Data Updates

Data Updates

December 2009

  • 12.30.2009
  • Housing Price Indicators
  • The S&P/Case-Shiller 10- and 20-city indexes both advanced 0.4 in October, marking the fifth consecutive rise after 27 months of decline. Despite the fact that increases have slowed over the course of those five months, the indexes’ year-over-year growth rates look their best since October 2007. The 10- and 20-city composite indexes are now respectively down just 6.4 percent and7.3 percent year-over-year, compared to troughs of roughly −19 percent reached in January. Panning back to the bigger picture, the large decline in house prices since mid-2006 has set the indexes back to their late-2003 levels.

    The FHFA purchase-only index increased 0.6 percent in October following a 0.4 percent slip in September. After riding a gradual downward slope since April 2007’s value of 223.6, the index has charted a relatively flat path starting January, averaging almost 200. The index’s 12-month growth rate is now its highest since December 2007, at −1.9 percent.

  • 12.28.2009
  • Durable Goods
  • New orders for durable goods inched up 0.2 percent in November, following a 0.6 percent decline in October. The 12-month growth rate improved from −11.7 percent to −7.8 percent, the best the series has looked since September 2008. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, considered a leading indicator of business investment spending, rose 2.9 percent over the month, reversing damage of the previous month’s 2.0 percent decline. Shipments of durables rose 0.3 percent in November, the smallest of three consecutive increases. Shipments are down 8.8 percent on a year-over-year basis, up from −12.8 percent in October and the series’ record low −20.2 percent reached in June. Inventories contracted a slight 0.2 percent and have declined in all but one month this year, gradually lowering the inventory-to-shipment ratio from a high of 1.9 months in January to the current 1.7 months.
  • 12.28.2009
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumer Sentiment was revised slightly lower in December, from an initial reading of 73.4 to a final value of 72.5, representing a 5.1 point gain over November. The index has fluctuated a good deal in the past year, but most of the movement has been on the upside, leading it to climb 17.2 points from the recession low of 55.3 in November 2008. December’s advance was driven predominantly by a large jump in consumers’ assessment of current economic conditions, as the expectations component only inched forward. One-year-ahead average inflation expectations fell slightly, from 3.1 percent in November to 3.0 percent in December, while longer-term (5- to 10-year ahead) average inflation expectations dropped to 3.0 percent, after three consecutive months at 3.2 percent.
  • 12.28.2009
  • New Home Sales
  • New single-family home sales fell 11.3 percent in November, following a downwardly revised gain of 1.8 percent in October. At 355,000 annual units, the current sales pace is at its weakest since April, and the 12-month growth rate dropped from −2.2 percent to −9.0 percnet. Since the record low pace was set in January, sales have picked up only 7.9 percent, and they remain at levels not seen in decades. The number of new homes on the market declined 2.1 percent in November, yet the months’ supply rose from 7.2 to 7.9 months due to the much steeper fall in sales. The median sales price of new single-family homes continued its sporadic movement, rising 3.8 percent after a 1.9 percent setback in October, and the 12-month growth rate sat virtually unchanged at −1.9 percent.
  • 12.28.2009
  • Personal Income
  • Nominal personal income rose 0.4 percent (nonannualized) in November, the largest of five consecutive increases. This follows an upwardly revised increase of 0.3 percent in October, and bumps the series’ 12-month growth rate from −1.0 percent to −0.3 percent. Private industry wages and salaries rose 0.3 percent, the highest increase since April. Disposable personal income climbed 0.5 percent for the second month in a row, pulling the 12-month growth rate to 3.1 percent, its highest level since September 2008. Nominal personal consumption rose 0.5 percent in November after a 0.6 percent increase in October, while real personal consumption, which adjusts for price effects, rose 0.2 percent in November following a 0.4 percent increase in October. The 12-month growth rate of real personal consumption stands at 0.8 percent, the highest level since April 2008. However, the series’ 3-month annualized growth rate is down −0.6 percent, falling into negative territory for the first time since May. After falling 0.1 percentage point in October, personal saving as a percentage of disposable income remained unchanged at 4.7 percent in November, well above the 1.4 percent savings rate seen at the start of the recession.
  • 12.22.2009
  • Real GDP
  • The final estimate for real GDP in the third quarter came in below expectations at 2.2 percent, 0.6 percentage point (pp) lower than the preliminary estimate and an even more significant 1.3 pp below the advance estimate. The lower estimate reflects downward revisions to fixed business investment, private inventories, personal consumption expenditures, and government spending. A downward revision to nonresidential investment subtracted 0.2 pp from real GDP growth, as a 4.1 percent loss was revised to a 5.9 percent loss, though this is still much better than the 9.6 percent drop in the second quarter and the near 40 percent plunge in the first quarter. Private inventories in the preliminary estimate were shown as having fallen by $133.4 billion in the third quarter, while the final estimate changed this number to $139.2 billion, slicing 0.2 pp from output growth. Real consumption growth was revised from 2.9 percent to 2.8 percent during the quarter, taking away 0.1 pp from real GDP growth, and a downward revision to government spending from 3.1 percent to 2.7 percent also shaved 0.1 pp from real GDP growth. Both exports and imports were revised up slightly, resulting in net exports being essentially unchanged. The year-over-year growth rate in real GDP stands at −2.6 percent, up from a postwar low of −3.8 percent in the second quarter.
