Bill’s Weekly Economic Update

    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 18, 2014

    Monday, August 18th, 2014

    RETAIL SALES COOL OFF IN JULY
    They were flat according to the Commerce Department, with core retail sales (excluding food, car, gasoline and home improvement purchases) up just 0.1%. Economists polled by Reuters believed overall retail sales would advance 0.2% last month. Is this a signal that Q3 growth won’t come near Q2 growth? It does reflect subdued consumer spending in the quarter’s first month.

    YEARLY WHOLESALE INFLATION CONTINUES TO DIP
    The 12-month gain in the federal government’s Producer Price Index has gradually declined since the April reading, when it was measured at 2.1%. July brought a 0.1% increase in the headline PPI, but that still left the yearly gain at just 1.7%.

    FACTORY OUTPUT JUMPS
    Federal Reserve data showed a 1.0% increase in industrial output last month; July’s gain was the largest since February. July witnessed a 10.1% leap in auto production, the largest monthly improvement for that gauge in more than five years.

    CONSUMER SENTIMENT MOVES SOUTH
    The preliminary August reading on the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 11, 2014

    Monday, August 11th, 2014

    U.S. SERVICE SECTOR IS BOOMING
    The Institute for Supply Management’s July non-manufacturing PMI came in at a stellar 58.7, indicating rapid expansion. It hadn’t been that high since December 2005, and its new orders sub-index reached a peak unseen since August 2005. On Wall Street, some investors worried that the Federal Reserve would take the news as additional grounds for raising short-term interest rates – but in the big picture, it expresses the strength of the recovery. ISM’s service sector PMI had a reading of 56.0 in June.

    FACTORY ORDERS RISE 1.1%
    June’s gain far outshined the 0.5% increase forecast by analysts surveyed by Briefing.com. This was a nice comeback for the indicator after the (revised) 0.6% decline in orders that the Census Bureau recorded for May.

    HEADLINES BOOST GOLD PRICES; OIL PULLS BACK
    Geopolitical risk in Eastern Europe and the Middle East meant more interest in the yellow metal last week as investors sought a place to park some cash. In New York, gold settled at $1,310.60 per ounce …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 4, 2014

    Monday, August 4th, 2014

    SUSTAINED HIRING, RENEWED CONFIDENCE
    In July, 209,000 Americans found new jobs. Hiring topped 200,000 for a sixth straight month, which hasn’t happened in 17 years according to Labor Department data. The jobless rate ticked up to 6.2% and the underemployment (U-6) rate inched up to 12.2%, but that signaled more jobseekers. June also saw a 0.4% boost in consumer spending and incomes. The Conference Board’s July consumer confidence survey came in at an impressive 90.9, while the University of Michigan’s final July consumer sentiment index advanced to 81.8.

    TERRIFIC Q2 GDP, ISM INDEX RISES; FED STAYS COURSE
    America’s economy expanded 4.0% in Q2. That was the first estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which also revised Q1 GDP upward last week to -2.1%. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing PMI increased 1.8 points to a mark of 57.1 in July. As expected, the Federal Reserve announced it would cut monthly asset purchases to $25 billion in its July 30 policy statement.

    TWO TEPID HOUSING INDICATORS
    May’s S&P/Case-Shiller home price …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 28, 2014

    Monday, July 28th, 2014

    YEARLY INFLATION AT 2.1%
    In June, the headline Consumer Price Index recorded annualized inflation at that level for a second consecutive month. Back in February, yearly consumer inflation was down at 1.1%. June saw the CPI rise 0.3% and the core CPI (minus food and energy prices) advance 0.1%; core CPI was up 1.9% year-over-year.

    CONTRASTING HOME SALES NUMBERS IN JUNE
    The Census Bureau announced an 8.1% June drop in new home buying, which left 5.8 months of inventory in the market (the most since October 2011). New home prices were up 5.3% year-over-year. Existing home sales picked up 2.6% in June; that was the second straight monthly gain, pushing the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate above the 5 million mark for the first time since October.

    MORE DEMAND FOR DURABLES
    Hard goods orders improved 0.7% in June; analysts polled by Bloomberg projected a 0.5% advance. The Commerce Department also announced a 3.5% yearly gain.

    MIXED WEEK FOR MAJOR U.S. INDICES
    Across five days filled with earnings news and geopolitical concerns, the …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 21, 2014

    Monday, July 21st, 2014

    STOCKS ADVANCE, EVEN WITH ANXIETIES
    The crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine, a ground offensive by Israel into Gaza: these headlines gave investors pause, but M&A action and earnings reports sent stocks higher for the week. Thursday, the CBOE VIX jumped 32% to settle at 14.54, yet the S&P 500 closed just 1.2% lower. The 5-day scorecard: DJIA, +0.92% to 17,100.18; S&P 500, +0.52% to 1,978.22; NASDAQ, +0.38% to 4,432.15.

    RETAIL SALES, WHOLESALE PRICES RISE IN JUNE
    Overall U.S. retail sales were up 0.2% last month; the gain was 0.4% with car buying factored out. The Commerce Department revised the May gain 0.2% higher to 0.5%. After retreating 0.2% in May, the headline Producer Price Index advanced 0.4% in June; the core PPI rose 0.2%. Annually, producer prices were up 1.9%.

    FEWER HOUSING STARTS LAST MONTH
    The Census Bureau noted 9.3% less groundbreaking in June, plus a 4.2% retreat in building permits. Single-family starts dipped 9.0% to the slowest annualized pace since November 2012.

    HOUSEHOLD SENTIMENT DIPS
    July’s preliminary University …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 14, 2014

    Monday, July 14th, 2014

    FED PLANS TO STOP EASING THIS FALL
    June’s Federal Reserve policy meeting minutes outlined the central bank’s exit plan from QE3. The Fed will continue tapering its monthly asset purchases in a series of $10 billion cuts, then make a last $15 billion cut in late October. The June minutes offered no hint of change on interest rates; Fed officials are widely expected to adjust short-term rates in 2015. The Fed actually lessened its medium-term inflation forecast, and the minutes showed general agreement for reinvesting proceeds from maturing bonds until a rate hike occurs.

    U.S. BUDGET DEFICIT COULD BE SMALLEST IN 6 YEARS
    According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal deficit totaled $366 billion nine months into the current fiscal year – a 28% reduction from the previous year. (Chalk that up partly to federal tax receipts increasing 8% for FY 2014.) The CBO sees a $492 billion federal deficit for the full budget year ending Sept. 30.

    OIL DIPS BELOW $101 AS SUPPLY FEARS DIMINISH
    Futures dropped 3.1% …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 7, 2014

    Monday, July 7th, 2014

    DOW TOPS 17,000 AFTER TERRIFIC JOBS REPORT
    America’s jobless rate is fast approaching the Federal Reserve’s 6% target. Thanks to employers adding 288,000 new hires, unemployment dropped 0.2% to 6.1% in June. The U-6 rate (unemployed + underemployed) declined to 12.1%, a low unseen since October 2008; from June 2013 to June 2014, the number of Americans out of work for more than six months shrank by 1.2 million. The news helped inspire a rally: at the closing bell Friday, the Dow settled at a new all-time high of 17,068.26.

    ISM INDICES SINK SLIGHTLY
    The Institute for Supply Management’s latest factory sector and service sector PMIs didn’t quite meet expectations, but they were still well above 50 (the demarcation between sector growth and contraction). ISM’s manufacturing PMI came in at 55.3 for June, ticking down 0.1 points from May; its non-manufacturing PMI had a June reading of 56.0 compared to May’s 56.3 mark. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast June’s ISM factory PMI to hit 55.7 and …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 30, 2014

    Monday, June 30th, 2014

    A LITTLE MORE CONFIDENCE IN THE ECONOMY
    The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose 3.0 points for June to 85.2, exceeding the 84.0 consensus forecast of analysts polled by Briefing.com. Those analysts thought the University of Michigan’s final June consumer sentiment index would come in at 81.7; it climbed to 82.5 instead. In related news, the Commerce Department found personal spending up a decent 0.2% for May and up 3.7% in a year. As the Bureau of Economic Analysis downgraded Q1 GDP from -1.0% to -2.9% last week, all this was welcome. One more item of interest: the Federal Reserve’s PCE index showed yearly inflation at 1.8% in May, a 19-month peak.

    SO MUCH FOR THE SLUMP IN HOME SALES
    Wall Street certainly liked the 4.9% rise in existing home sales for May noted by the National Association of Realtors. A day later, the Census Bureau announced an 18.6% jump in new home buying for May. Economists surveyed by Reuters had predicted May gains of 2.2% for resales …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 23, 2014

    Monday, June 23rd, 2014

    INFLATION PICKS UP
    The Consumer Price Index increased 0.4% in May – the biggest monthly rise in over a year, with food prices up 0.5%. Labor Department data showed the core CPI (minus energy and food prices) up 0.3% for May; that was its largest monthly advance since August 2011. All this put the annualized gain in the headline CPI at 2.1% and the yearly gain in core CPI at 2.0%. Analysts polled by Reuters thought the overall CPI would increase 0.2% last month. The turmoil in Iraq could help to drive consumer prices higher this summer.

    MAY SEES LESS NEW RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION
    Reduced home buying eventually means reduced groundbreaking. May’s housing numbers from the Census Bureau reflected that – housing starts slipped 6.5% last month while building permits fell 6.4%. Housing starts are still maintaining a million-unit seasonally adjusted annual pace.

    OIL SETTLES AT A 9-MONTH HIGH
    $107.26 a barrel – that was where NYMEX crude for July delivery closed at Friday. Even so, prices leveled off last week …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 16, 2014

    Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

    UNREST IN IRAQ SENDS OIL TOWARD $107
    NYMEX crude settled at $106.91 Friday, up 4.1% for the week in reaction to the Sunni-led ISIS militant movement seizing control of Mosul and other cities in northern and eastern Iraq. It was oil’s biggest weekly spike since December. While the price of unleaded gasoline fell a cent for the week to $3.65 a gallon according to AAA, a short-term increase seems imminent. Iraqi oil supplies were not seriously impacted as of the weekend: most oil production in Iraq occurs in the nation’s southern half, and Iraq hasn’t exported oil from its northern regions since March.

    RETAIL SALES, SENTIMENT INDEX UNDERWHELM
    U.S. retail sales rose 0.3% in May, beneath the 0.7% gain forecast economists polled by the Wall Street Journal. With car buying and gasoline purchases factored out, they were actually flat for the month. (In better news, the Commerce Department revised April’s retail sales increase north to 0.5% and sales are up 4.3% in the past 12 months.) If consumer …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 9, 2014

    Monday, June 9th, 2014

    HIRING CORRESPONDS TO EXPECTATIONS
    Employers added 217,000 new jobs in May, just 1,000 less than analysts polled by Reuters had forecast. Over the past year, payrolls have expanded by average of 197,000 new hires a month. The jobless rate remained at 6.3% in May, but the U-6 rate (the unemployed + the underemployed) sank to 12.2%, a low unseen since October 2008.

     

    SERVICE SECTOR EXPANDS AT A FASTER PACE
    At 56.3, the Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing purchasing manager index rose 1.1 points to hit a 10-month high in May. ISM corrected its May manufacturing PMI twice last Tuesday; the final reading was at 55.4, up half a point from April’s mark. May also brought a 0.7% improvement in factory orders, following a (revised) 1.5% gain for April.

     

    PRECIOUS METALS RISE, OIL STAYS FLAT
    Silver futures rose 1.7% last week on the COMEX, ending the week at $18.99 an ounce. Five days of trading left gold futures 0.5% higher at $1,252.50 an ounce at Friday’s close. In base metals, copper …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 2, 2014

    Monday, June 2nd, 2014

    HOW OPTIMISTIC ARE CONSUMERS?
    No firm conclusion can be drawn from May’s major consumer economic polls. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose 1.3 points to 83.0. That was its second-best reading in the past six years. The University of Michigan’s final May consumer sentiment index dipped to 81.9 from April’s reading of 84.1. Fresh Commerce Department data also sent mixed signals. Consumer spending contracted 0.1% in April even as consumer incomes rose 0.3%.

    PENDING HOME SALES IMPROVE AGAIN
    They rose 0.4% for April, the National Association of Realtors said; this follows a 3.4% March increase. March’s S&P/Case-Shiller home price index showed an overall 12.4% annualized gain in house prices – quite good, but down appreciably from the 12.9% yearly advance recorded in the February edition.

    Q1 GDP REVISED DOWN; BETTER NEWS FOR DURABLES
    Reviewing declines in exports, business investment and business stockpiles, the Commerce Department said Thursday that the economy actually shrank 1.0% in the first quarter even with a 3.1% advance in personal spending. April’s durable goods orders …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 26, 2014

    Monday, May 26th, 2014

    HOME SALES PICK UP AGAIN
    Economists, investors and homeowners welcomed the news that existing home sales improved 1.3% for April. Complementing that announcement from the National Association of Realtors, the Census Bureau said new home sales rose 6.4% in April. In annualized terms, the sales pace has flagged: new home sales have slowed 4.2% over the past 12 months, resales 6.8%. Still, house prices have appreciated nicely: the median price of an existing home sold in April was $201,700, up 5.2% in a year, while the median sales price for a new home last month was $275,800. According to NAR, most of the sales growth in the last 12 months has come at the high end of the market (existing homes valued at more than $750,000).

    HINTS OF A BETTER QUARTER
    April brought the fourth straight monthly gain for the Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators. It rose 0.4% in April, and its March gain was revised up to 1.0% (its largest gain since last September). The …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 19, 2014

    Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

    IS THE PRODUCER PRICE INDEX SENDING A MESSAGE?
    Wholesale prices climbed 0.6% in April according to Labor Department data. That tripled the increase projected by economists polled by MarketWatch, and it took the annual advance in the PPI to 2.1%, a two-year peak. The PPI also pushed north 0.5% in March, so higher consumer prices could be directly ahead. In April, consumer prices rose 0.3%; that gain matched the MarketWatch consensus forecast.

    RETAIL SALES BARELY RISE
    Warmer weather didn’t prompt shoppers to boost their spending. The 0.1% April advance was a letdown following March’s 1.5% improvement. Minus auto buying, retail sales were flat last month.

    HOUSEHOLD SENTIMENT GAUGE DECLINES
    With a reading of 81.8, the University of Michigan’s initial May consumer sentiment index slipped 2.3 points from its final April mark. Analysts polled by MarketWatch had predicted a slight rise in the index to 85.0.

    SPRING BRINGS MORE GROUNDBREAKING
    Housing starts were up 13.2% in April, paced by a 39.6% jump in multifamily starts. The Census Bureau’s monthly report also showed an …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 12, 2014

    Monday, May 12th, 2014

    ISM: SERVICE SECTOR VERY HEALTHY
    At 55.2, the Institute for Supply Management’s April non-manufacturing PMI climbed 2.1 points above the March reading. The nation’s service sector expanded for a 51st straight month, and the survey saw big monthly leaps in its new orders index (up 4.8 points to 58.2) and its business activity index (which rose 7.5 points to 60.9).

    THE S&P EARNINGS SCORECARD (SO FAR)
    As last week ended on Wall Street, 451 members of the S&P 500 had announced results in the Q1 earnings season. According to Bloomberg’s tally, 76% of those firms exceeded profit projections and 53% beat revenue forecasts. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimate that earnings for S&P constituents improved 5.5% in Q1 while sales rose 3.0%.

    GAS AT $3.66 A GALLON, OIL JUST UNDER $100
    The Memorial Day weekend arrives May 24-26; will prices fall slightly by then? The national average for regular unleaded on May 9 was $0.11 higher than a year ago, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. NYMEX crude rose 0.2% …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 5, 2014

    Monday, May 5th, 2014

    HIRING & MANUFACTURING PICK UP
    America’s economy created 288,000 new jobs in April, the most in any month since January 2012. Labor Department data showed the jobless rate falling dramatically to 6.3%, largely due to more people abandoning the job hunt. Still, the U-6 rate (unemployment + underemployment) was at 12.3% in April, a 4½-year low. The Institute for Supply Management factory PMI rose to 54.9 in April, marking the eleventh straight month of expansion in manufacturing.

    ROBUST CONSUMER SPENDING, YET WEAK Q1 GDP
    Personal spending rose 0.9% in March, nearly double the 0.5% advance that the Commerce Department saw in February. Even so, the Bureau Of Economic Analysis said the economy grew by just 0.1% in the first quarter in its initial estimate.

    CONSUMER CONFIDENCE DOWN SLIGHTLY
    The Conference Board’s respected index was at 82.3 in April, down from 83.9 in March. Analysts polled by the Wall Street Journal had forecast a dip to 83.0.

    PENDING HOME SALES INCREASE AT LAST
    They rose 3.4% in March, the National Association of Realtors …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 28, 2014

    Monday, April 28th, 2014

    CONSUMER OPTIMISM INCREASES
    At a final April mark of 84.1, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index hit a 9-month high. It climbed 4.1 points above the final March reading. The survey’s sub-index of current economic conditions came in at a 7-year high of 98.7.

    HOME SALES TAIL OFF
    While the National Association of Realtors announced only a 0.2% retreat in existing home sales for March, the Census Bureau noted a 14.5% plunge in new home sales on the month. Shrinking inventory, rising mortgage rates and less groundbreaking have helped cool the housing market. Existing home sales have increased in only one month out of the last eight.

    RISING DEMAND FOR BIG-TICKET ITEMS
    Hard goods orders were up 2.6% in March, the Census Bureau announced; this was on the heels of a 2.1% rise in February. Minus transportation orders, the gain was still 2.0%. Analysts polled by Briefing.com had forecast merely a 2.0% improvement in the headline number.

    UKRAINE TENSIONS WEIGH ON STOCKS
    Standard & Poor’s cut Russia’s debt rating to BBB- …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 21, 2014

    Monday, April 21st, 2014

    CONSUMER PRICES ADVANCE 0.2%
    In reviewing March’s mild increase in household inflation, two statistics stand out. The Consumer Price Index measured a 2.7% year-over-year rise in shelter costs (the largest annual gain in six years). Americans also paid 0.4% more for food last month. Annualized consumer inflation reached 1.5% in March, up from 1.1% for February.

    MARCH PUTS HOUSEHOLDS IN A BUYING MOOD
    Retail sales rose 1.1% last month, bettering the (revised) 0.7% advance in February. Census Bureau data showed core retail sales (minus auto buying) up 0.7% for March; they increased 0.3% a month earlier.

    FACTORIES & BUILDERS GROW BUSIER
    According to Federal Reserve data, March was another solid month for industrial output – production rose 0.7%, and the Fed revised the February advance to 1.2%. Groundbreaking by builders increased 2.8% in March, though the Census Bureau also measured a 2.4% decline in building permits.

    BULLS RUN AGAIN
    Stocks got a lift last week as the pace of China’s economic growth topped forecasts and Fed chair Janet Yellen stated that the …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 14, 2014

    Monday, April 14th, 2014

    HOUSEHOLD SENTIMENT REACHES 9-MONTH PEAK
    The University of Michigan’s index of consumer sentiment rose 2.6 points in its preliminary April reading, bouncing back from a 4-month low of 80.0 at the end of March to a high unseen since last July. From 2003-07, the index averaged a reading of 89.0; during the 2007-09 recession, its average mark was just 64.2.

    PRODUCER PRICES ROSE 0.5% IN MARCH
    You have to go back to last June (when wholesale inflation spiked 0.8%) to find such a sizable monthly advance in the Producer Price Index. The PPI had retreated 0.1% in February. A 1.1% monthly increase in wholesale food costs was a big factor. Annualized wholesale inflation rose to 1.4% in March, up from 0.9% for February.

    OIL, GAS, GOLD LOG NOTABLE GAINS
    NYMEX crude was worth $103.74 per barrel at Friday’s close thanks to a 2.6% advance during the week. On April 10, AAA’s weekly survey found a gallon of unleaded averaging $3.62 nationally, …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 7, 2014

    Monday, April 7th, 2014

    PAYROLLS EXPAND BY 192,000 IN MARCH
    This gain almost met Wall Street’s expectations. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast 200,000 new jobs. March’s hiring didn’t move the Labor Department’s unemployment indicators much: the jobless rate remained at 6.7%, the labor force participation rate rose just slightly to 63.2, and the population of long-term unemployed still hovered at around 3.7 million. Revisions improved January and February hiring figures, however: the Labor Department now says 144,000 Americans found jobs in January, and that 197,000 new jobs were created in February.

    FACTORIES PICK UP THEIR PACE
    March saw the manufacturing sector expand for a ninth consecutive month. The Institute for Supply Management’s factory PMI rose half a point in March to a reading of 53.7. (A day later, the Commerce Department announced that factory orders had risen 1.6% for February.) The Institute’s non-manufacturing PMI came in at 53.1 for March, rising 1.5 points. Still, both readings were beneath Investing.com consensus forecasts, which predicted a manufacturing …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 31, 2014

    Monday, March 31st, 2014

    A SENSE OF OPTIMISM ON MAIN STREET
    The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index reached a six-year peak this month, climbing 4.0 points to 82.3. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a gain of 0.3 points to 78.6. Additionally, new Commerce Department data showed household spending rising 0.3% in February with household incomes up by the same amount. The only weak consumer signal came from the University of Michigan’s March index of consumer sentiment; it retreated 1.6 points from February to a mark of 80.0.

    HOME PRICES RISE, BUT SALES INDICATORS SLIP
    January’s edition of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index (surveying real estate values in 20 cities) advanced 0.8%, replicating its December gain. Annually, prices were up 13.2%. Mirroring the decline in residential resales in February, the Census Bureau reported a 3.3% drop in new home sales last month, and a 1.1% decrease over 12 months. Pending home sales fell 0.8% in February to a 28-month low, the National Association of Realtors …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 24, 2014

    Monday, March 24th, 2014

    FED TAPERS, CHANGES CRITERIA FOR A RATE HIKE
    Last week, the Federal Reserve disclosed another $10 billion cut for QE3 in April, and a view that declining unemployment would not necessarily prompt interest rate increases. Rather than peg rate hikes on the jobless rate dipping below 6.5%, the Fed will give greater weight to inflation and other economic factors; it sees the federal funds rate at 1% by the end of 2015 and 2% by the end of 2016. Wall Street was startled Thursday by Fed chair Janet Yellen’s verbal guesstimate that the central bank might raise rates about 6 months after the presumed late-2014 end of QE3 (about 6 months earlier than many analysts presume). IHS Global Insight economist Paul Edelstein echoed the prevalent opinion, saying “this could have been a rookie gaffe on Yellen’s part.”

    DID COLD WEATHER COOL HOME SALES?
    The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales fell 0.4% in February, leading to the slowest annualized sales …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 17, 2014

    Monday, March 17th, 2014

    RETAIL SALES UP 0.3% IN FEBRUARY
    Weather didn’t stop Americans from shopping last month. February’s headline gain in retail sales was the first in three months and represented a nice turnaround from the (revised) 0.6% drop measured by the Commerce Department for January. Minus car and truck buying, the February increase was still 0.3%. Sales at clothing and furniture retailers led the way, both improving 0.4% on the month.

    SENTIMENT COOLS AS WEATHER WARMS
    The preliminary March reading for the University of Michigan’s monthly consumer sentiment index was just 79.9, a 4-month low. February’s final mark was 81.6, and analysts polled by MarketWatch forecast an initial March reading of 80.8.

    PRODUCER PRICES RETREAT, AGAINST EXPECTATIONS
    After rising 0.2% for January, the Producer Price Index ticked down 0.1% in February; in a Bloomberg survey, economists projected a 0.2% increase. The core PPI (minus food and energy prices) dropped 0.2% last month. Over the past year, the headline PPI has risen just 0.9%.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 10, 2014

    Monday, March 10th, 2014

    ECONOMY ADDS 175,000 MORE JOBS
    February’s payroll growth was decent, and seemingly unimpeded by the weather. Last month’s net jobs gain approximated the 12-month average of 179,000 recorded by the Labor Department, which also revised January and December totals north by a collective 25,000 hires. Few of the 264,000 new participants in the job hunt found work last month, so the unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7%. The average hourly wage rose $0.09 in February, the largest monthly increase since June.

    CONSUMER SPENDING BEATS EXPECTATIONS
    Last month saw personal spending increase 0.4% and personal incomes rise 0.3%. Economists polled by MarketWatch felt that February’s Commerce Department report would show 0.2% gains for each category. Personal spending was up only 0.1% in January.

    FEBRUARY PMIs RISE & FALL
    According to the Institute for Supply Management, growth in the manufacturing sector accelerated last month while service sector growth moderated. ISM recorded a 1.9% rise in its manufacturing PMI for February to a mark …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 3, 2014

    Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

    MIXED RESULTS FROM CONSUMER INDICES
    Wet, cold weather didn’t dampen the consumer outlook in February – at least according to the month’s final University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, which came in at 81.6. The index finished January at 81.2. On the other hand, February’s Conference Board consumer confidence index slipped 1.3 points to 78.1 (January’s reading was revised down to 79.4).

    PACE OF NEW HOME SALES PICKS UP
    Wall Street and Main Street cheered the Census Bureau’s announcement of a 9.6% jump in new home buying in January – the rate of new home sales was the best in any month since July 2008. The National Association of Realtors’ pending home sales index rose 0.1% in January, a nice change from the 9% fall it took in the past year. December’s S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed a 13.4% yearly gain in home values, down from a 13.7% improvement in the November edition.

    Q4 GDP REVISED SIGNIFICANTLY DOWNWARD
    Last week, the …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 24, 2014

    Monday, February 24th, 2014

    MORE MILD INFLATION
    Consumer prices ticked up 0.1% for January while wholesale prices rose 0.2%. Analysts polled by MarketWatch expected both the headline Consumer Price Index and Producer Price Index to advance 0.1%. The bigger news item (perhaps) is that the Labor Department altered its calculation of producer prices for the first time in 36 years. The definitive PPI is now called the PPI Final Demand index, and it measures prices received for exports, services, federal government purchases and construction in addition to those of finished goods.

    POOR HOME SALES TO START THE YEAR
    The annual pace of existing home sales hit an 18-month low in January; the National Association of Realtors announced 5.1% monthly and yearly declines in residential resales. The good news? Inventory continues to expand (+2.2% in January) and the median existing home price was $188,900 last month, up 10.7% from a year ago.

    OIL TOPS $102, GOLD ADVANCES FOR A THIRD WEEK
    NYMEX crude for …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 17, 2014

    Monday, February 17th, 2014

    FREEZING TEMPERATURES COOL RETAIL SALES
    While the fourth quarter saw the strongest consumer spending in 3 years, the pace of retail purchases slowed last month. The Commerce Department reported a 0.4% drop in retail sales in January, and it revised December’s gain of 0.2% to a loss of 0.1%. Severe cold, reduced hiring and the end of long-term unemployment benefits were likely influences. There was one bit of reassurance in the Commerce Department’s report: minus auto buying, retail sales were actually flat last month.

    CONSUMER SENTIMENT IS UNCHANGED
    The University of Michigan’s preliminary consumer sentiment index for February came in at 81.2, precisely where it had finished January. Analysts polled by Briefing.com had expected it to decline a full point.

