Data Updates

Data Updates

January 2010

  • 01.29.2010
  • GDP
  • Real GDP surged in the fourth quarter, increasing at an annualized rate of 5.7 percent (above most analysts estimates), following a 2.2 percent gain in the third quarter and pulling its four-quarter growth rate up to 0.1 percent (positive for the first time since 2008:Q3). Much of the fourth quarter’s increase was driven by a relatively large upswing in change in private inventories, which added 3.4 percentage points to real GDP growth, its largest quarterly contribution since 1984:Q1. Also contributing to the strong showing: real exports jumped up 18.1 percent during the quarter, roughly matching its increase from the third quarter and adding 1.9 percentage points (pp) to output growth. Offset some of the gain in exports, real imports rose 10.5 percent, leading to an overall contribution to growth from net exports of 0.5 pp. Personal consumption increased 2.0 percent in the fourth quarter, following a 2.8 percent increase in the third quarter, pulling its four-quarter growth rate up to 1.1 percent (from −0.2 percent previously). The two major components that comprise nonresidential investment continued to follow competing trends, though gains in equipment and software (E&S) edged out continued losses in structures leading to an overall contribution of 0.3 pp from BFI. Structures slipped down another 15.4 percent in the fourth quarter and are now down a whopping 24.7 percent on a year-over-year basis (a new post-war low). On the other hand, E&S jumped up 13.3 percent in the fourth quarter.

    Final sales of domestic product—which is GDP less the change in private inventories—rose 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter, again beating expectations (with help from a relatively large jump in exports). However, final sales to domestic purchasers (GDP less inventories and net exports)—a measure some consider a closer proxy of domestic demand—rose just 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter, following a 2.3 percent gain in the third quarter.

  • 01.29.2010
  • ECI
  • The Employment Cost Index (ECI) for civilian workers increased 1.8 percent (annualized rate) in the fourth quarter of 2009. Over the past year, the ECI is up only 1.5 percent, a new low in the history of the series. Wages and salaries for state and local government workers increased 1.4 percent following a slight dip of 0.4 percent in the 2009:Q3, while wages and salaries of workers in private industry increased 1.8 percent. Benefits rose 1.8 percent during the quarter, up from 1.5 percent in the previous quarter.
  • 01.29.2010
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment rose modestly in January, achieving a new cyclical high. The index rose to 74.4 from December’s 72.5 and a preliminary reading of 72.8. The current conditions component was most responsible for the gain over December, but the consumer expectations component drove the upward revision from the preliminary report. Inflation expectations rose, with the median one-year ahead expectation increasing to 2.8 percent from 2.5 percent in December, and the five-year outlook rising to 2.9 percent from 2.7 percent.
  • 01.28.2010
  • Durable Goods
  • New orders for durable goods rose 0.3 percent in December, following a 0.4 percent drop in November (that was revised down from a slight gain). Still, its 12-month growth rate continued to improve, from −6.9 percent to −3.1 percent, as some of the most dramatic declines of the recession start to roll-off the calculation. The three-month annualized growth rate in new orders has slipped back down below zero in December, to −0.7 percent. Excluding transportation, new orders rose 0.9 percent in December, pulling its 12-month growth rate up to 0.5 percent, positive for the first time since July 2008. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft jumped up 1.3 percent in December, following a strong 3.1 percent gain in November, putting its three-month annualized growth rate at 10.9 percent. Growth in shipments was also robust in December, rising 2.9 percent (its fourth consecutive increase). Durable goods inventories continued to shrink in December, contracting by 0.2 percent, though at a pace that has been abating from an average 1.4 percent decline during the first quarter of the 2009.
  • 01.27.2010
  • New Home Sales
  • New single-family home sales posted another decline in December, falling 7.6 percent after a 9.3 percent drop in November. Sales have declined four out of the past five months, wiping away gains made earlier in the year from April to July. At 342,000 annual units, the sales pace has been set back just below April’s pace and sits only slightly above the record low in January of 329,000 annual units. Performance in December varied widely by region, with sales declining in the Midwest and South but picking up mildly in the Northeast and West. The number of unsold new homes on the market declined for the thirty second consecutive month, but because sales have also been heading south, the months’ supply rose from 7.6 to 8.1 months at the current sales pace. The median sales price of single-family homes still lags its year-ago level by 3.6 percent, but the series has generally been riding an upward trend since last winter.
  • 01.26.2010
  • Housing Price Indicators
  • The S&P/Case-Shiller 10- and 20-city indexes both posted modest 0.2 percent increases in November, marking the sixth consecutive gain for each. The indexes are still down on a year-over year basis, −4.5 percent for the 10-city index and −5.3 percent for the 20-city index, but they have steadily been rising from January?s trough of roughly −19.0 percent.