  • 12.22.2009
  • Existing Home Sales
  • Existing single-family home sales experienced yet another sizeable increase in November, rising 8.5 percent following October’s 9.5 percent jump. The current annual sales pace is now the highest since April 2006, at nearly 5.8 million units. With August being the only exception, existing home sales have risen solidly since April and have increased in excess of 8 percent in each of the past three months. As a result, the 12-month growth rate continued to climb in November, shooting from 21.2 percent all the way to 42.1 percent. While this represents impressive growth from a year ago, it is important to remember that it has occurred from a deep trough in sales last November. The months’ supply of existing single-family homes on the market declined from 6.8 to 6.2 months, due to an unchanged housing inventory and the pick-up in sales pace. Month’s supply has declined in all but one of the past six months and has decreased measurably from the 10.6 months’ supply observed exactly one year ago.
  • 12.16.2009
  • Housing Starts
  • Total housing starts rose 8.9 percent in November following a 10.1 percent decline in October. November’s increase had more to do with the volatile multi-family component of the series, as it jumped 67.3 percent, whereas single-family starts rose by a modest 2.1 percent. At an annual pace of 482,000 units, single-family starts have risen 35 percent above their record low pace in January. Although starts are still low by historical standards, November’s report is the first since March 2006 to show a positive year-over-year growth rate in the series, at 5.5 percent. Permits for single-family homes climbed 5.3 percent, lifting the 12-month growth rate to 12.1 percent, marking another positive territory debut since early 2006. However, these supposed milestones in year-to-year comparisons are humbled by the fact that housing permits and starts were near record lows one year ago at this time.
  • 12.16.2009
  • Current Account
  • The current account balance widened by $10.1 billion in the third quarter, its first widening since 2008:Q2. This follows a $6.5 billion narrowing in the second quarter to a recent low of $98.0 billion. The widening is largely due to an increase in the deficit on goods from $115.5 billion to $132.1 billion, as goods exports increased 7.2 percent and goods imports grew 9.5 percent. Both imports and exports were led by increases in industrial supplies and materials. The service surplus grew $0.6 billion to $34.8 billion, partially offsetting the widening, as service exports increased 2.6 percent and service imports rose 3.2 percent. The deficit in net unilateral transfers grew for the second month in a row to $34.4 billion, the highest level on record. U.S.-owned assets abroad grew by $294.1 billion, the first increase in five quarters, while foreign-owned assets in the U.S. rose by $332.4 billion following a mere $14.6 billion increase in the second quarter.
  • 12.16.2009
  • CPI
  • The CPI rose 4.9 percent (annualized rate) in November, largely on a sizeable jump in energy prices (up 62.7 percent). However, the core CPI was virtually unchanged in November, rising just 0.4 percent, following a 2.2 percent increase in October. Our measures of underlying inflation trends—the median and 16% trimmed-mean CPI—remained soft in November, increasing a slight 0.2 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. Over the past 3-months, the median CPI is up a mere 0.6 percent, while the trimmed-mean measure has risen 1.5 percent. The underlying component price change distribution continues to reveal a significant mass of the overall index in the lower tail. In November, 45 percent of the consumers’ marketbasket exhibited outright price decreases and, over the past three months, that lower-tail has held an average of 44 percent of the overall index. For context, an average month in 2007 would have seen just 19 percent of the marketbasket posting price decreases. Also in November, nearly 14 percent of the overall index rose at rates between 0 and 1 percent, compared to just 12 percent rising at rates between 1 and 4 percent. As expected, rents are still coming in soft, with the rent of primary residence falling 0.9 percent in November, and OER slipping down 1.5 percent. Notably, recreation, apparel, and household furnishing prices also fell during the month. On the other end of the distribution, used car prices continued to post double-digit price increases, jumping up 26.7 percent in November. Over the four months since the CARS program came and went, used auto prices have risen a whopping 29.8 percent (its highest growth rate since October 1981).
  • 12.15.2009
  • PPI
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods jumped up 24.4 percent in November, largely on large spike in energy prices (up 121.9 percent). However, the PPI excluding food and energy prices rose 5.8 percent during the month, its largest monthly increase in eleven months. The 12-month trend in both the headline and “core” PPI increased in November, rising to 2.7 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. Further back on the line of production price pressures were mixed. Core intermediate prices increased 3.5 percent, while core crude goods prices slipped down 9.2 percent in November.
  • 12.15.2009
  • Industrial Production
  • Industrial production increased 10.2 percent (annualized rate) in November after having been unchanged in October. Production has not declined in the past five months, but up until that time had seen nearly solid setbacks since January 2008. Manufacturing output advanced 14.4 percent, with the gain shared by both durable and nondurable goods industries. Within durables, the most notable increases were posted by primary metals, nonmetallic mineral products, furniture and related products, and motor vehicles and parts, while the index for home electronics fell for the tenth month in a row. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, manufacturing output still rose a sizeable 14 percent. Mining output increased 28 percent, the largest monthly gain in over a year, but utilities dropped 19.6 percent, as unseasonably mild November temperatures hampered output of gas utilities. On a year-over-year basis, the overall industrial production index is still down 5.2 percent but looks its best since October 2008. Capacity utilization rose to 71.3 percent, up from a low of 68.3 percent in June but far below the pre-recession level of around 80 percent.