    GOLD FUTURES HIT A 3-MONTH HIGH
    Bearish sentiment (and dissatisfying economic indicators) encouraged a rally in precious metals last week. Gold gained 4.4% on the COMEX in five days to settle at $1,318.60 Friday – a level unseen since …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 10, 2014

    Monday, February 10th, 2014

    WAS IT THE WEATHER, OR THE ECONOMY?
    For a second straight month, hiring was weak. Employers added 113,000 jobs in January, and while the unemployment rate ticked down to 6.6%, the Labor Department’s latest report came with some caution flags. Private-sector payrolls expanded by 142,000 new positions, but 29,000 federal workers were let go and there were actually job cuts in the booming health care sector. In 2013, the U.S. workforce expanded by an average of 194,000 jobs a month. The February jobs report will either reject or confirm suspicions of a weakening labor market.

    ISM INDICES FLASH DIFFERENT SIGNALS
    Wall Street did not expect the Institute for Supply Management’s January manufacturing PMI to drop to 51.3 from the (revised) December reading of 56.5. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com forecast a January reading of 56.0. ISM’s service sector PMI improved a full point to 54.0 in January.

    FACTORY ORDERS SLIP; SO DO AUTO SALES
    The Census Bureau recorded a 1.5% …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 3, 2014

    Monday, February 3rd, 2014

    CONSUMER MORALE, CONSUMER SPENDING IMPROVE
    On Friday, the Commerce Department announced that consumer spending rose 0.4% in December, even as consumer incomes stayed flat. The University of Michigan’s final January consumer sentiment index came in at 81.2 (up 0.8 points from December) and the Conference Board’s January consumer confidence index posted a reading of 80.7 (up 3.2 points from last month). Analysts surveyed by Briefing.com thought both indices would be flat for January.

    HOME SALES DIP, BUT PRICES RISE
    Brutal weather sent pending home sales down 8.7% in December to a 43-month low, as reported by the National Association of Realtors. The Census Bureau measured a 7.0% drop in new home buying last month. In better news, November’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed a 13.7% yearly advance (the best 12-month gain in housing values since February 2006), and new home prices rose 8.4% in 2013.

    FEWER ORDERS FOR BIG-TICKET ITEMS
    Durable goods orders fell 4.3% in December, but the Census …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update January 27, 2014

    Monday, January 27th, 2014

    MORE HOMES MOVE IN DECEMBER
    Last month saw a 1.0% gain in existing home sales, a nice change for this key economic indicator after a few subpar months. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires anticipated sales improving 0.6%. The National Association of Realtors did revise November’s sales decline to 5.9% (it had been 4.3%).

    GAUGE OF NEAR-TERM PROSPECTS EDGES HIGHER
    The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators – intended to assess economic prospects for the next 3-6 months – ticked up 0.1% for December. Additionally, the CB revised the November gain of the index from 0.8% to 1.0%.

    GOLD RALLY CONTINUES
    Futures advanced for a fifth straight week, settling Friday at $1,264.30 an ounce on the COMEX after rising 1.0% in 5 days, helped by a wave of disappointing economic news from overseas. The precious metal hasn’t had such a long winning streak since September 2012.

    STOCKS STAGE A MAJOR RETREAT
    Weak manufacturing data from China and an exit from …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Januray 20, 2014

    Monday, January 20th, 2014

    INFLATION RISES IN DECEMBER
    Labor Department reports showed the Consumer Price Index up 0.3% last month (with core CPI rising 0.1%) and the Producer Price Index advancing 0.4% (core PPI went north 0.3%). If these spikes foreshadow greater inflation for 2014, they do little to alter the big picture of 2013 – a year in which consumer prices increased only 1.5% and wholesale prices rose just 1.2%. Annualized consumer inflation is beneath the Federal Reserve’s 2.0% target and hasn’t exceeded 2% for two years. The last two consecutive years in which consumer prices rose less than 2% were 1997-98.

    A MILD LIFT FOR RETAILERS
    Economists polled by Briefing.com thought retail sales would be flat in December. They rose 0.2% instead (0.7% with auto buying factored out). The Census Bureau revised November’s 0.7% advance down to 0.4%.

    CONSUMER SENTIMENT MISSES EXPECTATIONS
    The initial January consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan took a major dip, dropping to 80.4 from …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 13, 2014

    Monday, January 13th, 2014

    INTERPRETING A PERPLEXING JOBS REPORT
    Why did the economy generate only 74,000 new jobs last month? Why did 347,000 people drop out of the job hunt to leave the labor participation rate at 62.8%, the lowest in 35 years? Was it the weather? Maybe. As a note from Capital Economics mentions, the Labor Department found that 273,000 people were unable to work last month because of weather conditions, well above the December average of 166,000. The jobless rate fell to a 5-year low of 6.7% in the final month of 2013, but that was largely due to older workers retiring and the thinning ranks of job seekers. November’s job growth was revised upward by 38,000 to 241,000.

    A BIT LESS GROWTH IN THE SERVICE SECTOR
    December’s non-manufacturing PMI from the Institute for Supply Management came in at 53.0, down from the prior 53.9 mark. Although 53.0 is the weakest reading in six months, it signifies expansion. Data from Markit showed service-sector …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 6, 2014

    Monday, January 6th, 2014

    A MAJOR GAIN FOR A CONSUMER CONFIDENCE INDEX
    The Conference Board’s monthly gauge of consumer confidence came in at 78.1 for December, beating the 76.0 median forecast from economists polled by Bloomberg. In November, it stood at 72.0. The index is way up from where it once was: its average reading was just 53.7 during the 2007-09 recession.

    HOME PRICES, HOME SALES CONTRACTS INCREASE
    While existing home sales have fallen in recent months, the National Association of Realtors offered some positive news last week – pending home sales increased 0.2% in November, a contrast to October’s 1.2% retreat. The October S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed a 13.6% yearly gain in property prices measured across 20 cities, improved 0.3% from the September edition; that is the best annual gain the Case-Shiller index has recorded since February 2006.

    FACTORIES HUM IN DECEMBER
    December’s manufacturing PMI from the Institute for Supply Management offered a reading of 57.0 – down from 57.3% in November, …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 30, 2013

    Monday, December 30th, 2013

    A HOLIDAY SHOPPING SEASON TO CELEBRATE
    Good news from the Commerce Department: November brought a healthy 0.5% gain in personal spending (matching the consensus forecast of economists polled by Briefing.com) and a 0.2% rise in personal income that offset the 0.1% retreat in October. SpendingPulse, which tracks online and in-store retail purchases, says that retail sales increased 3.5% during the holiday season. It reports that 2013’s holiday spending was 2.3% greater than in 2012; the International Council of Shopping Centers puts the gain at 2.7%.

    NO CHANGE IN CONSUMER SENTIMENT
    Against expectations, the University of Michigan’s final December consumer sentiment index came in at 82.5 – exactly where it was at the end of November. Analysts surveyed by Briefing.com had projected the index to end 2013 at 83.3.

    NEW HOME SALES DOWN, BUT UP FROM SUMMER
    November’s 2.1% dip in new home buying seemed to reflect buyers adjusting to higher mortgage rates. Still, the pace of new home purchases (a …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 23, 2013

    Monday, December 23rd, 2013

    FED MAKES ITS MOVE, STOCKS MOVE NORTH
    In a 9-1 vote last Wednesday, Federal Reserve officials elected to taper the central bank’s monthly economic stimulus beginning in January. The taper was relatively minor – a cut of $10 billion to $75 billion – and the surprise announcement set off a major rally on Wall Street, with the Dow closing 292 points higher on the day. Both the Fed and investors seemed to think the move was warranted; it certainly removed a degree of uncertainty from the market. The Fed’s December 18 policy statement also noted its intention to keep the benchmark interest rate at the present historic lows “well past the time” the jobless rate reaches the central bank’s 6.5% target.

    FEWER HOMES SOLD, MORE GROUND BROKEN
    Existing home sales fell 4.3% last month, and there was no annualized gain in home buying last month for the first time in more than two years. Was the November report from the …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 16, 2013

    Monday, December 16th, 2013

    “MINI-BARGAIN” PASSES HOUSE, HEADS FOR SENATE
    Last week, the congressional budget committee headed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) succeeded where its 2011 predecessor had failed – it reached a deal, albeit a small-scale one. The House passed its budget bill by a 332-94 vote Thursday night; the legislation heads for the Senate this week. If made law, it will reduce the federal deficit by $23 billion during the next 10 years while halving 2014 sequestration cuts to defense spending and non-defense discretionary spending. (Other scheduled cuts in mandatory federal spending will proceed.) This deal doesn’t raise taxes, and it doesn’t extend unemployment insurance, which could expire on December 28 for 1.3 million Americans. Federal spending would increase by $45 billion next year as a result of the agreement.

    FALL BRINGS BETTER RETAIL SALES
    The 0.7% November gain was the biggest recorded by the Commerce Department in five months and brought the year-over-year improvement to 4.7%. …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 9, 2013

    Monday, December 9th, 2013

    GOOD NEWS ON MAIN STREET
    Unemployment declined to a 5-year low of 7.0% in November, according to the Labor Department; underemployment also reached its lowest level in five years. The economy added 203,000 new jobs last month, far better than the 180,000 forecast by economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters. October also brought a 0.3% rise in consumer spending, even with the Bureau of Economic Analysis noting a 0.1% slip in consumer income. Finally, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index jumped 7.4%. The initial December reading of 82.5 was the best in five months.

    NEW HOME BUYING HITS 33-YEAR PEAK
    Surprising news from the Census Bureau: in October, the pace of new home sales was the strongest since 1980 thanks to a 25.4% boost. Even though sales slipped 6.6% for September, the annualized sales pace reached 444,000 units in October, putting the year-over-year increase in new home purchases at 21.6%.

    ISM RECORDS ADDITIONAL SECTOR GROWTH
    According to the Institute for …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 2, 2013

    Monday, December 2nd, 2013

    CONFIDENCE INDEX FALLS, SENTIMENT INDEX RISES
    Two respected barometers of consumer mood went different ways in November. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index came in at a disappointing 70.4, down from a revised 72.4 mark for October and well below the 74.0 reading forecast by Briefing.com. November’s final consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan rose to 75.1, topping the Briefing.com projection by 1.6 points.

    HOUSING INDICATORS LARGELY IMPRESS
    September’s edition of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index found house prices rising 3.2% for the third quarter, 13.3% YTD and 11.2% across the past 12 months. Building permits rose 6.2% in October, with the Census Bureau measuring a 13.9% annual gain. Pending home sales declined for another month: they fell 0.6% for October, the National Association of Realtors noted.

    DURABLE GOODS ORDERS DECLINE
    Overall hard goods orders slipped 2.0% in October, partly reversing the 4.1% increase in September. The silver lining? The Census Bureau found that October’s retreat was just 0.1% …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 25, 2013

    Monday, November 25th, 2013

    CONSUMER & PRODUCER PRICES DECLINE
    Last week, Labor Department reports showed the Consumer Price Index down 0.1% for October while the Producer Price Index slipped 0.2% with help from a 3.8% dip in gasoline costs. The real news was the remarkably tame yearly inflation. In the last 12 months, the CPI has only increased 1.0% and the PPI just 0.3% (although the core PPI did rise 1.4%). What do these annualized gains represent? The weakest wholesale inflation since 2009.

    FEWER HOMES SELL IN OCTOBER
    Existing home sales fell 3.2% last month, according to the National Association of Realtors. This marks the second straight monthly decline. Higher mortgage rates, narrowing inventory and the federal government’s 16-day shutdown certainly influenced sales volume. The median sales price of an existing home was $199,500 last month, 12.8% higher than a year ago.

    RETAIL SALES IMPROVE
    October saw a solid 0.4% rise in the indicator, and that surprised analysts who thought the federal shutdown would hurt …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 18, 2013

    Monday, November 18th, 2013

    YELLEN EMPHASIZES FURTHER EASING
    While conceding that the Federal Reserve’s current stimulus effort “will not continue indefinitely,” Federal Reserve chair nominee Janet Yellen sounded decidedly dovish at her confirmation hearing in the Senate last week. “Supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy,” she noted, which global markets took as a signal that tapering was not in the immediate future. The S&P 500 hit a new record close after her comments Thursday; gold and silver futures and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index all rose 1.4% on the day.

    HEALTHCARE ENROLLMENT ISSUES LINGER
    While demand was reasonably high at the new online health insurance exchanges in October (975,000+ people found that they were eligible for coverage), total enrollment for the month was just 106,000. As tweaks continued to be made to healthcare.gov, President Obama announced that insurers don’t yet have to cancel plans that fail to meet Affordable Care Act standards. …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 11, 2013

    Monday, November 11th, 2013

    SHUTDOWN DOESN’T DETER HIRING
    The Labor Department’s delayed October employment report showed the economy adding 204,000 new jobs last month. Analysts polled by Reuters had only expected a gain of 125,000. The unemployment rate actually rose to 7.3%, as those analysts had predicted. This was a nice Friday surprise for Wall Street, and it also made investors wonder if the tapering of QE3 could come before the end of the year. A solid November employment report could offer further grounds for that move.

    FIRST Q3 GDP ESTIMATE TOPS EXPECTATIONS
    In another nice surprise for Wall Street, the Bureau of Economic Analysis put third quarter growth at 2.8%, whereas economists surveyed by MarketWatch had projected a reading of 2.3%. In related news, a federal report showed factory orders up 1.7% in September, and the Institute for Supply Management’s service sector PMI rose a full point in October to 55.4.

    HOUSEHOLD INCOMES OUTPACE SPENDING
    The September consumer spending report was a bit …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 4, 2013

    Monday, November 4th, 2013

    TAME INFLATION, 1.5% BOOST FOR SOCIAL SECURITY
    Yearly inflation hit a 5-month low of 1.2% in September – the Labor Department noted a 0.2% rise in the headline Consumer Price Index. The core CPI rose 0.1%, with yearly core inflation at 1.7%. (Producer prices dipped 0.1% in September after a 0.3% advance in August.) With inflation so mild, the Social Security Administration announced a mere 1.5% increase in monthly benefit payments for 2014.

    MANUFACTURING SECTOR KEEPS GROWING
    The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index rose 0.2 points in October to 56.4. This marks a 2013 peak for the index. American factory activity grew for a fifth straight month.

    RETAIL SALES HOLD UP; CONSUMER CONFIDENCE DIPS
    While headline retail purchases declined 0.1% in September, the Census Bureau said retail sales were up 0.4% excluding autos. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index fell 9.0% to 71.2 in October; chalk it up to the shutdown.

    HOT & COLD NEWS OUT …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for October 28, 2013

    Monday, October 28th, 2013

    AN ARGUMENT AGAINST TAPERING
    According to the Labor Department, the economy added 148,000 jobs in September. The jobless rate dipped to 7.2%, but job creation has averaged less than 150,000 for three straight months. (August job growth was revised up to 193,000, July job growth down to 89,000.) The University of Michigan’s final October consumer sentiment index slipped in the wake of the federal shutdown: the 73.2 reading was an 11-month low. Economists polled by Reuters forecast it coming in at 75.0.

    EXISTING HOME SALES PACE SLOWS
    There was good news beneath the 1.9% September decrease reported by the National Association of Realtors. Residential resales have increased 10.7% in the past 12 months, 25.0% with distressed sales factored out. Distressed sales made up 14% of the market last month compared to 24% a year before. The median sale price was $199,200 last month, improving 11.7% in a year.

    DURABLES & INVENTORIES: GOOD NEWS
    September saw a 3.7% jump in durable goods …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for October 21, 2013

    Monday, October 21st, 2013

    FOCUS RETURNS TO EARNINGS, FUNDAMENTALS
    A sense of normalcy returned to Wall Street late last week following Wednesday’s deal to end the federal shutdown. The sense of relief spurred the S&P 500 to an all-time high on Friday. At the end of last week, 85 S&P firms had reported quarterly results with earnings surpassing forecasts by an average of 4.2%. As for Washington, the new question is whether a bipartisan committee can negotiate its way to a federal budget agreement by December 13, while also crafting a 10-year plan for tax and entitlement reform. If this new budget panel can’t reach common ground by that deadline, the federal government will face the threat of another shutdown on January 15.

    MORE “MODEST TO MODERATE” GROWTH REPORTED
    That was the big picture out of the Federal Reserve’s latest Beige Book. Eight of 12 Fed districts reported unchanged economic expansion over the past several weeks; however, the Chicago, Richmond, Kansas City and Philadelphia districts found …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for October 14, 2013

    Monday, October 14th, 2013

    HOPES FOR A DEBT DEAL EMERGE
    After a Friday meeting with President Obama, GOP senators went to work on a bipartisan solution to both the federal budget and federal debt limit impasses, one that would lift the debt limit in exchange for spending cuts. House Republicans introduced a proposal last Thursday to raise the debt ceiling for 6 weeks contingent on budget negotiations. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Friday’s talks produced “nothing concrete,” but Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the discussions “very useful” and thought they might lead forward. Hopefully, at least a short-term deal can be reached by the start of this week.

    NO SURPRISE: CONSUMER SENTIMENT INDEX SLIPS
    The University of Michigan’s initial October consumer sentiment index came in at 75.2, which was a 9-month low. Still, that beat the 73.0 consensus forecast of economists polled by Briefing.com.

    NO TAX HOLIDAY THIS TUESDAY, IRS SAYS
    If you filed Form 4868 with the IRS earlier this year, you must still …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for October 7, 2013

    Monday, October 7th, 2013

    WALL STREET FEELS EFFECTS OF SHUTDOWN
    Even with the federal government mostly out of commission last week and a debt ceiling battle brewing, stocks didn’t fall too far. The NASDAQ actually rose 0.69% in five trading days, marking its fifth straight weekly advance; the S&P 500 lost only 0.07%. The CBOE VIX, unsurprisingly, rose 9.25% last week to settle at 16.89 Friday. COMEX gold hit its lowest level since August on Tuesday, and the dollar touched a one-month low against the yen on Thursday. The week ended with no resolution to the budget impasse. Last week, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde cautioned that U.S. GDP could slip below 2% this year if the debt ceiling is not raised.

    ADP REPORT GAINS GREATER SIGNIFICANCE
    As the Labor Department’s September employment report didn’t come out last week, the ADP National Employment Report took center stage. ADP said private payrolls expanded by 166,000 jobs last month; economists polled by Reuters had forecast an …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 30, 2013

    Monday, September 30th, 2013

    HOUSEHOLDS BOOST THEIR SPENDING
    August saw a 0.3% gain in personal spending, and the Commerce Department also noted a 0.4% rise in personal income – the largest monthly increase since February. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of GDP, and analysts widely expect about 2% growth in Q3; Q2 growth was pegged at 2.5% last week in the federal government’s final estimate. In other economic news out of Washington, durable goods orders rose 0.1% in August, a nice change from the 8.1% dive in July.

    NEW HOME SALES UP, PENDING HOME SALES DOWN
    July was the worst month for new home buying since October 2012, so the 7.9% sales gain in August was welcome. New home inventory rose 3.6% in August to the highest level since March 2011, the Commerce Department noted. The National Association of Realtors reported a 1.6% decline in pending home sales in August. July’s S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed a 12.4% yearly rise in home values …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 23, 2013

    Monday, September 23rd, 2013

    NO TAPERING YET…BUT COULD IT HAPPEN SOON?
    The DJIA hit an all-time high Wednesday after the Federal Reserve decided not to reduce its $85 billion monthly stimulus effort. Friday, the index lost 185 points on the heels of comments from St. Louis Fed President James Bullard (who said that QE3 could be tapered next month) and Kansas City Fed President Esther George (who said that the decision not to taper created confusion in the markets). So investors wonder: is an “Octaper” ahead? This week is data-heavy, and investors will be keeping an eye on federal budget talks in addition to any comments from Fed officials. The September FOMC minutes come out on October 9; the next Fed policy announcement occurs on October 30.

    RISING INTEREST RATES PROMPT HOMEBUYING
    Existing home sales hit a six-year peak in August, rising 1.7% for the month in the estimate of the National Association of Realtors. The big reason? Buyers ran to lock in interest rates …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 16, 2013

    Monday, September 16th, 2013

    HOUSEHOLDS BUY CAUTIOUSLY
    Retail sales rose an underwhelming 0.2% in August, the Commerce Department noted Friday. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.4% advance, which would have matched the July gain for the indicator. Analysts were left wondering if the subdued buying hinted at slower economic growth in the third quarter.

    INTEREST RATES WEIGH ON CONSUMER SENTIMENT
    September’s preliminary Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index came in at 76.8, the poorest reading since April. Why did it descend so much from the final August reading of 82.1? Survey director Richard Curtin cited a “cooling housing market” and “growing concerns that higher interest rates will diminish the pace of economic growth as well as job gains.”

    WHOLESALE INFLATION UP 0.3% IN AUGUST
    This gain in the Producer Price Index exceeded the 0.2% rise forecast by economists surveyed by Reuters. The core PPI was flat for August. Annualized wholesale inflation was running at just 1.4% last month.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 9, 2013

    Monday, September 9th, 2013

    BENEATH THE SURFACE, A DISQUIETING JOBS REPORT
    In August, the U.S. unemployment rate declined to 7.3% with the economy adding 169,000 jobs. Not bad, but details in the Labor Department’s latest report also raised caution flags: the jobless rate fell only because more people gave up the hunt for work, as the labor force participation rate of 63.2% was the poorest in 35 years. June and July hiring was revised downward, with just 104,000 new jobs in July (the weakest hiring in 13 months) and just 148,000 per month from June through August, compared to 184,000 per month in the preceding 12 months. Will the Federal Reserve postpone tapering after jobs data like this?

    FURTHER FACTORY & SERVICE SECTOR GROWTH
    Both of the Institute for Supply Management’s August purchasing manager indexes showed robust sector expansion. The August non-manufacturing PMI surged 2.6% to 58.6; analysts polled by MarketWatch forecast it to dip 1.0% to 55.0. As for the Institute’s factory-sector PMI, …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 2, 2013

    Monday, September 2nd, 2013

    Q2 GDP REVISED UP, CONSUMERS SPEND A BIT MORE
    Personal spending and personal incomes each rose 0.1% in July, the Commerce Department stated Friday. The tiny household spending advance fell short of the 0.3% increase forecast by economists polled by Bloomberg. In better news, the Commerce Department adjusted its estimate of Q2 GDP to 2.5% last week, much better than its original 1.7% assessment.

    A MIXED PICTURE OF CONSUMER CONFIDENCE
    The Conference Board’s August consumer confidence index unexpectedly rose half a point to 81.5 this month (although the survey data was compiled prior to the chemical attack against civilians in Syria). In contrast, the final August consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan came in at 82.1, a 4-month low.

    PENDING HOME SALES, HOME PRICE GAINS MODERATE
    July saw a 1.3% decline in housing contract activity, according to the National Association of Realtors. The June edition of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index recorded a 12.1% overall annualized increase …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 26, 2013

    Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

    ARE COSTLIER MORTGAGES IMPACTING HOME SALES?
    On Friday, the Census Bureau announced an unexpected 13.4% drop in new home purchases for July. In contrast to that news, the National Association of Realtors stated that existing home sales rose 6.5% last month. So what is the takeaway here? Most new home purchase contracts close months in the future, and many buyers of existing homes may have locked in the rates of home loans in spring. Is the dip in new home buying a direct, alarming reflection of the recent jump in mortgage rates? Will it give the Federal Reserve pause about tapering?

    LEADING INDICATORS RISE IN JULY
    The 0.6% increase in the Conference Board Leading Economic Index was a nice change after its flat June reading. The LEI now stands at 96.0, edging closer to its original mark of 100. From February to July, it rose 2.0%; in the preceding six months, it rose 1.1%.

    GOLD CLIMBS BACK TOWARD $1,400
    Friday’s COMEX …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 19, 2013

    Monday, August 19th, 2013

    CONSUMER PRICES RISE 0.2% IN JULY
    That was exactly the increase that analysts surveyed by Briefing.com expected, and it was a relief after the 0.5% rise in the Consumer Price Index for June. As for July’s Producer Price Index, it was flat – a welcome contrast to June’s 0.8% jump.

    RETAIL SALES IMPROVE
    July didn’t see as much car and truck buying as in spring, so the gain was 0.2% compared to 0.5% in May and 0.6% in June. The impressive news was the 0.5% rise in core retail sales (excluding auto, gas and construction purchases). That particular indicator hadn’t been so positive since December.

    HOUSEHOLD SENTIMENT SLIPS
    Analysts polled by Briefing.com expected August’s preliminary University of Michigan consumer sentiment index to be unchanged from the final July reading of 85.1. Instead, it dropped to 80.0 – a 4-month low.

    RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION INCREASES
    Housing starts were up 5.9% in July, according to the Commerce Department; building permits rose 2.7% last …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 12, 2013

    Monday, August 12th, 2013

    IMPRESSIVE SERVICE SECTOR GROWTH
    Last month saw solid expansion in U.S. service industries, according to the July non-manufacturing PMI from the Institute for Supply Management. ISM’s latest service sector PMI came in at 56.0 compared with 52.2 in June. July’s new orders index rose 6.9% to 57.7, and July’s business activity index climbed 8.7% to 60.4.

    OBAMA: FANNIE MAE & FREDDIE MAC SHOULD GO
    Last week in Phoenix, the President said that “private capital should take a bigger role in the mortgage markets” and advocated the passage of bipartisan legislation circulating in the Senate that would “end Fannie and Freddie as we know them” and create a Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation to regulate the home financing system. Even though winding down Fannie and Freddie has widespread support, mortgage interest rates would likely rise without their credit guarantees.

    HOW DOES EARNINGS SEASON LOOK SO FAR?
    The short answer: it looks better than many analysts had expected. Just after Friday’s close, Bloomberg reported …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 5, 2013

    Monday, August 5th, 2013

    JOBS REPORT SENDS MIXED SIGNALS
    Unemployment sank to a 4½-year low of 7.4% last month, even as the pace of hiring declined a bit from spring. The Labor Department’s July report showed non-farm payrolls expanding by 162,000 jobs, with retail, bar and restaurant hires accounting for most of the gain. The ranks of the self-employed grew 2.6% last month. With jobs data like this, some analysts are wondering if the Federal Reserve will reconsider its plan to reduce asset purchases later this year.

    HOUSEHOLD SPENDING MEETS EXPECTATIONS
    Consumer spending rose 0.5% in June, matching the consensus forecast of economists polled by Reuters; consumer incomes grew 0.3%. The Commerce Department also said the economy grew at a 1.7% annual pace in Q2, up from 1.1% in Q1. July’s Conference Board consumer confidence index came in at 80.3 last week; economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a reading of 81.1.

    ISM FINDS JUMP IN MANUFACTURING GROWTH
    The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 29, 2013

    Monday, July 29th, 2013

    CONSUMER SENTIMENT CONTINUES TO RISE
    In 12 months, the University of Michigan’s index of consumer sentiment has gained almost 13 points. At 85.1, July’s final edition of the index was up 1.0 points from the final June reading. Two notable details: the percentage of respondents saying their home values had increased hit a six-year peak, and more respondents expected their inflation-adjusted incomes to rise in the coming year than at any time since 2007.

    TWO DIFFERENT HOME SALES STORIES
    Existing home sales declined 1.2% in June with shrinking inventory, but the median sale price was up 13.5% from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. Even as supply fell short of demand, anticipation of rising mortgage rates no doubt contributed to an 8.3% jump in new home buying in June, as well as the greatest yearly improvement in new home sales since 1992 – a 38.1% annual gain.