    The FHFA purchase-only house price index, meanwhile, rose at a faster pace of 0.7 percent in November, lifting its 12-month growth rate positive for the first time since September 2007, albeit to just 0.5 percent. Performance was split across regions. By Census division, all but one assigned the largest index weights contributed to December’s price increase, and the largest of the gains were seen in the Pacific and South Atlantic divisions. Divisions with smaller index weights, such as New England and East South Central, saw mild declines for the most part. However, it is generally true that areas seeing the most growth in recent months were the same ones to see the worst drops after house prices peaked a couple of years back.

  • 01.25.2010
  • Exisiting Home Sales
  • Existing single-family home sales fell a larger-than-expected 16.8 percent in December following three straight months of growth exceeding 8 percent. The drop-off likely is attributable to the conclusion of the first-time homebuyers’ tax credit, and it pulled the annual sales pace down from 5.76 million units to 4.79 million. The months’ supply of existing single-family homes at the current sales pace rose from 6.2 to 6.9 months due to the steep sales decline, despite the simultaneous 8 percent retreat in inventory of homes for sale. For the first time since July 2006, the median existing-house price is up year-over-year, at $177,500.
  • 01.20.2010
  • Housing Starts
  • Single-family housing starts dropped 6.9 percent in December, wiping out November’s 4.0 percent increase. At the current pace of 456,000 annual units, starts still sit historically low, despite the ground gained since January’s bottom of 357,000 units. Much progress was made earlier in the year with five straight increases beginning in March, but since August the series has fluctuated month-by-month, riding a slight overall downward trend. Despite the recent slippage, single-family starts are up 16.0 percent over the last year.

    Permits for single-family starts rose 8.3 percent in December, the largest increase since February, putting permits up 37.3 percent from a year ago. The pace of permits has been inching upward and surpassed the pace of starts last month, possibly signaling a pickup in starts in coming months if the trend sticks.

