Tag: consumer prices

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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Monday Economic Report – April 20, 2015

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

Manufacturing production increased 0.1 percent in March. This followed three months of weaker data, including declines in both January and February. There have been some significant headwinds hitting the manufacturing sector over the past few months, including a strong U.S. dollar, weakened economic markets abroad, lower crude oil prices, the West Coast ports slowdown and weather. These challenges have slowed activity in the sector since November. The latest Beige Book discussed these headwinds. The year-over-year pace of manufacturing production in March was 2.4 percent, down from 4.5 percent in November. Meanwhile, total industrial production, which includes mining and utilities, fell 0.6 percent in March, declining for the third time in the past four months. As such, the data suggest manufacturers have started the new year on a very soft note despite optimism for better demand and output moving forward. (continue reading…)

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Higher Gasoline Costs Help Increase Consumer Prices for the Second Straight Month

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the consumer price index increased for the second straight month in March, up 0.2 percent. This was largely due to higher gasoline prices, which increased 2.4 percent and 3.9 percent in February and March, respectively. To be fair, the price of regular gasoline remains 29.2 percent lower today than it was 12 months ago. Indeed, the average price of regular gasoline rose from $1.982 a gallon on January 26 to $2.348 per gallon on March 30, according to the Energy Information Administration. It has edged marginally lower since then, down to $2.317 per gallon on April 13, or earlier this week. (continue reading…)

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Consumer Prices Rose for the First Time in Four Months in February

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the consumer price index (CPI) rose for the first time in four months, up 0.2 percent in February. This was largely due to higher gasoline prices, which increased 2.4 percent in February. To be fair, the price of regular gasoline remains 33.5 percent lower today than it was 12 months ago. Indeed, the average price of regular gasoline declined from $3.639 a gallon on June 23 to $1.982 a gallon on January 26, according to the Energy Information Administration. It then rose to $2.256 per gallon on February 23, and has since edged up to $2.347 this week. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – January 20, 2015

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

Financial markets around the world continued to react to the softening global economic environment. In particular, foreign exchange markets were rocked by news that Switzerland would no longer support its cap on the franc, where that currency has been seen as a safe haven, particularly against the euro. Almost immediately, the Swiss franc appreciated sharply against the euro and other currencies. For its part, the euro has continued to depreciate against the U.S. dollar, with one euro selling for $1.1581 on Friday. This was down $1.3927 on March 17, the high point of 2014, representing an appreciation of more than 17 percent for the U.S. dollar against the euro. These developments could hurt the ability of manufacturers in the United States to grow exports. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – December 22, 2014

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

Manufacturing production was up sharply in November, with output increasing 1.1 percent for the month and 4.8 percent year-over-year. These healthy gains followed a softer-than-desired autumn, and we hope it suggests that production figures will begin to match the relative optimism regarding expected demand and output seen in a number of sentiment surveys, including the latest NAM/IndustryWeek Survey of Manufacturers. Capacity utilization for the sector was also higher, up from 77.6 percent in October to 78.4 percent in November. This was the highest utilization rate since December 2007, the first month of the Great Recession. Moreover, total industrial production rose 1.3 percent, with utility output in November also up significantly. Mining production was down for the month, but up a whopping 9.3 percent over the past 12 months, with the sector benefiting from increased energy exploration. (continue reading…)

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Lower Energy Costs Pushed Consumer Prices Down 0.3 Percent in November

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the consumer price index (CPI) decreased by 0.3 percent in November. More importantly, consumer inflation has increased 1.3 percent over the past 12 months, down from 2.1 percent in May and 1.7 percent in October. In addition, core prices, which exclude food and energy costs, were up 1.7 percent in November, down from 1.8 percent the month before. As such, core inflation continues to remain below the Federal Reserve’s stated goal of 2 percent at the annual rate, which it has now done for 21 consecutive months. Overall, these trends mirror the producer price index data released earlier in the week.

Lower energy costs have helped to decelerate pricing pressures, with petroleum costs down sharply since June. The energy component of CPI has fallen 9.0 percent since June, for instance, with gasoline costs down 14.3 percent. Indeed, we have seen the average price of regular gasoline decline from $3.64 a gallon during the week of June 23 to $2.50 a gallon this week, according to the Energy Information Administration. (continue reading…)

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Consumer Prices Were Unchanged in October

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that consumer prices were unchanged in October. Over the past 12 months, consumer inflation has risen 1.7 percent. In addition, core prices, which exclude food and energy costs, were up 1.8 percent year-over-year. As such, core inflation continues to remain below the Federal Reserve’s stated goal of 2 percent at the annual rate, which it has now done for 20 consecutive months. Overall, these trends mirror the producer price index data released earlier in the week.