    DURABLE GOODS ORDERS UP 4.2%
    June’s impressive overall advance didn’t …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 22, 2013

    Monday, July 22nd, 2013

    CONSUMER PRICES RISE 0.5% FOR JUNE
    Gas prices soared 6.3% last month, and they contributed greatly to the jump in the Consumer Price Index. Core inflation (minus food and energy prices) increased just 0.2% in June. As the headline CPI advanced only once during March-May, does this signal mounting inflation pressures? Maybe not. Looking deeper into the CPI, annualized core inflation actually decreased last month to 1.6%. That is the smallest yearly rise for that indicator in two years.

    CAR BUYING DRIVES RETAIL SALES INCREASE
    The Commerce Department noted a 0.4% gain in U.S. retail purchases in June, following a 0.5% rise in May. Auto and truck sales were up 1.8% last month (in the last 12 months, the gain has been 11.4%). While vehicle sales improved, consumers bought less in other retail categories. That left the core retail sales advance at 0.2% for June – the weakest number since January.

    LEADING INDICATORS FLAT IN JUNE
    The Conference Board’s leading economic …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 15, 2013

    Monday, July 15th, 2013

    WILL THE EASING END SOONER, OR LATER?
    Last Wednesday, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke lifted stocks by noting that the U.S. economy needed “highly accommodative monetary policy for the foreseeable future,” adding that the current 7.6% jobless rate “overstates the health of the labor market.” Remarks like these didn’t exactly suggest the Fed would scale back its asset purchases soon. The June Fed policy meeting minutes showed 11 of 12 Fed officials agreeing to sustain the central bank’s bond-buying campaign, with “about half” of these 11 envisioning QE3 wrapping up late this year. On Friday, Philadelphia Fed president Charles Plosser emerged from that camp, calling for a “gradual and predictable” end to the program before 2014.

    HOUSEHOLD SENTIMENT DECLINES A BIT
    The initial July consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan dipped mildly to 83.9. June’s final reading was 84.1, and economists polled by Reuters had expected the index to rise to 85.0.

    PRODUCER PRICES LEAP 0.8%
    Minus food and …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 8, 2013

    Monday, July 8th, 2013

    AMERICA ADDS 195,000 JOBS IN JUNE
    Payroll growth in June matched that of May, according to the Labor Department (the May gain was revised upward). The private sector hired 202,000 new workers after adding 207,000 in May, offsetting reductions to government payrolls. Economists polled by Bloomberg had forecast net job growth of 165,000, so this was encouraging. Will it encourage the Federal Reserve to taper? The Fed’s next policy announcement occurs on July 31, but it will not revise its economic forecasts at that time and no press conference is scheduled afterward. Some economists think the Fed could start tapering QE3 as soon as September.

    ISM INDICES BOTH TOP 50
    The June purchasing manager indices from the Institute for Supply Management both showed sector expansion. The pace of growth moderated in the service sector, with June’s reading of 52.2 down 1.5 points from May. ISM’s manufacturing index rebounded impressively from a 49.0 reading in May to 50.9 in June.

    1-YEAR …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 1, 2013

    Monday, July 1st, 2013

    CHECKING IN ON THE CONSUMER
    According to the Commerce Department, consumer spending improved 0.3% in May as consumer incomes increased 0.5%. The latest household sentiment polls seemed to reflect the good news. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence gauge hit 81.4 in June, the best mark since January 2008; the University of Michigan’s final June survey came in at 84.1, up from a preliminary reading of 82.7.

    Q1 GDP REVISED SIGNIFICANTLY DOWNWARD
    The initial 2.4% estimate by the Bureau of Economic Analysis was scaled down to just 1.8% last week. Stocks advanced after the announcement, as less economic growth may give the Federal Reserve less incentive to taper QE3.

    IMPRESSIVE GAINS IN REAL ESTATE INDICATORS
    New home sales rose another 2.1% in May, taking the annualized increase to 29.0%. In addition to that news from the Census Bureau, the National Association of Realtors reported a 6.7% rise in pending home sales in May (and a 12.1% yearly improvement in the category). The …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Update for June 24, 2013

    Monday, June 24th, 2013

    FED OUTLINES END FOR STIMULUS, STOCKS SLIP
    Last Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke shared the central bank’s vision for winding down its current aggressive easing effort – the potential tapering of QE3 by late 2013, and the end of the program by mid-2014 if economic conditions permit. Wall Street reacted abruptly – the Dow sank more than 550 points in less than two trading sessions. In the near term, the Fed will keep buying $85 billion in bonds per month and maintain interest rates at near-zero levels.

    INFLATION PRESSURE MINIMAL IN MAY
    The 0.1% rise in the Consumer Price Index last month put yearly inflation at 1.4%, well under the Fed’s 2.0% target. Energy prices rose 0.4% in May but fell 1.0% in a year; medical costs declined 0.1% for May, the first monthly decrease since 1975.

    EXISTING HOME SALES IMPROVE
    The National Association of Realtors reported a 4.2% jump in residential resales for May, with the annualized sales …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 17, 2013

    Monday, June 17th, 2013

    IMF: FED SHOULD WAIT 6 MONTHS TO TAPER QE3
    On Friday, the International Monetary Fund called for the Federal Reserve to keep easing at current levels at least until the end of 2013 and to carefully manage any exit from QE3. In its annual review of the U.S. economy, the IMF characterized the March 1 federal budget cuts as “excessively rapid and ill-designed” and called for their repeal. It lowered its 2014 GDP projection for the U.S. to 2.7%. The IMF still projects U.S. growth for 2013 at 1.9%.

    RETAIL SALES UP 0.6% IN MAY
    This Commerce Department announcement was a nice surprise, as retail purchases advanced just 0.1% in April. A 1.8% jump in car and truck sales was instrumental, though the pace of overall retail purchases still improved 0.3% for May with vehicle sales factored out.

    A NOTABLE RISE IN THE PPI
    Increases in food and energy costs took the overall Producer Price Index 0.5% higher for May, …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 10, 2013

    Monday, June 10th, 2013

    A REASSURING JOBS REPORT
    A jittery Wall Street liked the big picture it saw in the Labor Department’s May employment report. The economy added 175,000 jobs last month: decent hiring growth, not dismaying to investors, yet not impressive enough to signal the Federal Reserve to taper off QE3. Economists polled by Bloomberg forecast payrolls rising by 163,000. The jobless rate ticked up to 7.6% in May as more people started looking for work; the private sector hired 178,000 new employees and the number of discouraged job seekers hit a 52-month low. The Dow had its best day since January on Friday, rising 207.50 in response.

    FACTORY ACTIVITY CONTRACTS IN MAY That was the message sent by the Institute for Supply Management’s latest manufacturing PMI. The May reading dropped 1.7 points to 49.0%. On the other hand, the ISM service sector PMI rose 0.6 points in May to 53.7.

    FED BEIGE BOOK HINTS AT SLOWER GROWTH The …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 3, 2013

    Monday, June 3rd, 2013

    CONSUMERS UPBEAT IN MAY, SPEND LESS IN APRIL
    Consumer spending slipped 0.2% in April, with a 4.4% drop in purchases of gas, electricity and other energy goods and services being a major influence. In better news, the Commerce Department noted a 3.4% rise in personal spending in Q1, and the two most-watched consumer confidence gauges beat consensus forecasts last week. The Conference Board’s May survey came in at 76.2, topping the 72.5 projected by analysts polled by Briefing.com. The final May consumer sentiment survey from the University of Michigan rose to 84.5; the same group of forecasters had projected it at 82.5.

    HOME PRICES GAIN NEARLY 11% IN A YEAR To be precise, 10.9%: that was the 12-month improvement across 20 cities noted in the March edition of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. In other housing news, the National Association of Realtors announced a 1.5% rise in pending home sales for April, bringing the annualized gain to 7.0%.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 27, 2013

    Monday, May 27th, 2013

    APRIL DATA AFFIRMS HOUSING REBOUND
    Last month brought a 2.3% gain in new home sales and an 0.6% increase in existing home sales. Distressed properties (short sales and foreclosures) represented only 18% of residential resales in April, the National Association of Realtors noted; compare that with 28% of sales in April 2012. NAR also announced that the median existing home price was $192,800 in April, 11.0% higher than a year ago. The pace of new home buying has improved 29.0% in the past 12 months, according to the Census Bureau.

    FED MINUTES DISCLOSE THOUGHTS OF TAPERING QE3
    The May 1 Federal Open Market Committee minutes were released last Wednesday, shortly after Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke mentioned the need to sustain the central bank’s current stimulus effort in Congress. The minutes, however, noted that “a number” of Fed officials were open to scaling down QE3 as soon as June if economic indicators sufficiently improved. Concern and confusion about these mixed messages put more volatility into the markets and …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 20, 2013

    Monday, May 20th, 2013

    SUBDUED INFLATION IN APRIL
    Consumer and producer prices retreated last month. The federal government’s Consumer Price Index fell 0.4%, a monthly descent unseen since December 2008; the Producer Price Index declined 0.7%, its biggest monthly drop in three years. Consumer prices also fell for a second straight month; the last time that happened was in late 2008. The core CPI did rise 0.1% in April; the yearly gain in the overall CPI was just 1.1%.

    THREE MORE POSITIVE SIGNS FOR THE ECONOMY
    The University of Michigan’s initial May consumer sentiment survey came in at 83.7 – its highest level since July 2007, 7.3 points above the final April mark. After falling 0.2% for March, the Conference Board’s index of U.S. leading indicators rose 0.6% for April. Census Bureau data showed retail sales ticking up 0.1% in April and 3.7% in the past year.

    HOUSING STARTS PLUNGE, BUILDING PERMITS SOAR
    While the year-over-year increase was 13.1%, housing starts plummeted 16.5% in April, largely due to a 37.8% drop in apartment starts. …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 13, 2013

    Monday, May 13th, 2013

    HOW IS THIS EARNINGS SEASON TURNING OUT?
    At the closing bell on May 10, 90% of S&P 500 firms had reported quarterly results. According to Reuters, 67% of them have surpassed earnings forecasts and 24% have fallen short of projections. Should the remaining 50 components report results matching estimates, earnings will be up 5.3% on last year. Sales gains are another story: just 46% of companies reporting so far have beaten their revenue forecasts.

    FED RAMPS UP ITS FINANCIAL SCRUTINY
    Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said Friday that the central bank was now keeping close tabs on the “shadow banking” sector that bred the toxic assets associated with the last credit crisis. At the Chicago Fed’s banking conference, he noted that “careful monitoring for signs of emerging vulnerabilities” constituted “probably our best defense against complacency during extended periods of calm”. In widening its oversight, the Fed is also watching asset markets, consumers and businesses for signs of systemic risk in addition to banks.

    OIL MOVES HIGHER, GOLD LOSES GROUND
    COMEX …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 6, 2013

    Monday, May 6th, 2013

    UNEMPLOYMENT EDGES DOWN TO 7.5%
    April brought a rebound in hiring. Employers added 165,000 jobs, and so the unemployment rate reached a four-year low. (The Labor Department also revised March’s job gains upward to 138,000.) Payrolls have now expanded by an average of 189,000 jobs a month during the last six months.

    CONSUMER SPENDING, OUTLOOK IMPROVE
    Household spending increased 0.2% in March, the Commerce Department noted – part of a broader 3.2% advance for the first quarter. The Conference Board’s April consumer confidence index soared 6.2 points to 69.1, far exceeding the 61.0 consensus forecast of economists polled by Bloomberg.

    STRONG SIGNALS OF A HOUSING COMEBACK
    Home equity is definitely being restored: the latest 20-city S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index (February) shows a 9.3% year-over-year increase, the largest annual gain recorded in six years. The National Association of Realtors reported a 1.5% March gain in its pending home sales index, with the yearly gain at 7.0%.

    IS MANUFACTURING COOLING DOWN?
    The Institute for Supply Management’s April factory index came in at 50.7 last …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 29, 2013

    Monday, April 29th, 2013

    Q1 GDP COMES IN AT 2.5%
    The initial estimate of first quarter growth from the Bureau of Economic Analysis disappointed some analysts who had expected 3% expansion or better. Personal consumption and inventory accumulation were the prime sources of growth. Personal spending rose 3.2% in the quarter, but real disposable personal income fell 5.3%, which led the personal savings rate to slip to 2.6% from 4.7% in Q4. The big picture? The economic recovery is definite, but still sluggish. Overall durable goods orders dropped 5.7% in March, according to the Commerce Department.

    EXISTING HOME SALES FALL; NEW HOME SALES RISE
    While March brought a 0.6% dip in residential resales, the National Association of Realtors also noted the 10.3% gain in the pace of home buying from a year before. The Census Bureau reported a 1.5% gain in new home sales last month, with the year-over-year improvement in the sales pace at 18.5%.

    CONSUMERS GROW MORE POSITIVE AS APRIL ENDS
    Economists polled by Reuters had forecast April’s final consumer sentiment …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 22, 2013

    Monday, April 22nd, 2013

    INFLATION DECLINES
    Consumer prices retreated 0.2% in March as fuel costs fell, a sea change from the 0.7% rise in the Consumer Price Index seen in February. (Labor Department data did show a 0.1% rise in core CPI.) Annualized consumer inflation was at 1.5% in March, down half a percent in a month. Year-over-year inflation hasn’t been so mild since July, and that is reassuring news for the Federal Reserve.

    SURPRISE DIP FOR LEADING INDICATORS
    After six straight months of advances, the Conference Board’s index of leading indicators unexpectedly retreated 0.1% for March. It had risen 0.5% across January and February. As for anecdotal evidence of the economy’s health, the latest Fed Beige Book noted “moderate” expansion, adding that household spending “grew modestly” even with the payroll tax hike and higher gas prices.

    HOUSING STARTS UP 7.0% IN MARCH
    The Commerce Department noted that they reached a 1.04 million annual rate last month, a pace last seen in June 2008. While single-family projects dipped 4.8% in March, apartment starts jumped …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 15, 2013

    Monday, April 15th, 2013

    HOUSEHOLDS BOUGHT LESS LAST MONTH
    Retail sales were down 0.4% in March, according to the Commerce Department. This unanticipated dip was the deepest retreat in nine months. Even with volatile car and truck sales factored out, the March decline remained 0.4%.

    CONSUMER SENTIMENT SLIPS
    The University of Michigan’s overall index of consumer sentiment came in at 72.3 in its preliminary April reading – down significantly from the final March mark of 78.6. Last month’s imposed federal budget cuts may have had an effect.

    PRODUCER PRICE INDEX DOWN 0.6%
    Cheap gasoline was the big factor. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.2% retreat in the PPI for March, but the decline in pump prices made more of an impact. Core PPI (with food and energy costs subtracted) rose 0.2% last month.

    GOLD ENTERS A BEAR MARKET
    Friday, the precious metal settled at $1,501.40 on the COMEX after a 4.1% one-day plunge. Futures fell 4.7% across last week. The April 12 settlement price was 20.5% below the record close of $1,888.70 notched on …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 8, 2013

    Monday, April 8th, 2013

    JUST 88,000 NEW JOBS?
    In the wake of the Labor Department’s disappointing March employment report, puzzled analysts tried to figure out the reasons for such poor job growth. Did businesses fear the impact of the federal budget cuts in March and scale back hiring? Were there fewer food service, retail and temporary job openings? (More than 7% of Americans work in food service jobs, and temp work has made up a larger share of employment in recent years.) Was it seasonal, since hiring also declined in spring 2011 and spring 2012? Would the number later be revised upward? Whatever the cause(s), the message was troubling. The jobless rate dipped to 7.6%, but that was because of fewer jobseekers – the labor force participation rate was 63.3% in March, a 34-year low.

    ISM: BUSINESS ACTIVITY SLOWED IN MARCH
    In another disconcerting development, the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing and service sector PMIs both retreated last month. ISM’s manufacturing PMI fell to 51.3 from the previous 54.2, while its non-manufacturing …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 1, 2013

    Monday, April 1st, 2013

    SOLID GAINS IN HOUSEHOLD SPENDING, INCOME
    According to the latest Commerce Department report, household spending was up 0.7% in February (the largest gain in five months) while consumer incomes jumped 1.1%. February’s 35-cent climb in gasoline prices influenced the first number, while an 11.9% surge in dividends influenced the second. Still, consumer spending rose 0.3% in inflation-adjusted terms. The personal savings rate improved to 2.6%.

    CONSUMER POLLS TELL DIFFERENT STORIES
    The University of Michigan’s final consumer sentiment survey for March came in at 78.6, improving by a full point from the end of February. The Conference Board’s March survey of consumer confidence presented a strikingly different result: it dropped to 59.7 from February’s 68.0 mark. The CB said the sequester had a negative influence, while the University of Michigan cited stock market highs, March’s lower gas prices and the housing recovery as positive factors.

    SMALLER INVENTORY MAY HAVE CURBED HOME SALES
    New home sales fell 4.6% in February, according to the Census Bureau; the National Association of Realtors …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 25, 2013

    Monday, March 25th, 2013

    WINTER DOESN’T DETER HOMEBUYERS
    According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales rose 0.8% in February. The sales pace hit 4.98 million units, a 39-month high. The inventory of homes for sale increased 9.6% last month, recovering from a six-and-a-half-year low reached the month before. In related news, housing starts were also up 0.8% in February, with the Census Bureau putting the 12-month increase at 27.7%. As for projects in the pipeline, building permits rose 4.6% last month, part of a 33.8% year-over-year climb. The latest Federal Housing Finance Agency index showed a 6.5% yearly advance in house prices.

    ANOTHER GAIN FOR THE CONFERENCE BOARD LEI
    Seemingly reflective of the economy’s momentum, the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index advanced for a third straight month. Its 0.5% February gain comes on the heels of an 0.5% rise in January and an 0.4% improvement in December.

    FED WILL KEEP EASING FOR THE NEAR FUTURE
    Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the central bank would …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 18, 2013

    Monday, March 18th, 2013

    RETAILERS RECEIVE A MAJOR BOOST
    Higher payroll taxes don’t seem to have hurt shopping or driving: the Commerce Department noted a 1.1% improvement in retail sales for February. As gas station receipts increased 5.0% and auto sales 1.1% last month, there was also a 0.4% gain in core retail sales and a 0.5% rise in department store and discount store sales.

    NO SURPRISE: HIGHER GAS PRICES PROMPT CPI GAIN
    February’s 0.7% gain in the Consumer Price Index was heavily influenced by the rising cost of fuel – minus food and energy costs, the core CPI rose just 0.2%. The Labor Department also reported a 0.7% rise in the Producer Price Index last month, compared with 0.2% for January.

    MORTGAGE RATES HIT A 7-MONTH PEAK
    In its March 14 national survey, Freddie Mac estimated the average interest rate on a conventional 30-year home loan at 3.63% (the highest since August). Average rates for 15-year fixed mortgages were at 2.79%.

    HOUSEHOLD CONFIDENCE FLAGS
    The University of Michigan’s preliminary March survey of consumer …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 11, 2013

    Monday, March 11th, 2013

    HIRING HAS REALLY PICKED UP
    During June-August 2012, non-farm payrolls grew by an average of 135,000 jobs a month. Across September-November, that average improved to 181,000 per month. From December-February, the economy added an average of 191,000 jobs a month. The icing on the cake: the latest monthly report from the Labor Department showed 236,000 new jobs generated in February, including the biggest monthly surge of hiring in the construction industry in six years. Unemployment fell to a four-year low of 7.7% in February, but the percentage of Americans either working or looking for work hit a 30-year low – 130,000 people dropped out of the job hunt.

    KEY INDEX SHOWS HEALTHY SERVICE SECTOR
    The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing PMI came in at 56.0 for February – the best reading in 12 months, up from 55.2 in January. ISM noted a 3.8% increase in new orders, a 5.5% rise in backlogs of orders and a 3.7% gain in prices last month.

    BEIGE BOOK ENCOURAGES, BUT FACTORY ORDERS …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 4, 2013

    Monday, March 4th, 2013

    DESPITE ANXIETIES, DOW STAYS ABOVE 14,000
    The DJIA settled at 14,089.66 Friday, gaining 0.64% on the week. The S&P 500 (+0.17% to 1,518.20) and NASDAQ (+0.25% to 3,169.74) also logged five-day advances. All this happened in the face of significant instability, as Wall Street fretted over the deadlock in Italy’s national elections and the sequester cuts taking effect on March 1. Congress and the White House could not arrange a deal to delay the sequestration last week, which means that $85 billion will be subtracted from the budgets of government agencies between March 2 and October 1 unless a bipartisan agreement emerges to undo the cuts.

    TERRIFIC REAL ESTATE DATA HELPS BUOY STOCKS
    New home buying accelerated 16% in January – the biggest monthly rise in almost 20 years, according to the Commerce Department. Pending home sales rose 4.5% in January, the National Association of Realtors said; that was far above the 1.0% gain forecast by economists polled by Briefing.com. Finally, the December edition of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home …

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    Weekly Economic Update for February 25, 2013

    Monday, February 25th, 2013

    HOME SALES RISE, HOUSING STARTS FALL
    January brought a 0.4% improvement in existing home sales, even as the inventory of properties for sale hit a 93-month low. The National Association of Realtors reported a 25% year-over-year decline in existing home inventory, which hasn’t been seen since December 1999. The median sales price was $173,600 last month, up 12.9% from a year ago. Turning to new construction, housing starts dropped 8.5% in January after a 15.7% gain in December, but new home permits increased 1.8%.

    NO CHANGE IN CPI, BUT PRODUCER PRICES ADVANCE
    The Consumer Price Index was flat for a second straight month in January, with annualized inflation at just 1.6%. Core CPI (minus food and energy prices) advanced 0.3%, however – the biggest monthly gain since May 2011. The Producer Price Index rose 0.2% in January, with overall yearly wholesale inflation at 1.4%.

    SEQUESTRATION SEEMS IMMINENT
    On March 1, $85 billion in federal budget cuts are set to occur – and with Congress on recess last week, not much …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 18, 2013

    Monday, February 18th, 2013

    RETAIL SALES RISE IN JANUARY
    The increase was minimal – just 0.1% after the 0.5% advance in December – but still welcome in the face of the 2013 payroll tax hike and higher gas prices. Commerce Department data showed core retail sales (which exclude auto, gas and home improvement purchases) up 0.1% for January; they rose 0.7% in December.

    CONSUMERS REGAIN SOME OPTIMISM
    January’s preliminary consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan showed real improvement – an increase of 2.5 points to a three-month peak of 76.3. Economists polled by Bloomberg had expected a reading of 74.8. The index averaged just 64.2 during the 2007-2009 recession.

    GOLD FALLS $26 IN A DAY
    The precious metal slipped 1.6% Friday and 3.4% for the week to a Friday close of $1,609.50 on the COMEX, recovering a bit from an intraday dip under $1,600. NYMEX crude futures eked out a 0.1% weekly gain, settling at $95.86 Friday.

    S&P 500 ADVANCES FOR A SEVENTH STRAIGHT WEEK
    When was the last time the S&P started a …

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    Weekly Economic Update for February 11, 2013

    Monday, February 11th, 2013

    A SOLID EARNINGS SEASON
    By Friday, nearly 70%of the firms in the S&P 500 had announced quarterly results – and so far, so good. Thomson Reuters data shows that 66% of these companies have beaten revenue projections, and nearly 70% have surpassed earnings forecasts compared to 65% over the previous four quarters. As it stands now, if the rest of the S&P’s components report quarterly results in line with estimates, Q4 earnings for S&P 500 companies will grow 5.2%. Thomson Reuters had projected a 1.9% rise.

    ISM SERVICES REPORT SHOWS SUSTAINED GROWTH
    The U.S. service sector expanded at a marginally slower pace in January, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index. The January reading of 55.2 wasn’t much removed from the December reading of 55.7, and indicated steadiness in non-manufacturing activity.

    OBAMA ASKS CONGRESS TO POSTPONE BUDGET CUTS
    Last week, the President asked Capitol Hill lawmakers to “pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 4, 2013

    Monday, February 4th, 2013

    MORE HIRING … AND YET, MORE UNEMPLOYMENT
    In January, the jobless rate ticked up to 7.9%. The Labor Department countered that with some good news: 127,000 more workers were hired across November and December than previously thought. Last month, 157,000 new jobs were created.

    EXAMINING CONSUMER BAROMETERS
    According to the Commerce Department, personal spending rose 0.2% in December while personal incomes rose 2.6% (thanks in part to dividends being issued ahead of the fiscal cliff). The savings rate hit 6.5%, a 43-month high; after-tax incomes improved 2.8%. Elsewhere, while the Conference Board’s January consumer confidence survey plunged 8.1 points to a 14-month low of 58.6, the University of Michigan’s final January consumer sentiment poll improved 0.9 points to 73.8.

    GDP WANES; HOME PRICES, MANUFACTURING PERK UP
    The economy contracted 0.1% in the past quarter, according to the initial estimate of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Analysts termed it an anomaly, with reduced defense spending a big factor. The Institute for Supply Management’s January PMI showed an impressive gain of 2.9% …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 28, 2013

    Monday, January 28th, 2013

    HOMEBUYING DECREASES IN DECEMBER

    Last month, existing home sales slumped 1.0% and new home sales tumbled 7.3%. Year-over-year numbers, however, remain hugely positive. Residential resales improved 12.8% in 2012, with December’s median single-family home price up 11.5% from a year before to $180,300. New home sales rose 19.9% last year, representing the first annual increase since 2005 and the best year since 1983.

    HOUSE VOTES TO EXTEND DEBT CEILING

    The House of Representatives voted 285-144 last week to suspend the current limit on federal borrowing through May 18, in a measure demanding that both houses of Congress approve a budget by April 15 or work for free. The Senate  is expected to pass the bill this week, a formality en route to President Obama’s signature.

    LEADING INDEX RISES 0.5%

    The gain in the Conference Board’s Index of Leading Economic Indicators matched the expectations of analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires. The 0.2% November retreat in the index was revised upward to show no change.

    S&P 500 SETTLES ABOVE 1,500

    Rising 0.54% …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 21, 2013

    Monday, January 21st, 2013

    WILL THE DEBT LIMIT BE LIFTED SHORTLY?

    Friday, House GOP leaders announced a new proposal to authorize a three-month extension of federal government borrowing authority. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) summed up the plan in four words: “No budget, no pay.” Under the terms of the proposed legislation, members of Congress would end up working for free if they failed to approve a federal budget by April 15. The GOP still wants major spending cuts as a condition of any long-term debt limit increase.

    NO MONTHLY CHANGE IN CONSUMER PRICE INDEX

    December’s CPI was flat, with core CPI rising only 0.1%. A 2.3% dip in gas prices helped, even as food prices rose 0.2%. The overall Producer Price Index posted a 0.2% decline for a third straight month. Inflation was tame in 2012: the CPI advanced only 1.7% last year compared to 3.0% for 2011, while the PPI rose just 1.3% for its smallest annual increase since 2008.

    RETAIL SALES STRONG IN DECEMBER

    The Census Bureau notes that they …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 14, 2013

    Monday, January 14th, 2013

    NEW YEAR, NEW LAWS AFFECTING YOU

    Singles earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000 will face a 3.8% Medicare surtax and a 0.9% increase in Medicare payroll tax. Tax rates on dividends and long-term capital gains remain at 15% for most, but have risen to 20% for the wealthiest. A scheduled 2% cut to Medicare spending has been delayed until at least March. Social Security recipients will see benefits rise 1.7% this year.

