Data Updates

Data Updates

February 2010

  • 02.26.2010
  • GDP
  • Real GDP was up from 5.7 percent to 5.9 percent in Q4, in line with expectations. As expected, change in private inventories were revised up from a 3.4 percentage points (pp) contribution to output growth to 3.9 pp. Also contributing to the upward revision were positive adjustments to business fixed investment (from a gain of 2.9 percent to a 6.5 percent increase) and real exports were pushed up from an 18.1 percent increase to 22.4 percent increase. On the other hand, consumption was revised down slightly—from 2.0 percent to 1.7 percent—contributing 0.2 pp less. There were also modest adjustments to imports and state and local government spending, that served to temper the overall upward adjustment. Analysts may shade their Q1 growth projections down slightly on the upward adjustment to inventories (which implies a lower contribution from private inventories in Q1). Also, final sales were adjusted down from 2.2 percent to 1.9 percent, and while this is a slight improvement from 1.5 percent in the third quarter of last year, it doesn’t seem to be pointing toward an impending snapback.
  • 02.26.2010
  • Existing Home Sales
  • Existing single-family home sales fell 6.9 percent in January after a 16.9 percent plunge in December, entirely erasing large gains made last year from September to November. At an annualized 4.4 million units, sales have retreated back to their mid-2009 pace but still stand 8.6 percent above the 4.1 million pace last January. Listings of homes available for sale increased 1.4 percent, lifting the months of supply at the current sales pace from 6.9 to 7.6 months. Although months’ supply has been creeping up the past two months, 2010 is off to a better start than the 9.2 months’ supply observed at the onset of 2009. The median sales price of existing single-family homes sold in January, which is not seasonally adjusted, dropped 3.5 percent from December but held steady on a year-ago basis. “The latest monthly sales decline is not encouraging, and raises concern about the strength of a recovery,” says chief economist Lawrence Yun of the National Association of Realtors. However, he adds “Activity should be picking up strongly in late spring as buyers take advantage of the tax credit, which is critical to absorb distressed properties reaching the market and to continually chip away at inventory.”
  • 02.26.2010
  • Consumer Senitment
  • The University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumer Sentiment was revised down a slightly in late February, from an index value of 73.7 to 73.6. This is down from January’s reading of 74.4, but still well above some readings from the depths of the recession. Importantly, most of the gains in the overall index have come from the current conditions component in recent months, which have risen from a current cyclical low of 57.5 in November 2008 to 81.8 in February. On the other hand, the consumer expectations component, at 68.4, has been relatively stagnant over the past 10 months, suggesting further pessimism among respondents. One-year-ahead average inflation expectations were revised up from 3.3 percent to 3.6 percent in February, up 0.2 percentage point (pp) over January. More importantly, longer-run (5- to 10-year-ahead) expectations were revised down by 0.1 pp to 3.3 percent in February, unchanged from January.
  • 02.25.2010
  • Durable Goods
  • New orders for durable goods jumped up 3.0 percent (nonannualized) in January, though that was all on the back of a 51.3 percent surge in aircraft orders. Excluding transportation, new orders slipped down 0.6 percent during the month, after a 2.0 percent gain in December. Still, over the past 12 months, new orders excluding transportation are up 8.6 percent. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft reversed course in January, slipping down 2.9 percent, compared to a 3.3 percent gain in December. That said, both its 3-month annualized and 12-month growth rates are strongly positive, up 14.7 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively. Shipments dipped down 0.2 percent in January after four consecutive monthly increases. Inventories were flat during the month, though that comes after 14 straight monthly declines.
  • 02.25.2010
  • Housing Price Indicators
  • The S&P/Case-Shiller 10- and 20-city Home Price Indexes rose at a modest pace of 0.3 percent in December, extending the string of recent gains into a seventh month. Year-over-year growth in the 10-city composite index rose from −4.5 percent to −2.4 percent, and the 20-city composite index rose from −5.3 percent to −3.1percent. Both indexes have shown steady improvement on a year-over-year basis since reaching their January troughs of roughly −19.0 percent. The U.S. national index, meanwhile, inched up 0.3 percent from the third quarter to the fourth, the smallest of three straight quarterly gains. The index is now down just 2.5 percent from a year earlier, a significant easing from larger declines in the rest of 2009.

