percent in the second quarter of 2014 and increased 0.8 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

Preliminary second-quarter 2014 measures of productivity and costs were announced for the nonfinancial corporate sector. Productivity increased 3.1 percent in the second quarter of 2014 as output and hours rose 7.8 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively. Unit labor costs fell 1.2 percent, as the 1.8 percent gain in hourly compensation was less than the 3.1 percent gain in productivity.


Goods and Services Deficit Decreased in July 2014
Posted: September 4, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

The Nation’s international trade deficit in goods and services decreased to $40.5 billion in July from $40.8 billion in June (revised), as exports and imports increased.

The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, through the Department of Commerce, announced today that total July exports of $198.0 billion and imports of $238.6 billion resulted in a goods and services deficit of $40.5 billion, down from $40.8 billion in June, revised. July exports were $1.8 billion more than June exports of $196.2 billion. July imports were $1.6 billion more than June imports of $237.0 billion.

In July, the goods deficit decreased $0.2 billion from June to $60.2 billion, and the services surplus was virtually unchanged at $19.6 billion. Exports of goods increased $1.8 billion to $138.6 billion, and imports of goods increased $1.5 billion to $198.8 billion. Exports of services increased $0.1 billion to $59.4 billion, and imports of services were virtually unchanged at $39.8 billion.

The goods and services deficit increased $1.1 billion from July 2013 to July 2014. Exports were up $8.1 billion, or 4.3 percent, and imports were up $9.2 billion, or 4.0 percent.


ADP National Employment Report increased by 204,000 in August
Posted: September 4, 2014 at 08:15 AM (Thursday)

Private sector employment increased by 204,000 jobs from July to August according to the August ADP National Employment Report®. Broadly distributed to the public each month, free of charge, the ADP National Employment Report is produced by ADP®, a leading global provider of Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions, in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics. The report, which is derived from ADP’s actual payroll data, measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

Goods-producing employment rose by 41,000 jobs in August, up from 23,000 jobs gained in July. The construction industry added 15,000 jobs over the month, slightly above last month’s gain. Meanwhile, manufacturing added 23,000 jobs in August, the highest total in that sector since December 2012.

Service-providing employment rose by 164,000 jobs in August, down from 190,000 in July. The ADP National Employment Report indicates that professional/ business services contributed 51,000 jobs in August, down from 60,000 in July. Expansion in trade/transportation/utilities grew by 28,000, down from July’s 43,000. The 5,000 new jobs added in financial activities was down almost half from last month’s number.

August marks the fifth straight month of employment gains above 200,000, continuing an encouraging trend for the U.S. labor market.

Steady as she goes in the job market. Businesses continue to hire at a solid pace. Job gains are broad based across industries and company sizes. At the current pace of job growth the economy will return to full employment by the end of 2016.

Payrolls for businesses with 49 or fewer employees increased by 78,000 jobs in August. That’s down from 89,000 in July. Job growth was also down over the month for medium-sized firms. Employment among medium-sized companies with 50-499 employees rose by 75,000, down from 88,000 in July. Employment at large companies – those with 500 or more employees – increased by 52,000, up from 35,000 the previous month. Companies with 500-999 employees added 5,000, down from July’s 13,000.


Challenger Layoffs declined 15% in August
Posted: September 4, 2014 at 07:30 AM (Thursday)

Planned job cuts announced by US-based employers totaled 40,010 in August, a 15 percent decline from the 46,887 planned layoffs reported in July, according to the report released Thursday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The August total was 21 percent lower than the same month a year ago, when 50,462 job cuts were announced. This marks just the fourth time this year that the monthly total was lower than the comparable period a year ago.

Despite this trend, job cuts for the year are down slightly from 2013. Through August 31, planned job cuts total 332,931, which is 4.0 percent fewer than the 347,095 cuts announced between January and August of last year.

August job cuts were heaviest in the tech sector, where electronics firm Cisco Systems announced plans to reduce its payroll by 6,000 jobs following weak quarterly sales numbers. It joins fellow tech-sector giants Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel in announcing large downsizing initiatives this year.

To date, employers in the technology sector, including computer, telecommunications, and electronics firms have announced 80,088 job cuts in 2014. That is 41 percent more than the 56,918 tech-sector job cuts announced in all of 2013.

Computer firms have experienced the heaviest downsizing so far this year, announcing a total of 48,928 job cuts, to date. That is 87 percent more than the 26,180 job cut announced by this industry through August 2013.

Electronics firms, such as Cisco Systems, have seen the largest increase in year-over-year job cuts. The 16,406 job cuts announced by these firms to date ranks ninth among all industries. However, that total represents a 170 percent increase from the 6,078 job cuts announced during the same period in 2013.

Meanwhile, retailers have the second highest number of job cuts this year, but downsizing in the industry has slowed from a year ago. Retail employers have announced plans to shed 30,109 workers so far this year, which is 15 percent fewer than the 35,567 planned layoffs recorded by this point in 2013.

Like retail, the majority of industries have seen job cuts decline in 2014. For many of the industries where job cuts are on the rise, economic weakness is not the driving factor. Instead, the cuts appear to be motivated by fundamental changes in the industry.

Electronics, computer, telecommunications, transportation, and entertainment are all areas that should be flourishing right now. And, in many cases, firms in these industries are doing well. The cuts we are seeing, are coming from companies that did not keep up with the rapidly changing trends that are constantly redefining what products and services are in demand. Now, they are playing catch-up, laying off workers in some areas, hiring in others, and simply cutting layers of management in order to become more nimble and better prepared to meet the next trend shift.


Beige Book: Economic Activity Continues to Expand at Steady Pace
Posted: September 3, 2014 at 02:00 PM (Wednesday)

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity has expanded since the previous Beige Book report; however, none of the Districts pointed to a distinct shift in the overall pace of growth. The New York, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts characterized their growth rates as moderate; Philadelphia, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Kansas City reported modest growth. Boston reported that business activity appeared to be improving, and Richmond reported further strengthening. Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, and Dallas explicitly reported that contacts in their Districts generally remained optimistic about future growth; most of the other Districts cited various examples of ongoing optimism from specific sectors.

General consumer spending grew in most Districts at rates ranging from slight to moderate, with few changes in the pace of growth compared with the last Beige Book. Most Districts reported a continued expansion of auto sales, noting record-high levels for several markets within the Philadelphia and Dallas Districts; however, in some parts of the New York and Philadelphia Districts sales began to fall back from their relatively high levels. Tourism activity was reported to have increased across much of the nation, with many Districts reporting higher hotel booking and occupancy rates.

Activity among nonfinancial service sectors improved overall. District reports on manufacturing were mixed--divided almost evenly into one of three characterizations of the sector's activity: expanding, contracting, or unchanged. Among Districts reporting on their firms' near-term expectations, the manufacturing outlook remained generally upbeat, with New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Atlanta reporting increased optimism.

Since the previous Beige Book, residential real estate activity, particularly sales of existing homes and construction of new homes, generally expanded or held steady in about half of the Districts. About half of the Districts also reported some growth in construction and in sales or leasing of nonresidential properties.