    HUGE CHANGES AHEAD FOR HOME LOANS

    Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau presented new rules for the mortgage industry – rules that will ban teaser-rate mortgages and “liar loans” in 2014. Next year, no legal protection will be available for banks offering interest-only or negative-amortization loans, and restrictions will prevent lenders from originating mortgages with balloon payments and severe upfront points and fees. Banks will also be barred from offering mortgages with a payment-to-income ratio exceeding 43%, though FHA/VA loans or mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac could …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 7, 2013

    Monday, January 7th, 2013

    STEADY HIRING AT THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF

    Employers added 155,000 jobs in December. The encouraging news is that non-farm payrolls continued to expand while businesses fretted about the fiscal cliff. The discouraging news is that December’s job growth roughly approximated that seen in September, October and November – and at the current pace, it would take about seven years to bring the jobless rate down to prerecession levels. The Labor Department reported 7.8% unemployment in December.

    MAJOR TAX LAW CHANGES PASSED IN CONGRESS

    As a result of the fiscal cliff deal approved on Capitol Hill last week, the top marginal tax rate was raised to 39.6% and the top estate tax rate was hiked to 40%. While the Bush-era tax cuts were preserved permanently for individuals with taxable incomes of $400,000 or less and couples with incomes of $450,000 or less, the payroll tax holiday came to an end. The Alternative Minimum Tax was permanently patched, long-term jobless benefits were extended through the end of the year, …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 31, 2012

    Monday, December 31st, 2012

    CRUNCH TIME IN WASHINGTON

    After a bipartisan meeting failed to produce a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, President Obama had a terse message for Congress Friday evening: if the Senate couldn’t come up with a new proposal during the weekend, he would urge its leaders to arrange a simple up-or-down vote on a small-scale fix, a bill that would extend long-term jobless benefits into 2013 and sustain the Bush-era tax cuts for those earning $250,000 or less. “I’m optimistic we may still be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time,” the President noted Friday. That certainly contrasted with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s view of prospects for a deal last Thursday: “I don’t know timewise how it can happen now.”

    UNSURPRISINGLY, CONSUMER CONFIDENCE WANES

    Worries over the fiscal cliff presumably factored into the big December drop in the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index. It tumbled down to 65.1 from November’s 71.5 mark, declining for a second consecutive month.

    HOME SALES, HOME PRICES IMPROVE …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 24, 2012

    Monday, December 24th, 2012

    HOW LONG WILL THE FISCAL CLIFF IMPASSE LAST?

    Hopes for a fiscal cliff deal dwindled last week as the “Plan B” proposal backed by House Speaker John Boehner failed to attract enough support. Friday, President Obama urged lawmakers to craft a smaller-scale bill that could at least protect long-term jobless benefits and sustain the Bush-era tax cuts for Americans making $250,000 or less. The “Plan B” bill proposed a tax hike for those making more than $1 million; the President has proposed raising taxes on those with incomes of $400,000 or greater. Negotiations resume this week; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi believes that “there’s still a chance” of a deal happening before 2013.

    BIG ANNUAL GAINS IN HOME SALES, HOUSING STARTS

    Existing home sales rose 5.9% in November, according to the National Association of Realtors; they were up 14.5% from a year before. While housing starts fell 3.0% last month, the Census Bureau noted a 21.6% …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 17, 2012

    Monday, December 17th, 2012

    INFLATION DECLINES

    With gasoline costs falling 7.4% in November and energy costs dipping 4.1% on the whole, it is hardly a surprise that the federal government’s Consumer Price Index fell 0.3% last month – its first decline since May. Core consumer prices rose 0.1%. The Producer Price Index also retreated 0.8% in November. In the past 12 months, America has seen 1.8% overall consumer inflation and 1.5% overall wholesale inflation. In AAA’s December 13 survey, unleaded gasoline was averaging $3.29 per gallon nationally – down 68¢ from its 2012 peak.

    IF JOBLESS RATE HITS 6.5%, FED MIGHT RAISE RATES

    In a remarkably specific policy announcement, the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee said that the central bank would keep interest rates at historic lows “at least as long” as unemployment exceeds 6.5% and inflation is projected at 2.5% or less. If the jobless rate continues to fall as it has since July, the Fed could end up adjusting rates prior to 2015. The central bank also said it will …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 10, 2012

    Monday, December 10th, 2012

    JOBLESS RATE DROPS, SURPRISING ANALYSTS

    Non-farm payrolls expanded by 146,000 positions in November. Economists polled by Reuters had expected only 93,000 new jobs because of the impact of Superstorm Sandy. Yet while the jobless rate dipped to 7.7% last month, it was largely because fewer people sought work; the labor force participation rate was 63.6%, scraping an all-time low. The economy has added an average of 151,000 jobs a month in 2012, about 25% less than the growth needed to dramatically reduce unemployment.

    SENTIMENT INDEX SLIPS

    The fiscal cliff issue and ferocious weather may have been big factors in the sudden 8.2% drop in the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index. November’s 74.5 preliminary reading was far from the number (82.7) that economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast.

    MANUFACTURING CONTRACTS

    For November, the Institute for Supply Management gauged service sector expansion and manufacturing sector contraction. ISM’s manufacturing index fell to 49.5 for the month, down from 51.7 in October. The non-manufacturing index was at 54.7, improved from October’s 54.2 …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 3, 2012

    Monday, December 3rd, 2012

    SPENDING DOWN, CONFIDENCE & GDP UP

    Personal spending decreased 0.2% in October, the first monthly retreat since June, possibly attributable to Superstorm Sandy. (Consumer spending dipped 0.3% when adjusted for inflation.) Personal income was flat in October for the first time since April. Even so, November’s Conference Board index of consumer confidence measured 73.7, a 57-month high. The Bureau of Economic Analysis revised Q3 GDP up to 2.7%, although federal spending and restocking of goods were the major factors in the quarter’s improved output.

    ANOTHER ROUND OF POSITIVE HOUSING NEWS

    New home sales have increased 17.2% in the last 12 months, even with a 0.3% retreat in October. In addition to that news from the Census Bureau, the latest edition of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed home values in the third quarter rising 3.6% from Q3 2011. The National Association of Realtors reported a 5.2% jump in its pending home sales index in …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 26, 2012

    Monday, November 26th, 2012

    MORE GOOD NEWS FROM THE HOUSING MARKET

    Existing home sales rose 2.1% in October, according to the National Association of Realtors. NAR noted a 10.9% annual gain in the sales pace and an 11.1% year-over-year rise in the median sale price to $178,600. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index came in at 46 for November, a six-and-a-half year peak. Housing starts increased 3.6% in October to a five-year high.

    DID CONSUMER SENTIMENT IMPROVE THIS MONTH?

    The University of Michigan’s bellwether consumer sentiment survey came in at a final mark of 82.7 for November, up 0.1 point from the final October reading. The index’s preliminary November reading had been 84.9.

    WILL HOLIDAY SHOPPING SURPASS FORECASTS?

    The National Retail Federation projects 5 million fewer Black Friday weekend shoppers this year, but also a 4.1% annual gain in holiday retail sales. A Reuters survey showed that 21% of shoppers think they will spend less this holiday season, while 11% think they will spend more.

    CHEAPEST HOME LOANS IN DECADES …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 19, 2012

    Monday, November 19th, 2012

    A FISCAL CLIFF DEAL SOONER RATHER THAN LATER?

    House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid both called Friday’s fiscal cliff meeting with President Obama and the White House economic team “constructive”. Speaker Boehner noted that he had introduced a framework for tax reform, adding that tax increases might be accepted if “accompanied by serious spending cuts”. President Obama is in Asia this week; members of his senior team will continue talks with leaders of Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged lawmakers to set “a deadline before Christmas” to resolve the dilemma, emphasizing the need to “send a message of confidence to consumers [and] the markets” in the coming weeks. Friday, the Wall Street Journal published reports of “advanced talks” at the White House about a deal to postpone January’s planned $100 billion in spending cuts for 6-12 months while smaller and more targeted cuts and tax increases are made in the interim.

    DID SUPERSTORM SANDY DENT RETAIL SALES?

    The storm may have …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 12, 2012

    Monday, November 12th, 2012

    HANDSHAKE OR STALEMATE AT THE FISCAL CLIFF?

    President Obama addressed the dilemma of the fiscal cliff, saying Friday that he was “open to compromise” but noting that he would not accept “any approach that isn’t balanced.” Earlier, House Speaker John Boehner told ABC News that a deal including tax increases would be “unacceptable,” noting that tax code reform would be necessary for any movement. While negotiations between the President and Congressional leaders start this week, Obama and  Boehner have held to their stances on the Bush-era tax cuts: on Friday, the President asked Congress to preserve the cuts for the middle class and raise taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Americans, while Speaker Boehner said that the cuts should be extended into 2013 in their entirety.

    SERVICE SECTOR GROWTH SLOWS

    The Institute for Supply Management’s latest non-manufacturing index showed a 0.9% decline for October. The 54.2 reading reflected strong but slightly less robust expansion in the service sector. ISM’s non-manufacturing employment index rose for the third straight month, …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 5, 2012

    Monday, November 5th, 2012

    HIRING PICKS UP, JOBLESS RATE TICKS UP

    Employers added 171,000 jobs in October, according to the Labor Department. Revised August and September estimates showed non-farm payrolls growing by an average of 173,000 jobs in each of the past three months. The unemployment rate rose to 7.9%, as economists polled by Bloomberg had forecast, a consequence of more people seeking work.

    MORE SPENDING, MORE CONFIDENCE

    Personal spending accelerated by 0.8% in October, and Commerce Department data also showed incomes up 0.4% for the month (the biggest gain since March) and the savings rate down to 3.3% (the lowest level since last November). In another positive sign, the Conference Board’s October consumer confidence poll came in at 72.2, the highest mark since February 2008.

    HOME PRICES RISE 2.0% in a YEAR

    That was the annual gain shown in the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index (the September edition). Compare that to the August report, which noted that prices across 20 cities had increased 1.2% in 12 months. The index rose 0.5% for October.

    MANUFACTURING …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Oct. 29, 2012

    Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

    Q3 GDP READING SUGGESTS HEALTHIER ECONOMY
    The Commerce Department’s initial third quarter estimate of annualized growth – 2.0% – was better than expected. Still, it fell short of the 2.5% pace analysts feel is needed to reduce the unemployment rate. Consumer spending, defense spending and residential real estate investment were the key factors behind the third quarter improvement – in fact, spending on homebuilding and home improvement rose more than 14% in the quarter.

    NEW HOME SALES, HOME SALE CONTRACTS INCREASE
    September saw a 5.7% rise in new home buying, according to the Census Bureau. The annual projection of new home sales (389,000) paled in comparison to the 800,000+ pace of early 2007, but sales were still up 27.1% year-over-year to the highest level since April 2010. Elsewhere in the housing market, the National Association of Realtors reported an 0.3% gain in pending home sales last month.

    CONSUMER BAROMETER SEES OCTOBER GAIN
    October’s final Thomson …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Oct. 22, 2012

    Monday, October 22nd, 2012

    HOME SALES DECLINE, BUT HOUSING STARTS RISE 15%

    The National Association of Realtors recorded a 1.7% decrease in existing home sales in September. Reduced inventory might have played a role. The amount of homes on the market fell to a 5.9-month supply, a low unseen since March 2006. The median home price was $183,900 in September, up 11.3% from a year ago; it hasn’t been so high since 2005. September’s 15.0% leap in homebuilding took housing starts to an annual rate of 872,000 units, the best pace since July 2008 and a 34.8% increase since September 2012.

    PUMP PRICES DRIVE UP CPI

    Thanks largely to a 7% jump in gas prices, the federal government’s Consumer Price Index rose 0.6% in September. Still, the core CPI rose just 0.1% for the third straight month, and food prices rose only 0.1%. Annualized inflation came in at 2.0%.

    RETAIL SALES IMPROVE 1.1%

    While the overall September gain announced by …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Oct. 15, 2012

    Monday, October 15th, 2012

    OUTLOOK OF CONSUMERS BRIGHTENS AGAIN
    Economists weren’t expecting the University of Michigan’s preliminary October consumer sentiment survey to show a major advance – but it did. The index came in at 83.1, notably better than September’s final 78.3 mark. While the much-watched consumer gauge is still well below a “normal” reading of 100, this was the highest reading since September 2007.

    GAS PRICES DRIVE PPI HIGHER
    Wholesale inflation rose 1.1% for September, according to the federal government’s Producer Price Index. The major influence: a 4.7% spike in energy prices. The core PPI (minus food and energy prices) was flat last month. In the past 12 months, the PPI has advanced 2.1%. Annualized wholesale inflation hasn’t been that pronounced since March.

    NEW BEIGE BOOK REPORTS MILD ECONOMIC GROWTH
    The Federal Reserve’s latest survey of current economic conditions in its 12 districts noted that consumer spending “was generally reported to be flat to up slightly since the last report” while overall economic activity had “generally expanded modestly.” On the heels of …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Oct. 8, 2012

    Monday, October 8th, 2012

    JOBLESS RATE DIPS TO 7.8%

    In September, unemployment fell to the lowest level in 43 months. The Labor Department said that non-farm payrolls expanded by 114,000 positions, less than the 120,000 consensus estimate of analysts polled by Briefing.com but better than the five-figure gains that were common in summer. The underemployment rate remained at 14.7% last month.

    U.S. MANUFACTURING REBOUNDS

    The Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing managers index came in at 51.5 for September, a welcome change after three straight months below 50. ISM’s service sector PMI also showed expansion, improving to 55.1 in September from the 53.7 reading for August.

    AUTO SALES RISE, FACTORY ORDERS DROP

    Gas prices have climbed 14% since July 1, but fuel costs certainly haven’t impeded new car sales. According to Edmunds.com, overall U.S. auto sales were up 13% from a year ago in September. Toyota and Honda respectively posted 41.5% and 31% monthly sales increases, 34% more Volkswagens …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Oct. 1, 2012

    Monday, October 1st, 2012

    CONSUMERS SPEND MORE – BECAUSE OF GAS PRICES

    While the 0.5% August gain in consumer spending was the biggest in six months, it was mostly attributable to retail gas prices rising $0.28 for the month. The Commerce Department also noted a 0.3% drop in inflation-adjusted personal income in August, an occurrence unseen since November. Consumer spending on non-durable goods rose 1.7% in a month also marked by a 13.0% drop in durable goods orders – the biggest decrease in those bookings since January 2009, though core hard goods orders rose 1.1% last month.

    SEPTEMBER SEES MORE OPTIMISM

    The Conference Board’s monthly consumer confidence gauge jumped to 70.3 in September from its revised 61.3 mark in August. Economists polled by MarketWatch thought it would come in at 65.0; instead, it reached a 7-month high. The University of Michigan’s final September consumer sentiment survey hit a 4-month peak of 78.3, a 4.0% improvement from August.

    EXISTING HOME PRICES RISE, NEW HOME SALES SLIP

    The 1.2% annualized index gain in the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index for …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Sept. 24, 2012

    Monday, September 24th, 2012

    HOME SALES SOAR, HOUSING STARTS INCREASE

    According to the National Association of Realtors, the volume of residential resales hit a 27-month peak in August. Sales rose 7.8% for the month while the inventory of unsold homes decreased to 6.1 months (the smallest estimate since January). There was also a 9.5% year-over-year gain in the median sale price. Short sales and foreclosures represented 22% of last month’s transactions, down from 31% in August 2011. Housing starts were up 2.3% in August, the Commerce Department noted, with groundbreaking on single-family projects up 5.5%.

    SLIGHT RETREAT FOR LEADING INDICATORS

    The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index slipped 0.1% for August in contrast to its 0.5% July increase. The LEI now stands at 95.7 (it was at 100 when created in 2004); stock prices and yield spreads have been the big factors aiding its overall advance since February.

    OIL PLUMMETS, GOLD & DXY BOTH ADVANCE

    NYMEX crude tumbled 6.17% last week on ebbing demand, settling Friday at $92.89 a barrel. A gallon of gas …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Sept. 17, 2012

    Monday, September 17th, 2012

    FEDERAL RESERVE OPTS FOR OPEN-ENDED EASING

    On September 13, America’s central bank announced its third round of quantitative easing since 2008. QE3 has no set timeframe: the Fed will buy $40 billion of agency mortgage-backed securities each month until it elects to halt its effort. Pair that with the ongoing Operation Twist and the Fed will purchase about $85 billion worth of longer-term securities monthly in the last third of 2012. In addition, the latest FOMC policy statement reaffirmed the pledge to keep interest rates at “exceptionally low levels” through mid-2015. Will the Fed also decide to buy Treasuries? Will mortgage rates drop to new all-time lows? Will this promote more spending and lending? While the answers to these questions won’t be known for a while, the Dow went +206.51 Thursday in the wake of the news.

    PPI JUMPS DRAMATICALLY; CPI ALSO RISES

    The Labor Department said that its Producer Price Index climbed 1.7% in August, mostly on soaring energy costs. Wholesale prices hadn’t advanced so much in …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Sept. 10, 2012

    Monday, September 10th, 2012

    WILL THIS JOBS REPORT PROMPT THE FED TO ACT?

    In August, employers added 96,000 jobs – far short of the 144,000 consensus estimate of economists polled by Briefing.com. About 40% of the new hires were in four low-paying sectors (retail, leisure & hospitality, temporary help and home health care services). The jobless rate did fall to 8.1% last month – but that was because more Americans stopped looking for work. So will the Fed announce a stimulus later this week, or signal that interest rates will stay at record lows for another year or two? Some analysts think we will see both those moves made.

    ECB ANNOUNCES THIRD ROUND OF EASING

    Stocks climbed worldwide last week after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi unveiled the Outright Monetary Transactions program. The ECB would use the OMT to buy short-term government bonds of nations adopting austerity cuts to try and reduce borrowing costs for these countries. The proposal passed 22-1 in the ECB’s governing council – only Germany voted against …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Sept. 3, 2012

    Monday, September 3rd, 2012

    BERNANKE: FED SHOULD NOT “RULE OUT” EASING

    Speaking Friday at the Federal Reserve’s annual Jackson Hole, WY symposium, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave Wall Street a bit of a lift. Commenting that the recovery is “far from satisfactory”, he expressed that the central bank “should not rule out” further stimulus. The Dow rose 90 points on the day, certainly helped by Bernanke leaving a door open for QE3.

    CONSUMER SPENDING & INCOMES INCREASE

    Personal spending rose 0.4% in July, and the Commerce Department also noted a second consecutive 0.3% monthly rise in household income. This was welcome news following last week’s revised yet still modest 1.7% Q2 GDP reading.

    PENDING HOME SALES HIT 27-MONTH HIGH

    After a 2.4% July advance, the National Association of Realtors reported its pending home sales index at 101.7 – the healthiest reading since April 2010 and a 12.4% improvement from 12 months ago. Additionally, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price index posted an annual gain for the first time in 20 months in June (+0.5%).

    WHICH …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Aug. 27th, 2012

    Monday, August 27th, 2012

    MORE HOMEBUYING IN JULY

    Census Bureau data showed new home sales increasing 3.6% in July to a two-year peak, with an annual gain of 25%. In addition, the National Association of Realtors reported a 2.3% gain in existing home sales last month; residential resales were 10% improved from 12 months ago. The latest edition of the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Home Price Index showed prices 1.8% higher for the second quarter (the best quarter since Q4 2005) and 3.0% higher year-over-year.

    DURABLE GOODS ORDERS SEND MIXED MESSAGE

    Overall hard goods orders rose 4.2% in July, but they fell 0.4% for the month with transportation orders subtracted. Core capital goods orders fell 3.4% in July, the most severe monthly decline since November and the fourth retreat in five months.

    DID THE FED HINT AT QE3 … OR NOT?

    The August 1 Federal Reserve policy minutes noted: “Many members judged that additional monetary accommodation would likely be warranted fairly soon unless incoming information pointed to a substantial and sustainable strengthening in …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 20, 2012

    Monday, August 20th, 2012

    CPI FLAT FOR A SECOND CONSECUTIVE MONTH

    In July, the federal Consumer Price Index showed no overall advance. That was the case in June as well, and that might just bolster the case for easing at the Federal Reserve. Consumer prices rose only 1.4% annually, the smallest increase since the November 2010 index. Core CPI (minus food and energy costs) rose 0.1% last month. As for wholesale prices, they rose 0.3% in July – the largest jump in five months, even as wholesale gas prices slipped 3.1%.

    RETAIL SALES IMPRESS

    American retail purchases soared 0.8% in July after a (downwardly revised) 0.7% retreat in June. It was a real sea change – the first positive month for the category since March. The monthly increase in retail gasoline sales was just 0.5%, which had little effect on the overall gain.

    HOUSING STARTS DIP; PERMITS HIT 4-YEAR PEAK

    U.S. builders broke ground on 1.1% fewer projects in July. The good news: permits for new construction hit a pace of 812,000, a …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 13, 2012

    Monday, August 13th, 2012

    WILL GAS HIT $4 AGAIN?

    In April, the national average price for a gallon of gas peaked at $3.94. Few analysts think prices will return to that level, though the U.S. average hit $3.67 Friday – an increase of $0.34 since July 1, translating to about $33 more a month for the typical U.S. household. (Consumer demand for gas has dipped 3.5% since the start of July.) The massive refinery fire near Oakland is but one factor – fears over a potential blockade of the Strait of Hormuz by Iran, slipping output from the North Sea and South Sudan and anxiety over the violence in Syria have also had an effect.

    OIL & GOLD MOVE IN THE SAME DIRECTION – UP

    At the close Friday, NYMEX crude settled at $92.87 per barrel, +5.46% so far this month but still -6.03% YTD. Prices advanced 1.61% last week. As of Friday, gold was 0.76% improved for the month on the COMEX at $1,622.80.

    MORE TRANSPARENCY FOR MORTGAGE SERVICERS?

    The Consumer Financial …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 6, 2012

    Monday, August 6th, 2012

    HIRING INCREASES, AS DOES UNEMPLOYMENT

    Good news: 163,000 new jobs were added to the economy in July. While the jobless rate did tick up to 8.3% in the Labor Department’s latest employment report, the positives were significant: 148,000 new positions were filled in the private sector, and overall job gains were the best in any month since February. Will this discourage the Federal Reserve from thoughts of easing? Perhaps not; after all, July marked the 42nd straight month in which unemployment exceeded 8%.

    CONSUMERS SAVE MORE, SPEND LESS

    Personal incomes rose 0.5% in July, yet consumer spending was essentially flat (the Commerce Department said it actually decreased by less than .1%). The personal savings rate jumped 0.4% last month to 4.4%.

    HOME PRICES RISE 2.2% IN MAY

    The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index logged its second straight overall monthly gain and witnessed its best month in years. The year-over-year decrease in house prices across 20 cities was trimmed to just 0.7% in the May index.

    MANUFACTURING SECTOR CONTRACTS AGAIN

    The Institute for …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 30, 2012

    Monday, July 30th, 2012

    CONSUMERS ARE STILL A BIT CYNICAL

    The good news is that the University of Michigan’s final July index of consumer sentiment improved from its 72.0 preliminary reading to a final mark of 72.3. Still, that represents a 2012 monthly low for the gauge, which had finished June at 73.2.

    NEW & PENDING HOME SALES DECLINE

    In year-over-year terms, things look sunny: new home sales were up 15.1% in June compared with June 2011 and pending home sales were 9.5% improved from a year before. June reports from the Census Bureau and National Association of Realtors were respectively gloomy, however: new home sales dropped an alarming 8.4% after two months of gains, and contracts to purchase existing homes decreased by 1.4%.

    GDP LOOKS WEAK; HARD GOODS ORDERS SURPRISE

    The federal government’s second estimate of Q2 GDP (+1.5%) represents the tamest growth since Q3 2011. June’s durable goods orders beat forecasts, registering a 1.6% increase (economists polled by Briefing.com had predicted a gain of 0.3%).

    DOW LOGS BEST 3 DAYS OF THE …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 23, 2012

    Monday, July 23rd, 2012

    NO ADVANCE IN CONSUMER PRICES

    The federal government’s Consumer Price Index was flat in June, though the core CPI (minus food and energy prices) did rise 0.2%. Statistically, this was exactly what economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected. Annualized inflation was running at 3.9% back in September; it was just 1.7% in both May and June.

    HOUSING INDICATORS REGISTER HIGHS & LOWS

    According to the Commerce Department, housing starts were up 6.9% for June to the highest level since October 2008. The average interest rate on the 30-year FRM fell to a new record low of 3.53% in Freddie Mac’s July 19 survey, as did the average rate on the 15-year FRM (2.83%). Existing home sales, however, slipped badly in June – the National Association of Realtors said the sales volume slowed 5.4% to a pace unseen in nine months. Sales were still 4.5% improved from a year before.

    RETAIL SALES SLIP 0.5% IN JUNE

    They have now declined for three straight months, and a retreat of that length hasn’t …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 16, 2012

    Monday, July 16th, 2012

    CONSUMER SENTIMENT CONTINUES TO SLIP

    Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the University of Michigan’s initial July consumer sentiment index to show a minor gain. That didn’t happen: instead of the projected 0.2% rise to 73.4, the index fell 1.2% to 72.0, a low unseen since December. An exclamation point within the data: just 19% of Americans polled felt that their financial situation would improve within the next year, a record low for the survey. The barometer of current economic conditions did improve to 83.2 from 81.5.

    PRODUCER PRICES RISE 0.1% IN JUNE

    Given the 0.9% decline in energy prices last month, this overall gain in the Producer Price Index was surprising. The cost of gasoline increased 1.9% last month and food prices climbed as well, influencing the advance. Core PPI rose 0.2% in June.

    OIL, GOLD & RETAIL GAS PRICES MOVE NORTH

    Pump prices increased 0.9% last week, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report; they are up 1.0% so far for the month. NYMEX crude gained 3.14% last …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 2, 2012

    Monday, July 2nd, 2012

    MARKETS RALLY ON BOLD EU PROPOSAL

    Last week, European leaders crafted a new plan to help the continent’s beleaguered banks: eurozone rescue funds would be used to directly recapitalize troubled lenders, without contributing to existing sovereign debt. A single supervisory body would also be created to serve as a banking watchdog. Key details need to be ironed out, but Wall Street loved the news – the Dow gained 278 points Friday.

    HEALTH CARE REFORMS (LARGELY) STAND

    In a 5-4 vote last week, the Supreme Court upheld the individual insurance mandate within 2010’s Affordable Care Act. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. characterized the mandate as a tax permitted under the Constitution. The high court did rule that the law’s expansion of Medicaid violated states’ rights.

    ENCOURAGING DEVELOPMENTS IN REAL ESTATE

    The National Association of Realtors said that its pending home sales index rose 5.6% in May to 101.1 – the highest level in two years, and a number characteristic of a “healthy” residential real estate market. …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 25, 2012

    Monday, June 25th, 2012

    WALL STREET FINDS THE POSITIVE IN THE NEGATIVE

    Moody’s Investors Service downgraded 15 major banks late last week, yet financial stocks rallied Friday – Wall Street was bracing for deeper cuts. Investors also liked a new accord in Europe – Germany joined France, Italy and Spain in support of a €130 billion stimulus plan to help EU economies in the face of coming austerity cuts. It could be approved at this week’s EU summit. Even with last Thursday’s Dow dive of more than 250 points, the DJIA is up about 2% for June.

    EXISTING HOME SALES FALL 1.5% IN MAY

    In the view of the National Association of Realtors, a lack of cheap inventory was behind the downturn. The sales pace in May was still 9.6% better than a year ago with the median price up 7.9% year-over-year to $182,600, a 2-year high. May housing starts fell to 708,000, down from April’s 744,000; building permits rose to 780,000 in May compared to April’s 723,000.

