Research >> Economics

Category: Research - Topic: Economics



Chicago Purchasing Managers Index decreased 3.2 points to 50.4 in April
Posted: April 29, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Friday)

The Chicago Business Barometer decreased 3.2 points to 50.4 in April from 53.6 in March led by a fall in New Orders and a sharp drop in Order Backlogs. It marks a slow start to the second quarter, with most measures down from levels seen a year earlier.

Three of the five Barometer components decreased between March and April, with only Production and Supplier Deliveries posting increases on the month. April’s decline left the three-month trend running at a softer pace of 50.5, having ended Q1 at the highest level in over a year.

The decline in the Barometer was led by a fall in New Orders, leaving it at the lowest level since December 2015. Order Backlogs, which last month increased to slightly below 50, saw a double-digit decline in April, while Employment moved back into contraction. Production posted a small rise while Supplier Deliveries increased sharply to the highest since October 2014.

Inventories, which have been little changed over the past few months, increased to the highest since October 2015, but remained in contraction for the sixth consecutive month, suggesting there is a lack of confidence in the recovery.

A growing number of panelists were concerned or uncertain about the impact of a rate hike by the Federal Reserve. In a special question, 35.7% of respondents said an interest rate hike in the next six months would not have an impact on business activity, while 35.7% were uncertain. 28.6% said it will have an impact, with some commenting that it would affect business growth and capital investment plans. When the same question was asked in April 2015, half of the panellists said it wouldn’t affect business, while only 21.2% said they expected to see an impact on business activity.

The recovery in the oil price as well as higher prices for some raw materials such as plastic and paper products had a significant impact on Prices Paid in April, causing it to jump back into expansion for the first time in nine months, to the highest level since November 2014.

Chief Economist of MNI Indicators Philip Uglow said, “This was a disappointing start to the second quarter, with the Barometer barely above the neutral 50 mark in April. Against a backdrop of softer domestic demand and the slowdown abroad, panelists are now more worried about the impact a rate hike might have on business than they were at the same time last year.”


University of Michigan Consumer Confidence continued to decline in April to 89.0
Posted: April 29, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Friday)

Consumer sentiment continued its slow decline in April due to weakening expectations for future economic growth, although their views of their current finances remained positive. The top concerns of consumers involve whether the anticipated slowdown in economic growth will lead to a slower income and job gains, and the rise in uncertainty about future economic policies depending on the outcome of the election. Consumers have hedged these concerns by upping their savings in the 1st quarter in each of the past three years, while still powering the expansion forward. Overall, the data indicate that real consumption will grow by 2.5% in 2016.

Personal Finances
Recently improved finances were cited by 45% in April, and just 11% anticipated that their financial situation would worsen during the year ahead. Income gains were reported by 37% of all consumers, not much below the decade high of 40% in January 2015. Consumers, however, were somewhat more guarded about their future financial prospects, including the size of expected income gains as well as the pace of new job creation. While the majority of consumers still anticipate higher incomes and expect the unemployment rate to remain as low or even lower than at present, their optimism about income and job prospects has weakened during the past year.

Diminished Pace of Economic Growth Expected
Although half of all consumers reported that the economy continued to improve, when asked about prospects for the year ahead, consumers were less optimistic. While not expecting a downturn anytime soon, consumers have increasingly concluded that even the modest gains during the past few years may be difficult to repeat in the years ahead. These concerns may be temporary and improve along with the economy in the balance of the year.

The Consumer Sentiment Index was 89.0 in the April 2016 survey, down from 91.0 in March and 95.9 last April. All of the April decline was in the Expectations Index, which fell to 77.6 in April from last month’s 81.5 and last year’s 88.8. In sharp contrast, the Current Conditions Index rose to 106.7 in April from 105.6 in March, and just nearly equal to last year’s 107.0.

The retreat from the 2015 peaks was evident across a wide range of expectations about prospects for the national economy. The size of the decline, while troublesome, is still far short of indicating an impending recession. The decline is all the more remarkable given that consumers’ assessments of current economic conditions, including their personal finances, have remained largely unchanged at very positive levels during the past year. This divergence may reflect the strength of the consumer relative to the business sectors, and exacerbated by growing uncertainty about the economic policies advocated by various presidential candidates.


Personal Income increased 0.4%, Spending increased 0.1%
Posted: April 29, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Friday)

Personal income increased $57.4 billion, or 0.4 percent, and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $50.4 billion, or 0.4 percent, in March, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $12.8 billion, or 0.1 percent. In February, personal income increased $12.0 billion, or 0.1 percent, DPI increased $11.4 billion, or 0.1 percent, and PCE increased $21.4 billion, or 0.2 percent, based on revised estimates.

Real DPI increased 0.3 percent in March, compared with an increase of 0.2 percent in February. Real PCE increased less than 0.1 percent, compared with an increase of 0.3 percent


Employment Cost Index up 0.6% in 1Q2016
Posted: April 29, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Friday)

Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 0.6 percent, seasonally adjusted, for the 3-month
period ending in March 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Wages and salaries
(which make up about 70 percent of compensation costs) increased 0.7 percent, and benefits (which
make up the remaining 30 percent of compensation) increased 0.5 percent.


Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Activity continued to decline modestly in April
Posted: April 28, 2016 at 11:00 AM (Thursday)

Tenth District manufacturing activity continued to decline modestly, while producers’ expectations for future activity improved considerably. Most price indexes moved slightly higher in April, but remained at low levels.

The month-over-month composite index was -4 in April, up from -6 in March and -12 in February. The composite index is an average of the production, new orders, employment, supplier delivery time, and raw materials inventory indexes. The slight improvement in the index came from a rise in nondurable goods production, particularly for food, paper, and plastics products. Durable goods production such as metals and machinery remained negative. Most month-over-month indexes rose somewhat from the previous month. The production, shipments, and new orders for exports indexes improved slightly but remained in negative territory. In contrast, the new orders and employment indexes were negative but unchanged and the order backlog index fell from -15 to -18. The raw materials inventory edged up from -2 to 0, while the finished goods inventory index fell.

Year-over-year factory indexes were mixed, but generally remained weak. The composite year-over-year index was basically unchanged at -19, while the production and shipments indexes showed slight improvements. The new orders, order backlog, and employment indexes all fell further into negative territory. The capital expenditures index was basically unchanged at its lowest level since December 2009. Both inventory indexes declined after rebounding last month.

Most future factory indexes improved markedly in April. The future composite index jumped from -2 to 10, its highest level in over a year, and the future production, shipments, and new orders indexes also rebounded strongly. The future order backlog index rose from -10 to -1, and the future employment index posted its highest level in five months. The future capital expenditures index inched higher from -9 to -6, and the future new orders for exports index moved into positive territory. The future raw materials inventory index increased from -13 to -5, while the future finished goods inventory index moved slightly lower.

Price indexes edged higher in April but remained at low levels. The month-over-month finished goods price index moved up from -10 to -6, and the raw materials price index jumped from -10 to 4. The year-over-year finished goods price index rose from -4 to -1, while the raw materials price index was unchanged. The future finished goods price index increased slightly from 1 to 2, and the future raw materials price index also rose modestly.


MUFG U.S. Business Barometer dropped by 0.3%
Posted: April 28, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

For the week ending April 16 2016, the MUFG U.S. Business Barometer dropped by 0.3 percent to 97.8. This week’s barometer was driven by poor performances in most consumption and production indexes. MBA’s purchase index and railroad freight car loadings, for instance, declined by 0.5 and 0.9 percent, respectively. As to the production side, most indexes reported losses. Auto and coal production fell by 2.9 and 6.5 percent, respectively; while lumber production contracted by 2.8 percent.

On a year-over-year basis, the barometer declined by 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 flat at 97.8. Its year-over-year growth rate was -1.0 percent.


1Q2016 GDP advance estimate increased 0.5%
Posted: April 28, 2016 at 08:51 AM (Thursday)

Real gross domestic product -- the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production, adjusted for price changes -- increased at an annual rate of 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016, according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 1.4 percent.

The increase in real GDP in the first quarter reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), residential fixed investment, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by negative contributions from nonresidential fixed investment, private inventory investment, exports, and federal government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The deceleration in real GDP in the first quarter reflected a larger decrease in nonresidential fixed investment, a deceleration in PCE, a downturn in federal government spending, an upturn in imports, and larger decreases in private inventory investment and in exports that were partly offset by an upturn in state and local government spending and an acceleration in residential fixed investment.

Real gross domestic purchases -- purchases by U.S. residents of goods and services wherever produced -- increased 0.9 percent in the first quarter, compared with an increase of 1.5 percent in the fourth. The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures prices paid by U.S. residents, increased 0.3 percent in the first quarter, compared with an increase of 0.4 percent in the fourth. Excluding food and energy prices, the price index for gross domestic purchases increased 1.4 percent, compared with an increase of 1.0 percent.