Overall, loan demand rose in eight Districts and held steady in one. Credit standards were largely unchanged. Six Districts reported improving credit quality, falling delinquency rates, or both.

Reports regarding farm products were mixed; for some crops, high anticipated harvests have put downward pressure on prices and expected farm incomes. Generally, oil and gas production and demand for related activities continued to edge up from already high levels, while total coal production mostly held steady.

Trends in employment, wages, and prices were relatively unchanged in the Federal Reserve Districts, with greater wage pressures reported in sectors where shortages of skilled labor persisted.


New orders for manufactured goods increased 10.5%
Posted: September 3, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Wednesday)

New orders for manufactured goods in July, up five of the last six months, increased $53.1 billion or 10.5 percent to $558.3 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. This was at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis in 1992 and followed a 1.5 percent June increase. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 0.8 percent.

Shipments, up five of the last six months, increased $6.0 billion or 1.2 percent to $507.4 billion. This was also at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis and followed a 0.8 percent June increase.

Unfilled orders, up fifteen of the last sixteen months, increased $58.9 billion or 5.4 percent to $1,158.2 billion. This was also at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis and followed a 1.0 percent June increase. The unfilled orders-to-shipments ratio was 6.64, up from 6.47 in June.

Inventories, up twenty of the last twenty-one months, increased $0.9 billion or 0.1 percent to $653.8 billion. This was also at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis and followed a 0.2 percent June increase. The inventories-to-shipments ratio was 1.29, down from 1.30 in June.


Help Wanted OnLine Labor Demand Rises 164,600 in August
Posted: September 3, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Wednesday)

Online advertised vacancies gained 164,600 to 5,209,200 in August, according to The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine® (HWOL) Data Series released today. The July Supply/Demand rate stands at 1.9 unemployed for each advertised vacancy with a total of 4.6 million more unemployed workers than the number of advertised vacancies. The number of unemployed was 9.7 million in July.

“Labor demand has shown some renewed strength over the past three months with an average increase of 102,000 per month,” said Gad Levanon, Director of Macroeconomics and Labor Markets at The Conference Board. “The 2014 gains through August are an improvement over the slower-paced gains of 2013 for the same time period.”

In August the professional occupations continued to show improvements after earlier 2014 losses. Gains included Business and Finance (10,700), Computer and Math (19,300), and Healthcare (24,200). The Services/Production occupations also showed gains in Office and Administration (20,100), Sales (13,900), and Food Preparation (12,300).


New York Purchasing Managers Business Activity dropped to 57.1 in August
Posted: September 3, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Wednesday)

New York City business activity expanded at the slowest pace in three months, according to the survey taken by the Institute for Supply Management-New York (ISM-NY).

Current Business Conditions were 57.1 in August, cooling down from July’s eight-month high, but still running above the long-run average (between 55-56).

Future optimism came off a five-month high, but maintained solid expansion. The Six-Month Outlook came in at 67.8 in August.

Job growth accelerated to the best reading on record since this series began in November 2007. Employment improved to 67.4 in August.

Purchase volume quickened to a six-month high. Quantity of Purchases rose to 59.1 in August.

Price measures firmed. Prices Paid increased to a three-year high of 67.4 in August, and Prices Received hit a six-month high of 62.5 in August.

The top line and forward guidance both improved to the highest levels in six months. Current Revenues were 71.4 in August, and Expected Revenues were 75.0 in August.


ICSC Chain Store Sales unch% in Aug 30 Wk
Posted: September 3, 2014 at 07:45 AM (Wednesday)

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index increased 4.8% for the week ending August 30 - relative to the prior year. On a week-over-week basis, sales were unchanged.

"According to the ICSC-GS consumer tracking survey business was overall very healthy, and extremely strong for dollar stores and wholesale cubs. With relatively positive weather over the pre-Labor Day weekend, other retailers - department, discount, apparel, electronic and furniture stores - all experienced solid sales." said Michael Niemira, ICSC research consultant. "For the month of August, which is when most of the back-to-school shopping occurs, I expect sales to show a gain of 4% to 5%," he added.


Purchase Apps up, Refi's up in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Posted: September 3, 2014 at 07:45 AM (Wednesday)

Mortgage applications increased 0.2 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending August 29, 2014.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 0.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 1 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 1 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 4 percent compared with the previous week and was 12 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 57 percent of total applications, the highest level since March 2014, from 56 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 7.8 percent of total applications.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 4.25 percent, the lowest level since June 2013, from 4.28 percent, with points decreasing to 0.24 from 0.25 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) remained unchanged at 4.22 percent, with points decreasing to 0.19 from 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA increased to 3.99 percent from 3.98 percent, with points decreasing to 0.03 from 0.13 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 3.48 percent from 3.47 percent, with points decreasing to 0.30 from 0.34 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate remained unchanged from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 3.19 percent from 3.10 percent, with points decreasing to 0.45 from 0.52 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.


August Manufacturing ISM expanded at 59
Posted: September 2, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Tuesday)

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in August for the 15th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 63rd consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The August PMI® registered 59 percent, an increase of 1.9 percentage points from July's reading of 57.1 percent, indicating continued expansion in manufacturing. This month's PMI® reflects the highest reading since March 2011 when the index registered 59.1 percent. The New Orders Index registered 66.7 percent, an increase of 3.3 percentage points from the 63.4 percent reading in July, indicating growth in new orders for the 15th consecutive month. The Production Index registered 64.5 percent, 3.3 percentage points above the July reading of 61.2 percent. The Employment Index grew for the 14th consecutive month, registering 58.1 percent, a slight decrease of 0.1 percentage point below the July reading of 58.2 percent. Inventories of raw materials registered 52 percent, an increase of 3.5 percentage points from the July reading of 48.5 percent, indicating growth in inventories following one month of contraction. The August PMI® is led by the highest recorded New Orders Index since April 2004 when it registered 67.1 percent. At the same time, comments from the panel reflect a positive outlook mixed with caution over global geopolitical unrest.

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 17 are reporting growth in August in the following order: Plastics & Rubber Products; Furniture & Related Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Wood Products; Printing & Related Support Activities; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Paper Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Chemical Products; Primary Metals; Transportation Equipment; Computer & Electronic Products; Machinery; and Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components. The only industry reporting contraction in August is Textile Mills.


Construction Spending increased 1.8% in July
Posted: September 2, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Tuesday)

The U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce announced today that construction spending during July 2014 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $981.3 billion, 1.8 percent (±1.6%) above the revised June estimate of $963.7 billion. The July figure is 8.2 percent (±2.3%) above the July 2013 estimate of $906.6 billion. During the first 7 months of this year, construction spending amounted to $535.4 billion, 7.9 percent (±1.5%) above the $496.3 billion for the same period in 2013.