  • 01.20.2010
  • PPI
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods rose a modest 2.0 percent (annualized rate) in December, after a 24.4 percent spike in November (which was largely energy price-induced). Excluding food and energy prices, the “core” PPI was unchanged in December and is up just 0.9 percent over the past year. Moreover, the three-month growth rate in the core PPI is down 0.5 percent, indicative of a recent softer trend in producer prices and perhaps reflecting low utilization rates. Further back on the line of production price pressures were to the upside, as core intermediate prices increased 2.3 percent and core crude goods prices jumped up 20.5 percent in December. Interestingly, core crude goods prices are up 28.4 percent over the past year, while core intermediate prices are still down 0.1 percent, a sign that raw materials and commodity price increases have yet to filter up the supply chain.
  • 01.15.2010
  • Consumer Price Index
  • The CPI rose at an annualized rate of 1.6 percent in December, as both food and energy prices posted modest increases. Over the past 12 months, the CPI has risen 2.7 percent. The core CPI increased 1.4 percent, buoyed by a 35 percent increase in used car and truck prices, which accounted for roughly half of the overall increase in the core. The unusual strength in used car and truck prices over the past five months (up nearly 31 percent) has been somewhat of a mystery. Initially, the story read as if the CARS program negatively impacted used auto supply, driving up auction prices. However, it's hard to imagine that this is still the case. Perhaps the story now is that there has been some substitution away from new vehicles recently, possibly due to credit constraints, as some used car purchases are cash transactions. Either way, new vehicle prices slipped down 3.1 percent in December. The core CPI rose 1.8 percent over the last year but has been trending down slightly, as the three-month growth rate is up a mere 1.3 percent. Elsewhere, we've also been keeping a close eye on rents lately, which were virtually unchanged during the month, as OER and rent of primary residence each slipped down just 0.2 percent. Measures of underlying inflation trends produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the median and the 16 percent trimmed-mean CPI, rose 0.6 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, in December, consistent with recent softness seen over the past six months or so. In December, the bulk of the consumer market basket (by expenditure weight) continued to reside on the low end of the distribution, as 40 percent of the overall index posted outright price decreases and 23 percent rose at rates between 0 and 1 percent. Over the past six months, the average share of the market basket exhibiting declines has been 42 percent. On the other end of the distribution, just 24 percent of the market basket rose at rates exceeding 3 percent in December, leaving just 13 percent in the broad sweet-spot between 1 percent and 3 percent.
  • 01.15.2010
  • Industrial Production
  • Industrial production increased 7.9 percent (annualized rate) in December, after a slight downward adjustment to November’s data, leaving a still strong 7.2 percent gain (down from 10.2 percent). While IP is down 2.4 percent over the past year, it has rebounded nicely over the past six months, posting a 9.7 percent increase. However, December’s gain was primarily a result of a large spike in electric and gas utilities (up 99 percent at an annualized rate), which was due to unseasonably cold weather. Manufacturing production slipped down 0.9 percent in December, after an 11.5 percent gain in November. A 1.8 percent increase in durables production in December was more than offset by a moderate decrease in nondurables (down 1.7 percent) and a sharp decrease in “other” manufacturing (logging and newspaper, periodical, and book and directory publishing), down 18.6 percent. Motor vehicles and parts production was virtually unchanged during the month. Capacity utilization rose from 71.5 percent to 72 percent in December, continuing to rise from its current cyclical low of 68.3 in June.
  • 01.15.2010
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumer Sentiment was virtually unchanged in January, as the first index value of 2010 came in at 72.8, compared to 72.5 for December, according to the preliminary release. An increase in the current conditions component, from 78.0 to 81.0, was roughly balanced by a slight dip in the expectations component, from 68.9 to 67.5, in January. The improvement in current conditions puts that component above 80 for the first time since March 2008. Both short-term and longer-run inflation expectations ticked up in January. One-year-ahead average inflation expectations rose from 3.0 percent to 3.3 percent in January, while the longer-run (5- to 10-year-ahead) expectations ticked up 0.2 percentage point to 3.2 percent, still well within historical norms.
  • 01.14.2010
  • Retail Sales
  • Total retail sales slipped down 0.3 percent (nonannualized) in December (surprising expectations of a modest gain), after an upwardly revised 1.8 percent gain (from 1.3 percent) in November. The seasonal factors for December are quite large, so some caution is advised when reading into Decembee’s data to discern a pattern. The annualized three-month trend in retail sales is up 11.3 percent and its 12-month growth rate has risen to 5.4 percent (its strongest growth rate since November 2007). Performance was mixed across broad categories in December. The largest decrease came to electronics and appliance stores falling 2.6 percent, while the largest gain was a 1.6 percent increase in sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores. Excluding a 0.8 percent decrease in autos, total sales fell 0.2 percent during the month. An addendum measure meant to get at “core” retail sales—sales excluding autos, building supplies, and gas stations—slipped down 0.3 percent in December, its first decrease in five months. On a year-over-year basis, “core” retail sales are up 3.0 percent.