    LEADING INDICATORS BOUNCE …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 18, 2012

    Monday, June 18th, 2012

    IF GREECE EXITS THE EURO, WHAT COMES NEXT?
    Best-case scenarios for Greece seemed to fade as the weekend neared. Concerns mounted that Sunday’s special elections would either bring another parliamentary deadlock or a victory for parties opposing scheduled austerity cuts. Some economists maintained that a Greek exit from the euro would not be abrupt and not produce a shock like the 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse. Anxiety was tempered by anticipation: expectations of a central bank response grew. In fact, last week the Bank of England announced plans for 6-month loans and liquidity injections to shield the U.K. financial system from any fallout. Yields on Spanish 10-year notes hit 7% last week, a sign of skepticism about that nation’s bank bailout.

    CONSUMER PRICES DECLINED IN MAY

    The federal government’s Consumer Price Index fell 0.3% for May, thanks largely to a 4.3% drop in energy prices. Core CPI rose 0.2% for the third straight month with 12-month consumer inflation at 1.7% (a long way from the 3.9% annualized inflation measured …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 11, 2012

    Monday, June 11th, 2012

    IS A FIX COMING FOR EUROPE’S DEBT CRISIS?
    Last week, global markets rallied on European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s assertion that risks to the EU economy had increased, interpreting it as a signal that the ECB and other central banks might take swift action to rescue weaker eurozone nations. (Stateside, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered no signal of more easing, but San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen hinted that it might be possible.) Friday, President Obama urged EU leaders to address the sovereign debt crisis decisively, a request that gave stocks a boost Friday, even as Reuters reported that Spain was going to ask for an EU/IMF bailout. Will the EU and IMF decide to create something like TARP, or enlarge their bailout fund? The world is watching, and Greece’s special elections are coming up.

    SERVICE SECTOR GROWS SLIGHTLY FASTER
    Many analysts had predicted a May decline in the Institute for Supply Management’s closely watched non-manufacturing index. That didn’t happen: the primary index rose …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 4, 2012

    Monday, June 4th, 2012

    IS IT TIME FOR QE3?
    May’s unemployment report threw Wall Street for a loop Friday. Economists polled by Reuters forecast a payroll gain of 150,000, but only 69,000 new jobs were created. Even worse, part-time positions accounted for all of the increase. The jobless rate ticked up to 8.2% in May, and the Labor Department also downwardly revised April and March job gains by a total of 49,000. All this has analysts wondering if the recovery is losing momentum, and if the Federal Reserve might rethink its stance and announce further easing at its summer policy meetings.

    CONSUMER SPENDING RISES 0.3% IN APRIL
    That gain was complemented by a 0.2% rise in consumer incomes. The Commerce Department’s personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index showed a 1.8% annual increase, in line with the Fed’s inflation target. The personal savings rate was at 3.4% in April, matching the four-year low seen in February.

    SILVER LININGS IN NEW HOUSING & FACTORY DATA
    The National Association of Realtors reported a 5.5% …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 28, 2012

    Monday, May 28th, 2012

    CONSUMER CONFIDENCE HIGHEST SINCE 2007
    In a tense week for investors, some promising news emerged: the closely watched Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index came in with a final reading of 79.3 for May – the ninth straight monthly improvement. May’s 3.8% gain brought the index to a peak unseen since October 2007. The survey’s current conditions index rose 5.2% in May to 87.2, the best reading in that category since January 2008.

    HOMEBUYING PICKS UP
    More good news: sales of new and existing homes improved in April. Last week, the Census Bureau reported a 3.3% April rise in new home purchases, just after the National Association of Realtors noted a 3.4% gain in residential resales for the month. In April, the pace of existing home sales nearly matched that of January – and January was the best month for the indicator in two years.

    DURABLE GOODS ORDERS INCREASE 0.2%
    The overall April gain refuted the forecast of economists polled by MarketWatch – they felt orders would decrease …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 21, 2012

    Monday, May 21st, 2012

    FACEBOOK DEBUT DIVERTS ATTENTION FROM EUROPE
    Facebook’s IPO set a new record for a stock debut Friday – volume surpassed 578 million shares. The gain was small: shares closed at $38.23 at the end of regular trading, up 0.61% from the initial $38 offering price. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 ended the trading week below 1,300, a casualty of renewed pessimism over the future of the euro and debt burdens in Spain and Greece. Greece dissolved its parliament Friday and set new elections for June, increasing global fears that it will exit the euro. Moody’s issued downgrades for 16 Spanish banks on Thursday, and one of them was Banco Santander – the biggest bank in the Eurozone.

    CPI IS FLAT FOR APRIL
    According to the Commerce Department, April brought no change in the Consumer Price Index and only a 0.1% advance in retail sales. Annualized consumer inflation was at 2.3% last month, the lowest in 14 months. Core CPI was up 0.2% in April.

    CONFERENCE BOARD LEI DECLINES
    The private research …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 14th, 2012

    Monday, May 21st, 2012

    CONSUMER SENTIMENT HITS A 4-YEAR PEAK
    May’s initial Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey came in with an index reading of 77.8, the highest mark since January 2008. The current economic conditions sub-index rose to 87.3 from last month’s final 82.9 reading. Descending oil and gas prices may have been factors promoting some optimism.

    BIGGEST DROP IN PPI IN 6 MONTHS
    Falling energy prices influenced this development as well. Producer prices retreated 0.2% in April according to the Labor Department. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast no change. The bulk of the retreat was attributed to the 1.4% April drop in energy costs. The PPI has only risen 1.9% in the last 12 months, the smallest annualized wholesale price inflation recorded since October 2009.

    GOLD & OIL PRICES RETREAT
    After anxieties emerged last week about a China slowdown, the broad commodities market took a hit. So at Friday’s close, gold had fallen 3.72% across five trading days to $1,584.00 per ounce while crude futures had slipped 2.40% to $96.13 …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 7, 2012

    Monday, May 7th, 2012

    UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN TO 8.1%
    The jobless rate dipped 0.1% in April, but Wall Street didn’t exactly cheer about it as just 115,000 non-farm jobs were added to the economy. Economists polled by Briefing.com thought payrolls would expand by 162,000. The Dow fell 168 points Friday on the news. On the bright side, job gains across February and March were revised upward by 53,000. Payrolls grew by a cumulative total of 635,000 positions in Q1 2012, making it the best quarter for hiring since Q1 2006.

    CONSUMER SPENDING UP 0.3%
    Analysts termed March’s gain disappointing after the (upwardly revised) 0.9% advance in February. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News anticipated a 0.4% improvement. Consumer incomes rose 0.4% in March, the best month in that category since December; consumer wages were up 0.3%.

    U.S. MANUFACTURING INDEX LEAPS NORTH
    The Institute for Supply Management’s April manufacturing PMI rose 1.4% in April to 54.8, representing the best monthly gain since June. Now for the bad news: the ISM non-manufacturing index showed a 2.5% drop …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 30, 2012

    Monday, April 30th, 2012

    Q1 GDP: +2.2%
    The federal government’s initial estimate disappointed many analysts, even with plenty of potential for upward revision later. After all, Q4 2011 had brought growth of 3.0%. Economists polled by Briefing.com expected the Q1 estimate to come in at +2.5%. Personal spending rose by 2.9% for the quarter, with car sales playing the largest role in the gain; subtract vehicle purchases, and the consumption increase was 1.1%, the smallest in four quarters.

    KEY CONSUMER SENTIMENT SURVEY TOPS ESTIMATES
    The final April Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey came in at 76.4, 0.7% higher than the prior 75.7 reading. Economists polled by Briefing.com thought there would be no advance. March’s final survey had a 76.2 reading.

    MORE HOME SALES CONTRACTS INKED IN MARCH
    Pending home sales improved by 4.1% in March to reach their highest level since April 2010, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors. Another bit of good news was unexpected: February’s S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed prices rising 0.2% overall, the first advance …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 23, 2012

    Monday, April 23rd, 2012

    WHAT HELD UP HOMEBUYING LAST MONTH?
    The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales fell 2.6% for March. A 1.3% drop in inventory for the month might have been a factor, and mild weather in January and February may have helped homes that would have sold in March sell earlier. Warmer January and February temperatures may have also skewed the numbers for housing starts: the Commerce Department said they slipped 5.8% in March. Now for some good news: building permits rose 4.5% last month to the best pace since September 2008, and Freddie Mac had interest rates on 30-year fixed rate home loans averaging just 3.90% last week.

    RETAIL SALES UP 0.8% IN MARCH
    This follows a 1.0% gain in the category in February. Did gas prices account for much of the increase? No. Minus gas and car sales, the March gain was 0.7%, and core retail sales (minus autos, gas, and home supplies) rose 0.5% last month.

    LEADING INDICATORS BACK TO MID-2008 LEVELS
    The Conference Board’s index of …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 16, 2012

    Monday, April 16th, 2012

    CONSUMER PRICES ROSE 0.3% IN MARCH
    Last month’s gain in the federal government’s Consumer Price Index matched the consensus forecast of economists polled by Briefing.com and followed gains of 0.4% in February and 0.2% in January. Gasoline prices were up 1.7% last month. Core CPI rose 0.2%, so that put annualized consumer inflation at 2.7%, less than the 2.9% recorded in February. Headline producer prices were flat in March, while the core Producer Price Index rose 0.3% (the fifth straight monthly rise in core PPI). Economists polled by Reuters had expected overall PPI to rise 0.2% last month.

    CONSUMER SENTIMENT WAVERS
    April’s initial Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey came in at 75.7, slightly below the Briefing.com consensus projection of 76.1 and down from the final March number of 76.2. Frustration over gas prices may have had an effect.

    BEIGE BOOK: RECOVERY PROCEEDING NICELY
    The Federal Reserve’s latest snapshot of a dozen U.S. economic regions reported “modest to moderate” economic growth overall, with all 12 Fed districts anecdotally noting expansion. …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 9, 2012

    Monday, April 9th, 2012

    UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS TO 8.2%
    That good news was tempered by some disappointments. The U.S. economy only managed a net gain of 120,000 non-farm jobs in March; analysts were hoping for a gain of at least 200,000. The private sector added 121,000 positions in March; ADP had projected an increase of 209,000. However, the underemployment rate declined again last month (to 14.5%) and the manufacturing sector grew by 37,000 jobs.

    ONE PMI TOPS EXPECTATIONS; ANOTHER DOESN’T
    The start of each month brings the latest surveys of purchasing managers from the Institute for Supply Management. ISM’s March service sector PMI came in at 56.0 and its March manufacturing PMI came in at 53.4. Economists polled by Briefing.com thought the manufacturing PMI would reach 53.0 and the service sector PMI would reach 56.7.

    A GREAT MARCH FOR AUTOMAKERS
    Warm weather fostered greater car and truck buying. The following firms reported the following monthly sales increases last week: General Motors, 12%; Chrysler Group, 34%, Toyota, 15%; Ford, 5%; Volkswagen, 35%; Nissan, 12.5%.

    OIL ADVANCES, GOLD …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 2, 2012

    Monday, April 2nd, 2012

    HIGH GAS PRICES DONT DENT PERSONAL SPENDING
    Consumer spending increased by 0.8% in February, even with fuel prices soaring. That topped the 0.6% gain projected by economists polled by Reuters. Februarys inflation-adjusted gain was 0.5%, the largest in six months. Januarys headline personal spending gain was doubled to 0.4% in a Commerce Department revision.

    HOW IS THE CONSUMER FEELING?
    The final March University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey hints that morale may be rising on Main Street. It came in at 76.2, well above the 74.3 consensus of economists polled by Briefing.com. On the other hand, the March consumer confidence poll from the Conference Board fell to 70.2 from Februarys 71.6 mark, which was in line with the expectations of those economists.

    MORTGAGE RATES DIP BACK UNDER 4%
    Freddie Macs March 29 survey found the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate home loan at 3.99% with an average 0.7 point. Rates on 15-year FRMs averaged 3.23% with an average 0.8 point last week. A sour note: the S&P/Case-Shiller Home …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 26, 2012

    Monday, March 26th, 2012

    HOUSING MARKET COOLS DOWN IN FEBRUARY
    Nationally, home sales took a step back last month. Last week, the National Association of Realtors reported a 0.9% drop in residential resales in February. The federal government subsequently announced a 1.6% slip in new home purchases last month, although new home prices rose by over 8.0%. The year-over-year numbers are better: existing home sales have jumped 8.8% in the last 12 months, and new home sales have picked up by 11.4%. Housing starts were down 1.1% in February from January’s 4-year high, but building permits were up 5.1% for the month.

    INITIAL CLAIMS HIT A NEW 4-YEAR LOW
    According to the Labor Department, claims fell by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000 for the week ending March 17. This is the smallest amount since March 2008.

    LEADING INDICATORS MOVE NORTH AGAIN
    The Conference Board’s monthly index rose 0.7% for February, with reduced jobless claims and the interest rate spread exerting the most influence. Eight of the index’s ten indicators were up for …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 19, 2012

    Monday, March 19th, 2012

    PRICES RISE MOST IN TEN MONTHS
    Consumer prices were up 0.4% in February according to the Commerce Department, yet core inflation rose only 0.1%. A 6% jump in gasoline prices represented 80% of the Consumer Price Indexs biggest gain since April, while food prices were flat for the first time since July 2010. Economists polled by Bloomberg expected a 0.5% rise in CPI for the month. Producer prices also rose 0.4% last month, but prices for finished products were up but 0.1%. Annualized inflation was at 2.9% in February; annualized core CPI was at 2.2%.

    AN ILLUMINATING STATESIDE STRESS TEST
    Applying a hypothetical doomsday scenario of the Dow losing half of its value, joblessness at 13% and home prices at 1996 levels, the Federal Reserve put 19 major U.S. banks through its annual stress test last week and found that 15 passed: American Express, Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, BB&T, CapitalOne, Fifth Third, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Keycorp, Morgan Stanley, PNC, Regions, State Street, …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 12, 2012

    Monday, March 12th, 2012

    227,000 NEW JOBS, BUT JOBLESS RATE STILL AT 8.3%
    While unemployment levels remained unchanged in February, Labor Department data showed that nonfarm payrolls expanded by more than 200,000 positions for the third straight month. The private sector added 233,000 jobs in February, so it was basically responsible for the impressive net job gain. The underemployment rate (representing the jobless plus those settling for less than a 40-hour workweek) was 14.9% in February, a 1.8% drop from a year before. With such consistent job growth, the Federal Reserve faces less pressure to roll out another monetary stimulus.

    SERVICE SECTOR GROWS IN February
    The Institute for Supply Management’s service sector PMI climbed to 57.3 for February, seeing a half-percent gain. A 3.1% jump in business activity/production and a 1.8% rise in new orders were nice highlights.

    OIL, GOLD END WEEK WITH MODERATE GAINS
    From Wednesday to Friday, gold futures rose $39.50 and oil futures $2.70. For the week, gains were actually modest: oil advanced but $0.70 on the NYMEX to …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 5, 2012

    Monday, March 5th, 2012

    A GAIN (OF SORTS) IN CONSUMER SPENDING
    The Commerce Department noted a 0.2% rise in personal spending in January along with a 0.3% rise in wages. However, real consumer spending was flat for the third consecutive month when adjusted for inflation. Headline personal spending rose 2.1% in Q4 2011. Many economists expect a comparable gain this quarter. In related news, the Bureau of Economic Analysis revised Q4 GDP north to 3.0% last week.

    DURABLE GOODS ORDERS, ISM INDEX DECLINE
    While the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index spent its 31st consecutive month above 50, it did dip 1.7% in February to 52.4 – well below the 54.7 consensus forecast among economists polled by Briefing.com. Last week, the Commerce Department said that hard goods orders decreased 4.0% in January (the expiration of the 2011 tax break on capital investment was likely a factor).

    HOME PRICES SLIP, BUT SALES CONTRACTS INCREASE
    The good news: pending home sales increased 2.0% in January according to the National Association of Realtors. Economists polled by Briefing.com …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 27, 2012

    Monday, February 27th, 2012

    OIL APPROACHES $110 PER BARREL
    As NYMEX crude futures settled at $109.77 Friday, economists wondered how the U.S. consumer might cope if $5 gas became a reality. Spurred by supply concerns and heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, crude had its best week in three months: futures gained $6.17 (5.96%) across five trading days. Retail gas prices finished last week at $3.65 per gallon, a high unseen since last June.

    MORE HOMES MOVING ON THE MARKET
    Existing home sales were up again in January – the National Association of Realtors reported a 4.3% monthly increase. Seasonally adjusted, sales have risen 8% since August. New home sales (a smaller portion of the residential real estate market) declined 0.9% in January, but largely as an effect of the Commerce Department revising December sales figures upward. Without those revisions, the indicator would have been strongly in the plus column. Last month, the new home inventory decreased to the lowest level since January 2006.

    CONSUMER CONFIDENCE UP SLIGHTLY
    The final Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 20, 2012

    Monday, February 20th, 2012

    CONSUMER PRICES UP 0.2% for January
    Major factors in this increase in the Consumer Price Index include a 0.9% rise in the price of clothing as well as rising rents and healthcare costs. Core CPI also rose 0.2% in January. The annualized inflation rate hit 2.3% last month, yet the Federal Reserve expects but a 1.6% gain in the CPI across 2012. Wholesale inflation ticked up 0.1% for January, with the core Producer Price Index up 0.4%.

    RETAIL SALES FALL SHORT OF (HIGH) EXPECTATIONS
    The Census Bureau reported a healthy 0.4% rise in U.S. retail purchases for January. However, economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires thought they would rise 0.9% for the month. Subtract a 1.1% decline in auto sales from the data, and retail sales were up 0.7% for January.

    LEADING INDICATORS Hit 3½-YEAR PEAK
    The Conference Board’s Leading Indicator Index rose 0.4% in January, with seven of ten indicators improving. (The most notable positive detected: a widening in the spread between short-term and long-term interest rates.) The …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 13, 2012

    Monday, February 13th, 2012

    While the $25+ billion settlement reached last week between five large mortgage servicers and 49 states was momentous, it may not help many borrowers in trouble. Only about 1 million of the estimated 11 million underwater homeowners will see relief as loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t included in the deal. Much of the settlement money will go toward mortgage modification. Roughly 750,000 homeowners are slated to receive financial compensation from the accord (an average of about $2,000 per household). The lenders involved are JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Ally Financial, Citigroup and Wells Fargo; other banks could join them. (The state of Oklahoma forged its own agreement with the five lenders.)

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 6, 2012

    Monday, February 6th, 2012

    JOBLESS RATE DOWN TO 8.3%
    Are we seeing a trend here? The unemployment rate has now fallen 0.8% in the last six months. We haven’t seen a descent this sharp and swift since 1984. January hiring blew away forecasts: the Labor Department said the economy added 243,000 jobs last month, while economists polled by Briefing.com expected non-farm payrolls to grow by 155,000 positions. The labor force hasn’t grown so much in a month since last April, and the numbers are making analysts wonder if the Federal Reserve will tinker with interest rates months ahead of expectations.

    HOUSEHOLDS SAVE FIRST, SPEND SECOND
    Consumer spending was flat in December after gains of just 0.1% in November and October. More significantly, consumer incomes rose 0.5% for December and so did the personal savings rate. People essentially put the extra money in the bank. In related news, the federal government estimated 2011 GDP at 1.7%, about half of the economic growth seen in 2010.

    BOTH ISM INDEXES RISE
    The Institute for Supply Management’s closely …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 30, 2012

    Monday, January 30th, 2012

    ECONOMY GROWS 2.8% in Q4
    While this is the best GDP reading since Q2 2010, the initial estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis still disappointed the markets. Many economists and investors were looking for growth of 3.0% or better. The majority of the growth actually came from increased inventories. Consumer spending rose 2.0% last quarter, with auto sales being the biggest factor. Durable goods orders did see 3.0% growth in December, putting them 45% above the recession low hit in April 2009.

    DIPS IN New & PENDING HOME SALES
    The number of signed home sale contracts fell 3.5% in December, according to the National Association of Realtors. Separately, a Census Bureau report showed that new home sales declined 2.2% in December.

    MARQUEE sentiment INDEX at 11-MONTH PEAK
    The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index ended January at 75.0. This was way up from Decembers 69.9 mark, and it beat the 74.1 reading forecast by economists surveyed by Reuters.

    PRECIOUS METALS GAIN ALLURE
    At Fridays COMEX close, gold was +10.56% …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 23, 2012

    Monday, January 23rd, 2012

    NO CONSUMER INFLATION INCREASE IN DECEMBER.
    For the second month in a row, the Labor Department reported no advance in its Consumer Price Index. Core CPI did rise 0.1% last month. Across 2011, consumer prices rose 3.0%; last year was the most inflationary year since 2007. As for wholesale inflation, the Producer Price Index declined 0.1% in December.

    MORE HOMES MOVING ON THE MARKET
    The National Association of Realtors announced a 5.0% increase in existing home sales for December, with a 4.6% gain in sales of single-family houses. For all of 2011, existing home sales improved by 1.7% as the median sale price declined 3.9%. One negative real estate signal last week: in December, housing starts fell by 4.1%.

    FEWEST INITIAL JOBLESS CLAIMS IN FOUR YEARS
    The Labor Department said initial applications for jobless benefits dropped by 50,000 to 352,000 in the week ending January 14. That is the lowest number of initial claims taken in any week since April 2008.

    GOLD GAINS 2% IN Five DAYS
    Its 2.04% weekly advance on …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 16, 2012

    Monday, January 16th, 2012

    After U.S. markets closed Friday, Standard & Poors downgraded a third of the European Union: it took France from AAA to AA+, cut ratings for Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta by a notch and booted the ratings of Italy, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus down two notches. S&P said the EUs debt reduction plan lacks sufficient size or scope. Additionally, EU talks on restructuring Greek debt fell apart Friday.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 9, 2012

    Monday, January 9th, 2012

    In December, the jobless rate declined for the fourth straight month to its lowest level since February 2009. The Labor Department announced that the economy added 200,000 net new jobs last month, topping the consensus forecast of analysts polled by Reuters who expected a gain of 155,000. Separately, payroll processing firm ADP reported private sector firms hiring 325,000 workers in December. Whether Decembers boost reflects a seasonal hiring boom or not, Labor Department data indicates that private sector payrolls expanded by an average of 132,000 jobs per month during the second half of 2011.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 2, 2012

    Monday, January 2nd, 2012

    STOCKS IN 2011: DJIA +5.5%, S&P 500 ENDS FLAT

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average bucked a global trend and advanced in 2011. The index rose 11.95% in the fourth quarter, a move that separated it from a pack of overseas benchmarks that finished the year with double-digit percentage losses. In terms of price return, the S&P 500 recorded its smallest annual change since 1947 (see below). The S&Ps total return for 2011 was +2.11%. With all the fears about Europe and the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates incredibly low, long-term Treasuries had their best year since 2008 with a total return of 33%.

    CONSUMER CONFIDENCE BAROMETER RISES

    The Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence saw a big jump north in December, soaring 9.3 points to 64.5. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected it to come in at 58.3.

    HOME SALE PRICES DOWN, HOME SALE CONTRACTS UP

    The good news? The National Association of Realtors said its pending home sales index reached a 19-month peak in November, moving to …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 26, 2011

    Monday, December 26th, 2011

    CONSUMERS FEELING MERRIER. Decembers final Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey came in at 69.9 compared with Novembers final 64.1 mark. That also beat the 68.0 estimate forecast by economists Reuters had surveyed.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update December 19, 2011

    Monday, December 19th, 2011

    JOBLESS CLAIMS FALL TO 3-YEAR LOW
    Last Thursday, the Labor Department announced that 366,000 Americans filed initial jobless claims in the week ending December 10, the lowest weekly figure since March 2008. This was a drop of 19,000 from the preceding week and refuted the expectations of some economists. This may be a sign that the jobless rate, currently at 8.6%, could be poised to fall further.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 12, 2011

    Monday, December 12th, 2011

    Decembers initial University of Michigan consumer sentiment index is in, and the reading of 67.7 represents a six-month high. This is a 3.6% increase from the final November survey. The sub-index of consumer expectations (which some regard as an indicator of future consumer spending) improved from 55.4 to 61.1. In other positive news for households, retail gas prices hit a low unseen since February on December 5, according to the American Automobile Association, $3.27 was the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for December 5, 2011

    Monday, December 5th, 2011

    JOBLESS RATE FALLS TO 8.6%
    In November, U.S. unemployment hit its lowest level since March 2009. Novembers net job gain was 120,000. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed that the majority of the new hires were made by retailers and temp agencies, this is still a sign of recovery. The underemployment rate fell to 15.6% from the prior 16.2%.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 28, 2011

    Monday, November 28th, 2011

    Personal spending advanced by just 0.1% in October, the smallest gain in four months, as measured by the Commerce Department. Hopefully a strong Black Friday and Cyber Monday will make November a different story. In better news, personal incomes rose 0.4% last month, the best month for that statistic since March. Americas savings rate increased 0.2% to 3.5%.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 21, 2011

    Monday, November 21st, 2011

    CONSUMER PRICES RETREAT IN OCTOBER – For the first month since June, consumer inflation decreased. The biggest influence on the 0.1% decline in the Consumer Price Index? Falling retail gasoline prices. New car prices also saw their biggest one-month drop in nearly two years. Core CPI rose 0.1% in October; annualized inflation lessened to 3.5% with annualized core CPI at 2.1%. Producer prices declined last month as well, going -0.3% after a +0.8% September showing; core PPI was flat in October.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 14, 2011

    Monday, November 14th, 2011

    Global investors seemed reassured at the end of last week by developments in the European Union. By Friday, Greek prime minister George Papandreou had stepped down; Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation was at hand. Greek prime minister designate Lucas Papademos and a new coalition government will now be charged with implementing austerity cuts as Greece accepts the EU’s latest €130 billion aid package. Italy’s senate passed new economic reforms at the end of the week aimed at reducing its sovereign debt. Italy’s treasury was also able to sell €5 billion of one-year notes , albeit at 6.09% interest.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for November 7, 2011

    Monday, November 7th, 2011

    Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected unemployment to stay at 9.1% in October, so this was a nice development. Still, this latest jobs report had something in common with its predecessors: underwhelming job growth. Non-farm payrolls expanded by 80,000 positions last month, but that fell short of the 95,000 new jobs envisioned in the consensus Bloomberg forecast. On the bright side, the percentage of underemployed Americans fell from 16.5% to 16.2% and the long-term unemployed (those out of work for at least 27 weeks) shrank to 42.4% of the jobless population, the lowest percentage since November 2010.