PRIVATE CONSTRUCTION
Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $701.7 billion, 1.4 percent (±0.8%) above the revised June estimate of $692.2 billion. Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $358.1 billion in July, 0.7 percent (±1.3%)* above the revised June estimate of $355.6 billion. Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $343.6 billion in July, 2.1 percent (±0.8%) above the revised June estimate of $336.6 billion.

PUBLIC CONSTRUCTION
In July, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $279.6 billion, 3.0 percent (±3.0%)* above the revised June estimate of $271.5 billion. Educational construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $63.5 billion, 1.6 percent (±4.9%)* above the revised June estimate of $62.5 billion. Highway construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $84.8 billion, 6.9 percent (±7.7%)* above the revised June estimate of $79.3 billion.


Paychex-IHS Small Business Jobs Index decreased to 100.99 in August
Posted: September 2, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

While the Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index grew 0.20 percent in the past 12 months through August, the national index decreased to 100.99, as the pace of small business employment growth slowed slightly. August marks the third decline for the index in the past four months. Strong small business employment growth propelled the Mountain region into the lead among regions. Wisconsin surpassed Washington, taking over as the top performing state. Among the metro areas, Dallas continues to hold the top spot, now for the third consecutive month.

Although the Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index continues to show positive year-over-year growth, the short-term trend has declined 0.16 percent in the past three months. As most other employment indicators accelerated over the summer, it appears that small businesses may have been on the front end of that trend, in the spring, with the index reaching its peak level in April 2014.

The index continues to show positive, long-term gains. However, that growth has slowed in the past several months.

The August 2014 Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index fell 0.11 percent from last month as the pace of employment growth slowed slightly. The record employment growth rate set in April 2014 has declined three of the past four months.


University of Michigan Consumer Confidence increased in August to 82.5
Posted: August 29, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Friday)

Consumers reported that their finances had improved due to more jobs, higher wages, and gains in wealth. Indeed, consumers judged their current financial situation more favorably than anytime since the start of the Great Recession. While past gains have usually been associated with optimism about future gains, consumers remained skeptical about their future financial prospects. Most of the August gains were driven by rising stock prices and wages among households in the top third of the income distribution, while those in the bottom two-thirds reported slightly less positive gains than in July. To be sure, all households have benefited from the resurgent economy. The data indicate that consumption spending will grow at a 2.5% pace in the year ahead.

Gap in Finances Widens
A growing divide in personal finances across income groups was found in the latest survey. Among households with incomes in the top third, 59% reported being better off, compared with just 36% with incomes in the bottom two-thirds. Net income gains were reported by 34% among the top third in incomes, compared with no net gains in the bottom two-thirds. Moreover, net wealth gains were cited by 22% with incomes the top third, while just 2% cited net wealth gains in the bottom two-thirds. Importantly, these gaps have widened in the past year.

Less Optimism about Future Prospects
People do not expect as much financial progress during the year ahead as in the past year. Among households with incomes in the top third, just 39% expect to improve financially, significantly less than the 59% who reported recent financial progress, and only 27% expect improvement among those with incomes in the bottom two thirds, well below the 36% who reported recent financial gains.

Consumer Sentiment Index
The Sentiment Index was 82.5 in the August 2014 survey, just above the 81.8 in July and slightly above last August’s 82.1. Over the past nine months, the Sentiment Index has remained largely unchanged, in the narrow range between 80.0 and 82.5. The renewed strength in the past year was focused on Current Conditions (+4.8%), while the Expectations Index fell by a slightly larger amount (-3.3%).

The stability in consumer expectations during the past nine months has helped to insulate the economy from much larger swings in business investments. At the same time, the problem is that confidence has been unable to rise above those modestly positive levels. This reflects the ability of the Fed to raise asset prices, which has primarily benefitted upper income households, and their inability to prompt wage increases, which has prevented the reestablishment of a more broadly based optimism. A weakened trend in equity and home prices in the absence of resurgent wages would threaten the modest pace of consumer spending now expected.


Chicago Purchasing Managers Index surged 11.7 points to 64.3 in August
Posted: August 29, 2014 at 09:45 AM (Friday)

The Chicago Business Barometer surged 11.7 points to 64.3 in August, regaining all the lost ground seen in July, and pointing to continued strength in the US economy.

Strong growth in the Barometer and three of its key components in August followed a sharp slowdown in July. As expected, it appears that the July lull was temporary and that the momentum exhibited in the Chicago Report in the second quarter has carried through to Q3.

Strong gains in Production, New Orders and Order Backlogs lifted the Barometer in August to the highest since May. Production posted the largest monthly increase on record, rising over 20 points to the highest in nearly ten years. Both New Orders and Order Backlogs rose sharply unwinding all and more of July’s weakening, with the latter moving well out of contraction.

Employment was the only component of the Barometer to fall, although it remained well above the neutral 50 level and continues to point to firm demand for labour.

With expectations for strong future demand, firms built stocks at the fastest pace for eight years. Inventories of finished goods jumped above 60 to the highest since October 2006, coupled with a fourth consecutive monthly increase in Supplier Delivery Times.

Prices Paid also inched up above 60 amid strong demand, although at this level it doesn’t point to a severe inflationary threat.

Commenting on the MNI Chicago Report, Philip Uglow, Chief Economist at MNI Indicators said, “We had speculated that July’s downturn would prove temporary rather than signal the start of a downward trend. The sharp bounceback in August, with growth in output at the highest for nearly ten years, suggests that growth in the US economy will continue apace in Q3.“


Personal Income increased 0.2%, Spending decreased 0.1%
Posted: August 29, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Friday)

Personal income increased $28.6 billion, or 0.2 percent, and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $17.7 billion,or 0.1 percent, in July, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) decreased $13.6 billion, or 0.1 percent. In June, personal income increased $67.1 billion, or 0.5 percent, DPI increased $62.9 billion, or 0.5 percent, and PCE increased $50.5 billion, or 0.4 percent, based on revised estimates.

Real DPI increased 0.1 percent in July, compared with an increase of 0.3 percent in June. Real PCE decreased 0.2 percent, in contrast to an increase of 0.2 percent.


Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Activity slowed slightly in August
Posted: August 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM (Thursday)

Growth in Tenth District manufacturing activity slowed slightly in August, but producer’ expectations for future activity remained solid. Price indexes indicated little change from the previous month , but expectations for future growth were slightly lower.

The month-over-month composite index was 3 in August, down from 9 in July and 6 in June. The composite index is an average of the production, new orders, employment, supplier delivery time, and raw materials inventory indexes. The overall slowing in manufacturing activity occurred at nondurable goods producers, while durable goods production increased somewhat. Most month-over-month indexes fell compared to July’s readings. The production index fell from 11 to 4 , and the shipments and new orders indexes also declined but remained above zero. The employment index was -4, the first negative result in 10 months, while the order backlog index remained relatively steady at -5. The inventory indexes were mixed , with materials slightly lower and finished goods considerably higher than in July.

Year-over-year factory indexes were mostly lower. The composite year-over-year index was unchanged at 13, while production index dropped from 24 to 8, its lowest level in seven months. The shipments, new orders, and order backlog indexes also fell. In contrast, the capital expenditures index rose from 10 to 14, after falling last month. The raw materials and finished good inventory indexes both increased considerably over last month.