Current-dollar GDP -- the market value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production -- increased 1.2 percent, or $56.3 billion, in the first quarter to a level of $18,221.1 billion. In the fourth quarter, current-dollar GDP increased 2.3 percent, or $104.6 billion.


Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Increase 9,000 to 257,000
Posted: April 28, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

In the week ending April 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 257,000, an increase of 9,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 247,000 to 248,000. The 4-week moving average was 256,000, a decrease of 4,750 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since December 8, 1973 when it was 252,250. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 260,500 to 260,750. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims. This marks 60 consecutive weeks of initialclaims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1973.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.6 percent for the week ending April 16, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending April 16 was 2,130,000, a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for insured unemployment since November 4, 2000 when it was 2,110,000. The previous week's level was revised down by 2,000 from 2,137,000 to 2,135,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,157,500, a decrease of 10,500 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since November 11, 2000 when it was 2,119,750. The previous week's average was revised down by 500 from 2,168,500 to 2,168,000.


FOMC target funds rate reaffirmed at 1/4 to 1/2%
Posted: April 27, 2016 at 01:53 PM (Wednesday)

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March indicates that labor market conditions have improved further even as growth in economic activity appears to have slowed. Growth in household spending has moderated, although households' real income has risen at a solid rate and consumer sentiment remains high. Since the beginning of the year, the housing sector has improved further but business fixed investment and net exports have been soft. A range of recent indicators, including strong job gains, points to additional strengthening of the labor market. Inflation has continued to run below the Committee's 2 percent longer-run objective, partly reflecting earlier declines in energy prices and falling prices of non-energy imports. Market-based measures of inflation compensation remain low; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed, on balance, in recent months.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee currently expects that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace and labor market indicators will continue to strengthen. Inflation is expected to remain low in the near term, in part because of earlier declines in energy prices, but to rise to 2 percent over the medium term as the transitory effects of declines in energy and import prices dissipate and the labor market strengthens further. The Committee continues to closely monitor inflation indicators and global economic and financial developments.

Against this backdrop, the Committee decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1/4 to 1/2 percent. The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting further improvement in labor market conditions and a return to 2 percent inflation.

In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to 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 and international developments. In light of the current shortfall of inflation from 2 percent, the Committee will carefully monitor actual and expected progress toward its inflation goal. The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run. However, the actual path of the federal funds rate will depend on the economic outlook as informed by incoming data.

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, and it anticipates doing so until normalization of the level of the federal funds rate is well under way. This policy, by keeping the Committee's holdings of longer-term securities at sizable levels, should help maintain accommodative financial conditions.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Janet L. Yellen, Chair; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Lael Brainard; James Bullard; Stanley Fischer; Loretta J. Mester; Jerome H. Powell; Eric Rosengren; and Daniel K. Tarullo. Voting against the action was Esther L. George, who preferred at this meeting to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 1/2 to 3/4 percent.


Pending Home Sales Index rose 1.4% in March
Posted: April 27, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Wednesday)

Pending home sales increased slightly in March for the second consecutive month and reached their highest level in almost a year, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Only the West region saw a decline in contract activity last month.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, climbed 1.4 percent to 110.5 in March from an downwardly revised 109.0 in February and is now 1.4 percent above March 2015 (109.0). After last month’s slight gain, the index has increased year-over-year for 19 consecutive months and is at its highest reading since May 2015 (111.0).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says last month’s pending sales increase signals a solid beginning to the spring buying season. “Despite supply deficiencies in plenty of areas, contract activity was fairly strong in a majority of markets in March,” he said. “This spring’s surprisingly low mortgage rates are easing some of the affordability pressures potential buyers are experiencing and are taking away some of the sting from home prices that are still rising too fast and above wage growth.”

In the short-term, the healthy labor market and favorable borrowing costs should lead to sustained buyer demand and a durable pace of sales. However, Yun says the consequences from a failure to construct more single-family homes in recent years are starting to impact some top job producing markets, where endless supply shortages continue to limit choices for buyers and are driving up prices beyond what a growing share of households can comfortably afford.

“Demand is starting to weaken in some areas, particularly in the West, where the median home price has risen an astonishing 38 percent in the past three years,” adds Yun. “As a result, pending sales in the region have now declined in four of the last five months and are lower than one year ago for the third month in a row. Closed sales in the region in March were also below last year’s pace.”

The PHSI in the Northeast increased 3.2 percent to 97.0 in March, and is now 18.4 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index inched up 0.2 percent to 112.8 in March, and is now 4.0 percent above March 2015.

Pending home sales in the South rose 3.0 percent to an index of 125.4 in March but are still 0.6 percent lower than last March. The index in the West declined 1.8 percent in March to 95.3, and is now 7.9 percent below a year ago.

Yun will present NAR’s 2016 midyear economic outlook and forecast on Thursday, May 12 from 8-10 a.m. at the 2016 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will join Yun to discuss current housing finance and consumer issues. A news release highlighting the key takeaways of Yun’s forecast and the session will be sent later in the morning.


Purchase Apps down, Refi's down in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Posted: April 27, 2016 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 April 22, 2016.

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 3 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 5 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 1 percent compared with the previous week and was 14 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 54.4 percent of total applications from 55.4 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 5.2 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications increased to 12.3 percent from 10.6 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications decreased to 12.2 percent from 12.6 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications remained unchanged from 0.8 percent the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) increased to 3.85 percent from 3.83 percent, with points increasing to 0.35 from 0.32 (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 3.78 percent from 3.77 percent, with points increasing to 0.30 from 0.25 (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 3.66 percent from 3.64 percent, with points decreasing to 0.26 from 0.32 (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 3.09 percent from 3.06 percent, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.32 (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 3.02 percent from 2.91 percent, with points decreasing to 0.14 from 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.


Consumer Confidence declined moderately in April to 94.2
Posted: April 26, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Tuesday)

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which had increased in March, declined moderately in April. The Index now stands at 94.2 (1985=100), down from 96.1 in March. The Present Situation Index increased from 114.9 to 116.4, while the Expectations Index decreased from 83.6 to 79.3 in April.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey®, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was April 14.

“Consumer confidence continued on its sideways path, posting a slight decline in April, following a modest gain in March,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved, suggesting no slowing in economic growth. However, their expectations regarding the short-term have moderated, suggesting they do not foresee any pickup in momentum.”

Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions improved somewhat in April. Those saying business conditions are “good” decreased from 24.9 percent to 23.2 percent. However, those saying business conditions are “bad” also declined, from 19.2 percent to 18.1 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market was also mixed. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” decreased from 25.4 percent to 24.1 percent, however those claiming jobs are “hard to get” also declined from 25.2 percent to 22.7 percent.

Consumers were less optimistic about the short-term outlook in April than last month. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased from 14.7 percent to 13.4 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen rose to 11.0 percent from 9.5 percent.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was also less favorable. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead decreased slightly from 13.0 percent to 12.2 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs edged up from 16.3 percent to 17.2 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase declined from 16.9 percent to 15.9 percent; however, the proportion expecting a reduction in income also declined, from 12.3 percent to 11.2 percent.


Richmond Fed's Current Activity Index slipped 8 points to a reading of 14
Posted: April 26, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Tuesday)

Fifth District manufacturing activity continued to expand in April, according to the most recent survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Shipments and the volume of new orders remained solid. New hiring increased modestly, while the average workweek lengthened and average wage increases moderated. Prices of raw materials and finished goods rose at a faster pace compared to last month.

Manufacturers remained optimistic about future business conditions, although expectations were less buoyant compared to the past two months. Producers continued to look for solid growth in shipments and in new orders. Backlogs of new orders were expected to build more gradually in the next six months and capacity utilization was expected to increase at a slower rate. Survey participants expected unchanged vendor lead times.

Firms expected modest growth in hiring during the next six months, while wage increases are anticipated to be more widespread. Survey participants looked for little change in the average workweek. For the next six months, producers expected faster growth in prices paid and received.

Overall, manufacturing conditions remained firm in April, with some components softening from last month's robust readings. The composite index for manufacturing moved to a reading of 14, following last month's reading of 22. The index for shipments lost 13 points, while the new orders index shed six points, finishing at readings of 14 and 18, respectively. Manufacturing employment softened this month; the index settled at a modest reading of 8.

Backlogs rose at a faster pace this month, pushing the index up 10 points to a reading of 11. Capacity utilization improved in April. The index edged up one point to end at 18. The vendor lead time indicator remained nearly flat this month at a reading of 2. Finished goods inventories rose at a somewhat slower pace compared to a month ago. That index lost four points, ending at a reading of 14. Additionally, raw materials inventories grew at a slower pace in April. That gauge moved down to 15 from 21.