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    Bill Losey’s Economic Update for October 31, 2011

    Monday, October 31st, 2011

    HOUSEHOLDS EARN & SAVE LESS, YET SPEND MORE
    On Friday, Commerce Department data showed that personal incomes have declined in each of the past three months when adjusted for inflation. However, personal spending has increased in each of those months; it improved by 0.6% in September. The personal savings rate fell by 0.5% last month to 3.6%, a low unseen since December 2007.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for October 24, 2011

    Monday, October 24th, 2011

    ANNUALIZED INFLATION HITS 3.9%
    So noted the Bureau of Labor Statistics last week. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.3% during the month of September, with core CPI rising 0.1%, the smallest such increase in six months. (Annualized core consumer inflation was at 2.0%.) The Producer Price Index climbed 0.8% for September after a flat August.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for October 17, 2011

    Monday, October 17th, 2011

    RETAIL SALES JUMP MOST IN 7 MONTHS
    On Friday, the Commerce Department said overall U.S. retail spending improved 1.1% in September, with auto sales rising 3.6% for the month and department store sales up 1.1%. August retail sales – previously recorded as flat – were revised north to a 0.3% gain.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update October 10, 2011

    Monday, October 10th, 2011

    HIRING IMPROVES…WITH A FOOTNOTE
    Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected non-farm payrolls to increase by 59,000 for September. In a nice surprise, the economy added 103,000 jobs. However, 45,000 of those “hires” were actually striking Verizon employees returning to work. The unemployment rate remained at 9.1% for the third straight month. The Department of Labor revised the July and August jobs reports to include a cumulative 99,000 new hires.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for October 3, 2011

    Monday, October 3rd, 2011

    AMERICANS SPEND A BIT MORE, EARN A BIT LESS
    In August, personal spending improved by 0.2% while personal incomes retreated by 0.1%. This was the first monthly decline in household incomes since October 2009; July’s household earnings gain was revised down to 0.1%…

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 26, 2011

    Monday, September 26th, 2011

    INVESTORS SEEK CASH, WATCH POLICY MOVES
    Stocks tumbled last week as Wall Street shrugged off news of the Federal Reserve’s move to direct $400 billion into longer-term Treasuries and wondered if Europe’s debt troubles might trigger a recession. At mid-week, the Federal Reserve and International Monetary Fund managing director Christine LaGarde both noted “downside risks” to the U.S. and world economies. Thursday night, finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 pledged they would make a “strong and coordinated international response to address the renewed challenges facing the global economy” – a welcome declaration, yet the S&P 500 still slipped more than 6% on the week…

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 19, 2011

    Monday, September 19th, 2011

    CPI, PPI TELL DIFFERENT STORIES: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index rose 0.4% in August – and annualized inflation came in at 3.8%, the highest rate in nearly three years. Annualized core inflation was +2.0% given a 0.2% rise in core CPI last month. On the other hand, producer prices showed the smallest annual gain since March: in August, they were up 6.5% year-over-year, compared to a 7.3% differential in May. The overall Producer Price Index was flat last month; core PPI went +0.1%.

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 12, 2011

    Monday, September 12th, 2011

    WILL CONGRESS PASS THE $447 BILLION JOBS PLAN?
    Thursday, President Obama challenged Congress to swiftly approve the American Jobs Act – a plan that would cut the payroll tax for workers and businesses to 3.1% in 2012 and offer tax credits as large as $4,000 to companies hiring people out of work for more than 6 months. If passed, the AJA would also pour about $80 billion into public works projects and extend long-term jobless benefits. A written response from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and three other key Republican leaders noted that the plan will be quickly considered, but cited a need to “find common ground” and an assumption that the bill was not “an all-or-nothing proposition.”

    ISM SERVICES INDEX TOPS FORECASTS
    Economists polled by Bloomberg News thought that the Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index would fall to 51.o in August. Instead, it bettered the 52.7 reading from July. The 53.3 August reading indicates some expansion in the industries that account for roughly 90% of the …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 5, 2011

    Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

    NO JOB GAINS IN AUGUST
    In August, nonfarm payroll employment totaled 131.1 million – as it did in July. The Labor Department measured no job growth in the economy for the first time since September 2010. Additionally, employers reduced the average work week slightly to 34.2 hours. The unemployment rate remained at 9.1% last month.

    CONSUMER SPENDING IMPROVES BY 0.8%
    This hugely encouraging July figure from the Commerce Department trounced forecasts and represented the best month for the statistic since February. Personal incomes improved by 0.3% in July; the personal savings rate hit a four-month low.

    PENDING HOME SALES DOWN, HOME PRICES UP
    The National Association of Realtors announced pending home sales had declined by 1.3% in July following three months of gains. The number of sales contracts was still 14.4% better than a year before. July’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index was notable for indicating a 3.6% 2Q gain in home prices, though the index was still down 5.9% year-over-year.

    MANUFACTURERS SIGNAL MINOR EXPANSION
    The Institute for Supply Management’s August purchasing manufacturers …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Aug. 29, 2011

    Monday, August 29th, 2011

    COULD SEPTEMBER BRING ANOTHER STIMULUS?
    Could we see a QE3? Maybe. While Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made no mention of a plan to aid the economy at last week’s Fed symposium in Wyoming, he did refer to “a range of tools that could be used to provide additional monetary stimulus” and noted that the Fed “will continue to consider those and other pertinent issues… at our meeting in September.” September’s FOMC meeting has now been lengthened to 2 days; make of that what you will. Bernanke said he expects improved GDP in the second half of 2011 and core inflation under 2%.

    NEW HOME SALES DECLINE, BUT HOME PRICES GO UP
    The Census Bureau announced a 0.7% drop in new home sales in July; sales were up 6.8% from a year ago. The average sale price was $272,300, with 6.6 months of inventory on the market. Overall U.S. home prices rose 0.9% in June, …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 22, 2011

    Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

    RISING GAS PRICES KEY FACTOR IN INFLATION SPIKE
    The federal government’s Consumer Price Index recorded a 0.5% inflation increase for July. Gasoline prices rose 4.7% during the month; food prices rose 0.4%. Core CPI advanced 0.2%. Producer prices rose as well – the Labor Department’s July Producer Price Index posted a 0.2% increase, with core PPI up 0.4%. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected gains of just 0.2% in overall CPI and 0.1% in overall PPI for the month.

    EXISTING HOME SALES DECLINE IN JULY
    The National Association of Realtors noted a 3.5% fall in residential resales for July. While the rate of existing home sales hit an 8-month low last month, sales in July were still up 21% from a year ago (the federal homebuying credit expired in July 2010). The median sale price was $174,400, down 4.4% from a year ago.

    $1,800 GOLD IS HERE; OIL MOVES LOWER
    Gold settled at $1,852.20 per ounce on …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Aug. 15, 2011

    Monday, August 15th, 2011

    Americans BUY MORE IN JULY
    According to the Commerce Department, U.S. retail purchases increased by 0.5% in July for the best month-over-month gain since March. That doesn’t seem to spell recession; if anything, it attests to the resilience of consumer spending. Additionally, business inventories grew by 0.3% in June as wholesale stockpiles grew 0.6%.

    CONSUMER CONFIDENCE WANES
    The initial August Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey showed a major plummet. While economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a reading of 61.0, the gauge hit 54.9 – its lowest level since May 1980.

    Gold GAINS $91 IN A WEEK
    It wasn’t a typical week, and the precious metal soared in COMEX trading. Across August 8-12, gold advanced $91.40 – even with Friday’s $8.60 loss. It was the biggest weekly dollar gain for gold since September 15-19, 2008. A +5.54% week took prices to $1,740.20 per ounce at Friday’s close. As for oil, it lost 1.73% on …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Aug. 8, 2011

    Monday, August 8th, 2011

    PRIVATE SECTOR ADDS 150,000+ NEW JOBS
    America’s jobless rate ticked down to 9.1% in July as private sector payrolls expanded by a better-than-anticipated 154,000 positions, 81,000 of which were in the health care, retail and manufacturing industries. On the downside, Labor Department data showed that 156,000 people stopped looking for work last month; 6.2 million people have been out of work for six months or longer.

    A SILVER LINING IN JUNE’S CONSUMER SPENDING
    Basic Commerce Department data shows that personal spending fell 0.2% in June as personal incomes rose just 0.1%. Factor in inflation, and the story differs. Real disposable income increased 0.3% in June for the best advance since May 2010, and inflation-adjusted consumer spending was merely flat for the month.

    ISM BAROMETERS INDICATE MODEST GROWTH
    The Institute for Supply Management’s latest manufacturing and service sector PMIs didn’t exactly thrill Wall Street. ISM’s manufacturing index declined 4.4% to 50.9 for July, showing a …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Aug. 1, 2011

    Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

    A HINT OF COMPROMISE, A SIGN OF WEAKNESS
    The weekend arrived with the House narrowly passing a Republican debt-reduction bill – the “two-step” bill linked to a balanced budget amendment, proposing a $917 billion cut in federal spending. Though doomed in the Senate, the vote on the bill opened a door to negotiation that may lead to passage of a compromise measure by the August 2 deadline. (At a Friday press briefing, Democratic officials said that Congress could possibly approve a 2-day extension of the cutoff date.) Meanwhile, the Commerce Department announced that the economy grew just 1.3% in the second quarter; economists polled by Reuters had forecast GDP of +1.8%.

    MIXED CONSUMER CONFIDENCE READINGS
    The final July Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey came in at 63.7, the lowest reading since March 2009. However, the Conference Board’s July survey came in 1.9 points higher than June at 59.5.

    GOLD & OIL GO IN DIFFERENT …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 25, 2011

    Monday, July 25th, 2011

    CRUNCH TIME ON CAPITOL HILL
    After the defeat of the “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill in the Senate Friday, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) were left to work on a deficit reduction plan with a projected $3 trillion cut in federal spending. Discussions stalled Friday, and Congress was not in session over the weekend. While Obama seeks tax increases as part of any accord, Congressional sources told Reuters that they may be tossed out of the deal. Any new bill will likely have to pass this week in the House in order to exit the Senate before the Treasury Department’s August 2 deadline. Overseas, the European Union approved a $157 billion bailout package for Greece that could also bring significant debt relief to Portugal and Ireland.

    LESS HOMEBUYING, MORE HOMEBUILDING
    Existing home sales declined by 0.8% in June, according to the National Association of Realtors. They were down 8.8% from a year …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 18, 2011

    Monday, July 18th, 2011

    DEBT ISSUES DOMINATE THE HEADLINES
    Friday, President Obama reassured the media that Democrats and Republicans had “enough time” to “create a package that solves the deficit and debt.” While Congress needs to hike the debt cap by $2.4 trillion to enable federal borrowing through the end of 2012, Republican leaders want an equivalent federal spending cut linked to such a move. This week, House Republicans intend to vote on a plan to accomplish both goals, reliant on a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) calls the measure “outrageous.” Another plan offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would give the President more autonomy to lift the debt cap. In Europe, Italy’s parliament passed austerity measures to cut $99 billion from that nation’s deficit by 2014.

    CONSUMER PRICES RETREAT 0.2% IN JUNE
    This marks the first dip in the Consumer Price Index in 12 months. The big reason? Gasoline prices fell 6.8% last month. Stripping out food and energy prices, core …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 11, 2011

    Monday, July 11th, 2011

    MINIMAL JOB CREATION IN JUNE
    The Labor Department issued a disappointing unemployment report Friday. In June, non-farm payrolls expanded by just 18,000 jobs. (May’s net job gain was revised down from 54,000 to 25,000.) The unemployment rate was 9.2% in June; it has increased in each month since March.

    SERVICE SECTOR GROWS FOR 19th STRAIGHT MONTH
    The Institute for Supply Management’s June non-manufacturing index decreased to 53.3 from May’s 54.6 reading, falling a bit below the 54.0 consensus forecast of economists surveyed by Reuters. Prices paid by service-sector companies fell to their lowest level since August, a sign of reduced inflation pressure.

    MORE CAPITAL INVESTMENT IN MAY
    Factory orders increased by 0.8% in that month. The Commerce Department also noted a 1.6% improvement in non-defense capital goods orders, a 1.8% increase in non-defense capital goods shipments, and a 2.1% rise in demand for hard goods. Separately, the Federal Reserve estimated that factory output rose by 0.4% in May.

    IMPRESSIVE WEEK FOR OIL & GOLD
    Gold futures advanced 3.97% across July 5-8 to …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 5, 2011

    Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

    SOFT SPENDING DURING THE SOFT PATCH
    After ten consecutive months of gains, personal spending was flat for May and actually retreated 0.1% when adjusted for inflation. Weak auto sales may have been the biggest influence. Economists polled by Reuters had projected a 0.1% gain in the indicator. The Commerce Department did note that personal incomes rose 0.3% for the second straight month. The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index showed a 2.5% year-over-year advance.

    ISM INDEX SURPRISES
    Analysts thought the Institute for Supply Management’s factory index would decline in June. It didn’t. The index rose from May’s 53.5 mark to 55.3. The U.S. was the only nation in the world whose benchmark manufacturing PMI rose last month.

    CONSUMER CONFIDENCE WANES
    This was not surprising given recent headlines. The University of Michigan’s final June consumer sentiment poll slipped to 71.5 from May’s 74.3 reading, and the Conference Board’s June consumer confidence index also declined to 58.5 from last month’s revised 61.7 mark.

    HOME PRICES, HOME SALE AGREEMENTS INCREASE
    The National Association of …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 27, 2011

    Monday, June 27th, 2011

    PEAK HOMEBUYING SEASON, BUT FEWER HOME SALES
    The National Association of Realtors reported a 3.8% dip in existing home sales in May, and the Census Bureau noted a 2.1% reduction in new home purchases last month. The good news? New home sales were up 13.5% from last May, with the average price of a new home up $1,400 to $266,400. However, existing home sales were down 15.3% from a year before while the median existing home price was down 4.6% across the past 12 months.

    IEA RELEASE SHIFTS SENTIMENT IN OIL MARKET
    Thursday, the International Energy Agency decided that major oil-producing countries should release oil from their reserves to address a global shortfall. The U.S. will supply half of the 60 million barrels from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve, with the balance coming from nations in Europe and Asia. On Friday, oil futures in Europe slipped about 8% and settled at a four-month low; U.S. oil futures lost only 2.4% on the week and settled at $91.16 a …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 20, 2011

    Monday, June 20th, 2011

    PRICES RISE, BUT INFLATION PRESSURE EASES
    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index rose 0.2% in May, with core CPI up 0.3%. (Food prices rose 0.4% and energy prices rose 0.6% last month.) This is the tamest monthly increase in inflation since last November. In year-over-year terms, the CPI is up 3.6% over the past 12 months; core CPI advanced 1.5%. The BLS also reported less wholesale price inflation in May: the Producer Price Index rose 0.2% last month after climbs of 0.8% in April and 0.7% in March. The year-over-year PPI gain was 7.3% – the biggest in almost three years.

    LEADING INDICATOR INDEX TURNS NORTH
    The Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators was up 0.8% for May, rebounding from a 0.4% retreat in March. Eight of the index’s ten indicators showed improvement last month.

    CONSUMER SENTIMENT WAVERS
    The preliminary June University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey came in at 71.8 last week, below the 74.0 that economists polled by Bloomberg had forecast and …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 13, 2011

    Monday, June 13th, 2011

    NEW BEIGE BOOK SHOWS GROWTH MODERATING
    At last week’s International Monetary Conference, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke conceded that the pace of the recovery had become “frustratingly slow.” While the Fed’s latest Beige Book showed solid economic growth in eight of 12 Fed districts (with growth accelerating in the Dallas region), growth had moderated in the Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago and New York districts. Broadly, the Fed snapshot revealed some slowdown in manufacturing but steady service sector expansion.

    2-YEAR NOTES NOTCH 9-WEEK WIN STREAK
    This hasn’t happened since February 2008. The yield on the 2-year Treasury fell to 0.40% and the yield on the 10-year note slipped to 2.97% Friday, even with the sunset for QE2 on the horizon. Friday, the Fed said it would end that bond-buying program by purchasing $50 billion in Treasuries by the end of the month.

    MORTGAGE RATES EASE FOR EIGHTH STRAIGHT WEEK
    Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey estimates the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4.49%, compared to an average …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Report for June 6, 2011

    Monday, June 6th, 2011

    HIRING TAPERS OFF IN MAY
    Wall Street braced itself Friday for a subpar jobs report, and that was what arrived. Non-farm payrolls grew by just 54,000 in May – and if McDonald’s hadn’t added 62,000 fast-food positions last month, net hiring would have been negative. Payrolls had expanded by an average of 220,000 positions a month in the previous three months of data. The unemployment rate ticked north to 9.1% in May; the percentage of people without a job for six months or longer rose to 45.1%, nearly a record.

    ISM: SOME GOOD NEWS, SOME BAD NEWS
    The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing sector index slipped a troubling 6.9% to 53.5 for May. However, ISM’s service sector PMI rose 1.8% in May to 54.6, and new orders increased by 4.1%. Expansion continues in both sectors.

    YEAR-OVER-YEAR HOME PRICES RETREAT
    The newly released March edition of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index found home prices across 20 metro …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 31, 2011

    Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

    CONSUMER SPENDING SLOWS IN APRIL
    Personal spending and personal incomes both increased by 0.4% last month – but the inflation-adjusted gains were minimal or non-existent. With inflation factored in, personal spending rose by 0.1% in April while personal incomes were flat. These latest numbers out of the Commerce Department aren’t very inspiring, especially since April’s small gains can be attributed to higher gas and food prices. However, many economists believe things will pick up in coming months, assuming gas prices moderate and more jobs appear.

    EXPECTATIONS IMPROVE IN KEY CONFIDENCE POLL
    The final May consumer sentiment survey is in from the University of Michigan. At 74.3, it shows a nice rebound from the final 69.8 mark for April. It also surpassed the 72.5 reading forecast by economists polled by MarketWatch. The 2011 high for the survey – 77.5 – was recorded in February before gas prices soared.

    MIXED NEWS FROM THE REAL ESTATE SECTOR
    The Census …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 23, 2011

    Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

    HOME SALES, HOUSING STARTS SLIP
    Existing home sales decreased 0.9% in April, according to the National Association of Realtors. Annually, sales were off 12.9% from the pace of April 2010 (back when the homebuyer tax credit was in effect). The national median existing home price last month was $163,700, 5.0% below where it was a year before. The inventory of unsold residences increased to a 9.2-month supply, up from an 8.3-month supply in March. A new release from the Commerce Department said housing starts declined by 10.6% in April; building permits decreased by 4.0% last month.

    CONFERENCE BOARD LEI INDEX DECLINES
    The CB’s Leading Economic Index retreated in April for only the second time since March 2009. The 0.3% slip came after the index rose 0.7% in March and 0.9% in February. On the bright side, the CB’s coincident (i.e., current) economic index improved for the third straight month in April.

    GOLD GETS BACK ABOVE $1,500; GAS …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 16, 2011

    Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

    INFLATION SPRINGS AHEAD
    Consumer inflation increased by 0.4% in April after rising 0.5% in March. (You can cite food and energy costs – gasoline prices rose 3.3% alone last month.) Annualized inflation is the real story here: the federal government’s Consumer Price Index has advanced 3.2% in the past 12 months. That is the biggest annual gain since October 2008. As for wholesale inflation, the Producer Price Index was up 0.8% for April; it showed an annual increase of 6.8% (the most since September 2008).

    GAINS IN RETAIL SALES, CONSUMER SENTIMENT
    The Census Bureau announced that retail sales were up 0.5% in April; it also revised the March gain from 0.4% to 0.9%. The University of Michigan’s preliminary April consumer sentiment survey came in at 72.4, better than the 70.0 forecast by economists polled by Reuters and the final April reading of 69.8.

    KEY COMMODITIES BOUNCE BACK
    Last week, there was a bit of a rebound in …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 9, 2011

    Monday, May 9th, 2011

    HIRING IMPROVES IN APRIL
    The Labor Department’s latest jobs report contained some good news: the private sector added 268,000 new jobs last month, and overall non-farm payrolls increased by 244,000 in April. The private sector hasn’t seen this much month-over-month job creation since February 2006, and the net gain of 244,000 jobs was the best since June 2010. The unemployment rate went up to 9.0% in April, but Wall Street rallied Friday after the report was released.

    PMI INDEX STRONG; SERVICE SECTOR INDEX SLIPS
    Last week, the Institute for Supply Management released its April reports on the manufacturing and service sectors. While the manufacturing index came in at 60.4 – down slightly from March’s 61.2 – anything above 60 indicates a booming sector. The non-manufacturing index dropped to 52.8 from March’s 57.3 reading. Anything above 50 means growth, but the index hasn’t been this low in eight months.

    GOLD, SILVER & OIL PULL BACK
    Are commodities …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 2, 2011

    Thursday, May 5th, 2011

    CONSUMER SPENDING INCREASES 0.6%
    This March gain wasn’t that surprising in light of rising food and energy costs. (The Commerce Department just revised February’s gain to 0.9%). Disposable incomes were up by 0.1% in March while the personal savings rate held steady at 5.5%. The Commerce Department also released its initial estimate of 1Q 2011 GDP Friday (+1.8%) and 1Q consumer spending (+2.7%).

    CONSUMER CONFIDENCE REBOUNDS
    The University of Michigan’s final April consumer sentiment survey came in at 69.8, up from March’s final reading of 67.5. The one-year inflation expectation was 4.6%, the same as last month. The Conference Board’s April consumer confidence poll came in at 65.4, better than the median projection of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Both indices improved despite gas prices rising – AAA said a gallon of regular unleaded averaged $3.87 on April 27, the highest price since August 2008.

    CASE-SHILLER INDEX WITHIN .01% OF DOUBLE-DIP
    February’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index revealed …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 25, 2011

    Monday, April 25th, 2011

    HOME SALES, HOME STARTS IMPROVE IN MARCH
    The National Association of Realtors announced that existing home sales were up 3.7% last month, about 1% higher than the rebound expected on Wall Street. (NAR noted that about 35% of these were cash sales.) In another positive development for the real estate market, the Commerce Department measured a 7.2% gain in housing starts and an 11.2% rise in construction permits for March.

    GOLD at new high, DOLLAR TOUCHES 3-year low
    Gold cracked the $1,500 ceiling last week. Prices reached $1,508.75 on Thursday before settling at $1,503.80 on the COMEX. Silver hit yet another 31-year high at $46.68 per ounce, with prices ending the week at $46.06. Meanwhile, the U.S. Dollar Index descended to 73.735 during the market day on Thursday, a low unseen since August 2008.

    LEI index UP FOR NINTH STRAIGHT MONTH
    The Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators rose another 0.4% for March, complementing a revised …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 18, 2011

    Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

    INFLATION LIVES UP TO EXPECTATIONS
    Economists polled by Briefing.com felt that the federal government’s Consumer Price Index would rise 0.5% in March, and it did. They thought core CPI would advance by 0.1% for the month; they also got that right. If this keeps up, America will be staring at 6% annualized inflation. Should we instead focus on the tiny core CPI increase that strips out food and energy prices? It is pretty hard to ignore energy costs given that the Producer Price Index rose by another 0.7% in March, with the wholesale price of gasoline rising 5.7%. The PPI has climbed 5.8% over the past 12 months. Economists and investors are wondering how much mind the Federal Reserve will pay to all this at its next FOMC meeting, scheduled for April 26-27.

    KEY CONSUMER SENTIMENT INDEX IMPROVES
    The initial April Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey came in at 69.6, a 2.1% increase …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 11, 2011

    Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

    WALL STREET WATCHES BUDGET FIGHT
    While journalists and political analysts worldwide pondered the effects of a federal government shutdown last week, Wall Street conducted business as usual. Any prolonged shutdown would test the stock market: while the Federal Reserve would not be forced into a hiatus, the majority of Treasury Department employees would be furloughed, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice could halt review of M&As, IPOs and new stock and bond issues. Still, much of the Street’s attention will be focused on the new earnings season this week. (For the record, stocks actually advanced about 5% during the three-week federal budget impasse of 1995-1996.)

    ISM SERVICE SECTOR INDEX DESCENDS TO 57.3
    The Institute for Supply Management’s February non-manufacturing index came in at 59.7; the March edition is 2.4% lower, and ISM’s survey estimated a 7.2% decline in business activity/production for the month and a 4.0% increase …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 4, 2011

    Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

    JOBLESS RATE DOWN 1% SINCE NOVEMBER
    In March, the nation’s jobless rate declined to 8.8%. That is the lowest level of unemployment since April 2009 and represents a 1.0% reduction in unemployment in the last four months. The Labor Department said the economy added 216,000 jobs in March, 78,000 in the category of professional and business services.

    CONSUMER SPENDING UP 0.7%
    Personal spending increased for the eighth month in a row in February, but Commerce Department data showed that much of the gain went to pay for higher food and energy costs. The Personal Consumption Index (PCE) advanced 0.4% for the month. So the inflation-adjusted gain in personal spending was 0.3%. Wages rose by 0.3% in February.

    ISM: MANUFACTURING GROWTH MODERATES The March PMI index from the Institute for Supply Management showed a slight reduction in the pace of the sector’s growth: it came in at 61.2 versus February’s 61.4 mark. However, the index has recorded …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Mar. 28, 2011

    Monday, March 28th, 2011

    4Q GDP REVISED UPWARD
    The Commerce Department’s final estimate of 4Q 2010 GDP is +3.1%, an improvement from the previous estimate of +2.8%. The revision reflects increased consumer spending, exports and business investment during the quarter – and with this alteration, the Bureau of Economic Analysis now puts U.S. GDP at +2.9% for 2010. Compare that to the -2.6% economic output of 2009.

    WHEN DOES THE REAL ESTATE RECOVERY BEGIN? By the looks of February’s home sales figures, recovery may not begin for a while. New home sales slipped 16.9% last month according to the Census Bureau, and were 28.0% under year-ago levels. The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales fell by 9.6% last month; the median sales price for a single-family home was $157,000 (-5.2% from a year ago) with distressed homes making up 39% of the market (up 4% from a year ago). While monthly home sales figures are …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Mar. 21, 2011

    Monday, March 21st, 2011

    INFLATION PICKS UP
    The Labor Department announced that the Consumer Price Index advanced 0.5% in February, following 0.4% advances in January and December. Energy prices climbed 3.4% in February and food prices rose 0.8%, the biggest monthly increase since July 2008. Annualized inflation now stands at 2.1% – a full percentage point higher than it was last November. The Producer Price Index climbed by 1.6% last month, the biggest monthly leap since June 2009; this puts annualized PPI at 5.6%. However, core CPI and core PPI did not advance so dramatically. In fact, core CPI and core PPI were both just +0.2% in February.

    LEADING INDICATOR INDEX ADVANCES
    The Conference Board index of leading indicators improved by 0.8% for February, which was below the 1.0% advance forecast by economists polled by Reuters but much better than the 0.1% gain for the previous month. The Conference Board’s report called the recent jump in food and energy …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Mar. 14, 2011

    Monday, March 14th, 2011

    BEST RETAIL SALES NUMBERS IN 4 MONTHS
    The Census Bureau says that retail sales climbed 1.0% in February. That matched the median forecast of economists polled by Bloomberg News. Department store sales improved by 1.0% last month and restaurant sales improved by 1.2% (the best monthly gain in that category in a year). Auto sales saw a 2.3% gain in February. Overall U.S. retail sales were up 8.9% from a year before.

    LOWEST CONSUMER SENTIMENT IN 5 MONTHS
    Sometimes economic releases seem completely contradictory. While retail sales have improved, consumer sentiment has dipped – at least according to the University of Michigan’s initial March survey, which came in at 68.2, way below the final February mark of 77.5. Soaring gas prices would seem to be a factor. The index had been making progress back toward its 2002-2007 average reading of 89.

    ROUGH GOING FOR OIL & GOLD FUTURES
    Last week’s run from risk sent the …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 7, 2011

    Monday, March 7th, 2011

    JOBS REPORT (NEARLY) LIVES UP TO EXPECTATIONS
    Wall Street had high hopes for the February unemployment report. Would it show that more than 200,000 new jobs had been created? Well, it came close – the data revealed 192,000 net new jobs, the best increase in nearly a year. The jobless rate ticked down to 8.9% last month, and the number of underemployed Americans (those either without work or working part-time) dropped to 15.9% from 16.1% in January. On the downside, the Labor Department data showed that just 64.2% of the working-age population was either employed or seeking employment last month. You have to go back to 1985 to find a labor force participation rate that low.