Future factory indexes were mixed in August. The future composite index edged up from 15 to 17, and the future production, new orders, and order backlog indexes also rose. The future new orders for exports index increased to its highest level in seven months, while the future shipments index decreased from 28 to 20. The future employment index fell moderately, from 23 to 15, and the future capital expenditures index also declined. Both future inventories indexes increased moderately after being in negative territory last month.

Price indexes were once again mixed this month. The month-over-month raw materials price moved up slightly, while the finished goods price index was somewhat lower. The year-over-year finished goods price index eased from 37 to 35, but the raw materials price index remained unchanged. The future raw materials price index continued to edge lower from 46 to 43, and the future finished goods price index also decreased, indicating fewer firms plan to pass cost increases through to customers.


Pending Home Sales Index climbed 3.3% in July
Posted: August 28, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

Pending home sales rebounded in July and have now risen in four of the last five months, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All major regions experienced healthy gains except for the Midwest, which saw a slight decline.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, climbed 3.3 percent to 105.9 in July from 102.5 in June, but is still 2.1 percent below July 2013 (108.2). The index is at its highest level since August 2013 (107.1) and is above 100 – considered an average level of contract activity – for the third consecutive month.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says favorable housing conditions are behind July’s higher contract activity. “Interest rates are lower than they were a year ago, price growth continues to moderate and total housing inventory is at its highest level since August 20121,” he said. “The increase in the number of new and existing homes for sale is creating less competition and is giving prospective buyers more time to review their options before submitting an offer.”

Yun adds, “More importantly, steady job additions to the economy are helping family finances and giving them added confidence to enter the market.”

The PHSI in the Northeast jumped 6.2 percent to 89.2 in July, and is 8.3 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index marginally fell 0.4 percent to 104.6 in July, and is 6.4 percent below July 2013.

Pending home sales in the South increased 4.2 percent to an index of 119.0 in July, and is now 1.0 percent below a year ago. The index in the West rose 4.0 percent in July to 99.5, but remains 6.0 percent below July 2013.

Yun expects existing-homes sales to be down 2.1 percent this year to 4.98 million, compared to 5.09 million sales of existing homes in 2013. The national median existing-home price is projected to grow between 5 and 6 percent this year and 4 and 5 percent next year.


DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer unch%
Posted: August 28, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

For the week ending August 16 2014, the DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer remained at 98.4 as negative performances of consumption indexes were cancelled out by gains in production indexes. Chain store sales fell by a sharp 1.3 percent, extending the weakening trend to two weeks. MBA’s purchase index also dropped 0.4 percent this week. As to the production side, all indexes except coal and steel production reported significant gains. For instance, auto production and electric output surged 2.4 and 1.8 percent, respectively.

On a year-over-year basis, the barometer showed a gain of 1.2 percent, which compares to an average -3.3 percent decline over the Great Recession (ended in June 2009 according to the NBER). After flat lining in 2006, and declining from 2007 through 2009, the barometer bounced back in 2010 to rise by 3.4 percent, which was the strongest increase since 1994 (+4.0 percent), but not so impressive when compared to an -8.0 percent drop in 2009. The rate of increase for the 2013 slowed to 0.7 percent following 1.5 percent in 2012.

The smoothed version of the barometer, which attempts to account for weekly volatility, remained at 98.5. Its year-over-year growth rate was 1.1 percent.


2Q2014 GDP preliminary estimate increased 4.2%
Posted: August 28, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 4.2 percent in the second quarter of 2014, according to the "second" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP decreased 2.1 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the "advance" estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, the increase in real GDP was 4.0 percent. With this second estimate for the second quarter, the general picture of economic growth remains the same; the increase in nonresidential fixed investment was larger than previously estimated, while the increase in private inventory investment was smaller than previously estimated.

The increase in real GDP in the second quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), private inventory investment, exports, nonresidential fixed investment, state and local government spending, and residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

Real GDP increased 4.2 percent in the second quarter after decreasing 2.1 percent in the first. This upturn in the percent change in real GDP primarily reflected upturns in exports and in private inventory investment, accelerations in PCE and in nonresidential fixed investment, and upturns in state and local government spending and in residential fixed investment that were partly offset by an acceleration in imports.


Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Decrease 1,000 to 298,000
Posted: August 28, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

In the week ending August 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 298,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 298,000 to 299,000. The 4-week moving average was 299,750, a decrease of 1,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 300,750 to 301,000. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.9 percent for the week ending August 16, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending August 16 was 2,527,000, an increase of 25,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 2,000 from 2,500,000 to 2,502,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,524,250, a decrease of 3,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 2,527,500 to 2,528,000.


Purchase Apps up, Refi's up in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Posted: August 27, 2014 at 07:00 AM (Wednesday)

Mortgage applications increased 2.8 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending August 22, 2014.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 2.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 2 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 3 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 3 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 1 percent compared with the previous week and was 11 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 56 percent of total applications, the highest level since March 2014, from 55 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity remained unchanged at 8.0 percent of total applications.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 4.28 percent from 4.29 percent, with points decreasing to 0.25 from 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate remained unchanged from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) increased to 4.22 percent from 4.18 percent, with points increasing to 0.28 from 0.23 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased to 3.98 percent, the lowest since June 2013, from 3.99 percent, with points increasing to 0.13 from 0.03 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 3.47 percent from 3.44 percent, with points increasing to 0.34 from 0.30 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs remained unchanged at 3.10 percent, with points increasing to 0.52 from 0.44 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.


Consumer Confidence increased in August to 92.4
Posted: August 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Tuesday)

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which had increased in July, improved further in August. The Index now stands at 92.4 (1985=100), up from 90.3 in July. The Present Situation Index increased to 94.6 from 87.9, while the Expectations Index edged down to 90.9 from 91.9 in July.

Consumer confidence increased for the fourth consecutive month as improving business conditions and robust job growth helped boost consumers’ spirits. Looking ahead, consumers were marginally less optimistic about the short-term outlook compared to July, primarily due to concerns about their earnings. Overall, however, they remain quite positive about the short-term outlooks for the economy and labor market.

Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions continued to improve through August. Those saying business conditions are “good” edged up to 23.9 percent from 23.3 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” declined to 21.5 percent from 22.8 percent. Consumers’ assessment of the job market was also more positive. Those stating jobs are “plentiful” increased to 18.2 percent from 15.6 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” declined marginally to 30.6 percent from 30.9 percent.

Consumers were slightly less optimistic in August about the short-term outlook. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months held steady at 20.4 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen fell to 10.2 percent from 12.1 percent. Consumers, however, were somewhat mixed about the outlook for the labor market. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead fell to 17.0 percent from 18.7 percent, although those anticipating fewer jobs also declined to 15.8 percent from 16.6 percent. Fewer consumers expect their incomes to grow, 15.5 percent in August versus 17.7 percent in July, while those expecting a drop in their incomes rose marginally to 11.9 percent from 11.1 percent.


