Data Updates

Data Updates

February 2012

  • 02.29.2012
  • GDP
  • Real GDP in the fourth quarter was revised up by 0.2 percentage points to an annualized growth rate of 3.0 percent, according to the second estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The upward revision was primarily the result of upward adjustments to nonresidential fixed investment, real consumption, and a downward revision to real imports (which enter into the GDP calculation as a negative). These developments were partially offset by modest downward revisions to the change in real private inventories and real exports. Nonresidential fixed investment, following a strong third quarter gain (up 15.7 percent), was revised up from a 1.7 percent increase to a 2.8 percent gain in the fourth quarter, largely as structures investment was revised up from a 7.2 percent decline to a 2.6 percent decrease. Consumption was revised up from a gain of 2.0 percent to 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter, adding roughly 0.1 percentage point to real GDP growth. Perhaps the most encouraging news was that as a result of the revisions, final sales of domestic product (GDP less inventories) was revised up from 0,8 percent to 1.1 percent. While this is still a deceleration relative to its growth rate of 3.2 percent in the third quarter, this does provide a slightly stronger demand trajectory heading into 2012. Our first take on the fourth quarter estimate of real Gross Domestic Income (GDI) was delayed until the next release because the data on fourth-quarter corporate profits was unavailable. Still, there was an interesting development in that alternative indicator of output growth: third quarter real GDI was revised up from a near flat (0.3 percent) reading to a relatively strong 2.6 percent gain.
  • 02.28.2012
  • Durable Goods
  • New orders for durable goods slipped down 4.0 percent (nonannualized rate) in January, more than reversing a 3.2 percent increase in December. However, durables orders have increased in three out of the last four months and are up 8.1 percent over the past year. Excluding transportation, new durables orders fell 3.2 percent in January and are up 5.7 percent over the last 12 months. An important signal of future equipment and software investment—new orders of nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft—fell sharply in January, plummeting 4.5 percent and more than offsetting December’s 3.4 percent gain. While the 12-month growth rate in the series stands at 5.9 percent, most of that strength occurred over the first half of last year. The 6-month annualized growth rate in nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft is actually negative (down 2.7 percent), a clear signal of slowing equipment and software investment. Shipments of durables rose 0.4 percent in January, slowing a bit from a 1.9 percent gain in December. Excluding transportation, durables shipments fell 1.1 percent during the month, though are still up 8.3 percent over the past year. Manufacturers’ inventories continued to swell in January, rising 0.7 percent, and remain somewhat elevated relative to the level of shipments. The inventory-to-shipments ratio ticked up slightly to 1.79 months in January, above its pre-recession level of 1.4 months.
  • 02.28.2012
  • Housing Price Indexes
  • The S&P Case-Shiller national housing price composite fell to an index level of 125.6, representing a 3.8 percent decline during the fourth quarter of 2011 and 4.0 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2010. Both the 10- and 20-city composites were down 1.1 percent in December and fell 3.9 percent and 4.0 percent, respectively from December 2010. All three composites ended at record lows in 2011 since the peak in 2006. The national index is at the lowest level since the third quarter of 2002, while the 10- and 20-city indexes are back to mid-2003 index levels.

    The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) purchase only housing price index fell 0.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011 and 2.4 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010. On monthly basis, home prices rose 0.7 percent from November to December to an indexed value of 184.2—the highest level since February 2011. Compared to December 2010, this represents a 0.8 percent decline. Across the nation, year-over-year price changes ranged from a 3.8 percent decline in the Pacific region to a 3.0 percent increase in the East South Central region.