    WAGES UP 1.0% IN JANUARY
    The payroll tax holiday promoted a dramatic increase in personal incomes last month. Additionally, the Commerce Department said that the personal savings rate improved by 0.4% in January to 5.8%. Yet personal spending …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Feb. 28th, 2011

    Monday, February 28th, 2011

    STRIKING IMPROVEMENT IN CONSUMER SENTIMENT
    Consumer sentiment is really rebounding – at least by the measure of the country’s two most respected polls. The final February Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey came in at 77.5, leaping north from January’s 74.2 mark to the highest reading in 37 months. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index climbed all the way to 70.4 this month (it was at 64.8 in January) and its gauge of future expectations hit its most optimistic level since December 2006.

    REAL ESTATE MARKET WEATHERS CHILLY JANUARY

    According to the Census Bureau, new home sales slipped 12.6% last month. Yet the National Association of Realtors reported that residential resales improved by 2.7% in January, the fifth increase in the past six months. Existing homes have apparently become a bit less expensive: the December Case-Shiller home price index came out last week and showed prices slipping 1.0% from November across 20 metro …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Feb. 21, 2011

    Monday, February 21st, 2011

    INFLATION UP 0.4% FOR SECOND STRAIGHT MONTH
    The federal government’s Consumer Price Index hasn’t seen back-to-back increases of this magnitude since June-July 2008. As overall CPI rose 0.4% in January, core CPI rose 0.2% – the biggest increase in that indicator in 15 months. In addition, the Labor Department’s Producer Price Index climbed 0.8% for January.

    CONFERENCE BOARD LEI TICKS UP 0.1%
    January brought a tiny increase in the Conference Board’s Leading Indicator Index. New manufacturing orders, consumer expectations and low interest rates were the indicators pushing the index into positive territory.

    RETAIL SALES, INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT DISAPPOINT
    Blame the weather, not the shopper: the Commerce Department said retail sales were up 0.3% for January, underneath the 0.5% gain forecast by economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. On the upside, retail sales posted their seventh straight monthly gain. The weather also may have been a factor in the 0.1% retreat in U.S. industrial production last month. The Federal …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Feb. 14, 2011

    Monday, February 14th, 2011

    AN END IN SIGHT FOR FANNIE & FREDDIE
    Friday, the Obama administration presented a plan to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by 2018, with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner citing “very broad consensus” that the government should play “a much smaller role” in the housing market. So what will replace them? The plan puts three options before Congress. In one option, the government would leave the mortgage market save for the VHA, FHA and other existing agencies. Two other options would set up “re-insurance” programs. A limited version would guarantee private mortgages only in economic or real estate downturns; another would provide a backstop for mortgage investments already guaranteed by private insurers. All three options would pave the way for higher mortgage costs. The Treasury and HUD have also suggested phasing in a short-term requirement for borrowers as Fannie and Freddie are unwound: homebuyers would have to put 10% down for …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Feb. 7, 2011

    Monday, February 7th, 2011

    A JOBS REPORT MUCH LIKE THE LAST ONE
    Unemployment fell dramatically in January: the Labor Department reported a second straight .4% monthly drop, resulting in the largest two-month reduction of the jobless rate since 1958. While the decrease puts unemployment at 9.0% (the lowest figure since April 2009), just 36,000 net new jobs were created. The implication: due to the weather or discouragement, many job seekers didn’t look for work. “The thumbprints of the weather were all over this report,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Neil Dutta told the Associated Press. “We know the job market is recovering.”

    CONSUMER SPENDING IMPROVES 0.7% IN DECEMBER
    This beat the 0.5% gain forecast by economists polled by Reuters – and it was the sixth straight positive month for the indicator. The Commerce Department also noted that personal wages increased 0.4% in December. The core Personal Consumption Expenditures price index (PCE) was flat for the month; in 2010, …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Jan. 31st, 2011

    Monday, January 31st, 2011

    4Q GDP: +3.2%
    The preliminary estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis certainly beats the +2.6% mark from 3Q 2010. A deeper look into the BEA report reveals both personal consumption and nonresidential fixed investment improving by a healthy 4.4% last quarter; inventory accumulation slowed as well.

    HUGE JUMP IN NEW HOME SALES
    The pace of new home sales improved by 17.5% last month, according to the Census Bureau. In year-over-year terms, sales were down 7.6% while sale prices were 9.1% better. For the record, fewer new homes were built in 2010 than in any year since the government started keeping records in 1963. In other housing news, the National Association of Realtors reported that pending home sales were up for the fifth time in the last six months in December (+2.0%), and Freddie Mac reported that the average interest rate on a 30-year conventional mortgage has risen to 4.80%.

    DISSIMILAR FINDINGS FROM CONFIDENCE POLLS
    While …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Jan. 24, 2010

    Monday, January 24th, 2011

    TIME FOR OPTIMISM IN THE HOUSING MARKET?
    Existing home sales have improved in five of the past six months. In December, they rose 12.3%. While December’s sales pace was still 2.9% below year-ago levels, the National Association of Realtors also noted that the glut of unsold homes had been reduced to 8.1 months of supply compared to 9.5 months’ worth in November. The median existing home sale price fell 1.0% last month to $168,800.

    LEI INDEX SHOWS MORE IMPROVMENT
    The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Indicators index rose 1.0% in December. Pair that with its 1.1% ascent in November and you have the two best months since it rose 1.4% in March. The building permits indicator showed the most improvement.

    HOUSING STARTS DOWN, PERMITS WAY UP
    Government data seems to affirm one of the findings of the Conference Board index. The Census Bureau just reported a 16.7% increase in building permits in December (the best month in that …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Jan. 17, 2011

    Monday, January 17th, 2011

    CONSUMER & PRODUCER PRICES RISE
    The U.S. inflation rate hit an 18-month peak in December: the federal government’s Consumer Price Index advanced 0.5%. Pump prices were a big factor in that gain: gasoline grew 8.5% more expensive last month. However, core CPI (minus food and energy prices) only rose 0.1% for the month, and consumers experienced just 1.5% inflation across 2010. The Producer Price Index went 1.1% higher in December, and energy costs were responsible for most of the gain. Core PPI (again, minus food and energy prices) was just +0.2% for December. Wholesale prices rose 4.0% in 2010.

    ENCOURAGING RETAIL SALES FIGURES RELEASED
    The Commerce Department announced a 0.6% gain in retail sales for December. While this was smaller than the 0.8% advance forecast by economists polled by MarketWatch, the increase wrapped up a positive year for the indicator. Retail sales have now improved for sixth months in a row, and 2010 was …

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    Bill’s Weekly Economic Update for Jan. 10, 2011

    Monday, January 10th, 2011

    HOW DO WE INTERPRET THIS JOBS REPORT?
    America’s unemployment rate fell four-tenths of a point in December to 9.4%. On the surface, that sounds great – after all, that is the biggest one-month drop in the jobless rate in 12 years. Beneath the surface, it wasn’t so great. Labor Department figures show that 453,000 people dropped off the unemployment rolls last month, yet only 103,000 people found new non-farm jobs. So perhaps the dip in the jobless rate mostly reflects job seekers giving up the hunt. In contrast to federal data, ADP’s new payrolls report indicates 297,000 new private sector jobs for December.

    ISM FINDS CONTINUING EXPANSION
    The Institute for Supply Management’s twin purchasing manager index surveys came out last week. Its manufacturing PMI came in at 57.0 for December, while its service sector PMI came in at 57.1. New orders were up 5.3% in the service sector survey with business activity/production increasing …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Jan 3. 2011

    Monday, January 3rd, 2011

    MAJOR INDICES POST DOUBLE-DIGIT GAINS IN 2010
    For the second year in a row, bulls ruled Wall Street. When the closing bell sounded on December 31, the S&P 500 was at 1,257.64, having gained 12.78% for 2010. The Dow finished 2010 at 11,577.51, representing an 11.02% year-over-year advance. The NASDAQ wrapped up 2010 at 2,652.87, posting a 16.91% yearly gain. The Russell 2000 also had a terrific year, finishing +25.31% after going +7.79% for December.

    FEWER INITIAL CLAIMS … AND LESS CONFIDENCE?
    While the University of Michigan’s final December consumer sentiment survey showed consumer confidence at a 6-month peak, the Conference Board’s December poll declined to a 52.5 reading. Perhaps as RBS Securities Inc. economist Omair Sharif noted at Bloomberg.com, “we should watch what consumers do and not what they say.” Here’s a development that might improve consumer sentiment: weekly jobless claims dropped to a 2-year low in the week that ended Christmas Day. The …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Dec. 27th, 2010

    Monday, December 27th, 2010

    SPENDING & WAGES UP, SAVINGS RATE TICKS DOWN
    Last week, the Commerce Department reported a 0.4% gain in personal spending and a 0.3% gain in personal incomes for November. The personal savings rate edged down 0.1% to 5.3% last month. In combination, those numbers hint at the possibility of stronger retail sales this holiday season – although durable goods orders fell 1.3% for November, much more than the 0.5% dip forecast by economists polled by Bloomberg News.

    NEW & EXISTING HOME SALES IMPROVE
    Existing home sales were up by 5.6% in November, according to the National Association of Realtors. One reason why: the median home price was $170,600 last month. Still, 2010 is on pace to be the poorest year for residential resales since 1997. At the current pace, 9.5 months worth of unsold inventory remains on the market. The Census Bureau reported a 5.5% improvement in new home purchases for November, with the sales …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Dec. 20th, 2010

    Monday, December 20th, 2010

    OBAMA SIGNS TAX DEAL INTO LAW
    President Obama signed the 2010 Tax Relief Act into law on December 17 after overwhelming passage in the House and Senate. The Bush-era tax cuts are thereby extended. Through 2012, the federal income tax tops out at 35% and taxes on dividends and capital gains top out at 15%. Next year, the estate tax returns at 35% with a $5 million dollar exemption, effectively permitting couples to pass estates as large as $10 million to heirs; tax-free charitable IRA donations also come back in 2011. Employee payroll taxes will drop from 6.2% to 4.2% next year.

    A POSITIVE SIGNAL FOR THE FUTURE
    The Conference Board’s leading economic indicators index (designed to be a gauge of economic momentum or lack thereof) jumped by 1.1% in November – the biggest gain in eight months. This follows a revised 0.4% advance in the index for October.

    PRODUCER PRICES OUTPACE CONSUMER PRICES
    Consumer prices inched up 0.1% in November according to the Labor Department’s Consumer …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Dec. 13th, 2010

    Monday, December 13th, 2010

    CAPITOL HILL COMPROMISE MEETS FLAK
    House Democrats chanted “just say no” prior to a symbolic vote Thursday against the tax deal worked out between the White House and Republicans – a deal some Democrats see as a sellout. The accord would preserve the Bush-era income tax cuts for two more years, restore the estate tax at 35% with a $5 million exemption, cut payroll taxes by 2% for 2011 and extend unemployment insurance through the end of next year. Late last week, an addition was made to the agreement – an extension of incentives for wind and solar energy developers through the end of 2011.

    OIL & GOLD FALL … GASOLINE PRICES RISE
    Gold lost $21.10 last week to close at $1,384.30 per ounce Friday on the COMEX, while oil lost $1.40 across five days to conclude the week at $87.79 a barrel on the NYMEX. Retail gasoline prices just climbed to levels unseen since …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Report for Dec. 6, 2010

    Monday, December 6th, 2010

    JOBLESS RATE INCREASES BY 0.2%
    Unemployment hit 9.8% last month. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report said the economy only created 39,000 new jobs in November; economists expected three times that. After all, ADP reported 93,000 new positions in the private sector last Wednesday, and the revised government estimate for October showed the economy adding 172,000 jobs in that month. Labor Department figures indicate that the unemployed and underemployed now make up around 17% of the population.

    SECOND POLL GAUGES CONFIDENCE AT 5-MONTH HIGH
    The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose to 54.1 for November, reaching a peak unseen since June (which is exactly what happened last week with the University of Michigan’s consumer poll). Sub-indices measuring employment expectations and income expectations also improved.

    SOME GOOD NEWS FROM THE REAL ESTATE SECTOR
    Pending home sales increased by 10.4% in October, according to the National Association of Realtors. This would seem to suggest …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Nov. 29th, 2010

    Monday, November 29th, 2010

    CONSUMERS SPEND, BUT FED REVISES ITS FORECAST
    The latest Commerce Department data shows consumer spending at +0.4% for October and +2.8% for 3Q 2010. Personal incomes rose by 0.5% last month, and the federal government revised its 3Q economic growth estimate north to +2.5%. Still, the FOMC minutes from November 3 weren’t encouraging: the Federal Reserve thinks unemployment could stay above 9% in 2011, and it feels inflation could remain below 2% until 2013. The Fed’s GDP forecast for 2010 was revised down to the range of 2.4-2.5%, which is hardly what is needed to reduce joblessness.

    DEMAND LAGS IN HOUSING MARKET
    Will that demand increase by next spring? Hopefully. Existing home sales were down 2.2% in October according to the National Association of Realtors. The Census Bureau said new home sales slipped by 8.1% last month, with the average price of a new home falling by a shocking 14.0%. Only 23,000 …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Nov. 22, 2010

    Monday, November 22nd, 2010

    NO RISE IN CORE CPI OR CORE PPI IN OCTOBER

    Last month, the Consumer Price Index rose 0.2% with core CPI flat for the third month in a row. Core CPI has advanced at a crawl in the past 12 months: just 0.6% compared to a Federal Reserve annualized target of 2.0%. Producer prices rose 0.4% last month, duplicating their August and September increase. Yet core producer prices fell 0.6%.

    HOUSING STARTS SLIP, MORTGAGE RATES JUMP

    The Commerce Department announced an 11.7% slump in new residential construction starts for the month of October, and a 1.9% slip from year-ago levels. A drop in apartment and condo construction accounted for most of the October decline. Last week, Freddie Mac said that the average rate on a 30-year conventional home loan had jumped to 4.39% from 4.17% a week prior. The average rate for …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Nov. 15th, 2010

    Monday, November 15th, 2010

    A BIT OF OPTIMISM AMONG CONSUMERS
    The initial November Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey was released Friday. The index rose to 69.3, surpassing the 69.0 forecast by economists polled by Reuters. (Last month’s final reading was 67.7.) On average, respondents expected inflation of 3.0% across the next 12 months, compared to 2.7% in last month’s survey. Will this public perception give retailers a signal to subtly raise prices?

    WILD WEEK FOR GOLD & OIL
    Oil futures hit a 25-month peak last week, and then fell $2.93 on Friday (and $1.97 on the week) to a Friday close of $84.88 per barrel on the NYMEX. Oil lost 2.27% last week for its worst week since mid-September. After cracking the $1,400 ceiling last week, gold fell $37.70 on Friday; it was down 2.28% on the week and settled at $1,365.40 per ounce Friday on the Comex.

    WHITE HOUSE EYES SAVINGS; USPS CALLS FOR HELP
    A White House deficit commission has proposed $200 billion in spending cuts by …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Nov. 8, 2010

    Monday, November 8th, 2010

    FIRST NET JOB GAIN SINCE MAY
    Economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires thought non-farm payrolls would increase by about 60,000 for October. In a pleasant surprise, the economy added 151,000 jobs instead. While the jobless rate remained at 9.6% for October, Labor Department data showed the economy adding jobs for the first time in five months – a development implying moderate growth instead of a “double dip” recession.

    TWO MORE SIGNALS OF EXPANSION
    The Institute for Supply Management released its October assessments of the manufacturing and service sectors last week, and both ISM indices showed improvement. The manufacturing index climbed to 56.9 from 54.4 and the service sector index improved to 54.3 from September’s 53.2 reading.

    CONSUMERS SPEND A BIT MORE
    September’s personal spending gain wasn’t that impressive – just 0.2%. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast a 0.4% increase in for the month. The Commerce Department data also showed a 0.1% decrease in personal income, the first such reduction since July 2009.

    PENDING …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Nov. 1, 2010

    Monday, November 1st, 2010

    WALL STREET AWAITS QE2, CONSIDERS 3Q GDP
    Yes, QE2 – that is the media nickname for the expected second round of quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve, a move which could boost long-term bond prices and lower long-term interest rates. Will the Fed buy more than $500 billion in Treasuries? Or less? The Wall Street Journal says the purchases will amount to “a few hundred billion dollars over several months.” The Fed will reveal its plans on Wednesday at the end of its November policy meeting. Meanwhile, the initial third quarter GDP reading is in: +2.0%. The good news: consumer spending in 3Q 2010 was the strongest in four years. The bad news: a 2.0% gain in GDP isn’t strong enough to reduce unemployment.

    HOME SALES PICK UP
    Existing home sales improved 10.0% in September – the biggest one-month leap since the National Association of Realtors began keeping track of monthly sales volume. The median price was still 2.4% below year-ago levels. New home sales rose …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for October 25, 1010

    Monday, October 25th, 2010

    FED & CONFERENCE BOARD SEE MODEST GROWTH
    The Federal Reserve’s latest Beige Book came out last week, and 8 of the 12 regional Fed banks reported economic expansion in the anecdotal survey covering September and early October. The survey found that while hiring demand “remained limited”, gains in manufacturing and retail spending were occurring in most regions. The Conference Board’s September Leading Indicators Index offered a slightly less encouraging picture – the gauge advanced for a third consecutive month, rising 0.3%, but just 5 of the 10 components of the index posted gains.

    HOUSING STARTS RISE SLIGHTLY
    A nice surprise: Commerce Department data showed a 0.3% advance in housing starts for September. Analysts were not expecting a third straight monthly increase. Is it a sign of stability in the real estate market? Economists hope so, though the pace of housing starts is still very weak in historical terms.

    INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT DISAPPOINTS
    It had been a year since the Federal Reserve announced a monthly decline in …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Oct. 18, 2010

    Monday, October 18th, 2010

    CPI UP JUST 0.1%, PPI ADVANCES 0.4%
    In September, consumer prices barely increased – in fact, the core Consumer Price Index was flat for the second month in a row. According to the Labor Department, core CPI has risen only 0.8% in the last 12 months – core inflation hasn’t been so tame since 1961. With the economy so sluggish, retailers clearly need to keep their prices low to see if they can promote any demand. Producer prices increased for the third straight month, with the core PPI rising 0.1% for September. The core PPI is up 1.6% over the past 12 months, and the overall PPI has advanced 4.0% in that period.

    CONSUMER SENTIMENT SLIPS A BIT
    October’s preliminary University of Michigan/Reuters consumer sentiment index is in, and it shows a mild decline. Analysts weren’t expecting the index to move south, but it went to 67.9 from the final 68.2 September reading.

    RETAIL SALES UP BY 0.6% FOR SEPTEMBER
    On Friday, the Commerce Department reported the second …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Report for Oct. 11, 2010

    Monday, October 11th, 2010

    JOBS REPORT COULD PROMPT FED RESPONSE
    The U.S. economy shed 95,000 non-farming jobs in September – mostly government jobs, according to the Labor Department. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch thought payrolls would shrink by only 8,000 last month. The unemployment rate held steady at 9.6% as the private sector added 64,000 positions. On Friday, stocks posted gains after the news – economists and investors alike felt the report would spur the Federal Reserve toward further quantitative easing.

    PENDING HOME SALES UP 4.3% FOR AUGUST
    The National Association of Realtors reported the second straight monthly advance in this indicator. August pending home sales were still 20.1% below year-ago levels.

    SERVICE SECTOR GROWTH RATE INCREASES
    The Institute for Supply Management’s service sector index rose for a ninth straight month, going from 51.8 in August to 53.2 in September. The employment sub-index moved north 2.0 points to 50.2, indicating hiring had increased.

    TWO BIG BANKS HALT FORECLOSURES
    Responding to allegations that it may have seized homes using shortcuts and defective documents, Bank …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Oct. 4, 2010

    Monday, October 4th, 2010

    CONSUMER SPENDING UP 0.4%
    August personal spending beat the 0.3% gain forecast by economists polled by Bloomberg News. Personal income was up 0.5% for August, the biggest monthly gain of 2010. The “core” PCE price index (minus food and energy prices) rose just 0.1% in August, a signal of tame inflation. The personal savings rate ticked up to 5.8% from 5.7%.

    MIXED RESULTS FROM CONSUMER POLLS
    Early last week, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index slumped to 48.2 for September, more than five points below forecasts. Yet a fresh Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey surprised analysts Friday – that barometer came in at 68.2, above the consensus of 67.0 forecast by Bloomberg and improved from the previous 66.6 reading.

    ISM: MANUFACTURING GROWS MODESTLY
    The Institute for Supply Management released its September manufacturing index on Friday. The September reading – 54.4 – indicated further growth, but also the slowest pace of expansion in 10 months.

    SURPRISE INCREASE IN CONSTRUCTION SPENDING
    Analysts surveyed by Reuters felt …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update For September 27, 2010

    Monday, September 27th, 2010

    EXISTING HOME SALES IMPROVE
    The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales rose 7.6% in August, a rebound from July’s record low. Separately, the Commerce Department said new home sales were flat in August (and 28.9% below year-ago levels). The inventory of unsold new homes decreased 1.4% last month to 206,000 – the smallest number since August 1968.

    MARKET SEES UPSIDE IN DURABLE GOODS DATA
    Overall durable goods orders declined 1.3% in August, but that was better than the 1.4% drop forecast by economists polled by Briefing.com. Minus transportation orders, durable goods orders were up 2.0% last month, far better than the 0.5% rise analysts expected. That news helped fuel a 198-point DJIA rally on Friday.

    ECONOMISTS SAY RECESSION DONE; BUFFETT SAYS NO
    The National Bureau of Economic Research now says the “Great Recession” ended in June 2009. But Warren Buffett disagrees. Last week, the “oracle of Omaha” told CNBC: “I think we’re in a recession until real per capita GDP gets back …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 20, 2010

    Monday, September 20th, 2010

    CPI, PPI RISE MODESTLY
    According to the Labor Department, the Consumer Price Index rose 0.3% in August while the Producer Price Index advanced 0.4%. You can chalk up the increase to energy prices, especially summer gasoline prices: consumer energy costs rose 2.3% last month, and energy costs for producers went up 2.2%. Yet core CPI was flat in August, while core PPI increased just 0.1%. Over the last 12 months of data, core CPI and core PPI have respectively risen 0.9% and 1.3%.

    CONSUMER SENTIMENT SINKS TO 13-MONTH LOW
    The final Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey for September read 66.6, the lowest figure since August 2009 and way below the 70.0 forecast by economists polled by MarketWatch. The drop likely reflects consumer reaction to stock market and unemployment data earlier in the month.

    SMALL BUSINESS JOBS BILL CLEARS SENATE
    Last Wednesday, the Senate voted 61-38 in favor of a measure that would create a $30 billion fund to encourage small business loans …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 13, 2010

    Monday, September 13th, 2010

    OBAMA PROPOSES NEW TAX CREDITS
    Last week, President Obama recommended three new tax measures to Congress and the American people – an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans, an immediate deduction for any capital investment that companies make during 2010 or 2011, and a permanent and expanded R&D credit for businesses. In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called it “a last-minute, cobbled-together stimulus bill” that would not improve a “complete lack of confidence” on Main Street in Democratic Party economic policy.

    TRADE DEFICIT SHRINKS 14%
    A report from the Commerce Department says that America’s trade deficit narrowed to $42.8 billion in July, $7 billion less than the June figure. This is a good sign for 3Q growth. It was the biggest month-over-month reduction since February 2009. The report also noted a 1.8% jump in exports, the best monthly gain seen in that category since August 2008.

    WHOLESALE INVENTORIES GROW
    Surpassing forecasts, wholesale stockpiles increased by 1.3% in …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for September 6, 2010

    Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

    JOBLESS RATE RISES, AND SO DO STOCKS
    Friday, the Labor Department reported 9.6% unemployment in August. While that was no improvement from July’s 9.5% mark, there was some good news within the report – news that helped the Dow to a triple-digit Friday gain. First of all, the private sector hired 67,000 new workers – more than the 41,000 analysts expected. Economists polled by Briefing.com feared the report would show a net loss of 107,000 jobs; instead, that net reduction was just 54,000. Job losses for June and July were also revised downward by the Labor Department.

    CONSUMER SPENDING UP 0.4%
    Personal spending had been flat in June, so investors welcomed the change of pace in July. Personal income rose 0.2% in July, with private sector salaries and wages up 0.5%. The personal savings rate declined to 5.9% from June’s 6.2% mark, implying that more after-tax income had been spent.

    ISM INDICES SIGNAL EXPANSION
    The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing sector index went to 56.3 in …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update For August 30, 2010

    Monday, August 30th, 2010

    BERNANKE REASSURES WALL STREET
    At the annual Federal Reserve summer retreat at Jackson Hole, WY on Friday, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said that the central bank “is prepared to provide additional monetary accommodation through unconventional measures if it proves necessary, especially if the outlook were to deteriorate significantly.” Translation: we are ready to do what it takes to support the economy. Bernanke stated that the Fed still had plenty of tools to fight deflation, with buying more Treasuries a prime option. He did not mention buying private assets. The Dow rallied for a gain of 164.84 Friday.

    BREATHTAKING DROP IN HOME SALES
    In July, demand in the housing market is usually at its highest. So the July housing numbers were confounding even with the absence of taxpayer credits: new home sales down 12.4% from June, existing home sales down 27.2% from June. In year-over-year terms, the rate of new home purchases was 32.4% below July 2009 while sale prices were -4.8% from last year’s median. …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 23, 2010

    Monday, August 23rd, 2010

    A JUMP IN HOUSING STARTS
    In a relatively light week of economic data, one of the notable items was a 1.7% rise in new home construction in July. Economists had expected only a 0.2% increase in that category. However, the Commerce Department said most of the gain came in multi-family housing. In contrast, single-family housing starts were down 4.2% for the month, with building permits down 3.1%.

    GM WILL GO PUBLIC
    General Motors has announced it will reenter the stock market. Last Wednesday, it filed an IPO registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission. One of the largest IPOs in history may come as soon as October, including common and preferred shares. This signals the end of “Government Motors”: the Treasury Department will now have the opportunity to reduce its 61% stake in the company. GM earned $1.3 billion in 2Q 2010 – its second straight quarter in the black.

    LEADING INDICATORS TURN POSITIVE AGAIN
    After a 0.3% slip in June and a 0.5% drop in …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 16, 2010

    Monday, August 16th, 2010

    GOOD NEWS: INFLATION IS BACK
    The Consumer Price Index rose 0.3% for July – the largest monthly increase since August. The Labor Department’s report quelled deflation worries among economists and investors who feared the CPI would go negative for a fourth straight month. Energy prices rose 2.6% in July, while core CPI (minus food and energy prices) went up 0.1%. Across the last 12 months of data, core CPI has increased 0.9% and overall CPI has advanced 1.2% – the mildest inflation in 44 years.

    RETAIL SALES IMPROVE
    The Commerce Department estimated a 0.4% gain in retail sales for July – a nice turnaround after two months in the minus column. (A 1.6% rise in motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts purchases certainly helped.)

