Here are the files for this week’s Monday Economic Report:
The U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter more than we previously thought, with real GDP down 2.9 percent at the annual rate. The sharply lower revision was much worse than the previous estimate of a 1.0 percent drop. Decreased inventory spending and weaker goods exports accounted for much of the decline in output, but consumer spending on services also increased at a slower pace than earlier reports suggested, contributing to the latest revision. Fixed investment and government spending were also drags on growth. Overall, the data confirm that economic activity started 2014 on a disappointing note, but they also suggest that this softness went beyond weather-related slowdowns.
However, the real GDP data also point to a possible strong rebound in the current quarter. For instance, inventory spending is likely to pick up as more firms restock their shelves. In addition, other data point to recoveries in manufacturing activity and retail sales in the second quarter, which should help boost consumer and business spending figures. Real GDP should exceed 3 percent in the second quarter, bouncing back from the weak data in the first quarter. Moreover, manufacturers remain mostly positive about the second half of this year. Perhaps that is why financial markets seemed to mostly shrug off the bad news on real GDP last week.
Indeed, many of the measures of health for the manufacturing sector remain encouraging. The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) increased from 56.4 in May to 57.5 in June. This was its fastest pace in more than four years, led by strong gains in both new orders and output. Manufacturer sentiment in both China and Japan also stabilized after contractions in previous months. At the same time, manufacturing activity in the Kansas City and Richmond Federal Reserve Bank districts continued to expand, albeit with both at slower paces than the month before. These two releases were largely consistent with other regional surveys, including those from New York and Philadelphia, showing rebounds since the winter months.
Still, not all of the manufacturing news out last week was positive. Durable goods orders fell 1.0 percent in May, reflecting weaker-than-anticipated growth for the sector. Much of that decline stemmed from reduced nondefense aircraft and parts sales, although the broader data were also mixed. Meanwhile, European manufacturing activity continued to decelerate. The Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI declined from 52.5 to 51.9, falling for the second straight month. Slower growth on the continent has weakened many of the key activity measures, including new orders, output, exports and employment. Of course, it is also worth noting that Europe’s expansion remains uneven, with Germany seeing a marginal gain in activity in June while France fell back into a contraction.
In other news, personal spending improved in May after remaining flat in April, assisted by a decent rebound in durable goods purchases. Personal income also showed a slight uptick, with manufacturing wages and salaries continuing to move higher. Such reports have helped to lift consumer confidence, with data from the Conference Board’s index increasing to its highest level in more than six years. The consumer sentiment measure from the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters also edged higher, but with persistent anxieties about future economic and income growth. Finally, there were encouraging headlines on the housing market last week, with strong gains in both existing and new home sales in May.
This week, we will get new jobs numbers on Thursday—one day earlier due to the Independence Day holiday on Friday. I would expect employment growth similar to what we saw in May, with a consensus estimate of 210,000 additional nonfarm payroll workers and around 10,000 or so net new manufacturing employees. There will also be new PMI data from the Institute for Supply Management and international trade figures. Each will be closely watched, with manufacturing activity expected to pick up and we hope better news for exports. Other highlights include news releases for construction spending, factory orders and manufacturing activity in the Dallas Federal Reserve district.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.