    The monthly FHFA Purchase-Only House Price Index sank 1.6 percent compared to its November level and by 1.5 percent compared to December 2008. December declines held true for all Census divisions except the Middle Atlantic, which includes New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The quarterly index was virtually unchanged in the fourth quarter of 2009, declining only 0.1 percent compared to the previous quarter and by 1.3 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2008. Although home prices in the section of the market covered by the FHFA index (those purchased with conforming mortgage loans) continue to drop, the rate of decrease has slowed considerably in the past year.

  • 02.24.2010
  • New Home Sales
  • New single-family home sales plummeted 11.2 percent in January to a record low annual sales pace of 309,000 units. Sales have fallen in five of the past six months, erasing the mild recovery made between April and July last year after the previous low was reached in January. Declines were seen in all regions of the U.S. except the Midwest. Longer-term trends are weak, with three of the four regions posting large year-over-year declines. Home sales are down by 20 percent in the Northeast, 7.5 percent in the Midwest, and 10.5 percent in the South. The West is an exception, with sales up 13.8 percent over the past year. January’s drop comes as somewhat of a surprise, considering analysts had expected a slight gain. However, a report released last week shows promise for future demand, as construction permits for single-family homes rose for a third consecutive month.

    The number of new homes on the market increased for the first time in January following a streak of declines spanning two and a half years. Accompanied by the large sales decline, the months’ supply of new homes at the current sales pace jumped 1.1 months in January, from 8.0 to 9.1, the highest since May 2009.

  • 02.19.2010
  • CPI
  • The headline CPI jumped up 2.0 percent (annualized rate) in January, mostly on a spike up in energy prices (up 39 percent). However, the real story is the first appreciable decline in the core CPI index—falling 1.6 percent in January—since December 1982, pulling its 3-month annualized growth rate to zero and its 12-month growth rate down 0.2 percentage points to 1.6 percent. The release pointed to decreases in shelter, new vehicles, and airline fares as the culprits for a decrease in the core during the month. Measures of underlying inflation produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the median CPI and 16% trimmed-mean CPI, rose 0.5 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively in January. These readings are very much in-line with where our measures have been over the past few months. The 3-month growth rate in the median is at 0.6 percent, while the trim is up 1.1 percent over the last three months. Even the underlying component distribution looks very similar. In January, roughly 60 percent of the index either rose at rates less than 1.0 percent or posted outright price declines, compared to an average of 59 percent over the last four months. The upper end of the distribution—with 27 percent of the consumers’ marketbasket rising at rates exceeding 3.0 percent—is nearly identical to that of the three months prior to January.
  • 02.18.2010
  • PPI
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods jumped up 18.3 percent (annualized rate) in January, largely on a spike-up in energy prices (up 82.5 percent). On a year-over-year basis, the PPI is up 4.6 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, the “core” PPI rose 4.3 percent during the month, outpacing its longer-term trends: its 3-month growth rate (3.3 percent), 6-month growth rate (1.1 percent) and 12-month growth rate (1.0 percent). Upstream, both core intermediate and core crude goods prices increased in January, rising 6.3 percent and 115 percent, respectively. However, these series are typically more volatile than the finished goods series on a month-to-month basis and caution should be used when interpreting the monthly price movements.
  • 02.17.2010
  • Import Prices
  • Import prices climbed 1.4 percent (nonannualized) in January, following a 0.2 percent rise in December. The sixth consecutive monthly increase pulled the series’ 12-month growth rate up to 11.5 percent, a far cry from the July’s record low of −19.2 percent. The overall increase is largely due to a 4.8 percent jump in petroleum prices, as nonpetroleum import prices increased only 0.6 percent. The 12-month growth rate of nonpetroleum import prices is positive for the first time since December 2008, at 1.2 percent. Export prices climbed 0.8 percent in January, led by a 1.9 percent rise in industrial supplies and materials prices, bringing the series’ 12-month growth rate up slightly to 3.4 percent.