  • 12.11.2009
  • Retail Sales
  • Total retail sales rose 1.3 percent (nonannualized) in November, after a 1.1 percent increase in October. The 12-month growth rate in sales turned positive for the first time since August 2008, rising to 1.9 percent in November. While October’s gain was largely influenced by a transitory jump in auto sales, retail sales excluding autos jumped up by 1.3 percent in November, following 12 straight decreases. Sales were mixed across categories and gains were led by gasoline stations (+6.0 percent), electronics and appliance stores (+ 2.8 percent), and building material & supplies dealers (+1.5 percent). An addendum measure meant to get at “core” retail sales—sales excluding autos, building supplies, and gas stations—posted a somewhat more muted gain that headline sales, rising 0.5 percent in November, its fourth straight monthly gain. On a year-over-year basis, “core” sales are up 1.2 percent, its strongest reading since September 2008.
  • 12.11.2009
  • Import and Export Prices
  • Import prices rose 1.7 percent (nonannualized) in November, pulling the 12-month growth rate up to 3.7 percent, its first foray into positive territory since October 2008. The increase follows a 0.8 percent increase in November and was led by a 4.8 percent rise in the prices of industrial supplies and materials and a 6.2 percent jump in petroleum prices. Nonpetroleum import prices rose 0.7 percent and are down −1.62 percent over the past year. Export prices also rose in November, climbing 0.8 percent after a 0.2 percent increase in October, as agricultural prices jumped 3.7 percent and nonagricultural prices increased 0.7 percent. The 12-month growth rate of export prices is also positive for the first time since October 2008, at 0.6 percent.
  • 12.11.2009
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumer Sentiment index rose from 67.4 in November to a preliminary reading of 73.4 in December, climbing back near its recent high of 73.5 in September but still well below historical norms. Both the current conditions and consumer expectations components rebounded in December, though the jump in the current conditions component was much greater (10.1 points to 79.1, compared to a 3.2 point increase in expectations). One-year-ahead average inflation expectations were flat at 3.1 percent in December, though the median expectation slipped down 0.6 percentage point in December to 2.1 percent. Longer-term (five- to 10-year-ahead) average inflation expectations ticked down 0.1 percentage point to 3.1 percent during the month, while the median expectation slipped down to 2.6 percent, its lowest level since March.
  • 12.10.2009
  • International Trade
  • The nominal trade deficit narrowed by $2.7 billion to $32.9 billion in October, following a $5.3 billion widening in September. Since June, the deficit had been unsteadily creeping back up towards its recent high of $64.9 billion reached in July 2008, and October’s narrowing shows a reversal in that trend. Like the previous month, both exports and imports increased to their highest levels this year, though the 2.6 percent jump in exports is much greater than the 0.4 percent rise in imports, a reversal from the previous month’s far larger gains in imports. The increase in exports was led by a 7.7 percent leap in exports of consumer goods. Imports, while still also at their highest level for the year, were hurt by a 12.1 percent drop in purchases of crude oil, as the average price per barrel fell by $0.78 and the U.S. imported 27.4 million fewer barrels in October than September. The 12-month growth rates of both imports and exports are at their highest levels this year, at −18.8 and −8.6, respectively.
  • 12.04.2009
  • Employment
  • Nonfarm payroll employment edged down just 11,000 in November (which is virtually unchanged, given that a month-to-month change of plus or minus 107,000 is needed for statistical significance), following a strong upward revision (+79,000) to October’s estimate, which now stands at &minus111,000. If the preliminary estimate stands, it will be the smallest monthly decrease since the start of the recession. There was a large upward revision to September’s estimate as well, leading to a total of 159,000 additional workers than previously known over the past two months (and making November’s estimate look even better). In November, losses in manufacturing, construction, and information payrolls were nearly offset by gains in health care and temporary help services. Private goods-producing employment slipped down by 69,000 during the month, compared to an average loss of 146,000 over the previous six months. Construction employment only fell by 27,000, its smallest monthly decline since August 2008. So, the most interesting move during the month was the 52,400 gain in temporary health services. There may be that much of the gain was due to the cyclical effects trumping the usual seasonal pattern ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, as retail sector employment may have been already slashed to a low level due to the severity of the recession, requiring a larger-than-normal influx of temporary help to cover the start of the holiday shopping season (that may be a stretch though). Still, temporary help services have been trending higher over the past three months (up 37,900), which some analysts may interpret as a nascent sign of recovery, arguing that employers may be “tentative” in hiring on a more permanent basis coming out of such a severe downturn. Regardless of your take on temporary employment, most of the major nonfarm sectors are exhibiting an improved trend over the last few months. Another positive sign in the establishment survey; the average workweek ticked up 0.2 hour to 33.2 hours, up from an all-time low of 33.0 hours posted last month.

