Here is the summary for this week’s Monday Economic Report:
In a slow economic news week, the stock market’s ascent became one of the top headlines. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) passed 15,000 for the first time, a feat that was even more impressive after the depths of the decline during the financial crisis. The DJIA had previously peaked at 14,164.53 on October 11, 2007, before plummeting to a low of 6,547.05 on March 9, 2009. It has slowly moved higher since then, closing last week at 15,118.49. As impressive as the DJIA records might be, there is also a debate about whether the stock market’s all-time highs are warranted given some of the current economy’s weaknesses. Historically low interest rates have helped to push equity values higher, with Americans looking for more attractive yields for their dollars. Regardless of the debate, rising equity values should help to generate more wealth and consumer optimism, and manufacturers hope this means greater spending.
Retail sales data for April will be released this morning, and the consensus estimate is for spending to be flat. This would be consistent with slower growth in personal spending and the reduction in wholesale sales in March. Moreover, while consumer credit rose 3.4 percent in March, much of the higher figure stemmed from increased student loan borrowing. Auto loans were also higher, but revolving credit lines—which include credit cards—declined for the month and were essentially flat over the past year. This suggests some reluctance to take on more debt to support increased consumer spending, which, to the extent that it means smarter personal finance habits, is perhaps a good thing. (continue reading…)