  • 02.17.2010
  • Industrial Production
  • Industrial production increased at an annualized rate of 11.8 percent in January, following increases of 8.2 percent and 7.0 percent in December and November, respectively. As of January, the 12-month growth rate in industrial production was up 0.9 percent, its first positive reading after nearly two years of declines. Manufacturing production jumped up 12.6 percent in January, following a virtually flat (−0.9 percent) reading in December. Both durable and nondurable goods production surged in January, rising 18.4 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively. Moreover, the release noted that output for all the major durable goods industries rose during the month, except for furniture and related products. Manufacturing production is now up 7.7 percent over the past three months, outpacing its year-over-year growth rate of 1.7 percent. Mining output rose 8.9 percent in January, rebounding from a slight 1.8 percent dip in December. Utilities production increased 8.3 percent during the month, follow an out-sized (and cold-snap induced) 108.4 percent gain (6.3 percent nonannualized) in December. Capacity utilization continued to improve in January, rising from 71.9 percent to 72.6 percent.
  • 02.17.2010
  • Housing Starts
  • Total housing starts increased 2.8 percent in January, making up for the 0.7 percent slip in December. Since reaching a trough last April, starts have stabilized and been relatively flat, now sitting at an annual pace of 591,000 units. Put in perspective though, this compares to an average starts pace of 1,556,000 annual units between the last cyclical trough and peak, from January 1991 to January 2006. January’s gain was shared by all regions except the Midwest, which posted a 3.2 percent decline. Single-family housing starts, which are typically less-volatile than the total series, increased very modestly, by just 1.5 percent. Permits for single-family homes inched up 0.4 percent, the smallest of three consecutive increases, but due to a sizeable drop in multi-family unit permits, the total series actually retreated 4.9 percent. Year-over-year, total permits are up 16.9 percent.
  • 02.12.2010
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumer Sentiment ticked down a minor 0.7 index point to 73.7 in February, though the series is up roughly 31 percent on a year-over-year basis. While the overall index was relatively stable, the underlying components posted modest changes. The current economic conditions component rose 3.0 index points to 84.1 (its highest level since March 2008, but still well below pre-recession norms). The consumer expectations component slipped down from 70.1 to 66.9 in February, and, while well off a current cyclical low of 49.2 reached in June 2008, it has slipped down from a recent high of 73.5 in September 2009. The release attributed this middling path to sentiment that the jobless rate will remain stubbornly high and that the “majority expected recurrent economic weaknesses over the next several years.” One-year-ahead average inflation expectations ticked down 0.1 percentage point to 3.3 percent in February, while the longer-run (5- to 10-year-ahead) expectations edged up from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent during the month, matching their averages since 2005.
  • 02.12.2010
  • Retail Sales
  • Total retail sales jumped up 0.5 percent (nonannualized) in January, following a upwardly revised 0.1 percent dip in December. Over the past 12-months, retail sales are up 4.7 percent, a far cry from the −10.9 percent growth rate seen during the depths of the recession (December 2008). Across the broad sales categories, performance was mostly positive. However, there were a few relatively large dips. Furniture and home furnishing store sales (−1.4 percent), building material & supply stores (−1.2 percent), miscellaneous store retailers (−1.1 percent). Sales of motor vehicles and at parts dealers were flat in January, following a slight gain in December. An addendum measure meant to get at “core” retail sales—sales excluding autos, building supplies, and gas stations—jumped up 0.8 percent in January, after a slipping down 0.3 percent in December, leading to an increase in its 3-month annualized growth rate, which improved from 3.4 percent to a relatively strong 5.6 percent in January. The 12-month growth rate in ?core? retail sales was fairly stable at 2.7 percent.