  • 02.24.2012
  • New Home Sales
  • New single-family home sales fell 0.9 percent in January to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 321,000 units. January’s decline follows a sharply revised upward increase to 324,000 seasonally-adjusted annualized units (initial 307,000) in December. Compared to January 2011, sales of new single-family homes are up 3.5 percent. Regionally, sales ranged from a 24.5 percent decline in the Midwest to an 11.1 percent increase in the Northeast. The median sales price rose 0.3 percent in January to $217,000, while the average sales price fell 1.2 percent to $261,600. Finally, the seasonally adjusted estimate of new single-family homes for sale at the end of January stood at 151,000 units, representing the lowest level of supply at the current sales rate, 5.6 months, since January 2006 (5.3 months) and marking the sixth consecutive month of declines in the supply of new single-family homes for sale.
  • 02.24.2012
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment revised sharply higher in late February, rising by 2.8 index points during the revision, and changing a modest decrease relative to January’s level into a slight uptick (from 75.0 in January to 75.3 in February). Most of the upward revision in February was due to an adjustment in the expectations component, which was revised up from 68.0 to 70.3 during the month, breaking through the 70.0 threshold for the first time in a year. The current conditions component was revised up slightly to 84.2, modestly above its January level of 79.6. Median short-run (one-year ahead) inflation expectations were revised up from 3.2 percent to 3.3 percent, and are now unchanged from a month ago. Also, longer-term (five-to-ten years ahead) expectations were unrevised at 2.9 percent, up from 2.7 percent in January.
  • 02.22.2012
  • Existing Home Sales
  • January sales of existing single-family homes rose to a seasonally-adjusted 4.05 million annualized units sold—the highest level since May 2010. This represents a 3.8 percent increase from December and 2.3 percent increase from January 2011. The median sales price of existing single-family homes fell 2.6 percent from last January to $154,400—the lowest level since October 2001. Inventories had an uptick of 1.5 percent from December to a level of 2.06 million units available for sale, while the monthly supply of available single-family homes fell 3.2 percent from December to a 6.1 month supply at the current sales pace—the lowest level since April 2006. Unseasonably warm weather throughout the country likely helped to boost the upward trend of existing single-family sales, however record-low mortgage interest rates, bargain home prices, sustained job creation and rising rents were also strong contributing factors.
  • 02.17.2012
  • CPI
  • The headline CPI rose at an annualized rate of 2.5 percent in January, slightly below its 12-month growth rate of 2.9 percent. Food and energy price increases were modest in January, and the bulk of the increase came from the “core” (excluding food and energy) index. The core CPI rose 2.7 percent in January, compared to its near-term (3-month) growth rate of 2.2 percent and its 12-month growth rate of 2.3 percent. Across broad components, price pressure was mostly to the upside in January. Apparel prices jumped up 11.2 percent during the month, seeming to resume its elevated trend from the middle of last year after a brief respite over the last four months of 2011. On a year-over-year basis the series is up 4.7 percent. Medical care commodities (up 7.4 percent), recreation prices (up 7.5 percent), motor vehicle fees (up 18.1 percent), and tobacco prices (up 5.8 percent), were also elevated in January.

    On the other side of the price change distribution, used cars and trucks prices slipped 11.3 percent, marking an acceleration in its recent downward trend. On a year-over-year basis, the series is up just 3.2 percent, down sharply from current cyclical high of near 17 percent in mid-2010. A more general look at the price change distribution reveals that roughly 50 percent of the index rose at rates exceeding 3.0 percent, compared to roughly 30 percent over the previous 3 months.

    On the other end of the distribution, just 22 percent of the index fell into the bins below 1 percent, compared to an average of 33 percent over the previous 3 months. The median CPI rose 3.0 percent and the 16 percent trimmed-mean CPI increased 2.9 percent during the month. Notably, the revised seasonal factors led to an upward revision to the near-term growth rate in the median CPI—from 2.1 percent to 2.4 percent through December. After adding in January’s increase, the 3-month growth rate in the median rose to 2.6 percent, slightly above its 12-month growth rate of 2.4 percent (which is its highest growth rate since April 2009). The near-term trend in the trim is a little lower (2.0 percent), but on a year-over-year basis, its up 2.6 percent. Echoing the upward pressure signaled by the median CPI, the sticky CPI—which tracks the price changes in the more persistent components of the marketbasket—rose 3.0 percent in January, outpacing its 3-month growth rate (2.7 percent) and its year-over-year growth rate of 2.2 percent.

  • 02.16.2012
  • Producer Price Index
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods rose at an annualized rate of 1.2 percent in January, reversing a 1.2 percent decrease in December. The headline increase came as decreasing food and energy prices were offset by increases elsewhere in the index. In January, energy prices slipped down 6.0 percent (their fourth straight monthly decline) and food prices slipped down 3.6 percent. On a year-over-year basis, the headline PPI is up 4.1 percent, which is above its longer-term (20-year) growth rate of 2.3 percent, but is well off its recent cyclical high of 7.2 percent set last September. Excluding food and energy prices, the “core” PPI jumped up 5.5 percent in January, following a 3.4 percent increase in December. These back-to-back increases pushed up the series’ near-term (3-month) growth rate from 0.9 percent to 3.2 percent during the month, in line with its 12-month growth rate of 3.0 percent. Further back on the production line, pricing pressure was relatively subdued, as core intermediate goods prices fell for the fourth consecutive month (down 0.6 percent in January); and the volatile core crude goods series rose 7.5 percent. On a year-over-year basis, core intermediate goods are up 2.7 percent. And core crude goods prices are virtually unchanged from last January.
  • 02.16.2012
  • Housing Starts
  • New privately-owned housing starts rose 1.5 percent in January to a seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of 699,000 units. January’s increase in new privately-owned housing starts was driven by a large increase in multi-family starts—which rose 8.5 percent—compared to a 27.9 percent decline in December. Comparatively, single-family housing starts fell 1.0 percent in December to a seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of 508,000. January’s decline in single-family starts ends four consecutive months of monthly increases. Compared to January 2011, new privately-owned housing starts are up 9.9 percent, with numbers of new multi-family housing starts down 4.0 percent and the number of single-family housing starts up 16.2 percent.