In particular, Americans continue to benefit from falling energy prices, which declined 1.9 percent in October and have dropped in each of the past four months. Since peaking in June, total consumer energy costs have decreased 5.4 percent. Indeed, we have seen the average price of regular gasoline decline from $3.64 a gallon during the week of June 23 to $2.86 a gallon this week, according to the Energy Information Administration. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – October 27, 2014

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

What a difference a week makes. After a volatile week in financial markets amid worldwide economic worries, things calmed down last week. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average remains 2.7 percent below its all-time high on September 19, it gained 425 points last week, or 2.6percent. Attitudes shifted to a more positive stance on decent earnings reports and on news that firms remain mostly upbeat in their outlook. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – September 22, 2014

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

Manufacturing production declined unexpectedly in August, led lower by reduced motor vehicle output. This drop was likely the result of automakers’ switching over to a new model year and summer vacations. Indeed, auto production has risen 8.1 percent over the past 12 months, continuing to make it one of the bright spots in the economy. Excluding autos, manufacturing output rose 0.1 percent, suggesting slightly better news for the broader sector. Still, the larger story is the accelerated pace of output seen since the winter months, with the year-over-year pace up from 1.6 percent in January to 4.0 percent in August. Durable and nondurable goods production has increased 5.6 percent and 2.2 percent year-over-year, respectively. Hopefully, the August figures reflect a brief pause before picking up again in September.

Regional sentiment surveys tend to suggest that this might be the case. The Empire State Manufacturing Survey from the New York Federal Reserve Bank said that business conditions rose at their fastest pace in nearly five years, with 46 percent of those taking the survey saying that the environment had improved in the month. At the same time, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey found healthy rates of growth in September, even as the pace pulled back slightly from very strong gains in August. Each of these two surveys reported higher levels for new orders and shipments, but they were mixed regarding hiring growth. Nonetheless, manufacturers in both districts were overwhelming upbeat about the next six months, with more than half of respondents predicting sales increases. Moreover, the Philly Fed found that a majority of those taking its survey expect production to increase in the third and fourth quarters.

Meanwhile, housing starts fell from an annualized 1,117,000 units in July to 956,000 in August. To be fair, the July figure—the second fastest pace since November 2007—was likely an outlier, and the pendulum—not unexpectedly—swung back somewhat. Yet, the slowdown in August was still disappointing. On the bright side, while single-family and multi-family unit starts and permits were both down, the highly volatile multi-family segment comprised the bulk of the decline. Looking at a longer time horizon, each has continued a slow, but steady upward trajectory. I continue to expect housing starts to be solidly at 1.1 million by year’s end. Indeed, home-builder confidence was equally optimistic about better figures moving forward, with the Housing Market Index at its highest level since November 2005.

The Federal Reserve Board provided the other major headline from last week. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) began laying out its principles for winding down the extraordinary stimulus that it has pursued since the financial crisis at the end of 2008. The Fed will end its purchases of long-term and mortgage-backed securities after its October FOMC meeting, and the expectation is that short-term interest rates will begin to “normalize” at some point in 2015. The federal funds rate, however, will remain near zero for a “considerable time after the asset purchase program ends,” a statement that some suggest means that normalization will not occur until mid-2015 at the earliest. Fortunately, news that consumer and producer pricing pressures eased in August was likely welcomed at the FOMC because it takes some pressure off of the Fed to act sooner, at least for now. (Inflation has accelerated from where it was earlier in the year, but remains below the Fed’s stated 2.0 percent goal.)

In its FOMC statement, the Federal Reserve said that “economic activity is expanding at a moderate pace.” Nonetheless, it continues to worry about slack in the economy, particularly in labor markets. The Fed predicts growth this year of between 2.0 and 2.2 percent, with 2.6 to 3.0 percent real GDP growth next year. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 5.9 or 6.0 percent by the end of 2014 and 5.4 to 5.6 percent by the end of 2015. In terms of inflation, the Fed forecasts prices growing by less than 2.0 percent over the next few years. If core inflation consistently exceeds 2.0 percent, it will give greater credence to hawks on the FOMC to increase rates sooner rather than later.

This week, we will get a sense of how manufacturing activity is faring globally with preliminary purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data from Markit for China, the Eurozone and the United States. The Chinese economy has begun to stabilize after slowing earlier in the year, but is still not growing by much. European growth has effectively come to a halt. In the United States, however, recent PMI data have reflected healthy gains in both demand and output over the summer months. We will also get new surveys from the Kansas City and Richmond Federal Reserve banks. Beyond those surveys, we will get the second revision to real GDP growth for the second quarter on Friday, with a consensus estimate of 4.3 percent growth, or just slightly higher than the previous 4.2 percent figure.

Other highlights this week include the latest data on consumer confidence, durable goods orders and shipments, and existing and new home sales.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

housing starts and permits - sept2014

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