  • 02.10.2010
  • The Employment Situation
  • Nonfarm payroll employment slipped down just 20,000 in January, following a downwardly revised 150,000 loss in December and an upward revision to November’s payrolls (from 4,000 to 64,000). The release corresponds with the BLS’ annual benchmark (adjusting for seasonals, unemployment insurance tax records, and updated business birth/death model adjustments), which pushed down the March 2009 payrolls level by 930,000 (a little more than the preliminary benchmark suggested). Given the revisions, payrolls have fallen by 8.4 million since December 2007, though over the past three months have averaged a negligible decline of 35,000. Digging into the January detail reveals some noteworthy positive trends. First, while goods producing industry employment fell by 60,000 during the month, manufacturing payrolls increased by 11,000, its first increase in three years (January 2007). Also, private service providing payrolls rose by 48,000, lifted by relatively strong increases in retail trade employment (up 42,000) and gains in temporary help services (up 52,000). Over the past three months, temporary help services payrolls have risen by an average of 68,400, perhaps an indicator that employers, still too wary to add permanent employees, are starting to sop up some nascent increases in demand. Bolstering that story, would be evidence of other relatively easy ways employers ramp-up, such as increased hours and overtime. The average workweek of private production and nonsupervisory workers ticked up 0.1 hour to 33.3 hours, while the manufacturing workweek jumped up 0.3 hour to 39.9 hours, and factory overtime increased by 0.1 hour. New with this release, the BLS also published hours and earnings for all private sector employees. The average workweek for all private employees edged up 0.1 hour to 33.9 hours in January, while average hourly earnings rose 0.2 percent to $22.45. One other detail to note is that temporary hiring due to the 2010 Census is already starting to trickle in, as the BLS mentioned that the 33,000 gain in federal government payrolls during January included 9,000 Census workers. This effect is expected to be rather sizable heading into March and April. The BLS did not leave the household survey untouched either, updating the series with new population estimates. The adjustment decreased the estimated size of the noninstitutional population in December 2009 by 258,000, the civilian labor force by 249,000, and employment by 243,000. However, it did note the roughly offsetting effects has having a "negligible impact on unemployment rates and other percentage estimates." In January, the number of employed persons jumped up by 541,000, reversing a 589,000. Also, the labor force grew by 111,000, pushing the participate rate up 0.1 percentage point to 64.7. Reinforcing the tick-down in the unemployment rate (from 10.0 percent to 9.7 percent), the employment-to-population ratio (a somewhat less noisy measure of labor market slack) improved by 0.2 percentage points, its second increase (and largest) since January 2008. Also, the oft cited U-6 measure of labor market underutilization (which includes marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons) fell a whopping 0.8 percentage points to 16.5 percent (its largest decrease on record, though the record only goes back to 1994).
  • 02.10.2010
  • International Trade
  • The nominal trade deficit widened by $3.8 billion to $40.2 billion in December, following a $3.2 billion widening in November. The deficit is at its highest level in twelve months, though it is still nowhere near its oil-price induced recent high of $64.9 billion reached in July 2008. Exports jumped 3.3 percent in December, the largest increase since March 2007. The increase is the result of a 4.9 percent leap in exports of goods, as exports of services were essentially unchanged. Imports rose 4.8 percent, led by a 10.1 percent jump in industrial supplies and materials. Crude oil purchases soared by 16.9 percent, as the U.S. imported 31,621 more barrels in December than November. The 12-month growth rates of both imports and exports are in positive territory for the first time since November 2008, at 4.6 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.
  • 02.04.2010
  • Factory Orders
  • New orders for manufactured goods outpaced expectations in December, rising 1.0 percent, after a 1.0 percent increase in November. Much of the unexpected strength came from an upward revision to durable goods orders, revised up from a 0.3 percent increase to 1.0 percent in December. The 12-month growth rate in new orders has pared its losses since reaching a cyclical low of −23.4 percent reached in April, and now stands at 3.6 percent (its first positive reading since September 2008). Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft jumped up 2.2 percent in December, after surging 3.2 percent in November, though is still down 1.0 percent on a year-over-year basis. Shipments increased 1.9 percent during the month, posting its fourth consecutive gain, while inventories ticked down a slight 0.1 percent after a 0.2 percent gain in November.