  • 01.14.2010
  • Import and Export Prices
  • Import prices were unchanged in December, following a 1.6 percent increase in November. This is the first month without growth in import prices since July, largely because of a 2.0 percent decline in the price of petroleum imports. Still, the series’ 12-month growth rate jumped from 3.7 percent to 8.6 percent. Accordingly, nonpetroleum import prices rose (0.5 percent), pulling the 12-month growth rate up to −0.2 percent. Export prices increased 0.6 percent in December after climbing 0.9 percent in November, led by a 1.8 percent rise in industrial supplies and materials, bringing the 12-month growth rate to 3.4 percent. Agricultural prices climbed 2.0 percent while nonagricultural prices increased for the ninth straight month, by 0.5 percent.
  • 01.12.2010
  • International Trade
  • The nominal trade deficit widened by $3.2 billion to $36.4 billion in November, following a $2.5 billion narrowing in October. The deficit, which has alternated between widening and narrowing every month since July, has been creeping back up toward pre-recession levels from June’s recent low of $25.8 billion. Exports rose by 0.9 percent, their seventh straight monthly increase, and were led by a 5.1 percent jump in exports of industrial supplies. A 2.6 percent rise in imports marks the third straight monthly increase, led by a 6.8 percent leap in imports of crude oil. Exports of automobiles in November soared 9.0 percent while imports of automobiles slipped by 0.3 percent. On a year-over-year basis, the growth rates of both imports and exports are at their highest levels since October 2008, at −5.5 percent and −2.3 percent, respectively.
  • 01.08.2010
  • The Employment Situation
  • Nonfarm payrolls slipped down 85,000 in December, following an upwardly revised November estimate—from −11,000 to +4,000. On net, back revisions were a push as October payrolls were revised down by 16,000. In December, losses to construction, manufacturing, and trade employment were only partially offset by gains in the health care sector and temporary help services. Goods-producing payrolls fell 81,000 in December, as construction employment decreased by 53,000 and manufacturing employment fell by 27,000 (its smallest decline since the start of the recession). Private service payrolls added 17,000 in December, following a 58,000 gain in November. Perhaps the most encouraging trend in this report is the continued gains in temporary help services, which rose 46,500 in December and have risen 166,000 over the past five months. The story here is that businesses may be too gun-shy to hire back full-time employees after such as severe decline and are choosing to increase production with temporary help until they see signs that the recovery seems to have some permanence. On the other hand, you may expect employers to soak up excess demand by increasing the hours of their current employees. That didn't happen in December, as the average workweek remained flat at 33.2 hours (the manufacturing workweek and overtime hours were unchanged as well). On the household side, the unemployment rate remained at 10.0 percent in December. Interestingly, the civilian labor force fell by 661,000, its largest decrease since May 1995, pulling the labor force participation rate down 0.3 percentage points to 64.6, its lowest level since the mid-80's. Also, the employment-to-population ratio continued its long decline, slipping down from 58.5 percent in November to 58.2 percent in December, and is now down 4.5 percentage points from the start of the recession.
  • 01.05.2010
  • Factory Orders
  • New orders for manufactured goods rose 1.1 percent in November after an upwardly revised 0.8 percent gain in October. New orders are still down 3.2 percent on a year-over-year basis, though that represents a dramatic improvement from a current cyclical (and series) low of −23.6 percent reached in June. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft rebounded in November, rising a strong 3.6 percent, following a 2.1 percent decrease in October. Shipments continued to increase in November, increasing 1.0 percent, its third straight increase of 1.0 percent or more. Inventories rose 0.2 percent in November, after adding 0.6 percent in October.
  • 01.04.2010
  • ISM Manufacturing
  • The ISM’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) rose 2.3 points to an index value of 55.9 in December, its highest level since April 2006, and has now been above its growth threshold of 50 for five consecutive months. All components of the overall index improved during the month, led by a strong (5.2 point) increase in new orders and modest improvements in production, employment, and inventories. Interestingly, the inventories index, at a 43.4, is the only component of the manufacturing PMI that remains below 50.
  • 01.04.2010
  • Construction Spending
  • Total construction spending dropped 0.6 percent in November following a downwardly revised decline of 0.5 percent in October. With the exception of slight increases in September 2008 and April 2009, construction spending has receded every month all the way back to September 2007. Although November marks the seventh consecutive retreat, the rate of decline has slowed somewhat since last spring, lifting the series’ 12-month growth rate a little further from September’s record low of −15.8 percent to its current −13.2 percent. Total private construction slumped 0.7 percent over the month, led by a larger-than-expected 1.6 percent drawback in residential construction. Private nonresidential construction was unchanged after seven successive declines, and its 12-month growth rate rose from −22.5 percent to −20.6 percent. Public construction spending has climbed quite consistently over the past couple of years but slipped a slight 0.4 percent in November, driven by a pull-back in public nonresidential construction.