S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices gained 0.2% in February
Posted: April 26, 2016 at 09:00 AM (Tuesday)

S&P Dow Jones Indices today released the latest results for the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices. Data released today for February 2016 shows that home prices continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months.

Year-over-Year
The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 5.3% annual gain in February, unchanged from the previous month. The 10-City Composite increased 4.6% in the year to February, compared to 5.0% previously. The 20-City Composite’s year-over-year gain was 5.4%, down from 5.7% the prior month.

Portland, Seattle, and Denver reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities with another month of annual price increases. Portland led the way with an 11.9% year-over-year price increase, followed by Seattle with 11.0%, and Denver with a 9.7% increase. Seven cities reported greater price increases in the year ending February 2016 versus the year ending January 2016.

Month-over-Month
Before seasonal adjustment, the National Index posted a gain of 0.2% month-over-month in February. The 10-City Composite recorded a 0.1% month-over-month increase while the 20-City Composite posted a 0.2% increase in February. After seasonal adjustment, the National Index recorded a 0.4% month-over-month increase. The 10-City Composite posted a 0.6% increase and the 20-City Composite reported a 0.7% month-over-month increase after seasonal adjustment. Fourteen of 20 cities reported increases in February before seasonal adjustment; after seasonal adjustment, only 10 cities increased for the month.

Analysis
”Home prices continue to rise twice as fast as inflation, but the pace is easing off in the most recent numbers,” says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “The year-over-year figures for the 10-City and 20-City Composites both slowed and 13 of the 20 cities saw slower year-over-year numbers compared to last month. The slower growth rate is evident in the monthly seasonally adjusted numbers: six cities experienced smaller monthly gains in February compared to January, when no city saw growth. Among the six were Seattle, Portland OR, and San Diego, all of which were very strong last time.

“Mortgage defaults are an important measure of the health of the housing market. Memories of the financial crisis are dominated by rising defaults as much as by falling home prices (see first chart). Today as well, the mortgage default rate continues to mirror the path of home prices. Currently, the default rate on first mortgages is about three-quarters of one percent, a touch lower than in 2004. Moreover, the figure has drifted down in the last two years. While financing is not an issue for home buyers, rising prices are a concern in many parts of the country. The visible supply of homes on the market is low at 4.8 months in the last report. Homeowners looking to sell their house and trade up to a larger house or a more desirable location are concerned with finding that new house. Additionally, the pace of new single family home construction and sales has not completely recovered from the recession.”

The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 5.3% annual gain in February 2016. The 10-City and 20-City Composites reported year-over-year increases of 4.6% and 5.4%.

As of February 2016, average home prices for the MSAs within the 10-City and 20-City Composites are back to their winter 2007 levels. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks, the peak-to-current decline for both Composites is approximately 11-13%. Since the March 2012 lows, the 10-City and 20-City Composites have recovered 34.5% and 36.3%.


March New Orders for Durable Goods increased 0.8%, Ex-Trans down 1.2%
Posted: April 26, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

New Orders
New orders for manufactured durable goods in March increased $1.8 billion or 0.8 percent to $230.7 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today. This increase, up two of the last three months, followed a 3.1 percent February decrease. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 0.2 percent. Excluding defense, new orders decreased 1.0 percent. Transportation equipment, also up two of the last three months, drove the increase, $2.2 billion or 2.9 percent to $76.0 billion.

Shipments
Shipments of manufactured durable goods in March, down three of the last four months, decreased $1.1 billion or 0.5 percent to $237.0 billion. This followed a 1.0 percent February decrease. Transportation equipment, also down three of the last four months, drove the decrease, $1.4 billion or 1.8 percent to $77.5 billion.

Unfilled Orders
Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in March, down three of the last four months, decreased $1.3 billion or 0.1 percent to $1,182.5 billion. This followed a 0.4 percent February decrease. Transportation equipment, down four consecutive months, drove the decrease, $1.6 billion or 0.2 percent to $787.3 billion.

Inventories
Inventories of manufactured durable goods in March, up following two consecutive monthly decreases, increased less than $0.1 billion or virtually unchanged to $394.1 billion. This followed a 0.3 percent February decrease. Fabricated metal products, up following four consecutive monthly decreases, drove the increase, $0.2 billion or 0.5 percent to $48.5 billion.

Capital Goods
Nondefense new orders for capital goods in March decreased $0.8 billion or 1.1 percent to $71.6 billion. Shipments increased $0.2 billion or 0.3 percent to $75.1 billion. Unfilled orders decreased $3.5 billion or 0.5 percent to $738.9 billion. Inventories increased $0.6
billion or 0.3 percent to $175.2 billion. Defense new orders for capital goods in March increased $3.8 billion or 48.4 percent to $11.6 billion. Shipments increased less than $0.1 billion or 0.1 percent to $10.0 billion. Unfilled orders increased $1.6 billion or 1.1 percent to $150.2 billion. Inventories decreased $0.3 billion or 1.4 percent to $21.5 billion.

Revised February Data
Revised seasonally adjusted February figures for all manufacturing industries were: new orders, $453.8 billion (revised from $454.0 billion); shipments, $463.0 billion (revised from $462.8 billion); unfilled orders, $1,183.8 billion (revised from $1,184.0 billion); and total inventories, $634.1 billion (revised from $634.3 billion).


Philadelphia NonManufacturing Activity Continues Modest Growth
Posted: April 26, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

Firms responding to April's Nonmanufacturing Business Outlook Survey reported that growth in regional nonmanufacturing activity remains positive with no perceptible change in the diffusion index for current activity at the firm level. The diffusion index for current activity in the region was also unchanged. The individual indicators were mixed: The sales/revenues and new orders indexes declined, while the indexes for employment were steady. The diffusion indexes for future activity rose, showing that the responding firms are optimistic about activity increasing in the region over the next six months and even more optimistic about their own firms' prospects.

Modest Growth Continues
The diffusion index for current activity at the firm level stands at 17.8, virtually unchanged from its March reading (see Chart above). The proportion of respondents reporting no change in activity at their firms this month rose 3 points, to 39 percent. The diffusion index for current activity for the region also held steady at 13.5 in April, as the proportion of firms reporting no change in regional activity rose 8 points, to 50 percent. The index for current activity at the firm level has been below its historical average of 29.3 for six consecutive months, and the index for current activity for the region has been below its historical average of 23.3 for four consecutive months. The current index values suggest that modest growth continues for nonmanufacturers in the region.

Growth in New Orders and Sales Slowed
In April, the new orders index fell 3 points, to 13.9, and the sales/revenues index fell 9 points, to 9.6. These changes were largely driven by a decline in the share of firms reporting an increase in both orders and sales. The historical averages for these indexes are 20.0 and 22.5, respectively. The unfilled orders index held relatively steady at 6.2, which is near its historical average of 5.4.

Employment Conditions Were Steady
The full-time employment index rose 1 point, to 7.5. The share of firms reporting no change in full-time employment stands at 65 percent. The part-time employment index rose 2 points, to 10.5, and the share of firms reporting no change in part-time employment rose 9 points, to 62 percent. The workweek index rose 19 points, to 24.8. A higher share of firms reported an increase in the workweek, from 21 percent in March to 36 percent in April, with a corresponding 15 percent decline in the share of firms reporting no change in the workweek. The index for wages and benefits rose 21 points, to 40.3. Overall, responses to the survey indicate steady conditions for labor demand in April.

Inflation Signals Were Mixed
The prices paid index rose 8 points, to 10.9, but remains below its historical average of 20.1. Twenty percent of the firms reported higher prices paid in April, up 12 points from March. The prices received index fell 10 points, to 13.9, and is slightly above its historical average of 12.2. The share of firms reporting an increase in prices received fell 8 points, to 18 percent.

Overall Capital Spending Slowed, Cybersecurity Spending Rose
The diffusion index for capital expenditures on equipment and software fell from 22.0 in March to 20.4 in April. The diffusion index for capital expenditures on physical plant fell 11 points, to 16.1, as the share of firms reporting an increase in capital expenditures fell from 30 percent to 21 percent this month. Firms also were asked about their spending related to security and regulatory compliance in this month's special questions. Sixty-nine percent of the responding firms reported higher spending for cybersecurity/network security, 51 percent reported higher spending for physical security, and 54 percent reported higher spending for regulatory compliance. In terms of total capital spending, the median responses showed that firms devote an equal share (5 percent) to both cybersecurity and regulatory compliance.

Optimism About the Future Is High
The respondents to this month's survey remain optimistic about future activity over the next six months. The diffusion index for future activity at the individual firm level was 56.0 in April, an increase of 14 points from March. Only 7 percent of the respondents foresee lower activity at their firms over the next six months. At the regional level, the future activity diffusion index was 35.2 in April, a 2 point increase from 32.9 in March. The historical average for future activity at the firm level is 49.8, and the historical average for future activity for the region is 44.0. While respondents are optimistic about the prospects for the region, they are more optimistic about the prospects for their individual firms.