    New privately-owned housing units authorized were up 0.7 percent in January to a seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of 676,000 units. January’s improvement in new privately-owned housing authorized was the result of increases in both multi-family and single-family housing units authorized. In January, single-family housing permits rose 0.9 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of 445,000 units. On a year-over-year basis, new privately-owned housing units authorized are up 19.0 percent, with multi-family housing permits—which tend to be more volatile—up 55.0 percent and single-family housing permits up 6.2 percent.

  • 02.15.2012
  • Industrial Production
  • Industrial production went unchanged (nonannualized) in January, following an upwardly revised estimate of 1.0 percent from 0.4 percent in December. On a year-over-year basis, overall production is up 3.4 percent. Manufacturing production increased 0.7 percent after having increased 1.5 percent in December. Breaking down the manufacturing sector, durable goods rose 1.8 percent in January while nondurables fell 0.2 percent. Within durable goods manufacturing, output of motor vehicles and parts continue to be a source of strength jumping 6.8 percent in January following an upwardly revised 3.8 percent growth in December. Elsewhere within durables manufacturing, fabricated metals; machinery; computer and electronic products; electrical equipment, appliances and components; furniture and related products; and miscellaneous manufacturing all increased at rates greater than 1.0 percent. On the down side, mining and utilities slowed 1.8 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. Interestingly, the decline in mining is the largest monthly decline in the series since March 2009. Utilities continued to slow as warmer than usual temperatures have contained demand for heating. Capacity utilization edged down 0.1 percentage points to 78.5 percent of capacity in January and has increased 16.6 percent since the recession ended.
  • 02.14.2012
  • Retail Sales
  • Retail sales rose 0.4 percent in January, following a downwardly revised flat reading in December. On a year-over-year basis, retail sales are up 5.8 percent—a deceleration from its recent high of 9.1 percent last February—but still above its longer-run (20-year) growth rate of 4.6 percent. Swings in auto sales—down 1.2 percent in January after jumping up 2.5 percent in December—have greatly influenced the headline reading over the past two months. Excluding the auto sector, retail sales jumped up 0.7 percent in January, more than reversing a sharp 0.5 percent decline in December (revised down from a 0.2 percent dip). Importantly, the near-term (3-month) annualized growth rate in ex-auto sales—at 1.6 percent—is well below its 12-month growth rate of 5.5 percent, signaling a slowdown in momentum. Still, cross-category sales performance was mostly positive in January. Aside from autos, the only other categories that decreased in January were furniture and home furnishing stores (down 0.2 percent), health and personal care stores (down 0.3 percent), and nonstore retailers (down 1.1 percent). The strongest sales increases were seen at general merchandise stores (up 2.0 percent), gasoline stations (likely a price-related 1.4 percent jump up), and food and beverage stores (up 1.3 percent) in January. “Core” retail sales (sales excluding autos, building supplies, and gas stations)—a less noisy indicator of the trend in consumption growth—jumped up 0.7 percent in January, erasing a 0.4 percent decrease in December that was its first monthly decrease since July 2010. The series’ near-term annualized growth rate improved from 1.2 percent to 1.6 percent on January’s strength, but is still well off its 12-month trend pace of 4.9 percent.
  • 02.14.2012
  • Import and Export Prices
  • In January, U.S. import prices increased by 0.3 percent after falling 0.1 percent in December. January marks only the third increase in import prices since June of 2011. The main driver behind January’s increase was a 1.2 percent jump in petroleum prices which had previously been trending downward, decreasing in four of the past five months. On a year-over-year basis, import prices were up only 7.1 percent after posting double-digit gains from March until November of last year. Nonpetroleum import prices remained unchanged in January after ticking up 0.1 percent in December. On a year-over-year basis, nonpetroleum import prices were up 2.5 percent, a deceleration from December’s 3.4 percent. Downward trends in both import prices and petroleum prices, accompanied by modest changes in nonpetroleum prices, indicate a low potential for foreign prices to cause an increase in domestic price levels in the coming months.