Richmond Fed's Current Activity Index climbed to a reading of 12
Posted: August 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Tuesday)

Fifth District manufacturing activity continued to improve in August, according to the most recent survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Shipments and the volume of new orders picked up this month. Although manufacturing employment and average wages rose at a slower pace this month, the average workweek lengthened.

Manufacturers anticipated stronger business conditions during the next six months. Firms expected faster growth in shipments and new orders in the six months ahead. Additionally, survey participants looked for increased capacity utilization and expected order backlogs to grow more quickly. Expectations were for longer vendor lead times.

Survey participants' outlook for the months ahead also included faster growth in average wages and the average workweek, with a pickup in hiring.

Prices of raw materials and finished goods rose at slower pace in August compared to last month. In contrast, manufacturers expected faster growth in prices paid and prices received over the next six months.

Overall, manufacturing conditions continued to improve in August. The composite index for manufacturing climbed to a reading of 12, the highest reading since March 2011. The index for shipments gained seven points and the new orders index advanced eight points, finishing at readings of 10 and 13, respectively. Manufacturing employment grew more slowly this month; the employment indicator slipped two points to a reading of 11.

Backlogs rose at a faster pace this month; the index jumped to a reading of 15. Additionally, capacity utilization grew at a faster pace, pushing the index up 13 points ending at 17. Vendor lead time lengthened, moving the index to 16 from a reading of 12 last month. Finished goods inventories rose at a faster pace compared to a month ago. The index gained four points, ending at 16. In contrast, raw materials inventories increased at a slower rate compared to last month. That gauge moved to 17 from 21.


S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices gained 1.0% in June
Posted: August 26, 2014 at 09:00 AM (Tuesday)

Data through June 2014, released today by S&P Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller1 Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, show a sustained slowdown in price increases. The National Index gained 6.2% in the 12 months ending June 2014 while the 10-City and 20-City Composites gained 8.1%; all three indices saw their rates slow considerably from last month. Every city saw its year-over-year return worsen.

The National Index, now being published monthly, gained 0.9% in June. The 10- and 20-City Composites increased 1.0%. New York led the cities with a return of 1.6% and recorded its largest increase since June 2013. Chicago, Detroit and Las Vegas followed at +1.4%. Las Vegas posted its largest monthly gain since last summer.

The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 6.2% annual gain in June 2014. The 10- and 20-City Composites posted year-over-year increases of 8.1%.

Home price gains continue to ease as they have since last fall. For the first time since February 2008, all cities showed lower annual rates than the previous month. Other housing indicators – starts, existing home sales and builders’ sentiment – are positive. Taken together, these point to a more normal housing sector.

The monthly National Index rose 0.9% in June. While all 20 cities saw higher home prices over the last 12 months, all experienced slower gains. In San Francisco, the pace of price increases halved since late last summer. The Sun Belt cities – Las Vegas, Phoenix, Miami and Tampa – all remain a third or more below their peak prices set almost a decade ago.

Bargain basement mortgage rates won’t continue forever; recent improvements in the labor markets and comments from Fed chair Janet Yellen and others hint that interest rates could rise as soon as the first quarter of 2015. Rising mortgage rates won’t send housing into a tailspin, but will further dampen price gains.

As of June 2014, average home prices across the United States are back to their levels posted in the spring of 2005. The National Index was up 0.9% over May 2014 and 6.2% above June 2013.

As of June 2014, average home prices across the United States are back to their autumn 2004 levels. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks, the peak-to-current decline for both Composites is approximately 17%. The recovery from the March 2012 lows is 27.8% and 28.5% for the 10-City and 20-City Composites.

All 20 cities saw their year-over-year rates weaken in June. For the second consecutive month, San Francisco saw its rate decelerate by almost three percentage points – from 18.4% in April to 12.9% in June. Phoenix showed its smallest year-over-year gain of 6.9% since March 2012. Cleveland showed a marginal increase of 0.8% over the last 12 months while Las Vegas led with a gain of 15.2%.

All cities reported price increases for the third consecutive month; it would have been a fourth had New York not declined 0.4% in March. San Francisco posted its eighth consecutive price increase but showed its smallest gain of 0.3% since February. Five cities – Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, Phoenix and San Diego – posted larger gains in June than in May. Dallas and Denver continue to set new peaks while Detroit remains the only city below its January 2000 value.


New Orders for Durable Goods Increased 22.6%, Ex-Trans Up 0.8%
Posted: August 26, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

New orders for manufactured durable goods in July increased $55.3 billion or 22.6 percent to $300.1 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today. This increase, up five of the last six months, was at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis in 1992, and followed a 2.7 percent June increase. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 0.8 percent. Excluding defense, new orders increased 24.9 percent. Transportation equipment, also up five of the last six months, drove the increase, $56.6 billion or 74.2 percent to $133.0 billion.

Shipments of manufactured durable goods in July, up five of the last six months, increased $8.0 billion or 3.3 percent to $248.9 billion. This was at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis and followed a 1.2 percent June increase. Transportation equipment, up two consecutive months, led the increase, $5.6 billion or 7.9 percent to $76.3 billion.

Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in July, up fifteen of the last sixteen months, increased $59.2 billion or 5.4 percent to $1,158.5 billion. This was at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis and followed a 1.0 percent June increase. Transportation equipment, up ten of the last eleven months, led the increase, $56.7 billion or 8.3 percent to $738.4 billion.

Inventories of manufactured durable goods in July, up fifteen of the last sixteen months, increased $2.1 billion or 0.5 percent to $401.9 billion. This was at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis and followed a 0.5 percent June increase. Transportation equipment, also up fifteen of the last sixteen months, led the increase, $0.7 billion or 0.5 percent to $129.6 billion.

Nondefense new orders for capital goods in July increased $51.5 billion or 60.8 percent to $136.3 billion. Shipments increased $1.1 billion or 1.4 percent to $79.1 billion. Unfilled orders increased $57.2 billion or 8.6 percent to $725.2 billion. Inventories increased $2.3 billion or 1.2 percent to $184.2 billion.

Defense new orders for capital goods in July decreased $1.5 billion or 15.3 percent to $8.6 billion. Shipments increased $0.2 billion or 1.7 percent to $9.6 billion. Unfilled orders decreased $1.0 billion or 0.6 percent to $159.5 billion. Inventories decreased $0.2 billion or 1.0 percent to $23.8 billion.

Revised seasonally adjusted June figures for all manufacturing industries were: new orders, $505.6 billion (revised from $503.2 billion); shipments, $501.7 billion (revised from $499.8 billion); unfilled orders, $1,099.3 billion (revised from $1,098.5 billion); and total inventories, $654.1 billion (revised from $653.8 billion).


ICSC Chain Store Sales increased by 0.6% in Aug 23 Wk
Posted: August 26, 2014 at 07:45 AM (Tuesday)

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index increased 4.2% for the week ending August 23 - relative to the prior year. On a week-over-week basis, sales increased 0.6%.

