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Last Week’s Headlines
· The final report on the first-quarter gross domestic product showed growth improved marginally, but it is still relatively weak compared to the fourth quarter. The GDP increased at an annual rate of 1.4% in the first quarter of 2017, according to the third and final estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The second estimate released in May estimated the GDP growing at a rate of 1.2%. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the GDP increased 2.1%. The deceleration in the GDP in the first quarter reflected a downturn in private inventory investment, a deceleration in personal consumption expenditures (consumer spending), and a downturn in state and local government spending that were partly offset by an upturn in exports, an acceleration in nonresidential (business) fixed investment, and a deceleration in imports. Gross domestic income grew 1.0% in the first quarter, in contrast to a decrease of 1.4% in the fourth quarter.
· Consumers did more saving than spending in May, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal income increased $67.1 billion, or 0.4%, in May, while disposable (after-tax) income jumped $71.7 billion, or 0.5%. However, personal consumption expenditures (consumer spending) rose a scant $7.3 billion, or 0.1%. The increase wasn’t attributable to wages and salaries (+0.1%), but reflected increases in dividend income, personal income transfers (generally to savings, which rose 0.4%), and proprietors’ income. Core prices, less food and energy, increased 0.1% and are up a marginal 1.4% year-on-year. While this report is not necessarily negative, it is in line with other economic indicators, which show inflation in particular, and the economy in general, slowed in May.
· The manufacturing sector may be weakening after new orders for long-lasting goods fell for the second consecutive month. New orders for durable goods fell $2.5 billion, or 1.1%, in May, following a 0.9% decrease in April. The drop in new orders is the largest monthly decrease in 6 months. Excluding transportation, new orders increased a marginal 0.1% for the month. Shipments of manufactured durable goods in May, up following two consecutive monthly decreases, increased $1.8 billion, or 0.8%, to $234.9 billion. Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in May, down following two consecutive monthly increases, decreased $2.3 billion, or 0.2%, to $1,120.1 billion. Inventories of manufactured durable goods in May, up 10 of the last 11 months, increased $0.7 billion, or 0.2%, to $395.4 billion.
· An uptick in consumer exports helped narrow the trade deficit in May, according to the Census Bureau. The international trade deficit was $65.9 billion in May, down $1.2 billion from $67.1 billion in April. Exports of goods for May were $127.1 billion, $0.5 billion more than April exports. Imports of goods for May were $193.0 billion, $0.8 billion less than April imports.
· The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which had fallen in May, increased somewhat in June. The index rose to 118.9 for June, up from May’s 117.6 reading. Consumers remained upbeat about current economic conditions, but were less enthusiastic about the short-term outlook, as the Expectations Index declined from 102.3 in May to 100.6 in June.
· Respondents in the University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers seemed to follow consumers’ sentiments from The Conference Board’s report. The Index of Consumer Sentiment dropped in June to 95.1 from 97.1 in May. Consumers viewed current economic conditions favorably, as that index increased from 111.7 to 112.5. However, the Index of Consumer Expectations decreased from 87.7 to 83.9 — an indication that consumers aren’t too sure about the future of the economy.
· In the week ended June 24, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 244,000, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 1,000 from 241,000 to 242,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate remained 1.4% for the week ended June 17, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. During the week ended June 17, there were 1,948,000 receiving unemployment insurance, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 2,000 from 1,944,000 to 1,942,000.
Eye on the Week Ahead
Trading should be slower during the holiday-shortened week. The June employment report is released at week’s end. The unemployment rate has fallen over the past few months, but so has the number of new hires. Wage inflation has been moderate at best and isn’t expected to pick up steam any time soon.
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