Summary
Results from the April Nonmanufacturing Business Outlook Survey suggest continued expansion in the region among nonmanufacturing firms. Although the sales and new orders indicators weakened, the employment indicators suggest a steady labor market. Firms are particularly optimistic about their own growth over the next six months.


Texas Manufacturing Activity Expands Again
Posted: April 25, 2016 at 10:30 AM (Monday)

Texas factory activity increased for a second month in a row in April, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, rose from 3.3 to 5.8, suggesting a slight pickup in output growth.

Most other indexes of current manufacturing activity also reflected growth this month. The new orders index rebounded into positive territory after four months of negative readings, coming in at 6.2. The growth rate of orders index jumped 11 points to -0.7. The capacity utilization and shipments indexes posted their second positive reading in a row and climbed to 8.2 and 7.1, respectively.

Perceptions of broader business conditions remained pessimistic. The general business activity index held steady at -13.9, its 16th straight negative reading. The company outlook index posted a negative reading for the fifth consecutive month but rose from -11.0 to -5.9, showing signs of additional stabilization in April.

Labor market indicators reflected persistent weakness in April. The employment and hours worked indexes remained negative for the fourth straight month but rose to -3.7 and -1.0, respectively. Fourteen percent of firms noted net hiring, and 18 percent noted net layoffs in April.

Price pressures were mixed, and wages continued to rise. Abatement in downward pressure on input costs was seen in April, as the raw materials prices index bounced back into positive territory after nine months of decline, coming in at 5.5. The finished goods prices index has been negative since January 2015 and edged up to -6.6 this month. Meanwhile, the wages and benefits index stayed positive and rose from 14.7 to 16.7, suggesting a slightly accelerated rise in compensation.

Expectations regarding future business conditions were mixed in April. The index of future general business activity fell 6 points to 0.4, while the index measuring future company outlook posted its third positive reading at 8.9. Indexes for future manufacturing activity rose and remained solidly positive.

The Dallas Fed conducts the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey monthly to obtain a timely assessment of the state’s factory activity. Data were collected April 12–20, and 103 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.


New Home Sales in March at annual rate of 511,000
Posted: April 25, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Monday)

Sales of new single-family houses in March 2016 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 511,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 1.5 percent (±15.0%)* below the revised February rate of 519,000, but is 5.4 percent (±16.0%)* above the March 2015 estimate of 485,000.

The median sales price of new houses sold in March 2016 was $288,000; the average sales price was $356,200. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of March was 246,000. This represents a supply of 5.8 months at the current sales rate.


U.S. Leading Economic Index increased 0.1% in March
Posted: April 21, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. increased 0.2 percent in March to 123.4 (2010 = 100), following a 0.1 percent decline in February, and a 0.2 percent decline in January.

“With the March gain, the U.S. LEI’s six-month growth rate improved slightly but still points to slow, although not slowing, growth in the coming quarters,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Director of Business Cycles and Growth Research at The Conference Board. “Rebounding stock prices were offset by a decline in housing permits, but nonetheless there were widespread gains among the leading indicators. Financial conditions, as well as expected improvements in manufacturing, should support a modest growth environment in 2016.”

The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index® (CEI) for the U.S. was unchanged in March, remaining at 113.3 (2010 = 100), following a 0.1 percent increase in February, and a 0.3 percent increase in January.

The Conference Board Lagging Economic Index® (LAG) for the U.S. increased 0.4 percent in March to 120.9 (2010 = 100), following a 0.5 percent increase in February, and a 0.1 percent increase in January.


MUFG U.S. Business Barometer climbed by 0.6%
Posted: April 21, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

For the week ending April 9 2016, the MUFG U.S. Business Barometer climbed by 0.6 percent to 98.1. This week’s gain was mostly driven by consumption indexes. Chain store sales, for instance, bounced back by 1.5 percent, following a loss of 0.5 percent in the previous week. Likewise, MBA’s purchase index and railroad freight car loadings rose by 8.4 and 1.2 percent, respectively. On the production side, gains in some indexes were offset by losses in others. Auto and coal production declined by 4.6 and 5.2 percent, respectively; while electric output and lumber production increased by 3.6 and 1.2 percent, respectively.

On a year-over-year basis, the barometer declined by 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, rose by 0.1 percent to 97.8. Its year-over-year growth rate was -1.0 percent.


Chicago Fed National Activity edged down in March
Posted: April 21, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, decreased to –0.18 in March from –0.11 in February. March’s CFNAI-MA3 suggests that growth in national economic activity was somewhat below its historical trend. The economic growth reflected in this level of the CFNAI-MA3 suggests subdued inflationary pressure from economic activity over the coming year.

The CFNAI Diffusion Index, which is also a three-month moving average, declined to –0.23 in March from –0.12 in February. Twenty-seven of the 85 individual indicators made positive contributions to the CFNAI in March, while 58 made negative contributions. Forty-two indicators improved from February to March, while 42 indicators deteriorated and one was unchanged. Of the indicators that improved, 21 made negative contributions.

The contribution from production-related indicators to the CFNAI ticked down to –0.31 in March from –0.30 in February. Industrial production declined by 0.6 percent in March for the second straight month. The sales, orders, and inventories category made a neutral contribution to the CFNAI in March, up slightly from –0.03 in February.

The contribution from employment-related indicators to the CFNAI moved down to –0.04 in March from +0.02 in February. The civilian unemployment rate edged up to 5.0 percent in March from 4.9 percent in February. Moreover, nonfarm payrolls increased by 215,000 in March after rising by 245,000 in the previous month.

The contribution of the personal consumption and housing category to the CFNAI ticked down to –0.09 in March from –0.07 in February. Housing starts decreased to 1,089,000 annualized units in March from 1,194,000 in February, and housing permits moved down to 1,086,000 annualized units in March from 1,177,000 in the previous month.

The CFNAI was constructed using data available as of April 19, 2016. At that time, March data for 50 of the 85 indicators had been published. For all missing data, estimates were used in constructing the index. The February monthly index value was revised to –0.38 from an initial estimate of –0.29, and the January monthly index value was revised to +0.28 from last month’s estimate of +0.41. Revisions to the monthly index value 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 revisions to both the February and January monthly index values were due primarily to the former.


Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Decrease 6,000 to 247,000
Posted: April 21, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

In the week ending April 16, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 247,000, a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 253,000. This is the lowest level for initial claims since November 24, 1973 when it was 233,000. The 4-week moving average was 260,500, a decrease of 4,500 from the previous week's unrevised average of 265,000. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims. This marks 59 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1973.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.6 percent for the week ending April 9, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending April 9 was 2,137,000, a decrease of 39,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for insured unemployment since November 4, 2000 when it was 2,110,000. The previous week's level was revised up 5,000 from 2,171,000 to 2,176,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,168,500, a decrease of 10,750 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since November 11, 2000 when it was 2,119,750. The previous week's average was revised up by 1,250 from 2,178,000 to 2,179,250.


Philadelphia February Outlook Reported No Improvement in Activity
Posted: April 21, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

Firms responding to the Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey reported no improvement in business conditions this month. The indicator for general activity, which rose sharply in March, fell to a slightly negative reading in April. Other broad indicators suggested a similar relapse in growth that was reported last month. The indicators for both employment and work hours also fell notably. Despite weakness in current conditions, the survey’s indicators of future activity showed continued improvement, suggesting that the fallback is considered temporary.

Current Indicators Fall from Last Month's Readings
The diffusion index for current activity decreased from 12.4 in March to -1.6 this month. The index had turned positive last month following six consecutive negative readings. The current new orders and shipments indexes also fell this month. The percentage of firms (23 percent) reporting a rise in new orders was exactly offset by the percentage reporting a decline. The current new orders index decreased from 15.7 to zero this month, while the current shipments index fell precipitously, from 22.1 to -10.8. The unfilled orders and delivery time indexes suggested weakness, as both indexes were in negative territory this month. Firms continued to report overall declines in inventories.

The survey’s indicators of employment corroborate weakness in the other broad indicators this month. The employment index decreased 17 points and registered its fourth consecutive negative reading. Nearly 62 percent of the firms reported no change in employment this month, but the percentage reporting decreases rose from 17 percent in March to 27 percent this month. Firms reported a notable decline in average work hours: The index decreased 22 points and returned to negative territory after last month’s first positive reading in three months.

Output Prices Rise Slightly
Manufactured goods prices, on balance, rose slightly this month. The prices received index increased 4 points, to 7.4, its second consecutive positive reading (see Chart 2). But the largest share of firms (75 percent) reported no change in prices this month. Input price increases were reported by 15 percent of the firms this month. The prices paid index, which had remained negative for seven consecutive months, increased 14 points, to 13.2.