"According to the ICSC-GS consumer tracking survey business was strong across the board - especially for wholesale clubs, apparel stores, discounters, dollar stores, and furniture stores - as consumers continued their back-to-school shopping," said Michael Niemira, ICSC research consultant. "I expect sales for August to show a healthy gain of 4-5% - a notable improvement over the 3.6% gain in August 2013," he added


Texas Manufacturing Activity Expands but at a Slower Pace
Posted: August 25, 2014 at 10:30 AM (Monday)

Texas factory activity increased again in August, albeit at a slower pace than in recent months, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, fell from 19.1 to 6.8, indicating output growth slowed from July.

Other measures of current manufacturing activity also reflected notably slower growth in August. The new orders index fell 11 points to 2.2 after surging in July. The capacity utilization index also posted a sharp decline, moving down from 18 to 3.6. The shipments index experienced the largest fall, from 22.8 to 6.4, reaching its lowest reading in eight months.

Perceptions of broader business conditions were less optimistic this month. The general business activity index remained positive but fell to a five-month low of 7.1. The company outlook fell from 11.3 to 1.5, due to a smaller share of firms noting an improved outlook in August than in July.

Labor market indicators reflected continued employment growth and longer workweeks. The August employment index posted a third robust reading, holding steady at 11.1. Twenty-one percent of firms reported net hiring compared with 10 percent reporting net layoffs. The hours worked index slipped from 6.3 to 2.9, indicating a smaller rise in hours worked than last month.

Upward pressure on input prices continued at about the same pace in August as in July, while pressure increased for selling prices and wages. The raw materials price index held fairly steady at 26.4. The finished goods price index edged up from 7.3 to 9.1, reaching its highest level in six months. The wages and benefits index rose 5 points to 23.7, also posting a six-month high.

Expectations regarding future business conditions remained optimistic in August. The index of future general business activity inched down 1 point to 18.7, while the index of future company outlook rose 6 points to 30.1. Indexes for future manufacturing activity showed mixed movements in August but remained in solidly positive territory.


New Home Sales in July at annual rate of 412,000
Posted: August 25, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Monday)

Sales of new single-family houses in July 2014 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 412,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 2.4 percent (±11.9%) below the revised June rate of 422,000, but is 12.3 percent (±17.1%) above the July 2013 estimate of 367,000.

The median sales price of new houses sold in July 2014 was $269,800; the average sales price was $339,100. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of July was 205,000. This represents a supply of 6.0 months at the current sales rate.


Chicago Fed National Activity picked up in July
Posted: August 25, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Monday)

Led by improvements in production-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) rose to +0.39 in July from +0.21 in June. Three of the four broad categories of indicators that make up the index made positive contributions to the index in July, and two of the four categories increased from June.

The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, increased to +0.25 in July from +0.16 in June, marking its fifth consecutive reading above zero. July’s CFNAI-MA3 suggests that growth in national economic activity was somewhat above its historical trend. The economic growth reflected in this level of the CFNAI-MA3 suggests limited inflationary pressure from economic activity over the coming year.

The CFNAI Diffusion Index, which is also a three-month moving average, increased to +0.31 in July from +0.21 in June. Fifty-three of the 85 individual indicators made positive contributions to the CFNAI in July, while 32 made negative contributions. Forty-eight indicators improved from June to July, while 36 indicators deteriorated and one was unchanged. Of the indicators that improved, nine made negative contributions.

Production-related indicators made a contribution of +0.31 to the CFNAI in July, up from +0.05 in June. Manufacturing production rose 1.0 percent in July after rising 0.3 percent in June, and manufacturing capacity utilization rose to 77.8 percent in July from 77.2 percent in the previous month.

Employment-related indicators contributed +0.13 to the CFNAI in July, down from +0.26 in June. The unemployment rate increased to 6.2 percent in July from 6.1 percent in June; however, average weekly initial unemployment insurance claims decreased to 293,500 in July from 315,000 in the previous month. The contribution of the sales, orders, and inventories category to the CFNAI ticked down to +0.05 in July from +0.06 in June.

The contribution of the consumption and housing category to the CFNAI edged up to –0.10 in July from –0.15 in June. Housing starts rose to 1,093,000 annualized units in July from 945,000 in June, and housing permits increased to 1,052,000 annualized units in July from 973,000 in the previous month.

The CFNAI was constructed using data available as of August 21, 2014. At that time, July data for 51 of the 85 indicators had been published. For all missing data, estimates were used in constructing the index. The June monthly index was revised to +0.21 from an initial estimate of +0.12. Revisions to the monthly index can be attributed to two main factors: revisions in previously published data and differences between the estimates of previously unavailable data and subsequently published data. The revision to the June monthly index was due primarily to the former.


Philadelphia July Outlook Suggests continuing growth
Posted: August 21, 2014 at 10:31 AM (Thursday)

Indicators for the August Business Outlook Survey suggest that the region’s manufacturing sector is continuing to grow. The survey’s indicator for general activity was higher this month, but indicators for new orders, shipments, and employment, while positive, fell from their readings in July. The survey’s broad indicators of future activity increased, suggesting that firms remain optimistic about continued growth over the next six months.

Activity Index Highest Since 2011

The diffusion index of current general activity increased from a reading of 23.9 in July to 28.0 this month. The index has increased for three consecutive months and is at its highest reading since March 2011 (see Chart). The new orders and shipments indexes remained positive but fell to near their levels in June. The new orders index decreased 20 points, while the shipments index decreased 18 points.

The current indicators for labor market conditions suggested continued modest expansion in employment. The employment index remained positive for the 14th consecutive month but declined 3 points from its reading in July. The percentage of firms reporting increases in employment (25 percent) exceeded the percentage reporting decreases (16 percent). The workweek index was positive for the sixth consecutive month and increased 1 point.

Price Pressures Moderate

Nearly 30 percent of the firms reported higher input prices this month, but this was lower than the 36 percent that reported input price increases last month. The prices paid index decreased nearly 10 points from July to its lowest reading in three months. The prices received index, which reflects firms’ own final goods prices, also decreased, from 16.8 to 4.2. The 12 percent of firms reporting higher prices was notably lower than the 21 percent reporting higher prices last month. Over 79 percent of the firms reported steady prices for their own products this month.

Six-Month Indicators Improve

Most of the survey’s broad indicators of future growth showed improvement this month. The future general activity index increased 8 points and is at its highest reading since June 1992 (see Chart). The index has increased for four consecutive months. The future indexes for new orders and shipments also improved this month, increasing 5 and 10 points, respectively. Firms remained relatively optimistic with respect to employment growth, although the future employment index fell 4 points. Nearly 37 percent of the firms are expecting growth in their employment levels over the next six months, but 12 percent of the firms expect employment reductions.

While most broad indicators of future growth have been improving, the survey’s future capital spending index has been slipping. Although the index decreased just 1 point this month, its reading, at 17.5, is now the lowest it has been in seven months.