    Export prices rose by 0.2 percent after declining 0.5 percent in December. Increases in agricultural prices of 2.5 percent (—2.5 percent, previously) were a main driver behind the drop. Nonagricultural prices were unchanged after decreasing throughout the fourth quarter. Year-over-year, exports posted gains of 2.5 percent, the smallest yearly increase since November 2009.

  • 02.10.2012
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment slipped a little in February, falling 2.5 points to an index level of 72.5, partially reversing a substantial (5.1 point) gain in January. Most of the headline softening in February was due to a 4.6 point decline in the current component index, completely offsetting its January jump. Consumer expectations edged down 1.1 points to an index level of 68.0 in February, its first decrease in six months. Median short-run (one-year ahead) inflation expectations edged down from 3.3 percent to 3.2 percent in February. Interestingly, longer-term (five-to-ten years ahead) expectations increased 0.2 percentage points to 2.9 percent following 4 consecutive months at 2.7 percent.
  • 02.10.2012
  • International Trade
  • In December, the U.S. trade deficit expanded by $1.7 billion to −$48.8 billion, up from November’s revised −$47.1 billion (−$47.8 billion, previously). December’s −$48.8 billion marks the largest deficit since June 2011. Both imports and exports increased for the month of December with imports climbing $3.0 billion to $227.6 billion ($224.6 billion, previously) and exports ticking up $1.2 billion to $178.8 billion ($177.5 billion, previously). Reversing the fourth quarter trend of export contraction, December’s uptick in exports reduces the likelihood of trade negatively impacting GDP calculations in the coming quarter. Exports, however, will need to maintain growth in the coming months in order for trade to positively impact GDP. On a year-over-year basis, imports continue to post double-digit gains, increasing 11.3 percent. December’s pace is nonetheless down slightly from November’s 12.7 percent yearly gain. Exports grew 9 percent on yearly basis, also a slight deceleration from November’s 10.3 percent year-over-year growth. For 2011, the trade deficit widened a total of $58.0 billion to −$558 billion, expanding from 2010’s −$500 billion deficit.
  • 02.07.2012
  • Consumer Credit
  • Total consumer credit outstanding continued to improve at a healthy pace in December, increasing 0.8 percent on a seasonally-adjusted basis to $2.5 trillion. December’s improvement follows an upwardly revised increase of 0.9 percent in November and marks the fourth consecutive month that total consumer credit has grown. Compared to December 2010, total consumer credit is up 3.7 percent, the largest increase since August 2008. Nonrevolving consumer credit continues to be the main driver behind total consumer credit growth. In December, nonrevolving accounts rose 1.0 percent, representing the largest one-month increase since February 2005. Moreover, on a year-over-year basis, nonrevolving consumer credit is up 5.5 percent. Finally, revolving accounts continued to grow in December, increasing 0.4 percent and are up 0.1 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • 02.03.2012
  • Federal Reserve Balance Sheet
  • The balance sheet increased nearly $5 billion over the course of January, which can roughly be attributed to an increase in the amount of central bank dollar liquidity swaps drawn. The outstanding draws increased from $99.8 billion to $104.5 billion in January, with nearly $77 billion of that amount taken in 3-month swaps by the European Central Bank. Following a request for assets from the Maiden Lane II portfolio, the New York Fed auctioned over $7 billion worth of securities in early January, with the winning bid going to Credit Suisse Securities. The tentative schedule of outright Treasury operations for the month of February was released at the end of the month, with an announced schedule of $45 billion of purchases and $43 billion of sales. Finally, it was announced that the Fed earned $83.6 billion in 2011 in interest income on securities acquired through open market operations (U.S. Treasury securities, agency mortgage-backed securities and agency debt). Another $2.3 billion was earned as realized gains on the sale of U.S. Treasury securities.
  • 02.03.2012
  • Employment Situation
  • Nonfarm payrolls jumped up by 243,000 in January, following revisions to 2011 data that left the level of employment as of December 266,000 jobs higher than we previously thought. Importantly, the near term trajectory appears to be looking up. Average payroll growth over the past three months was 201,000, compared to an average gain of 152,000 in 2011. Private payroll growth was a little stronger than the overall gain in January, rising 257,000 (its strongest monthly gain since last April), as government sector employment continued to trend down (decreasing 14,000). Nearly every major private sector industry posted employment gains that either met or exceeded their near-term trends in January. The two exceptions were information sector payrolls (down 13,000) and employment in financial activities (down 5,000). Goods-producing employment posted its highest monthly gain since January 2006, rising 81,000 during the month, and was much improved relative to its 2011 average monthly gain of 33,000. Durable goods manufacturing payrolls rose by 50,000 in January, accounting for much of the overall gain in goods-producing payrolls.