Outlook Improves Again This Month, Despite Current Weakness
The survey’s future indicators bucked the trend of weakening current indicators this month. The diffusion index for future general activity increased from a reading of 28.8 in March to 42.2 this month. This is the highest reading for the index in 15 months (see Chart 1). The largest share of firms (51 percent) expect an increase in activity over the next six months, while only 9 percent expect declines. The future indexes for new orders and shipments also moved higher this month, increasing 10 points and 7 points, respectively. The future employment index also increased, from 6.3 to 14.2. More than 25 percent of the surveyed firms expect to increase employment levels over the next six months. This is slightly higher than the 22 percent that increased employment last month. The indexes for future prices paid and received edged higher this month, increasing 12 points and 8 points, respectively.

Spending on Security and Regulatory Compliance Is on the Rise
In this month’s special questions, firms were asked about recent trends in spending related to security and regulatory compliance. Sixty percent of the responding firms reported higher spending for cybersecurity/network security, while 31 percent reported higher spending for physical security. The largest percentage of firms (74 percent) reported increased spending for general regulatory compliance, and 26 percent characterized those increases as substantial. As a share of total capital spending, spending devoted to data security (5 percent) exceeded spending for physical security (3 percent), and their combined total exceeded the average share for regulatory compliance (6 percent).

Summary
This month’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey suggests a relapse in growth of the region’s manufacturing sector. The survey’s indicators for general activity, new orders, shipments, and employment all fell notably from their readings in March. Despite reported weakness this month, firms’ forecasts for the next six months showed continued improvement, suggesting that the reported decline in growth is expected to be temporary.


Existing-Home Sales jumped 5.1% in March
Posted: April 20, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Wednesday)

Bolstered by big gains in the Northeast and Midwest, existing-home sales bounced back in March and remained slightly up from a year ago, 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, jumped 5.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million in March from a downwardly revised 5.07 million in February. Sales rose in all four major regions last month and are up modestly (1.5 percent) from March 2015.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says home sales had a nice rebound in March following February's uncharacteristically large decline. "Closings came back in force last month as a greater number of buyers – mostly in the Northeast and Midwest – overcame depressed inventory levels and steady price growth to close on a home," he said. "Buyer demand remains sturdy in most areas this spring and the mid-priced market is doing quite well. However, sales are softer both at the very low and very high ends of the market because of supply limitations and affordability pressures."

The median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $222,700, up 5.7 percent from March 2015 ($210,700). March's price increase marks the 49th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of March increased 5.9 percent to 1.98 million existing homes available for sale, but is still 1.5 percent lower than a year ago (2.01 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.4 months in February.

"The choppiness in sales activity so far this year is directly related to the unevenness in the rate of new listings coming onto the market to replace what is, for the most part, being sold rather quickly," adds Yun. "Additionally, a segment of would-be buyers at the upper end of the market appear to have been spooked by January's stock market correction."

Matching the lowest share since August 2015, properties typically stayed on the market for 47 days in March, a decrease from 59 days in February and below the 52 days in March 2015. Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 120 days in March, while foreclosures sold in 50 days and non-distressed homes took 46 days. Forty-two percent of homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month – the highest since July 2015 (43 percent).

The share of first-time buyers was 30 percent in March, unchanged both from February and a year ago. First-time buyers in all of 2015 also represented an average of 30 percent.

"With rents steadily rising and average fixed rates well below 4 percent, qualified first-time buyers should be more active participants than what they are right now," adds Yun. "Unfortunately, the same underlying deterrents impacting their ability to buy haven't subsided so far in 2016. Affordability and the low availability of starter homes is still a major barrier for them in most markets."

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate (link is external) for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage ticked up from 3.66 percent in February to 3.69 percent in March, but remained below 4 percent for the eighth straight month. The average commitment rate for all of 2015 was 3.85 percent.

NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida, says despite modest improvements, mortgage credit is still difficult to come by for many first-time buyers and middle-income households. "Reducing the Federal Housing Administration's annual mortgage insurance premium rate and repealing its life-of-loan policy requirement would certainly expand options for more of these buyers," he said. "These changes would save consumers money and further strengthen the FHA's program by enticing more creditworthy borrowers to seek out FHA-insured loans."

All-cash sales were 25 percent of transactions in March (unchanged from February) and are up from 24 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in March, down from 18 percent in February and unchanged from a year ago. Sixty-six percent of investors paid cash in March.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – fell to 8 percent in March, down from 10 percent both last month and a year ago. Seven percent of March sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 16 percent below market value in March (17 percent in February), while short sales were discounted 10 percent (16 percent in February).

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales increased 5.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.76 million in March from 4.51 million in February, and are now 2.6 percent higher than the 4.64 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $224,300 in March, up 5.8 percent from March 2015.

Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 570,000 units in March from 560,000 in February, but are still 6.6 percent below March 2015 (610,000 units). The median existing condo price was $209,600 in March, which is 4.6 percent above a year ago.

Regional Breakdown
March existing-home sales in the Northeast ascended 11.1 percent to an annual rate of 700,000, and are now 7.7 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $254,100, which is 5.8 percent above March 2015.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 9.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.23 million in March, and are now 0.8 percent above March 2015. The median price in the Midwest was $174,800, up 7.0 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South rose 2.7 percent to an annual rate of 2.25 million in March, and are 2.3 percent above March 2015. The median price in the South was $194,400, up 4.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West climbed 1.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.15 million in March, but are 2.5 percent lower than a year ago. The median price in the West was $320,800, which is 5.9 percent above March 2015.


Purchase Apps up, Refi's up in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Posted: April 20, 2016 at 07:00 AM (Wednesday)

Mortgage applications increased 1.3 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending April 15, 2016.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 1.3 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 decreased 1 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 1 percent compared with the previous week and was 17 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 55.4 percent of total applications from 54.9 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity remained unchanged at 5.0 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications decreased to 10.6 percent from 10.8 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications increased to 12.6 percent from 11.9 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications remained unchanged at 0.8 percent the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) increased to 3.83 percent from 3.82 percent, with points decreasing to 0.32 from 0.33 (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 3.77 percent from 3.74 percent, with points decreasing to 0.25 from 0.31 (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 3.64 percent from 3.66 percent, with points increasing to 0.32 from 0.29 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. This is the lowest rate since May 2013. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 3.06 percent from 3.10 percent, with points decreasing to 0.32 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. This is the lowest rate since May 2013. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 2.91 percent from 2.94 percent, with points increasing to 0.26 from 0.20 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate remained unchanged from last week.


March Housing Starts down 8.8%, Permits down 7.7%
Posted: April 19, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

BUILDING PERMITS
Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,086,000. This is 7.7 percent (±1.2%) below the revised February rate of 1,177,000, but is 4.6 percent (±0.9%) above the March 2015 estimate of 1,038,000. Single-family authorizations in March were at a rate of 727,000; this is 1.2 percent (±1.1%) below the revised February figure of 736,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 324,000 in March.

HOUSING STARTS
Privately-owned housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,089,000. This is 8.8 percent (±11.1%)* below the revised February estimate of 1,194,000, but is 14.2 percent (±11.7%) above the March 2015 rate of 954,000. Single-family housing starts in March were at a rate of 764,000; this is 9.2 percent (±10.3%)* below the revised February figure of 841,000. The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 312,000.

HOUSING COMPLETIONS
Privately-owned housing completions in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,061,000. This is 3.5 percent (±13.3%)* above the revised February estimate of 1,025,000 and is 31.6 percent (±15.2%) above the March 2015 rate of 806,000. Single-family housing completions in March were at a rate of 734,000; this is 0.3 percent (±11.5%)* below the revised February rate of 736,000. The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 316,000.


Builder Confidence unchanged at a level of 58 in April
Posted: April 18, 2016 at 09:30 AM (Monday)

Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes remained unchanged in April at a level of 58 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).

“Builder confidence has held firm at 58 for three consecutive months, showing that the single-family housing sector continues to recover at a slow but consistent pace,” said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady, a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill. “As we enter the spring home buying season, we should see the market move forward.”

“Builders remain cautiously optimistic about construction growth in 2016,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Solid job creation and low mortgage interest rates will sustain continued gains in the single-family housing market in the months ahead.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 30 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

The HMI components measuring sales expectations in the next six months rose one point to 62, and the index gauging buyer traffic also increased a single point to 44. Meanwhile, the component charting current sales conditions fell two points to 63.

Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, all four regions registered slight declines. The Northeast and West each fell two points to 44 and 67, respectively. Meanwhile, the Midwest and South each posted respective one-point losses to 57 and 58.


Treasury International Capital Data for February 2016
Posted: April 15, 2016 at 04:00 PM (Friday)

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today released Treasury International Capital (TIC) data for February 2016. The sum total in February of all net foreign acquisitions of long-term securities, short-term U.S. securities, and banking flows was a monthly net TIC inflow of $33.5 billion. Of this, net foreign private inflows were $62.3 billion, and net foreign official outflows were $28.7 billion.