    A SLIGHT RISE IN CONSUMER SENTIMENT
    The middle of the month brings the latest University of Michigan/Reuters consumer sentiment survey. The preliminary August edition came in at 69.6, slightly better than the 69.0 consensus forecast of economists polled by Bloomberg News.

    FED WILL …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 9, 2010

    Monday, August 9th, 2010

    UNEMPLOYMENT REMAINS AT 9.5%
    The American economy added 71,000 jobs in July but lost 202,000 others (143,000 of those positions were short-term Census Bureau hires). The private sector added 630,000 jobs during the first seven months of 2010; that 90,000 per month is far short of the 150,000 per month that would be commensurate with population growth. The bright spot: economists had presumed the jobless rate would edge up to 9.6% in July.

    ISM: MANUFACTURING & SERVICE SECTOR GROWING
    The Institute for Supply Management’s service sector index rose to 54.3 for July, a nice surprise (economists polled by Bloomberg had forecast a dip to 53.0). The new orders and employment components of the service sector index both showed growth. ISM’s manufacturing index came in at 55.5 for July, beating a Briefing.com consensus forecast of 54.2. (However, the Commerce Department noted that factory orders declined by 1.2% in July following a 1.0% fall in June.)

    SAVING OUTPACES SPENDING
    Personal spending and personal incomes were both flat last month according …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for August 2, 2010

    Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

    HOME SALES & HOME PRICES IMPROVE
    The Commerce Department said new home purchases surged by 23.6% for June, bouncing back nicely from May’s historic retreat. The supply of new homes for sale diminished to 7.6 months worth, much improved from the 9.6 months worth of inventory estimated in May and much closer to the 6-month level of a healthy housing market. New home prices dropped only 0.6% from June 2009 to June 2010, the smallest year-over-year decrease since November 1987. Separately, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index of 20 U.S. cities showed prices of existing homes rising 1.3% for May. Prices were also 4.6% higher than a year ago.

    CONSUMER CONFIDENCE LAGS
    The economic recovery is taking time – too much time for many Americans, according to the final July University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey and the July Conference Board poll. The Reuters/University of Michigan index came in at 67.8, way down from the final 76.0 of June. That is the lowest reading since November. …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 26, 2010

    Monday, July 26th, 2010

    Existing home sales fall … and mortgage rates fall further
    The June existing home sales figures from the National Association of Realtors show a 5.1% drop from May, an effect from the closing of the deadline for federal homebuying credits. On the positive side, NAR reports that sales are up 9.8% from a year ago. Interest rates on conventional home loans hit a record low of 4.56% in Freddie Mac’s July 21 survey; average rates on 15-year FRMs also fell to a two-decade low of 4.03%.

    Long-term jobless benefits extended
    President Obama extended emergency unemployment benefits for about three million Americans Thursday, not long after the measure made it past strong opposition in the Senate. The program had ended in June; Obama’s signature extends it for six more months.

    FDIC insurance permanently bumped up to $250,000
    This is a byproduct of the financial reform bill. The current $250,000 FDIC insurance limit for banks and credit unions was set to expire in 2013. Incidentally, the $250,000 ceiling …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 19, 2010

    Monday, July 19th, 2010

    Consumer prices decrease a bit; consumer sentiment drops notably
    In June, the Consumer Price Index fell for the third month in a row, heading south 0.1%. Analysts thought the June reading would be flat. The Labor Department noted that core CPI did rise 0.2% last month, largely due to rent costs increasing. The last time CPI went negative for three straight months was October-December 2008. Separately, the preliminary July Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index came in at 66.5 compared to 76.0 in June – analysts expected a number in the mid-seventies.

    Dodd-Frank bill off to Obama’s desk
    The Senate passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act Thursday by a 60-39 vote, with President Obama’s signature expected next week. The legislation is intended to protect consumers in the financial arena and prevent a repeat of TARP. Detractors think it gives too much power to regulators and might even open the door for further bailouts. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-OH) called it “killing …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 12, 2010

    Monday, July 12th, 2010

    Service sector grows; pace of expansion moderates
    Last week, the Institute for Supply Management reported its June non-manufacturing index at 53.8. The index had come in at 55.4 in March, April and May. So we are still seeing growth in the service sector, just at a slightly slower rate. Economists polled by MarketWatch were expecting a 54.5 reading. The 53.8 is the lowest mark since February, but the index has been above 50 (indicating growth) all year.

    Continuing unemployment claims reach a 9-month low
    Thursday, the Labor Department announced that 4.41 million people were receiving jobless benefits after an initial week of aid during the week of June 26. That is the lowest such figure since November.

    Sales up 3.1% over last year at major retailers
    That’s what a Thomson Reuters survey of 28 big mall chains just found – June retail purchases at these shops were 3.1% better than in June 2009. The most notable year-over-year gain among the 28 store brands? Nordstrom’s, where sales were up …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for July 5, 2010

    Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

    Jobless rate drops to 9.5%
    The Labor Department said 83,000 new jobs were created in the private sector in June, yet non-farm payrolls shrank by 125,000 positions (an effect of temporary U.S. Census workers being laid off). Still, the 0.2% drop in unemployment was considerably better than the 0.1% increase anticipated on Wall Street.

    Gains in personal spending, personal income & personal savings
    Consumer spending rose by 0.2% as incomes climbed 0.4% in May, the Commerce Department stated last week. The personal savings rate reached 4.0% in May, a high unseen since September 2009. So consumers are aiding the recovery, albeit cautiously.

    $8K homebuyer tax credit is back
    The real estate market got some relief Friday morning as President Obama signed an extension of the federal homebuyer tax credit ($8,000 for first-time home purchasers and $6,500 for existing homeowners who move). The credit is now extended until September 30.

    Cheapest fixed-rate mortgages in decades
    Right now, conventional home loans are almost as cheap as they were in the 1950s. …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 28, 2010

    Monday, June 28th, 2010

    Highest consumer confidence since January 2008
    That is what the final University of Michigan/Reuters survey for June reveals. The index came in at 76.0, an improvement from the final 73.6 reading for May. (For the record, the survey has averaged 84.5 across the past ten years.) The poll’s index of consumer expectations (the “better or worse six months from now?” question) improved 1.0 points to 69.8.

    Home sales swoon in May
    New and existing home sales plunged dramatically last month as federal homebuying credits left the picture. Economists expected new home sales numbers would dip, but the 32.7% decline announced by the Commerce Department surprised Wall Street and the real estate industry. The National Association of Realtors stated that existing home sales were down 2.2% last month.

    Durable goods orders fall, but corporate profits revised north
    The Commerce Department noted an overall 1.1% decline in durable goods orders for May; minus transportation orders, there was actually a 0.9% gain in the category. It put 1Q GDP slightly lower …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 21, 2010

    Monday, June 21st, 2010

    Minor deflation takes pressure off the Fed. The Consumer Price Index retreated 0.2% for May, following a 0.1% decline in April. Energy prices fell 2.9% last month, leading the CPI downward. (Core CPI did advance 0.1% in May.) Across the last 12 months, the CPI has risen 2.0%, with core CPI up 0.9% – the smallest annual gains since 1966. While May’s wholesale prices were 5.3% above levels of a year ago, the Labor Department said that PPI fell 0.3% on the month, which was less than the 0.5% reduction forecast by economists polled by Reuters. Translation: the Federal Reserve has no compulsion to raise interest rates.

    Will gold hit $1,300 this summer? The precious metal got a little closer to that psychologically significant benchmark on Friday. Gold settled at a new record close – $1,258.30 an ounce. Since the end of 2009, gold prices have gained almost 15%.

    As tax credits expire, housing starts decelerate. In real estate, the year-over-year numbers often …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 14, 2010

    Monday, June 14th, 2010

    Retail sales down 1.2% in May. What happened? Perhaps consumers took a break after spending notably in March and April. Auto sales slipped 1.7%; hardware store sales fell 9.3%, possibly influenced by the expiration of homebuyer tax credits.

    Consumer sentiment rises. Consumers may have bought less recently, but according to the University of Michigan/Reuters consumer sentiment poll, their confidence has increased. June’s preliminary reading was 75.5 – a rise from the final 73.6 May mark. The barometer of current economic conditions reached 82.9; it hasn’t been this high since March 2008.

    Wholesale, business inventories increase. The Commerce Department reported 0.4% gains in both categories for April. Business inventories hit their highest level since last June; wholesale inventories were up for a fourth consecutive month.

    Gold touches $1,250 level. The precious metal hit a new intraday peak last week ($1,254.50) and settled at $1,230.20 per ounce Friday. Gold gained 1.03% last week, and other metals did better: silver futures rose 5.39% and palladium futures were up …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for June 7, 2010

    Monday, June 7th, 2010

    Jobless rate ticks down 0.2%. The news didn’t impress Wall Street: while May’s unemployment rate fell to 9.7% and the economy added 431,000 jobs, 390,000 of them represented temporary U.S. Census Bureau hires. Still, the number was better than the 9.8% reading economists expected.

    ISM: continuing expansion in key sectors. For the tenth straight month, the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index showed growth, though May’s 59.7 reading came under April’s 60.4 mark. The Institute’s non-manufacturing index read 55.4 again for May; it has shown the service sector expanding for the last five months.

    April sees rise in pending home sales. Spurred by the federal tax credit deadline, more buyers rushed to sign contracts. The National Association of Realtors reported its pending home sales index at 110.9 for April, a 6.0% gain from March and the highest reading since October.

    Factory orders up 1.2%. The April increase reported by the Commerce Department was actually below the 1.8% gain forecast in a Reuters poll of economists; …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 31, 2010

    Monday, May 31st, 2010

    Personal spending flat for April. However, wages rose 0.4% and disposable personal incomes went up 0.5% (the biggest increase in almost a year). April was the first month since September in which consumer spending didn’t increase.

    Home sales rise. Federal tax credits expired in April, and these numbers reflect it: the Commerce Department said new home sales were up 14.8% for the month (they were also 47.8% above April 2009 levels). The National Association of Realtors noted a 7.6% gain in existing home sales in April.

    Sentiment indexes improve. The final University of Michigan/Reuters survey for May hit 73.6, up from a 72.2 reading in late April. The Conference Board’s consumer index hit 63.3, a level unseen since September 2008.

    Durable goods orders rise 2.9%.
    The Commerce Department report showed transportation orders behind the April gain, which topped the 1.3% increase forecast by economists.

    Hopefully, June will be better.
    The poorest month for equities since November 2008 finally ended. The DJIA closed May at 10,136.63. …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update May 24, 2010

    Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

    Attention on Europe (and the Senate). The euro thankfully rose for three straight days last week, after hitting a four-year low after German chancellor Angela Merkel commented that the EU/IMF debt bailout had “done no more than buy time” to fix the crisis. Thursday evening, the Senate passed its version of the financial industry reform bill; the next step is reconciliation with the House version. Stocks were hit hard early in the week, but managed Friday gains; a late rally took the Dow north 125 points.

    Consumer, producer prices retreat.
    This was surprising: the CPI declined 0.1% in April as energy prices fell by 1.4%. The PPI also decreased 0.1%. The Commerce Department reported a 0.9% year-over-year increase in the CPI, well below the Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target of 1.5-2.0%.

    Indicators streak ends.
    The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators slipped 0.1% last month, the first dip since March 2009. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast a 0.2% increase.

    Housing starts rise, permits …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 17, 2010

    Monday, May 17th, 2010

    Gold soars, euro slips, rumors plague EU. Wall Street watched Europe closely last week; investors initially loved the almost-trillion-dollar debt rescue plan from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, but then wondered if its austerity measures would slow growth. The euro hit an 18-month low Friday as rumors floated that certain EU nations might ditch the currency. Gold, meanwhile, settled at $1,227.80 an ounce Friday – prices are up about 16% since early February.

    Retail sales up 0.4% in April. This marks seven consecutive months of gains. Additionally, the Census Bureau said April 2010 retail sales figures were 8.8% improved from April 2009.

    Reuters: a gain in consumer sentiment. In May’s preliminary Reuters/University of Michigan poll, the index read 73.3, better than April’s 72.2. The survey’s one-year inflation expectations index read 3.1%, the highest mark in 11 months.

    Industrial output on the rise. On Friday, the Federal Reserve noted a 0.8% gain in industrial production for April. This follows up a 0.2% advance …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 10, 2010

    Monday, May 10th, 2010

    More jobs, more jobseekers. While U.S. firms added 290,000 jobs in April – the most in 49 months – the unemployment rate climbed to 9.9% last month. That reflected more Americans looking for work. Revised Labor Department figures show the economy adding an average of 143,000 jobs per month so far in 2010.

    Consumer spending leaps 0.6%. Great news: March saw the biggest gain in that category in five months. The Bureau of Economic Analysis also reported a 0.3% gain in wages.

    ISM indices show strength. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index rose to 60.4 in April from 59.6 in March, and its service sector index stayed at 55.4 in April. Both numbers signal growing sectors. Additionally, factory orders increased by 1.3% last month (this category has shown a gain in 11 out of the last 12 months).

    Pending home sales up again. That makes it two months in a row of gains in this category: the National Association of Realtors said the number …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for May 3, 2010

    Monday, May 3rd, 2010

    Good solid growth. On Friday, the Commerce Department estimated 1Q GDP at +3.2%, marking the third positive quarter in a row. What drove the gain? Consumer spending was up 3.6% in the quarter, and business spending on equipment and software increased by 13.4%.

    Year-over-year gain in home prices. That’s what the February S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index revealed. Across 20 cities, prices rose 0.6% from February 2009 levels. This is the first yearly advance recorded by the index since December 2006, though prices were down 0.9% from January.

    The latest consumer barometers. One went north, another south: the final Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for April dipped to 72.2, down from 73.6 in March but above the 71.0 forecast by analysts polled by Bloomberg News. The Conference Board’s April survey rose to 57.9 from March’s 52.3 – this is the best mark since September 2008.

    Gold’s major gain. Across last week, gold prices climbed $27.00 to settle at $1,180.10 per ounce Friday. April was gold’s …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 26, 2010

    Monday, April 26th, 2010

    New home sales up … 26.9%? Yes. The stampede was on in March as buyers raced to qualify for expiring tax credits, leading to the greatest month-over-month jump in new home purchases since 1963. According to the Census Bureau, new home prices averaged $258,600, almost unchanged from 12 months ago.

    Existing home sales also jump. National Association of Realtors data had residential resales up 6.8% for March. In year-over-year terms, sales were 16.1% improved.

    Notable gain in PPI. In March, wholesale inflation increased by 0.7%, above the 0.4% forecast by economists. Labor Department figures showed core PPI (minus energy and food costs) up by 0.1%.

    Durable goods orders down. They slipped by 1.3% last month according to the Commerce Department. The silver lining? With transportation orders taken out, the category was +2.8% in March.

    (Further) indications of improvement.
    The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators went up 1.4% in March, the twelfth straight monthly gain. February’s gain was revised upward to 0.4%.

    8 straight for …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 19, 2010

    Monday, April 19th, 2010

    A little less confidence. The preliminary April Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey came in at 69.5, versus 73.6 at the end of March. Interestingly, the survey’s expectations index slipped to its lowest level in 13 months.

    More minimal inflation. The Consumer Price Index advanced 0.1% in March; with food and energy prices factored out, core CPI was flat. Overall CPI increased by 2.3% during the past 12 months of data.

    Car buying drives retail sales. A 6.7% rise in the demand for autos sent retail purchases 1.6% higher for March. That even beat the 1.3% gain forecast by economists polled by MarketWatch.

    Manufacturing up 0.9% last month. So noted the Federal Reserve last week. Total industrial output rose 0.1% in March; economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires thought we would see a 0.8% gain.

    Housing starts up 1.6% for March. Besides that statistic, the Commerce Department also announced some other good news: the 5.9% February slip in this category has been revised to a …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 12, 2010

    Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

    Did banks downplay risk levels? So contends a Wall Street Journal story, citing data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It says that during the last five quarters, a total of 18 big banks reduced borrowing just before reporting debt levels to the public, then increased debt levels as the quarter progressed. The practice, while certainly legal, has prompted an SEC inquiry.

    Inventories beat expectations. Wholesale inventories, that is. The Commerce Department said they increased by 0.6% for February, a hint that first quarter GDP might prove stronger than presumed. Economists had predicted a 0.4 gain.

    Superb week for metals. As the EU moved to aid Greece, metals responded to the news with gains. Across last week, gold prices rose 3.18% to $1,161.90 an ounce. Silver gained 2.58%, copper 0.17%, platinum 3.19% and palladium 4.53% during those five trading days. Earlier in the week, concerns about a Greece default sent the 10-year note yield above 4% for the first time in ten months …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for April 5, 2010

    Monday, April 5th, 2010

    Job growth at last. Employers added 162,000 jobs in March, the biggest gain in three years. While some of the increase reflected temporary hires for the U.S. Census, private payrolls swelled by 123,000 last month. The jobless rate was 9.7% in March, exactly where it had been in January and February.

    Consumer spending up by 0.3%. February’s gain was in line with the forecast of economists. Wages were flat last month after a 0.1% increase in January.

    Is consumer confidence flat, or rising? Two polls tell two stories. The Conference Board’s March Consumer Confidence Index hit 52.5, up from 46.4 in February. In contrast, the March Reuters survey remained at 73.6, unchanged from February.

    Factory orders up 0.6%. The February number represented the tenth gain in the last 11 months. Excluding the defense category, the gain was 1.0%.

    Home prices inch higher. The January S&P/Case-Shiller home price index (of 20 major real estate markets) showed prices up 0.3% for January and down just 0.7% from …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 29, 2010

    Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

    Reforms become law. President Obama signed his long-envisioned health care reforms into law on March 23, and he will sign the amendments to the bill into law on March 30. Most of the major changes will take effect in 2014, when health insurance will become compulsory for nearly all Americans. New taxes will help fund the reforms. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the modifications will cut the federal deficit by $118 billion by 2020.

    Home sales still underwhelming. Existing home sales dipped 0.6% for February while new home sales slipped 2.2% to another all-time low (although data only goes back to 1964). Any positives in the new Commerce Department report? Yes. The median sale price of new homes was about 5% above where it was a year ago.

    A gain in durable goods orders. The 0.5% rise in February was accompanied by news that durable goods inventories increased by 0.3%, the best such gain since December 2008.

    USDI surges north. When the U.S. Dollar …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 22, 2010

    Monday, March 22nd, 2010

    Inflation? What inflation? Inflationary pressures remain weak in this subdued recovery. The Consumer Price Index was flat in February; core CPI rose 0.1%. CPI only advanced 2.1% over the last 12 months of data. Core CPI rose 1.3% in that period, the smallest year-over-year gain in six years. The Federal Reserve forecasts core CPI advancing 1.2% for all of 2010.

    PPI drops in February. Producer prices decreased by 0.6% last month after a 1.4% rise in January; core PPI advanced 0.1%. Industrial production managed to rise 0.1% even with February’s rough weather.

    Tiny LEI gain. Another 0.1% advance here: the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index was positive for the eleventh straight month in February.

    Snow stalls housing starts. They fell 5.9% last month, according to the Commerce Department. Yet February housing starts and building permits were respectively 0.2% and 11.3% above year-ago levels.

    Oil drops, gold gains. Oil futures fell 0.69% across last week to close at $80.68 a barrel on the NYMEX Friday. Gold, …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 15, 2010

    Thursday, March 18th, 2010

    Good news at the cash register. Commerce Department data showed retail purchases up by 0.3% in February despite all the snow, sleet and rain, and 3.9% above where they were a year earlier. Most retail sales sectors had month-over-month increases.

    Signs of rising demand. Business sales increased by 0.6% in January (business inventories were flat). January 2010 business sales were 6.8% better than a year before. Other Commerce Department data shows wholesale sales jumping by 1.3% in January and wholesale stockpiles decreasing by 0.2%.

    Consumer confidence wavers. The preliminary Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey is in for March. The index reads 72.5, down from a final 73.6 in February. However, things have improved notably from March 2009 when the gauge stood at 57.3.

    Gold & oil retreat. Gold had its poorest week since mid-January as prices dipped 2.93% last week to settle at $1,101.50 Friday on the COMEX. Oil fared better, losing just 0.32% across five days. Oil futures were $81.24 a barrel at …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 8, 2010

    Monday, March 8th, 2010

    9.7% and holding. The Labor Department reported only 36,000 net job losses last month, so the jobless rate was flat for February. Economists had widely assumed the unemployment rate would inch upward due to winter weather affecting construction and retail industries.

    Major boost in factory orders. They rose 1.7% in January, according to Commerce Department data. This is the best number in four months and follows a 1.5% advance for December.

    Pending home sales sink. What does the 7.6% fall for January indicate? It would seem to signal that the extended tax credits have become less magnetic to buyers. Let’s hope sales hold up this spring as the Fed ceases its purchases of mortgage-linked securities.

    Gold, copper, oil go higher. Copper prices rose 4.10% last week to $0.134/lb. Gold gained $16.50 last week (1.48%) to settle at $1,134.80 an ounce Friday. Crude futures rose $1.84 last week (2.31%) to $81.50 per barrel on the NYMEX at Friday’s close.

    March of the bulls? Wall Street was …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for March 1, 2010

    Monday, March 1st, 2010

    Stocks log best month since November. The S&P 500 rose 2.85% last month even with worries over Greece, China and the U.S. housing and job markets. The S&P had its best February in 12 years.

    4Q GDP revised to 5.9%. That tops the initial 5.7% estimate from the Commerce Department. It means 4Q 2009 was the strongest quarter since 3Q 2003.

    Home sales in deep freeze. The January numbers were very poor: -7.2% for residential resales, -11.2% for new homes. However, existing home sales were 11.5% above where they had been a year before.

    Case-Shiller index: home prices rising. The widely watched 20-city home price index posted its seventh straight monthly gain in December. Prices increased in 15 of the index’s 20 metro areas.

    Durable goods orders up 3.0%. The January figure from the Commerce Department was hugely positive. Yet with transportation orders factored out, durable goods orders were down 0.6%.

    Less confidence last month? The February Conference Board index of consumer confidence fell to …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 22, 2010

    Monday, February 22nd, 2010

    Fed bumps discount rate up to 0.75%. The exit strategy had to get rolling at some point, yet the Federal Reserve’s Thursday decision to raise the federal funds discount rate came sooner than many analysts expected. Yet the move did not prompt the big selloff some traders had predicted. Stocks posted tiny gains Friday after new CPI data was released.

    Inflation remains tame. Core CPI fell by 0.1% in January, in the first monthly decline since 1982. Overall CPI rose 0.2% for the fifth straight month. From January 2009 to January 2010, CPI rose 2.6% with core CPI up 1.6%.

    PPI soars. Producer prices, on the other hand, rose 1.4% for January, spiked by a double-digit increase in costs of gasoline and heating oil. Core PPI advanced by 0.3% last month.

    Good news on housing & factory output. The Commerce Department had housing starts up 2.8% in January. Industrial production rose by 1.0% last month, powered by a gain of almost 5% in the auto …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 15, 2010

    Monday, February 15th, 2010

    Retail sales increase. Friday, the Census Bureau estimated retail sales up 0.5% for January, with a 4.7% year-over-year gain from January 2009. The half-percent gain topped the +0.3% forecast of economists polled by Briefing.com.

    How are things off the sales floor? According to the Commerce Department, wholesale inventories shrank by 0.8% in December. Factory inventories were reduced by 0.1%, and retail stockpiles stayed flat (so to speak). U.S. companies had 1.26 months supply of goods on hand, the lowest figure since June 2008. You can hear factories humming.

    Consumer sentiment declines a bit. February’s preliminary Reuters/University of Michigan index of sentiment came in at 73.7. Late last month, the index was at 74.4. On the other hand, it was down at 56.3 one year ago. The gauge of current economic conditions hit 84.1, the highest mark in 23 months.

    A quick check on gold, copper & oil. They all advanced last week. Gold gained $37.30 over five days to close Friday at $1,089.50 an ounce …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 8, 2010

    Monday, February 8th, 2010

    Jobless rate falls to 9.7%. The January statistic from the Labor Department was encouraging – a 0.3% drop from December. Bizarrely, there was no job growth even with that sizable decline – payrolls slimmed by about 20,000 positions last month. Revised federal figures showed a gain of 64,000 jobs for November and a loss of 150,000 in December.

    ISM index hits 5½-year high. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index rose to 58.4 in January, a peak unseen since August 2004. Economists surveyed by Reuters thought it would come in at 55.5. As for ISM’s service sector gauge, it read 50.5 for January, showing growth.

    Spending, wages & savings rate rise. The Bureau of Economic Analysis said that consumer spending went up 0.2% in December. Wages rose 0.4% (the sixth straight monthly increase) and the personal savings rate went north to 4.8%.

    Factory orders up 1.0%. So indicates December data from the Commerce Department. This was the eighth monthly gain in the last nine. Economists …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for February 1, 2010

    Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

    4Q GDP: 5.7%: That is the preliminary reading from the Commerce Department, and that is the best reading since 3Q 2003. Economists pointed out that much of the increase reflected companies rebuilding their inventories rather than personal spending.

    Consumers think positive. The final University of Michigan/Reuters consumer sentiment index for January improved 1.6 points to 74.4. Economists polled by Briefing.com felt it would come in at 73.0.

    New concerns about home sales. Both new and existing home sales retreated markedly in December with the threat of federal tax credits being pulled. Existing home sales fell by 16.7% in that month while new home sales slipped 7.6%. In annual terms, residential resales for 2009 were about 5% higher than 2008 totals. Just 373,000 new single-family homes were sold in 2009, the fewest since the government began tracking sales stats in 1963.

    A $5K hiring rebate? Last week, President Obama pitched the idea of giving companies of all sizes a $5,000 credit to offset payroll taxes for …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for January 25, 2010

    Monday, January 25th, 2010

    “Volcker rule” worries Wall Street. Investors frowned last week as the President talked of rules that would bar banks and bank holding firms from getting involved in hedge funds or conducting proprietary trading operations. Crafted with input from former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and past SEC head William Donaldson, the new regulatory proposal is likely to face stiff opposition from Senate Republicans.

    Big gain in leading indicators. The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose 1.1% in December, with November’s gain revised to 1.0% from 0.7%. The index, a forecast of future economic activity, rose 5.2% across the second half of 2009.

    PPI up 0.2% for December. That gain was much smaller than November’s 1.8% jump. Core producer prices (minus food and energy) were flat last month.

    Encouraging housing news. While new home construction decreased by 4.0% in December, housing starts were up 0.2% from a year before, marking the first year-over-year gain since March 2006. Building permits were up 10.9% in December.

    30-year …

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    Bill Losey’s Weekly Economic Update for Jan. 18, 2010

    Monday, January 18th, 2010

    How about a too-big-to-fail tax? Last week, President Obama proposed a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee – a tax on the largest U.S. banks to help repay $117 billion in TARP losses. Would banks respond to this populist move with higher lending fees for customers? Or would executives and shareholders effectively bear the cost? One certainty: designated banks would have to pay the fee for 10 years or longer.

    CPI slightly up, retail sales slip down. The Consumer Price Index inched north 0.1% in December. That puts it up 2.7% over the last 12 months, with core CPI up 1.8% in that span. Retail sales fell 0.3% last month, with the decline ranging across many sectors; economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a gain of 0.5%.

    Cool consumer sentiment. The preliminary January Reuters/University of Michigan survey came in at 72.8. That was less than the 75.0 economists had hoped for, yet higher than the 72.5 December mark.

    Industrial output up again. The Federal Reserve noted a …

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