In special questions this month, firms were asked qualitative questions about the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how, if at all, they are making changes to their employment and compensation, including benefits (see Special Questions). Over 18 percent of the firms indicated that the number of workers they employ was lower because of the ACA; 3 percent indicated higher levels. The same percentage (18 percent) indicated that the proportion of part-time workers had increased. Regarding health insurance benefit coverage, 41 percent said their coverage was unchanged, but 52 percent indicated modifications to their offerings. Among those modifying their health insurance coverage, higher deductibles (91 percent), higher worker contributed premiums (88 percent), and higher out-of-pocket maximums (77 percent) were the most cited changes.

Summary

The August Business Outlook Survey suggests continued expansion of the region’s manufacturing sector, although some indicators returned to near their readings in June. Firms reported overall continued increases in general activity, new orders, shipments, and employment this month. The survey’s future activity continued to improve, indicating that firms expect continued growth in manufacturing over the next six months.


U.S. Leading Economic Index increased 0.9%
Posted: August 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. increased 0.9 percent in July to 103.3 (2004 = 100), following a 0.6 percent increase in June, and a 0.6 percent increase in May.

The LEI improved sharply in July, suggesting that the economy is gaining traction and growth should continue at a strong pace for the remainder of the year. Although housing has been one of the weakest components this year, the sharp gain in building permits helped boost the LEI in July. Financial markets and labor market conditions have also supported recent gains, but business spending indicators remain soft and their contribution marginal.

The pace of economic activity remained reasonably strong in July. Although retail sales were a little disappointing, hiring and industrial activity improved. July’s increase in the LEI, coupled with its accelerating growth trend, points to stronger economic growth over the coming months.

The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index® (CEI) for the U.S. increased 0.2 percent in July to 109.6 (2004 = 100), following a 0.3 percent increase in June, and a 0.2 percent increase in May.

The Conference Board Lagging Economic Index® (LAG) for the U.S. increased 0.2 percent in July to 124.6 (2004 = 100), following a 0.5 percent increase in June, and a 0.4 percent increase in May.


Existing-Home Sales rose 2.4% in July
Posted: August 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

Existing-home sales increased in July to their highest annual pace of the year, and the ongoing decline in distressed sales reached an important milestone, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million in July from a slight downwardly-revised 5.03 million in June. Sales are at the highest pace of 2014 and have risen four consecutive months, but remain 4.3 percent below the 5.38 million-unit level from last July, which was the peak of 2013.

Sales momentum is slowly building behind stronger job growth and improving inventory conditions. The number of houses for sale is higher than a year ago and tamer price increases are giving prospective buyers less hesitation about entering the market. More people are buying homes compared to earlier in the year and this trend should continue with interest rates remaining low and apartment rents on the rise.

Warning signs that affordability is likely to decline in upcoming years. Although interest rates have fallen in recent months, median family incomes are still lagging behind price gains, and mortgage rates will inevitably rise with the upcoming changes in monetary policy.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in July was $222,900, which is 4.9 percent above July 2013. This marks the 29th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of July rose 3.5 percent to 2.37 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.5-month supply at the current sales pace. Unsold inventory is 5.8 percent higher than a year ago, when there were 2.24 million existing homes available for sale.

Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales – accounted for 9 percent of July sales, down from 15 percent a year ago and the first time they were in the single-digits since NAR started tracking the category in October 2008. Six percent of July sales were foreclosures and 3 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 20 percent below market value in July, while short sales were discounted 14 percent.

Yun says the deepest housing wounds suffered during the Great Recession are beginning to fully heal. “To put it in perspective, distressed sales represented an average of 36 percent of sales during all of 2009,” he said. “Fast-forward to today and rising home values are helping owners recover equity and strong job creation are assisting those who may have fallen behind on their mortgage due to unemployment or underemployment.”

All-cash sales in July were 29 percent of transactions, down from 32 percent in June and representing the lowest overall share since January 2013 (28 percent). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 16 percent of homes in July, unchanged from last month and July 2013. Sixty-nine percent of investors paid cash in July.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell for the third consecutive month to 4.13 percent in July from 4.16 percent in June, and remains the lowest rate since June 2013 (4.07 percent).

The percent share of first-time buyers in July rose slightly for the second straight month to 29 percent (28 percent in June), but remain historically low.

NAR President Steve Brown, co-owner of Irongate, Inc., Realtors® in Dayton, Ohio, says the new credit scoring calculation recently announced by Fair Isaac Corp., or FICO, will improve access to homeownership. “NAR supports efforts to broaden access to credit for qualified homebuyers, especially those who have been shut out of the housing market or forced to pay higher interest rates because of flawed credit scores,” he said. “A solid credit score is necessary to keep borrowing costs down.”

The median time on market for all homes was 48 days in July, up from 44 days in June; it was 42 days on market in July 2013. Short sales were on the market for a median of 93 days in July, while foreclosures sold in 58 days and non-distressed homes typically took 45 days. Forty percent of homes sold in July were on the market for less than a month.

Single-family home sales increased 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.55 million in July from 4.43 million in June, but remain 4.2 percent below the 4.75 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $223,900 in July, up 5.1 percent from July 2013.

Existing condominium and co-op sales remained unchanged in July from June at an annual rate of 600,000 units, and are 4.8 percent below the 630,000 unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price was $215,000 in July, which is 3.3 percent higher than a year ago.


DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer declined by 0.3%
Posted: August 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

For the week ending August 9 2014, the DJ-BTMU U.S. Business Barometer declined by 0.3 percent to 98.4, after remaining flat the previous week. The decrease in this week’s barometer stemmed from weak performances in consumption indexes. Chain store sales and MBA’s purchase index fell by 1.4 and 1.0 percent, respectively. As to the production side, auto production reported solid gains, along with strong electric output; but it was partially offset by a drop of 5.7 percent in truck production.

On a year-over-year basis, the barometer showed a gain of 1.0 percent, which compares to an average -3.3 percent decline over the Great Recession (ended in June 2009 according to the NBER). After flat lining in 2006, and declining from 2007 through 2009, the barometer bounced back in 2010 to rise by 3.4 percent, which was the strongest increase since 1994 (+4.0 percent), but not so impressive when compared to an -8.0 percent drop in 2009. The rate of increase for the 2013 slowed to 0.7 percent following 1.5 percent in 2012.

The smoothed version of the barometer, which attempts to account for weekly volatility, remained at 98.6. Its year-over-year growth rate was 1.2 percent.


Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Decrease 14,000 to 298,000
Posted: August 21, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

In the week ending August 16, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 298,000, a decrease of 14,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 311,000 to 312,000. The 4-week moving average was 300,750, an increase of 4,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 295,750 to 296,000. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.9 percent for the week ending August 9, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending August 9 was 2,500,000, a decrease of 49,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for insured unemployment since June 16, 2007 when it was 2,453,000. The previous week's level was revised up 5,000 from 2,544,000 to 2,549,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,527,500, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 1,250 from 2,528,250 to 2,529,500.