Foreign residents increased their holdings of long-term U.S. securities in February; net purchases were $28.3 billion. Net purchases by private foreign investors were $68.5 billion, while net sales by foreign official institutions were $40.2 billion. U.S. residents decreased their holdings of long-term foreign securities, with net sales of $43.7 billion.

Taking into account transactions in both foreign and U.S. securities, net foreign purchases of long-term securities were $72.0 billion. After including adjustments, such as estimates of unrecorded principal payments to foreigners on U.S. asset-backed securities, overall net foreign purchases of long-term securities are estimated to have been $60.9 billion in February.

Foreign residents decreased their holdings of U.S. Treasury bills by $3.2 billion. Foreign resident holdings of all dollar-denominated short-term U.S. securities and other custody liabilities decreased by $6.2 billion. Banks’ own net dollar-denominated liabilities to foreign residents decreased by $21.1 billion.


Industrial Production decreased 0.6%
Capacity Utilization decreased to 74.8%

Posted: April 15, 2016 at 09:16 AM (Friday)

Industrial production decreased 0.6 percent in March for a second month in a row. For the first quarter as a whole, industrial production fell at an annual rate of 2.2 percent. A substantial portion of the overall decrease in March resulted from declines in the indexes for mining and utilities, which fell 2.9 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively; in addition, manufacturing output fell 0.3 percent. The sizable decrease in mining production continued the industry's recent downward trajectory; the index has fallen in each of the past seven months, at an average pace of 1.6 percent per month. At 103.4 percent of its 2012 average, total industrial production in March was 2.0 percent below its year-earlier level. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector decreased 0.5 percentage point in March to 74.8 percent, a rate that is 5.2 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2015) average.


Empire State Manufacturing Survey Conditions Improve in March
Posted: April 15, 2016 at 08:00 AM (Friday)

The April 2016 Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicates that business activity expanded for New York manufacturers. The headline general business conditions climbed nine points to 9.6, its highest level in more than a year. The new orders and shipments indexes registered an increase in both orders and shipments, and inventories were slightly lower than last month. The prices paid index climbed sixteen points to 19.2, pointing to a pickup in input price increases, while the prices received index rose above zero, a sign that selling prices increased. Employment levels and the average workweek were little changed from March. The six-month outlook continued to improve, with the index for future business conditions rising for a third straight month.

Business Conditions Improve
Business activity expanded for New York manufacturing firms for the first time in over a year, according to the April 2016 survey. After remaining in negative territory for seven months, the general business conditions index rose to a reading slightly above zero last month, and climbed nine more points to reach 9.6 in April. Thirty-one percent of respondents reported that conditions had improved over the month, while twenty-two percent reported that conditions had worsened. After a steep gain last month, the new orders index edged up two points to 11.1, pointing to an increase in orders. The shipments index edged lower but, at 10.2, still signaled a modest increase in shipments. The unfilled orders and delivery time indexes both came in close to zero. The inventories index was -4.8, indicating that inventory levels were slightly lower.

Employment Holds Steady
The prices paid index rose sixteen points to 19.2, suggesting that input prices increased at a significantly faster pace than last month. The prices received index, up nine points to 2.9, showed a small increase in selling prices. The index for number of employees edged up to 2.0, indicating that employment levels remained fairly steady, and the average workweek index was unchanged at 2.0, a sign that hours worked remained largely the same.

Outlook Continues to Improve
Indexes for the six-month outlook indicated that conditions were expected to improve in the months ahead. The index for future business conditions moved up four points to 29.4—its third consecutive rise. The index for future new orders remained elevated at 36.6, and the index for future shipments climbed to 37.2. Future employment indexes conveyed an expectation that employment levels and the average workweek would rise modestly over the next six months. The capital expenditures index climbed six points to 22.1, and the technology spending index rose to 21.2.


MUFG U.S. Business Barometer picked up by 0.1%
Posted: April 14, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Thursday)

For the week ending April 2 2016, the MUFG U.S. Business Barometer picked up by 0.1 percent to 97.5. This week’s barometer is characterized by a mixed performance in the indexes. Auto and truck production, for instance, rose by 0.5 and 1.4 percent, respectively. Similarly, electric output increased by 0.6 percent, after falling by 4.0 percent in the previous week. On the other hand, steel and coal production dropped by 1.0 and 4.2 percent, respectively. Consumption indexes such as MBA’s purchase index and railroad freight car loadings also reported losses.

On a year-over-year basis, the barometer declined by 1.3 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 flat at 97.5. Its year-over-year growth rate was -1.2 percent.


Real Average Hourly Earnings increased 0.2% in March
Posted: April 14, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

Real average hourly earnings for all employees increased 0.2 percent from February to March, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This result stems from a 0.3-percent increase in average hourly earnings being partially offset by a 0.1-percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).

Real average weekly earnings increased 0.2 percent over the month due to the increase in real average hourly earnings combined with no change in the average workweek.

Real average hourly earnings increased 1.4 percent, seasonally adjusted, from March 2015 to March 2016. This increase in real average hourly earnings combined with a 0.3-percent decrease in the average workweek resulted in a 1.1-percent increase in real average weekly earnings over this period.


Consumer Price Index increased 0.1% in March, Ex Fd & Engy up 0.1%
Posted: April 14, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.1 percent in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 0.9 percent before seasonal adjustment.

The food index declined in March, while the indexes for energy and for all items less food and energy rose, leading to the slight seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index. The food index fell 0.2 percent after rising in February, as five of the six major grocery store food groups declined. The energy index rose for the first time since November, with all of its major components except natural gas increasing.

While the index for all items less food and energy increased in March, the 0.1 percent advance was the smallest increase since August. Major component indexes were mixed in March. The indexes for shelter, recreation, medical care, education, tobacco, and personal care were among those that rose, while the indexes for apparel, airline fares, communication, household furnishings and operations, and used cars and trucks all declined.

The all items index rose 0.9 percent over the last 12 months, a slightly smaller increase than the 1.0-percent change for the 12 months ending February. The index for all items less food and energy has risen 2.2 percent over the last 12 months, and the food index has increased 0.8 percent. Despite rising in March, the energy index has declined 12.6 percent over the last year.


Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Decrease 13,000 to 253,000
Posted: April 14, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

In the week ending April 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 253,000, a decrease of 13,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 1,000 from 267,000 to 266,000. The 4-week moving average was 265,000, a decrease of 1,500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 250 from 266,750 to 266,500. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims. This marks 58 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1973.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.6 percent for the week ending April 2, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending April 2 was 2,171,000, a decrease of 18,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 2,000 from 2,191,000 to 2,189,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,178,000, a decrease of 10,250 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since November 18, 2000 when it was 2,169,000. The previous week's average was revised down by 500 from 2,188,750 to 2,188,250.


Beige Book: Economic Activity activity continued to expand
Posted: April 13, 2016 at 02:00 PM (Wednesday)

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggest that national economic activity continued to expand in late February and March, though the pace of growth varied across Districts. Most Districts said that economic growth was in the modest to moderate range and that contacts expected growth would remain in that range going forward. Consumer spending increased modestly in most Districts and reports on tourism were mostly positive. Labor market conditions continued to strengthen and business spending generally expanded across most Districts. Demand for nonfinancial services grew moderately overall. Manufacturing activity increased in most Districts. Construction and real estate activity also expanded. Credit conditions improved, on net, in most Districts. Low prices weighed on energy and mining output as well as prospects for agricultural producers. Overall, prices increased modestly across the majority of Districts, and input cost pressures continued to ease.


Business Inventories up 0.1% in February
Posted: April 13, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Wednesday)

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that the combined value of distributive trade sales and manufacturers’ shipments for February, adjusted for seasonal and trading-day differences but not for price changes, was estimated at $1,284.4 billion, down 0.4 percent (±0.2%) from January 2016 and was down 1.4 percent (±0.4%) from February 2015.

Inventories. Manufacturers’ and trade inventories, adjusted for seasonal variations but not for price changes, were estimated at an end-of-month level of $1,812.1 billion, down 0.1 percent (±0.1%)* from January 2016, but were up 1.2 percent (±0.5%) from February 2015.

The total business inventories/sales ratio based on seasonally adjusted data at the end of February was 1.41. The February 2015 ratio was 1.37.


Producer Price Index fell 0.1% in March, ex Fd & Engy unch%
Posted: April 13, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Wednesday)

The Producer Price Index for final demand fell 0.1 percent in March, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Final demand prices decreased 0.2 percent in February and advanced 0.1 percent in January. On an unadjusted basis, the final demand index moved down 0.1 percent for the 12 months ended in March.

The decrease in the final demand index in March can be traced to prices for final demand services, which declined 0.2 percent. In contrast, prices for final demand goods rose 0.2 percent.