  • 02.04.2010
  • Productivity and Costs
  • Nonfarm business sector productivity continued to surge in the fourth quarter of 2009, increasing at an annualized rate of 6.2 percent, its third consecutive quarterly increase in excess of 6.0 percent, pushing its four-quarter growth rate up to 5.1 percent (its highest level since 2002:Q1). The rapid increase in productivity came as real output surged ahead 7.2 percent in the fourth quarter that was slightly tempered by an actual increase in hours worked (up 1.0 percent). That marks the first increase in hours worked since the second quarter of 2007. However, hours are still down 5.1 percent on a year-over-year basis. Compensation per hour rose a slight 1.5 percent during the quarter, compared to gains of 5.6 percent and 6.8 percent over the past two quarter. Though after adjusting for price effects, “real” compensation per hour slipped down 1.9 percent, reversing a 1.8 percent “real” gain in the third quarter. The combination of increased output and decreased compensation pulled unit labor costs down to −4.4 percent, following a 1.5 percent decrease last quarter. On a year-over-year basis, the series—which some use as a proxy for incipient inflation—is down 2.8 percent, its lowest growth rate since 2002:Q1.
  • 02.01.2010
  • Personal Income
  • Nominal personal income rose 0.4 percent (nonannualized) in December, following an upwardly-revised 0.5 percent gain in November. The 12-month growth rate in personal income is up 0.5 percent, its first positive growth rate in a year. Disposable personal income posted its fifth consecutive monthly gain, increasing 0.4 percent in December. Personal savings as a percentage of disposable income ticked up from 4.5 percent in November to 4.8 percent in December, averaging 4.6 percent for all of 2009, a stark contrast from a 1.7 percent savings rate just two years ago. Nominal personal consumption expenditures increased 0.2 percent in December, after a relatively strong 0.7 percent gain in November (that was revised up by 0.2 percentage points). After adjusting for price effects, “real” personal consumption ticked up a slight 0.1 percent in December, and is now up 1.8 percent on a year-over-year basis. Gains in both durable goods and services consumption more than offset a 0.8 percent decrease in nondurables, its first decrease in five months.
  • 02.01.2010
  • PCE
  • The PCE price index increased at an annualized rate of 1.2 percent in December, down from a 3.1 percent increase in November. On a year-over-year basis, PCE prices are up 2.1 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, “core” PCE rose a slight 0.9 percent during the month, after a virtually flat November. The 12-month growth rate in core PCE is up 1.5 percent, though over the past 3-months it has been trending slightly lower (1.2 percent).
  • 02.01.2010
  • ISM Manufacturing
  • The ISM’s Manufacturing Purchasing Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) continued to improve in January, rising 3.5 index points to 58.4 (its highest level since August 2004) . The diffusion index has now been above its growth threshold of 50 for six consecutive months. All components of the overall index improved during the month, led by a strong (6.5 point) increase in the production index. Interestingly, the inventories index, at a 46.5, is the only component of the manufacturing PMI that remains below 50.
  • 02.01.2010
  • Construction Spending
  • Total construction spending dropped 1.2 percent in December and is down 9.9 percent from December 2008. Nearly all months in 2009 saw declines, putting the current seasonally-adjusted annual rate of spending at its lowest level since August 2003. Both private and public construction had equal drops of 1.2 percent in December, but the largest driver behind the overall retreat was a sizeable 2.8 percent drawback in private residential construction. Although still very depressed, the year-over-year growth rate in private residential construction managed to climb to −10.9 percent, its best rate in over three years, since October 2006. Private nonresidential construction actually increased slightly, by 0.2 percent.