    On the service side, notable increases were seen in professional and business services employment (up 70,000—a 10 month high), and transportation and warehousing, which rose by 13,000 in January compared to an average gain of just 7,000 in 2011. Other indicators on the establishment side were mixed. Hours and earnings were little changed. However, the employment diffusion index (which measures the breadth of the employment gains) improved from 62.4 percent to 64.1 percent of firms adding to payrolls. And this improvement appears to be driven by a marked jump up in the manufacturing diffusion index, which rose from 64.2 percent to 69.1 percent in January—its highest level since January 2011.

    Any signal of labor market improvement coming from the household side of the report should be weighed against a dramatic adjustment in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s measurement of the annual population. The civilian noninstitutional population was revised up by 1.5 million people as of December 2011, with most of these individuals “entering” into existence outside the labor force. This led to a 0.3 percentage point drop in the labor force participation rate to 63.7 percent in January. On the other hand, the number of employed persons jumped by 847,000 in January, and the combination of various factors led to a decrease in the unemployment rate from 8.5 percent to 8.3 percent. It is important to note that despite the unusually large increase in the population and the strong January gain in employment, the employment-to-population ratio remained unchanged at 58.5 percent.

  • 02.03.2012
  • Factory Orders
  • New orders for manufactured goods increased 1.2 percent (nonannualized) in December, following a upwardly revised monthly increase in November of 2.2 percent. The 3-month annualized growth rate now rests at 13.5 percent, up from 8.0 in November. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.6 percent in December. Durable goods orders increased 3.0 percent while nondurable goods fell 0.4 percent. Nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders (considered a leading indicator of business investment spending) rose 3.1 percent for the month, pushing its 3-month annualized growth rate back into positive territory (2.6 percent) following November’s decline (−4.1 percent). Shipments of manufactured goods increased 0.7 percent for the month, while its 3-month annualized growth rate edged up to 5.8 percent. Unfilled orders increased 1.4 percent, while inventories went unchanged with the inventories-to-shipments ratio now at 1.3.
  • 02.02.2012
  • Productivity and Costs
  • Nonfarm business sector productivity—real output per hour of all persons—grew at an annualized rate of 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter, following a downwardly revised third-quarter estimate of 1.9 percent growth. From the fourth quarter of 2010, productivity grew 0.5 percent. Output growth accelerated in the fourth quarter to 3.6 percent, outpacing its 2.8 percent gain in the third quarter. These output gains were offset in the productivity measure by a sizable jump in hours worked, which increased by 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter, its highest rate of growth since the second quarter of 2010. Hourly compensation posted an increase for the first time since the first quarter of 2011, growing 1.9 percent in the fourth quarter. After adjusting for price changes, real hourly compensation was also back in positive territory, increasing by 1.0 percent. The decrease in productivity and increase in hourly compensation pushed unit labor costs up 1.2 percent in the fourth quarter. On a year-over-year basis, unit labor costs increased 1.3 percent.
  • 02.01.2012
  • ISM Manufacturing
  • The ISM’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) came in right around consensus expectations, increasing from 53.1 to 54.1 in January. The inventories component grew 4.0 points to an index level of 49.5, which is still slightly below its growth threshold of 50. New orders also added 2.8 points, increasing to 57.6, and the supplier deliveries index rose from 51.5 in December to 53.6 in January. These gains were partially offset by a slight 0.5 point decline in the employment index, which fell from 54.8 to 54.3, and by a larger drop in the production component. Production decreased by 3.2 points to an index level of 55.7. The prices index (which is not seasonally adjusted and does not enter into the overall PMI) surged in January, increasing from 47.5 to 55.5, climbing above 50 for the first time since September. This month’s readings reflect the U.S. Department of Commerce’s recently completed annual adjustment to the seasonal factors used to calculate the indexes.
  • 02.01.2012
  • Construction Spending
  • After an upward revision to October and a slight downward revision to November, private construction spending improved 28.5 percent (annualized rate) in December. Nonresidential spending increased by 3 percent, while residential spending increased nearly 1 percent over December. Throughout 2011, private construction increased 8.3 percent. Nonresidential spending is up 11.4 percent from this time last year even with the slight slowdown in November. Manufacturing and communication pushed the increase while automotive, amusement, and lodging continued their four-month decline. On the residential side, multi-family construction has expanded by 18.8 percent, outperforming single-family home construction (3.66 percent) over the past year. Home improvement is starting to see a flat-to-upward trend: December came in at $114.1 billion, which is a 4.4 percent increase over a year ago.