The index for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services was unchanged in March after four consecutive advances. For the 12 months ended in March, prices for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services rose 0.9 percent.


U.S. Retail Sales for March decrease 0.3%, Ex-Auto up 0.2%
Posted: April 13, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Wednesday)

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for March, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $446.9 billion, a decrease of 0.3 percent (±0.5%)* from the previous month, and 1.7 percent (±0.7%) above March 2015. Total sales for the January 2016 through March 2016 period were up 2.8 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The January 2016 to February 2016 percent change was revised from down 0.1 percent (±0.5%)* to virtually unchanged (±0.2%)*.

Retail trade sales were down 0.2 percent (±0.5%)* from February 2016, and up 1.3 percent (±0.5%) from last year. Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were up 10.8 percent (±2.5%) from March 2015, while gasoline stations were down 15.6 percent (±1.6%) from last year.


Purchase Apps up, Refi's up in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Posted: April 13, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Wednesday)

Mortgage applications increased 10 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending April 8, 2016.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 10 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 10 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 11 percent from the previous week to its highest level since February 2016. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 8 percent from one week earlier its highest level since October 2015. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 9 percent compared with the previous week and was 24 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

"Helped by a persistently strong job market and low rates, applications for both conventional and government home purchase loans increased last week. The purchase index was at its second highest level since May 2010. Applications to refinance also increased as the 30 year contract rate decreased to its lowest level since January 2015," said Mike Fratantoni, MBA's Chief Economist.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 54.9 percent of total applications from 54.5 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 5 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications decreased to 10.8 percent from 11.3 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications decreased to 11.9 percent from 12.2 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications remained unchanged to 0.8 percent.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 3.82 percent from 3.86 percent, with points increasing to 0.33 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. This is the lowest since January 2015. 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 3.74 percent from 3.76 percent, with points increasing to 0.31 from 0.27 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. This is the lowest rate since February 2016. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased to 3.66 percent from 3.73 percent, with points decreasing to 0.29 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. This is the lowest rate since April 2015. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages remained unchanged at 3.10 percent, with points remaining unchanged at 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate was unchanged from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 2.94 percent from 2.94 percent, with points decreasing to 0.2 from 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.


U.S. Import Price Index increased 0.2% in March
Posted: April 12, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

U.S. import prices increased 0.2 percent in March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The advance followed a 0.4-percent drop the previous month and was driven by an upturn in fuel prices which more than offset lower nonfuel prices. Prices for U.S. exports recorded no change in March, after falling 0.5 percent in February.


NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell 0.3 points to 92.6
Posted: April 12, 2016 at 07:00 AM (Tuesday)

The Index of Small Business Optimism fell 0.3 points from February, falling to 92.6. Statistically, no change. Four of the 10 Index components posted a gain, six posted small declines, the biggest gain was in Expected Business Conditions, a 4 point improvement to a still very negative number. For a broader perspective, the Index has turned decidedly “south” over the last 15 months falling from a reading of 100 in December 2014 to 92.8. A “chartist” looking at the data historically might conclude that the Index has clearly hit a top and is flashing a recession signal. The April survey will decide whether or not the alarm should be rung. This month’s change was not statistically significant, just not in a positive direction.

Apparently, New York Federal Reserve President William Dudley’s walk back of prospects for a second rate hike in Hangzhou last month was not satisfactory, so Chair Yellen added her support to keeping the status quo. Financial markets applauded, but the real sector did not, with consumer and small business sentiment falling.

Financial markets of course thrive on the variability such policy pronouncements and policies produce. Bonds have been made very unattractive by Federal Reserve policy, so equities are the only game in town that might promise a yield. Low interest rates are great if they occur in an economy that presents investment opportunities. This is not the case for our current economy. There is no cheerleader for the economy who convincingly promises improvement. There is little hope that government will constructively address the problems that concern consumers and small businesses. The most likely prospects to assume the presidency don’t appear to be connected to reality. There is no prospect that the avalanche of resource-wasting regulations will abate much less be reversed. The “experts” at the Federal Reserve only raise uncertainty with their pronouncements and seem detached from the real economy, focused instead on financial markets. Two of our largest states have passed a $15 minimum wage, preventing millions of lower skilled and young workers from ever getting their first job. None of this makes sense to Main Street businesses or many consumers who think government economic policies are “bad” by a 2 to 1 margin. The “mess” we are now in is the cumulative result of decades of misdirected, special interest policies, attempts to redistribute income and manipulate private sector firms with volumes of regulations and taxes.

The Fed continues to confuse and confound. It is unsettling that the Fed (a) is trying to create inflation when historically managing inflation was the central bank’s job (b) will do anything, including negative interest rates, to pursue this 2% objective without questioning the sense of it and (c) continues to think that its low interest rate policy will create jobs when the uncertainty the Fed creates holds spending back. Low rates are not sufficient to stimulate hiring and spending if investing in workers or new capital shows little promise of paying off. The Fed has not been able to attain either its goal of 2% inflation or “maximum employment” (whatever this is) with its policies, yet it keeps on going (remember the definition of insanity?).

The small business sector, which historically produced half of our private GDP and served as the “R&D” sector of our economy (this is where new ideas are tested by markets, the proper evaluator, not government), is underperforming, doing little more than operating in maintenance mode. Slow economic growth is now just a result of population growth, more haircuts, retail customers, health care patients, etc. But there is no exuberance, no optimism and not much hope, the numbers make it clear.


Wholesale Inventories down 0.5% in February
Posted: April 8, 2016 at 03:00 PM (Friday)

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that February 2016 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 $427.6 billion, down 0.2 percent (+/-0.5%)* from the revised January level and were down 3.1 percent (+/-1.2%) from the February 2015 level. The January preliminary estimate was revised downward $0.8 billion or 0.2 percent. February sales of durable goods were up 1.2 percent (+/-0.7%) from last month and were up 0.2 percent (+/-1.9%)* from a year ago. Sales of electrical and electronic goods were up 3.1 percent from last month and sales of lumber and other construction materials were up 2.9 percent. Sales of nondurable goods were down 1.6 percent (+/-0.7%) from January and were down 6.2 percent (+/-1.9%) from last February. Sales of petroleum and petroleum products were down 10.1 percent from last month and sales of farm product raw materials were down 2.0 percent.

Total inventories of merchant wholesalers, except manufacturers’ sales branches and offices, after adjustment for seasonal variations but not for price changes, were $583.3 billion at the end of February, down 0.5 percent (+/-0.4%) from the revised January level, but were up 0.6 percent (+/-1.4%)* from the February 2015 level. The January preliminary estimate was revised downward $2.1 billion or 0.4 percent. February inventories of durable goods were down 0.1 percent (+/-0.4%)* from last month and were down 1.3 percent (+/-1.6%)* from a year ago. Inventories of lumber and other construction materials were down 1.6 percent from last month, while inventories of electrical and electronic goods were up 2.0 percent. Inventories of nondurable goods were down 1.1 percent (+/-0.4%) from January, but were up 3.7 percent (+/-1.9%) from last February. Inventories of farm product raw materials were down 4.2 percent from last month and inventories of drugs and druggists' sundries were down 3.5 percent.

The February inventories/sales ratio for merchant wholesalers, except manufacturers’ sales branches and offices, based on seasonally adjusted data, was 1.36. The February 2015 ratio was 1.31.


Consumer Credit Increased at an annual rate of 5.75%
Posted: April 7, 2016 at 03:00 PM (Thursday)

In February, consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5-3/4 percent. Revolving credit increased at a 3-3/4 percent annual rate, while nonrevolving credit increased at a 6-1/2 percent annual rate.


BTMU U.S. Business Barometer remained flat%
Posted: April 7, 2016 at 10:39 AM (Thursday)

For the week ending March 26 2016, the BTMU U.S. Business Barometer remained flat at 97.4, as gains in some indexes offset losses in others. On one side, chain store sales climbed by 3.0 percent after falling by 2.1 percent in the previous week. Along similar lines, MBA’s purchase index and coal production rose by 2.1 and 1.3 percent, respectively. On the other side, electric output and auto production fell by 4.0 and 0.7 percent, respectively.

On a year-over-year basis, the barometer declined by 1.3 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 flat at 97.5. Its year-over-year growth rate was -1.1 percent.


Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Decrease 9,000 to 267,000
Posted: April 7, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Thursday)

In the week ending April 2, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 267,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 276,000. The 4-week moving average was 266,750, an increase of 3,500 from the previous week's unrevised average of 263,250. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims. This marks 57 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1973.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.6 percent for the week ending March 26, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending March 26 was 2,191,000, an increase of 19,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 1,000 from 2,173,000 to 2,172,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,188,750, a decrease of 1,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 250 from 2,190,750 to 2,190,500.


