Economy

Dallas Fed: Manufacturing Activity Contracted in Texas for the Fifth Straight Month

The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity contracted in Texas for the fifth straight month. The composite index of general business conditions declined from -16.0 in April to -20.8 in May, falling to its lowest level since June 2009. Manufacturers in the district continue to struggle with lower crude oil prices; although, there might also be a sense of stabilization. As one fabricated metal manufacturing respondent said in the sample comments, “With some recovery in the price per barrel of oil, the general feeling is that our business has leveled.”

Still, these data suggest that demand and production remain very weak right now. The underlying data were mostly lower across-the-board, with declines in activity getting larger, at least for now. This included measures for new orders (down from -14.0 to -14.1), production (down from -4.7 to -13.5), shipments (down from -5.6 to -13.2), capacity utilization (down from -10.4 to -11.6), employment (down from 1.8 to -8.2) and hours worked (down from -5.0 to -11.6). Illustrating this point, 31.0 percent of survey respondents cited declining new orders for the month, with just 16.9 percent noting increases. On the other hand, capital expenditures (up from 3.3 to 3.4) continued to expand somewhat modestly, providing some degree of optimism moving forward. (continue reading…)

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Conference Board: Consumer Confidence Rebounded a Little in May

The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment rebounded a little in May. The Consumer Confidence Index has been quite volatile over the past six months, ranging from a low of 91.0 in November to a high of 103.8 in January (a post-recessionary peak).  Confidence plummeted to 94.3 in April, but it edged somewhat higher to 95.4 in May. On the positive side, Americans are more confident today than they were one year ago (when the index was 82.2), and they were slightly more upbeat for the month. Yet, these data indicate that the public remains anxious about employment and income growth, mirroring softer-than-desired economic data in the early months of this year. (continue reading…)

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Richmond Fed: Manufacturing Activity Expanded Ever-So-Slightly in May

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity expanded ever-so-slightly in May, an improvement after contracting in both March and April. The composite index of general business activity improved from -3 in April to 1 in May. The underlying data were also better, including new orders (up from -6 to 2) and capacity utilization (up from -4 to 7). Shipments (up from -6 to -1) continued to contract, but at a slower pace of decline for the month. At the same time, the labor market was mixed. The rate of employment growth (down from 7 to 3) eased somewhat, but the average workweek (up from 4 to 6) and wages (up from 9 to 20) were stronger. (continue reading…)

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Durable Goods Orders Fell 0.5 Percent in April, but Up Modestly Excluding Transportation

The Census Bureau said that new durable goods orders declined by 0.5 percent in April, pulling back from the 5.1 percent increase in March. Strong defense and nondefense aircraft orders in March helped to buoy that month’s figures, with April’s data reflecting a slight pullback from those levels. Aircraft sales are often bulked together in batches, making them more volatile from month-to-month. As a whole, transportation equipment orders fell 2.5 percent, largely on the decreases for aircraft. Motor vehicles and parts sales, which are also part of transportation orders, rose 0.3 percent in April, edging a bit higher after growing by 4.2 percent in March.

Excluding transportation, new durable goods orders were up 0.5 percent in April. It was the second straight monthly increase, building off of the 0.6 percent gain observed in March. That provides a degree of comfort, and yet, we have seen softness in this measure over much of the past year. New durable goods orders excluding transportation measured $157.7 billion in April, down 0.9 percent year-over-year from $159.1 billion in April 2014. Indeed, this broader measure has fallen from $164.3 billion in September, its peak of 2014. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – May 26, 2015

Here is the summary for this week’s Monday Economic Report:

The minutes of the April 28–29 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting highlighted the nuance that many of us see in the economy right now. The Federal Reserve highlighted a number of challenges facing consumers and businesses in the early months of 2015, noting how these headwinds have dampened overall activity year-to-date. On the other hand, the FOMC felt that slowing economic growth was largely due to “transitory factors,” with its outlook mostly unchanged for the rest of this year. The Federal Reserve projects growth of 2.3 to 2.7 percent in 2015, and it expects the unemployment rate to fall to 5.0 to 5.2 percent.   (continue reading…)

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Consumer Prices Rose 0.1 Percent in April

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that consumer prices rose 0.1 percent in April, slightly lower than the 0.2 percent gains observed in both February and March. Lower energy prices helped to reduce the pace of the headline number, with energy costs down 1.3 percent for the month. Gasoline prices declined 1.9 percent in April, easing a bit after 2.4 percent and 3.9 percent increases observed in February and March, respectively. On a year-over-year basis, gasoline sells for 31.7 percent less today than in April 2014. Note that the average price of gasoline has risen a little since then, with the Energy Information Administration reporting that the average price of regular gasoline was $2.604 per gallon on May 18, up from $2.315 on April 6. This is still more than one dollar lower than seen 12 months ago. (continue reading…)

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Kansas City Fed Reported Contracting Activity for the Third Consecutive Month in May

The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity contracted for the third consecutive month in May. The composite index dropped from -7 in April to -13 in May, suggesting a sharper drop in activity than the month before. Indeed, several of the key data points declined at faster rates in May than in April. This included new orders (down from -12 to -19), production (down from -2 to -13), shipments (down from -7 to -9) and the average workweek (down from -10 to -14). At the same time, employment (up from -18 to -17) decreased sharply, and exports (up from -12 to -9) contracted for the fifth straight month, even as both measures fell at slightly slower paces for the month. (continue reading…)

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Philly Fed: Manufacturing Outlook Eased Slightly in May

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said that the manufacturing outlook eased slightly in May. The composite index of general business activity dropped from 7.5 in April to 6.7 in May. In general, the outlook has weakened so far this year relative to last year, with the headline measure averaging 6.1 through the first five months of 2015. This compares to the more-robust average of 25.1 observed in the second half of 2014, with the softness experienced year-to-date largely the result of a number of headwinds seen in the U.S. and global economy. At the same time, manufacturers in the Philly Fed district have reported expanding levels of activity for 15 straight months. (continue reading…)

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Markit: U.S. Manufacturing Activity Slowed in May; Europe Improved, but China Contracted Once More

The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI declined from 54.1 in April to 53.8 in May, easing to its lowest level since October 2013. It was the second straight monthly deceleration in manufacturing activity, and the slowing in May reflected slower growth in new orders (down from 55.3 to 54.2) and output (down from 55.3 to 55.0). Exports (up from 48.8 to 49.6) continued to contract, but declined by less for the month. On the positive side, hiring (up from 53.7 to 54.3) accelerated to its fastest rate in six months. Moreover, even with some weakening in sentiment, the measures for demand and production growth for U.S. manufacturers remains decent overall. (continue reading…)

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Housing Starts Rebounded Strongly in April, Growing at Fastest Pace since November 2007

The Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that residential construction activity rebounded strongly in April. New housing starts jumped from an annualized 944,000 in March to 1,135,000 in April, its fastest pace since November 2007, the month before the start of the Great Recession. As such, it appears that the housing market has begun to move beyond the weather-related softness seen in some regions of the country in February and March. On a year-over-year basis, housing starts have risen 9.2 percent since April 2014.

Both single-family (up from 628,000 to 733,000) and multi-family (up from 316,000 to 402,000) housing starts were higher in April, which was encouraging. The single-family growth rates was the fastest since January 2008, with multi-family starts reaching a nine-month high. (continue reading…)

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