The Bureau of Economic Analysis said that strong consumer spending helped push real GDP growth higher, with real GDP growth revised up to 3.2 percent in the third quarter. It was originally estimated to be 2.9 percent growth, and both figures were the fastest quarterly growth rate in two years. Overall, this report was good news. With the U.S. economy expanding by only 1.1 percent at the annual rate in the first half of 2016, the third quarter numbers were entirely welcome, especially for consumer spending and net exports. Business investment remains a concern, but hopefully recovers moving forward with improvement confidence. In the end, real GDP will grow by 1.6 percent in 2016, but I expect stronger activity next year, with the current forecast being 2.5 percent growth. Read More
The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI rose from 53.4 in October to 53.9 in November, a 13-month high. More importantly, output grew at its strongest rate since March 2015 (up from 55.3 to 56.0), a sign that U.S. manufacturing activity has continued to stabilize from softness earlier in the year. Indeed, the headline index bottomed out in 2016 at 50.7 in May, and it has averaged 52.0 year-to-date through the first 11 months. Beyond production, other key indices were also stronger in November, including new orders (up from 54.7 to 55.5), exports (up from 50.9 to 51.0) and hiring (up from 51.6 to 52.4). Overall, this report provides some encouragement for manufacturers, many of whom have been rather cautious in their economic outlook for much of the past two years.
Meanwhile, the Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI increased from 53.5 to 53.7, its fastest pace since January 2014. As such, the continent’s economy continues to move in the right direction, with activity accelerating at a modest pace. Overall, the headline PMI has trended higher since bottoming at earlier in the year at 51.2 in February. New orders (up from 53.8 to 54.5) and exports (up from 53.4 to 54.1) were both stronger in this report. Yet, output (down from 54.6 to 54.1) and employment (down from 53.7 to 53.5) each pulled back a little in this survey despite expanding at a still-decent rate. In addition, manufacturers in Germany (down from 55.0 to 54.4) and France (down from 51.8 to 51.5) also reported some easing in growth in November, even as the underlying data continues to be quite positive for both.
The Census Bureau said that new durable goods orders jumped 4.8 percent in October. New orders rose from an upwardly revised $228.4 billion in September to $239.4 billion in October. On a year-over-year basis, sales have increased 2.1 percent since October 2015, up from $234.5 billion. However, the data have been skewed by volatility in the transportation equipment segment. In October, transportation equipment orders soared 12.0 percent higher on strong sales for defense and nondefense aircraft and parts. Excluding transportation, new orders for durable goods increased 1.0 percent in October, but over the past 12 months, growth in activity has been more minimal, up just 0.3 percent.
Therefore, even with the healthy gains in demand seen in October, new orders growth for durable goods continue to be quite weak on a year-over-year basis, highlighting lingering challenges in the sector. Along those lines, core capital goods orders (or nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft) increased 0.4 percent in October, but have fallen 4.0 percent over the past 12 months. Read More
The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity in its district rebounded modestly in November after contracting in four of the prior five months. The composite index of general business activity increased from -4 in October to 4 in November. The shift in this month’s report came largely from better new orders (up from -12 to 7) data, with shipments (down from 2 to 1) also expanding ever-so-slightly. At the same time, there are lingering weaknesses seen in indices for the backlog of orders (down from -11 to -12) and capacity utilization (up from -5 to -1). Beyond those measures, the labor market data were promising. Hiring (up from 3 to 5) accelerated for the second consecutive month, and the average workweek (up from -3 to 4) widened again. Read More
The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity slowed in November but continued to expand ever-so-slightly. The composite index of general business conditions declined from 6 in October to 1 in November; yet, it was also the third straight month with this measure positive after two years of struggles. Indeed, manufacturers in the district have faced tremendous challenges due to global headwinds and reduced commodity prices, especially for crude oil. The underlying data in November mirrored the headline figure, with easing expansions for new orders (down from 14 to 6), production (down from 18 to 9) and shipments (down from 20 to 7). Export growth (down from 3 to zero) was stagnant in November after slightly improving in October for the first time since January. Read More
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that consumer prices rose 0.4 percent in October, extending the 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent gains seen in August and September, respectively. It was also the fastest pace of monthly price growth since April. The jump in consumer inflation in October stemmed largely from higher energy prices, up 3.5 percent, with gasoline costs up 7.0 percent. Still, increases in energy prices in September and October followed declined in both July and August, and energy costs were up just 0.1 percent year-over-year. In addition, food prices were unchanged for the fourth straight month. Over the past 12 months, food prices have edged lower, down 0.4 percent since October 2015. Overall, the consumer price index increased 1.6 percent year-over-year in October, a two-year high and up from 0.9 percent in July.
Core consumer prices also moved higher, up 0.1 percent, in October. There were higher prices for apparel, medical care commodities, new vehicles and shelter, but lower costs for transportation services and used vehicles. Excluding food and energy costs, consumer prices have risen 2.2 percent since October 2015, essentially the same year-over-year rate seen for all of 2016 so far. Yet, even though core consumer price inflation has exceeded the Federal Reserve’s stated goal of 2 percent for 12 consecutive months, overall prices pressures remain modest and under control for now.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing activity expanded for the fifth time in the past six months. The composite index of general business activity declined from 9.7 in October to 7.6 in November. This marks notable improvement for manufacturers after weaknesses last year and in the spring months. Despite the easing in this month’s headline number, both new orders (up from 16.3 to 18.6) and shipments (up from 15.3 to 19.5) were higher in November. The percentage of respondents saying that new orders were lower for the month declined from 24.1 percent in October to 17.7 percent in November, with the largest shift among those saying that there was no change in sales, up from 33.7 percent to 45.9 percent. Read More
The Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that new housing starts jumped 25.5 percent in October to the fastest monthly pace since August 2007. New residential construction increased from an annualized 1,054,000 in September to 1,323,000 in October. To be fair, both of those figures are outliers to the year-to-date average of 1,169,100, with September’s surprising fall in activity followed by the strong rebound in October. Yet, the upward movement in this latest report is encouraging. Indeed, both single-family (up from 785,000 to 869,000) and multifamily (up from 269,000 to 454,000) made healthy gains in October, with single-family construction starts reaching a nine-year high. While I would expect a pullback in the November data to something closer to trend, housing starts should exceed 1.2 million by year’s end, which is positive. Read More
The Federal Reserve said that manufacturing production expanded modestly for the second straight month. Output in the sector was up 0.2 percent in October, which was the same as seen in September and consistent with consensus expectations. Despite the increase, manufacturers continue to grow at a much slower pace than desired. Along those lines, manufacturing production was down 0.2 percent on a year-over-year basis. Manufacturers have struggled to increase demand over the past couple years, with a strong dollar and global headwinds dampening overall activity. Indeed, manufacturing capacity utilization inched up from 74.8 percent to 74.9 percent, but that remained well below the 75.6 percent utilization rate seen one year ago. Read More
Producer prices were unchanged in October, slowing after a rebound in the September data. The flat growth in the headline number stemmed from reduced producer prices for final demand services, down 0.3 percent. In contrast, producer prices for final demand goods increased 0.4 percent in October, extending the 0.7 percent gain seen in September. Higher inflation for goods came largely from a jump in energy costs, up 2.5 percent; whereas, food prices were off by 0.8 percent. Food costs have been on a downward trend over the longer-term, down 3.5 percent over the past 12 months. On the other hand, energy prices have edged up 0.2 percent year-over-year. Read More