Purchase Apps up, Refi's up in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Posted: April 6, 2016 at 07:00 AM (Wednesday)

Mortgage applications increased 2.7 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending April 1, 2016.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 2.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 3 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 7 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent compared with the previous week and was 11 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 54.5 percent of total applications from 52.4 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 4.7 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications decreased to 11.3 percent from 11.5 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications decreased to 12.2 percent from 12.9 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications decreased to 0.8 percent from 0.9 percent the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 3.86 percent from 3.94 percent, with points decreasing to 0.32 from 0.36 (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 3.76 percent from 3.82 percent, with points decreasing to 0.27 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 decreased to 3.73 percent from 3.76 percent, with points increasing to 0.36 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 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 3.10 percent from 3.19 percent, with points increasing to 0.37 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 2.94 percent from 3.07 percent, with points decreasing to 0.26 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.


ISM Non-Manufacturing Index faster growth at 54.5% in March
Posted: April 5, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Tuesday)

Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew in March for the 74th consecutive month, say the nation's purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The NMI® registered 54.5 percent in March, 1.1 percentage points higher than the February reading of 53.4 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slightly faster rate. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased to 59.8 percent, 2 percentage points higher than the February reading of 57.8 percent, reflecting growth for the 80th consecutive month, with a faster rate in March. The New Orders Index registered 56.7 percent, 1.2 percentage points higher than the reading of 55.5 percent in February. The Employment Index increased 0.6 percentage point to 50.3 percent from the February reading of 49.7 percent and indicates growth after a month of contraction. The Prices Index increased 3.6 percentage points from the February reading of 45.5 percent to 49.1 percent, indicating prices decreased in March for the fifth time in the last seven months. According to the NMI®, 12 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in March. The majority of respondents’ comments indicate that business conditions are mostly positive and that the economy is stable and will continue on a course of slow, steady growth.

The 12 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in March — listed in order — are: Educational Services; Information; Wholesale Trade; Finance & Insurance; Health Care & Social Assistance; Retail Trade; Mining; Management of Companies & Support Services; Accommodation & Food Services; Public Administration; Utilities; and Professional, Scientific & Technical Services. The two industries reporting contraction in March are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; and Transportation & Warehousing.


Goods and Services Deficit Increased in February 2016
Posted: April 5, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

The Nation's international trade deficit in goods and services increased to $47.1 billion in February from $45.9 billion in January (revised), as imports increased more than exports.

The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, through the Department of Commerce, announced today that the goods and services deficit was $47.1 billion in February, up $1.2 billion from $45.9 billion in January, revised. February exports were $178.1 billion, $1.8 billion more than January exports. February imports were $225.1 billion, $3.0 billion more than January imports.

The February increase in the goods and services deficit reflected an increase in the goods deficit of $0.9 billion to $64.7 billion and a decrease in the services surplus of $0.3 billion to $17.7 billion.

Year-to-date, the goods and services deficit increased $10.8 billion, or 13.1 percent, from the same period in 2015. Exports decreased $20.5 billion or 5.5 percent. Imports decreased $9.7 billion or 2.1 percent.


Job Openings dipped to 5.4 million in February
Posted: April 5, 2016 at 08:30 AM (Tuesday)

The number of job openings was little changed at 5.4 million on the last business day of February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Hires increased to 5.4 million while separations were little changed at 5.1 million. Within separations, the quits rate was 2.1 percent, and the layoffs and discharges rate was 1.2 percent. 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.

Job openings were little changed at 5.4 million in February. The job openings rate was 3.7 percent. The number of job openings was little changed in February for total private and for government. Job openings increased in educational services (+48,000) and federal government (+19,000) but decreased in health care and social assistance (-147,000), finance and insurance (-54,000), and mining and logging (-8,000). Job openings edged up in construction (+36,000) and edged down in durable goods manufacturing (-19,000). The number of job openings edged down in the Midwest region.


New orders for manufactured goods decreased 1.7% in February
Posted: April 4, 2016 at 10:00 AM (Monday)

New orders for manufactured goods in February, down three of the last four months, decreased $8.0 billion or 1.7 percent to $454.0 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. This followed a 1.2 percent January increase.

Shipments, down ten of the last eleven months, decreased $3.4 billion or 0.7 percent to $462.8 billion. This followed a 0.2 percent January decrease. Unfilled orders, down two of the last three months, decreased $4.1 billion or 0.3 percent to $1,184.0 billion. This followed a 0.1 percent January increase. The unfilled orders-to-shipments ratio was 7.02, up from 6.96 in January.

Inventories, down eight consecutive months, decreased $2.6 billion or 0.4 percent to $634.3 billion. This followed a 0.5 percent January decrease. The inventories-to-shipments ratio was 1.37, unchanged from January.


Tags - Research
ADP EMPLOYMENT
BEIGE BOOK
BUSINESS BAROMETER
BUSINESS INVENTORIES
CASE-SHILLER
CHALLENGER LAYOFFS
CHICAGO FED MIDWEST MFG
CHICAGO FED NATL ACTIVITY
CHICAGO PMI
CONSTRUCTION SPENDING
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE
CONSUMER CREDIT
CPI
CURRENT ACCOUNT
DURABLE GOODS
EMPLOYMENT COST INDEX
EMPLOYMENT TRENDS INDEX
EXISTING HOME SALES
FACTORY ORDERS
FOMC STMT
FOMC
GDP
HELP WANTED HWOL
HOUSING STARTS
ICSC CHAIN STORE
IMPORT PRICE INDEX
INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION
INTERNATIONAL TRADE
ISM MFG
ISM NON-MFG
JOB OPENINGS
JOBLESS CLAIMS
KANSAS CITY FED MFG
LEADING INDEX
MASS LAYOFFS
MICH CONSUMER CONFIDENCE
MORTGAGE APPS
NAHB INDEX
NAPM-NY
NBER
NEW HOME SALES
NEW YORK FED MFG
NFIB OPTIMISM INDEX
NONFARM EMPLOYMENT
PAYCHEX-IHS SMALL JOBS
PENDING HOME SALES
PERSONAL INCOME
PHILA FED FORECASTERS
PHILA FED MFG
PHILA FED NON-MFG
PPI
PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH
REAL HOURLY EARNINGS
RETAIL SALES
RICHMOND FED MFG
TEXAS FED MFG
TREASURY INTL CAPITAL
WHOLESALE INVENTORIES
Archives
Apr 2016
Mar 2016
Feb 2016
Jan 2016
Dec 2015
Nov 2015
Oct 2015
Sep 2015
Aug 2015
Jul 2015
Jun 2015
May 2015
Apr 2015
Mar 2015
Feb 2015
Jan 2015
Dec 2014
Nov 2014
Oct 2014
Sep 2014
Aug 2014
Jul 2014
Jun 2014
May 2014
Apr 2014
Mar 2014
Feb 2014
Jan 2014
Dec 2013
Nov 2013
Oct 2013
Sep 2013
Aug 2013
Jul 2013
Jun 2013
May 2013
Apr 2013
Mar 2013
Feb 2013
Jan 2013
Dec 2012
Nov 2012
Oct 2012
Sep 2012
Aug 2012
Jul 2012
Jun 2012
May 2012
Apr 2012
Mar 2012
Feb 2012
Jan 2012
Dec 2011
Nov 2011
Oct 2011
Sep 2011
Aug 2011
Jul 2011
Jun 2011
May 2011
Apr 2011
Mar 2011
Feb 2011
Jan 2011
Dec 2010
Nov 2010
Oct 2010
Sep 2010
Aug 2010
Jul 2010
Jun 2010
May 2010
Apr 2010
Mar 2010
Feb 2010
Jan 2010
Dec 2009
Nov 2009
Oct 2009
Sep 2009
Aug 2009
Jul 2009
Jun 2009
May 2009
Apr 2009
Mar 2009
Feb 2009
Jan 2009
Dec 2008
Nov 2008
Oct 2008
Sep 2008
Aug 2008




Buy Economic Books at

The OneWall.com Book Shop

Quick Links
Barron's Online
Bloomberg
CNBC
CNBC TV Live
CNet Investor
Financial Times (UK)
Forbes
Kudlow Podcast
MSNBC TV Live
NBC News
NY Times
The Economist
TheStreet.com
Wall St Journal
Dismal Scientist
Dr. Ed Yardeni
FRED Graph
Lawrence Kudlow
Stone McCarthy
GDPNow
NABE
ABC News
CNNfn
Institutional Investor
MarketWatch
Cash Prices - WSJ.com
Dr. Jeremy Siegel
Market Map
NY RBOB Gas
Shadow Fed - SOMC
BankStocks.com
Dow Jones Indices
Morningstar
SP Indices
Mt Washington Observatory
Weather.com
Yahoo!!


National Association for Business Economics
NABE

Founded in 1920, the National Bureau of Economic Research is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works.

CFA Institute

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was created to examine the causes, domestic and global, of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States.

The Moment of Truth: Report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform