Friday April 17 2015
US Consumer Sentiment at 3-Month High
University of Michigan | Joana Taborda |

The University of Michigan's preliminary reading on the overall index of consumer sentiment came in at 95.9 in April, up from 93 in March and above market expectations. Both current and future expectations increased while the inflation outlook slowed.

The barometer of current economic conditions increased to 108.2 from 105 reported in March.

The gauge of consumer expectations rose to 88 from 85.3 in the previous month.

Americans expect the inflation rate in the next year will be 2.5 percent, compared with 3 percent in March. Over the next 5 to 10 years, they expect consumer prices to slow to 2.6 percent, compared with 2.8 percent in March.

Friday April 17 2015
US Inflation Rate Back to Negative Territory
BLS | Joana Taborda |

Consumer prices in the United States fell 0.1 percent year-on-year in March after being flat in February due to lower energy cost. Yet, core inflation edged up to 1.8 percent.

Year-on-year, the energy index declined 18.3 percent, more than offsetting increases in the indexes for food (up 2.3 percent) and all items less food and energy (up 1.8 percent).  

On a monthly basis, prices increased 0.2 percent for the second consectuvie time in March. Increases in the energy and shelter indexes more than offset a decline in the food index and were the main factors in the rise of the seasonally adjusted all items index. The energy index rose 1.1 percent as advances in the gasoline and fuel oil indexes outweighed declines in the electricity and natural gas indexes. In contrast, the food index declined 0.2 percent, with the food at home index posting its largest decline since April 2009.

Thursday April 16 2015
Housing Starts Below Expectations
U.S. Census Bureau | Joana Taborda |

US privately-owned housing rose 2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 926,000 in March, rebounding from a revised 15.3 percent fall in February but below market forecasts. Building permits shrank 5.7 percent.

The February estimate for housing starts was revised to 908,000 from 897,000.

Single-family housing starts rose 4.4 percent to 618,000 while starts of buildings with five units or more fell 7.1 percent to 287,000.

Housing starts in the Northeast and the Midwest rebounded from last month’s fall (up by 114.9 percent and 31.3 percent respectively in March) while groundbreaking in the West (-19.3 percent) and the South (-3.5 percent) keeps falling.

Building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,039,000, 5.7 percent below the revised February rate of 1,102,000.

Single-family authorizations increased 2.1 percent to 636,000 while authorizations in buildings with five units or more shrank 16 percent to 378,000. 

Year-on-year, housing starts fell 2.5 percent while building permits rose 2.9 percent.

Thursday April 16 2015
US Jobless Claims Rise to 5-Week High
US DOL | Nuno Fontes |

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits was 294 thousand for the week ended April 11th, an increase of 12,000 from the previous week's revised level.

The four-week moving average was 282,750, an increase of 250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 282,250 to 282,500.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending April 4 was 2,268,000, a decrease of 40,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for insured unemployment since December 9, 2000 when it was 2,263,000. 

The 4-week moving average was 2,329,000, a decrease of 32,750 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since December 30, 2000 when it was 2,325,750.

Wednesday April 15 2015
US Industrial Production Falls 0.6%
Federal Reserve | Joana Taborda |

Industrial output fell 0.6 percent mom in March, after increasing 0.1 percent in February. It is the lowest figure since August of 2012, due to a slump in mining and utilities.

The index for mining decreased 0.7 percent in March. The output of utilities fell 5.9 percent to largely reverse a similarly sized increase in February, which was related to unseasonably cold temperatures. 

In March, manufacturing output moved up 0.1 percent for its first monthly gain since November; however, factory output in January is now estimated to have fallen 0.6 percent, about twice the size of the previously reported decline. 

At 105.2 percent of its 2007 average, total industrial production in March was 2.0 percent above its level of a year earlier. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector decreased 0.6 percentage point in March to 78.4 percent, a rate that is 1.7 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2014) average.

For the first quarter of 2015 as a whole, industrial production declined at an annual rate of 1.0 percent, the first quarterly decrease since the second quarter of 2009. The decline last quarter resulted from a drop in oil and gas well drilling and servicing of more than 60 percent at an annual rate and from a decrease in manufacturing production of 1.2 percent. 

Tuesday April 14 2015
US Retail Sales Rebound in March
US Census Bureau |

U.S. retail sales rose 0.9 percent in March after declining in the last three months as consumers bought automobiles and other goods. It was the largest gain since March of 2014.

Nine of 13 major categories showed increases in March. Automobile sales surged 2.7 percent, the biggest rise since March 2014. Receipts at building material and garden equipment stores increased 2.1 percent, the largest rise since July 2013. Sales at clothing stores rose 1.2 percent and at restaurants and bars grew 0.7 percent.  There were also increases in sales at furniture stores and sporting goods and hobby shops. In contrast, sales at gasoline stations, online retailers, electronic and appliance stores declined.

Core retail sales (excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services) rose 0.3 percent after a revised 0.2 percent decline in February. Retail sales excluding autos were up 0.4 percent after being stable in February. Sales excluding gas and autos increased 0.5 percent after declining 0.3 percent in the previous month.

Monday April 13 2015
US Budget Deficit Widens in March
Joana Taborda |

The U.S. budget deficit was $52.9 billion at the end of March, down 43 percent compared with a $37 billion gap a year earlier as spending increased more than receipts.

Receipts for March were at $234 billion, up 8 percent from a year ago, bringing the year-to-date total receipts to $1419.8 billion. Outlays totaled $287 billion, up 14 percent from last year, for a year-to-date total of $1859.3 billion.    

The fiscal year-to-date deficit at the end of March was $439.5 billion.  

March's budget results were affected by differences in the calendar. If adjusted for timing-related transactions, the budget deficit would have been higher at $89 billion.

Thursday April 09 2015
Jobless Claims Rise Less Than Expected
DOL | Joana Taborda |

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increased by 14K to a seasonally adjusted 281K. Yet, the four-week moving average and the continuing jobless claims were the lowest since 2000.

The previous week's level was revised down by 1,000 from 268,000 to 267,000. The 4-week moving average was 282,250, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since June 3, 2000 when it was 281,500. The previous week's average was revised down by 250 from 285,500 to 285,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.7 percent for the week ending March 28, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending March 28 was 2,304,000, a decrease of 23,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for insured unemployment since December 9, 2000 when it was 2,263,000. The previous week's level was revised up 2,000 from 2,325,000 to 2,327,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,360,750, a decrease of 27,500 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since January 13, 2001 when it was 2,360,500. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 2,387,750 to 2,388,250.

Monday April 06 2015
US Services Sector Growth Slows
ISM | Joana Taborda |

The ISM non-manufacturing PMI index decreased to 56.5 percent in March from 56.9 percent in February, the lowest in three months. While export orders increased to a two-year high, business activity fell to its lowest in a year.

The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 57.5 percent, which is 1.9 percentage points lower than the February reading of 59.4 percent, reflecting growth for the 68th consecutive month at a slower rate. 

The New Orders Index registered 57.8 percent, 1.1 percentage points higher than the reading of 56.7 percent registered in February. 

The New Export Orders index rose to 59.0 from 53.0 in February, the highest since February of 2013.

The Employment Index increased 0.2 percentage point to 56.6 percent from the February reading of 56.4 percent and indicates growth for the 13th consecutive

The Prices Index increased 2.7 percentage points from the February reading of 49.7 percent to 52.4 percent, indicating prices increased in March after three consecutive months of decreasing. 

14 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in March. The majority of respondents’ comments reflect stability and are mostly positive about business conditions and the overall economy.

Friday April 03 2015
US Unemployment Rate Steady at 5.5%
BLS | Joana Taborda |

The jobless rate held at 5.5 percent in March, the same as in February and the lowest in nearly 7 years. The number of unemployed persons was little changed at 8.6 million.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (5.1 percent), adult women (4.9 percent), teenagers (17.5 percent), whites (4.7 percent), blacks (10.1 percent), Asians (3.2 percent), and Hispanics (6.8 percent) showed little or no change in March.

Among the unemployed, the number of new entrants decreased by 157,000 in March and is down by 342,000 over the year. Unemployed new entrants are those who never previously worked.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 2.6 million in March. These individuals accounted for 29.8 percent of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 1.1 million.

The civilian labor force participation rate was little changed at 62.7 percent in March. Since April 2014, the participation rate has remained within a narrow range of 62.7 percent to 62.9 percent. In March, the employment-population ratio was 59.3 percent for the third consecutive month.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was little changed in March at 6.7 million.

In March, 2.1 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed from a year earlier.

Among the marginally attached, there were 738,000 discouraged workers in March, little different from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged  workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.3 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in March had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.