    On the household side, the unemployment rate ticked down by 0.2 percentage point to 10.0 percent in November, as the number of unemployed persons fell 325,000, after an increase of 558,000 in October. The civilian labor force contracted by 98,000 in November, and has fallen by a total of 700,000 over the past three months. An alternative (and somewhat less noisy) measure of labor market duress, the employment-to-population ratio remained flat at 58.5, its lowest level since 1983.

  • 12.04.2009
  • Factory Orders
  • New order for manufactured goods increased 0.6 percent in October, following an upwardly revised 1.6 percent increase in September, but is still down 10.6 percent on a year-over-year basis. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft slipped down 3.4 percent in October, a downward revision from the durable goods report estimate of −2.9 percent. Moreover, the 3-month annualized growth rate in the series fell to −6.1 percent in October, slipping back into negative growth for the first time in six months. Shipments rose 0.8 percent in October, after a 1.3 percent gain in September that has its 12-month growth rate at −11.5 percent, up from a cyclical low of −21.9 percent in July. Interestingly, inventories rose for the first time in 14 months, as manufacturers added 0.4 percent in October, and should indicate a positive contribution to real GDP growth for the fourth quarter.
  • 12.03.2009
  • Productivity and Costs
  • Nonfarm business sector productivity was revised downward in the second quarter, from 9.5 percent (annualized rate) to 8.1 percent, but retained its standing as the largest quarterly increase since 2003:Q3. On a year-over-year basis, productivity is up 4.0 percent, up from 1.9 percent in the second quarter and 1.0 percent in the first quarter. The strong gain in third-quarter productivity is the result of a 2.9 percent rise in output and a 4.8 percent drop in hours worked. The downward revision to productivity from the preliminary release was due to smaller gains in output, as output was originally reported to have risen by a larger 4.0 percent. Hours have declined every quarter since 2007:Q3, but the pace of decline has been slowing since the beginning of the year. Hourly compensation for the third quarter saw an upward revision, from 3.8 percent growth to 5.4 percent, and after adjusting for prices, “real” compensation per hour came in at 1.8 percent growth. With the smaller increase in output and larger boost in compensation, unit labor cost growth was revised up from a 5.2 percent decline to a 2.5 percent decline. The 4-quarter growth rate in unit labor costs stands at −1.4 percent, its lowest since 2002:Q1.
  • 12.01.2009
  • ISM Manufacturing
  • The ISM’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) slipped down to an index value of 53.6 in November from 55.7 in October. Still, the diffusion index is slightly above its growth threshold of 50, and has been for four consecutive months. The tick-down in the overall index came as every component posted decreases in November except for the new order index (which increased 1.8 index points to 60.3). The production index fell from 63.3 to 59.9 during the month; while the employment index—which is greatly improved in recent months from its current cyclical low of 26.1 in February—slipped down from 53.1 in November to 50.8 in November.
  • 12.01.2009
  • Construction Spending
  • Total construction spending was steady in October with a 0.0 percent change (nonannualized), following a downwardly revised 1.6 percent dip in September. October marks the first time in six months that construction spending has not declined. The flat rate is the result of a 0.3 percent gain in private construction, which is led by a 4.4 percent jump in private residential construction, and a −0.4 percent decline in public construction. Nonresidential private construction fell by 2.5 percent, its eighth straight month of decline, while nonresidential public construction pulled back by 0.4 percent. The 12-month growth rate of private nonresidential construction sank to a new record low of −20.6 percent, while the 12-month growth rate of private residential construction is at its highest level since October 2007, at −23.6 percent.