Purchase Apps up, Refi's up in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Posted: August 20, 2014 at 07:00 AM (Wednesday)

Mortgage applications increased 1.4 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending August 15, 2014.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 1.4 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 1 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 3 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 0.4 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent compared with the previous week and was 11 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

“Interest rates dropped last week as a result of the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine and other international concerns, which in turn pushed mortgage rates lower,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Chief Economist. “Overall application volume for conventional mortgages increased. However, there was a 5.9 percent decline in the number of applications for government mortgages, with both purchase and refinance applications declining. Within the government sector, this decline was led by an 8 percent decline in unadjusted Department of Veterans Affairs applications, while Federal Housing Administration and Rural Housing Service unadjusted applications also fell by 5 percent and 3 percent respectively.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 55 percent of total applications from 54 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 7.8 percent of total applications.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 4.29 percent from 4.35 percent, with points increasing to 0.26 from 0.22 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) decreased to 4.18 percent from 4.24 percent, with points increasing to 0.23 from 0.19 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased to 3.99 percent from 4.04 percent, while points remained unchanged at 0.03 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 3.44 percent from 3.48 percent, while points remained unchanged at 0.30 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 3.10 percent from 3.24 percent, with points decreasing to 0.44 from 0.45 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.


Consumer Price Index increased 0.1% in July, Ex Fd & Engy up 0.1%
Posted: August 19, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.1 percent in July on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 2.0 percent before seasonal adjustment.

The all items index posted its smallest seasonally adjusted increase since February; the indexes for shelter and food rose, but were partially offset by declines in the energy index and the index for airline fares. The food index rose 0.4 percent in July, with the food at home index also rising 0.4 percent after being unchanged in June. The decrease in the energy index was its first since March and featured declines in the indexes of all the major energy components.

The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1 percent in July, the same increase as in June. Along with the shelter index, the indexes for medical care, new vehicles, personal care, and apparel all increased in July. Along with the index for airline fares, the indexes for recreation, for used cars and trucks, for household furnishings and operations, and for tobacco all declined in July.

The all items index increased 2.0 percent over the last 12 months, a slight decline from the 2.1 percent figure for the 12 months ending June. The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.9 percent over the last 12 months, the same figure as for the 12 months ending June. The energy index has increased 2.6 percent, and the food index has risen 2.5 percent over the span.


Real Average Hourly Earnings were unchanged% in July
Posted: August 19, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

Real average hourly earnings for all employees was unchanged from June to July, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This result stems from an unchanged average hourly earnings, combined with a 0.1 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).

Real average weekly earnings was unchanged over the month due to both the real average hourly earnings and the average workweek being unchanged.

Real average hourly earnings was unchanged, seasonally adjusted, from July 2013 to July 2014. The unchanged real average hourly earnings, combined with a 0.3 percent increase in the average workweek, resulted in a 0.3 percent increase in real average weekly earnings over this period.


July Housing Starts up 15.7%, Permits up 8.1%
Posted: August 19, 2014 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

BUILDING PERMITS
Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,052,000. This is 8.1 percent (±1.8%) above the revised June rate of 973,000 and is 7.7 percent (±1.8%) above the July 2013 estimate of 977,000. Single-family authorizations in July were at a rate of 640,000; this is 0.9 percent (±1.5%) above the revised June figure of 634,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 382,000 in July.

HOUSING STARTS
Privately-owned housing starts in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,093,000. This is 15.7 percent (±10.9%) above the revised June estimate of 945,000 and is 21.7 percent (±10.7%) above the July 2013 rate of 898,000. Single-family housing starts in July were at a rate of 656,000; this is 8.3 percent (±10.3%) above the revised June figure of 606,000. The July rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 423,000.

HOUSING COMPLETIONS
Privately-owned housing completions in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 841,000. This is 3.7 percent (±8.2%) above the revised June estimate of 811,000 and is 8.0 percent (±9.9%) above the July 2013 rate of 779,000. Single-family housing completions in July were at a rate of 635,000; this is 6.2 percent (±8.8%) above the revised June rate of 598,000. The July rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 199,000.


ICSC Chain Store Sales decreased by 1.3% in Aug 16 Wk
Posted: August 19, 2014 at 07:45 AM (Tuesday)

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index increased 3.8% for the week ending August 16 - relative to the prior year. On a weekly basis, sales decreased 1.3% compared to the previous week.

"According to the ICSC-GS consumer tracking survey business was very strong over the past week for back-to-school categories - especially electronics and apparel," said Michael Niemira, ICSC research consultant. "Business was also strong for department, drug, discount, wholesale, and furniture stores. Looking ahead, I expect sales for August to show a healthy gain of 4-5% - a notable improvement over the 3.6% gain in August 2013," he added.


Builder Confidence rises 2 points in August to 55
Posted: August 18, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Monday)

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes rose two points to 55 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for August, released today. This third consecutive monthly gain brings the index to its highest level since January.

As the employment picture brightens, builders are seeing a noticeable increase in the number of serious buyers entering the market. However, builders still face a number of challenges, including tight credit conditions for borrowers and shortages of finished lots and labor.

All three HMI components posted gains in August. The indices gauging current sales conditions and expectations for future sales each rose two points to 58 and 65, respectively. The index gauging traffic of prospective buyers increased three points to 42.

Each of the three components of the HMI registered consecutive gains for the past three months, which is a positive sign that builder confidence appears to be firming following an uneven spring. Factors contributing to this rise include sustained job growth, historically low mortgage rates and affordable home prices, which are helping to unleash pent-up demand.

Every region saw a gain in its three-month moving average HMI score in August. The Midwest posted a seven-point increase to 55 and the West registered a four-point gain to 56. The Northeast posted a two-point gain to 38 and the South was up one point to 52.


Forecasters Hold the Line on Projections for Growth
Posted: August 15, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Friday)

The outlook for growth in the U.S. economy over the next four years looks mostly unchanged from that of three months ago, according to 43 forecasters surveyed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The panel expects real GDP to grow at an annual rate of 3.0 percent this quarter and 3.1 percent next quarter. On an annual-average over annual-average basis, the forecasters see real GDP growing 2.1 percent in 2014, down from the previous estimate of 2.4 percent. The forecasters predict real GDP will grow 3.1 percent in 2015, 2.9 percent in 2016, and 2.8 percent in 2017.

Healthier conditions in the labor market accompany the nearly stable outlook for output growth. The forecasters predict the unemployment rate will be an annual average of 6.3 percent in 2014, before falling to 5.7 percent in 2015, 5.4 percent in 2016, and 5.3 percent in 2017. These projections are below those of the last survey.

The forecasters are also more optimistic about the employment outlook. They have revised upward their estimates of the growth in jobs in the next four quarters. The forecasters see nonfarm payroll employment growing at a rate of 228,600 jobs per month this quarter and 211,200 jobs per month next quarter. The forecasters' projections for the annual-average level of nonfarm payroll employment suggest job gains at a monthly rate of 204,800 in 2014 and 214,000 in 2015, as the table below shows.

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