Data Updates

Data Updates

March 2011

  • 03.31.2011
  • Factory Orders
  • New orders for manufactured goods dropped 0.1 percent (nonannualized) in February, reversing the 3.3 percent gain in January. Year-over-year new order growth dipped to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent in January. Durable goods orders contracted 0.6 percent over the month, largely driven by transportation equipment (aircraft materials in particular), primary metals and machinery. Excluding transportation equipment, durable goods orders actually rose 0.1 percent. On a similar note, nondurable orders inched up 0.3 percent. Manufacturers’ inventories expanded 0.8 percent while shipments increased by 0.3 percent. Unfilled shipments increased 0.5 percent and are up 4.5 percent since last February.
  • 03.29.2011
  • Home Price Index
  • The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index reported continued month-over-month declines for the sixth consecutive month. In January the 10- and 20-city composites were down 0.9 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively from their December 2010 levels. Compared to January 2010, the 10-city composite reported 2.0 percent decline while the 20-city composite reported 3.1 percent decline. San Diego and Washington D.C. were the only two cities to record positive monthly changes in January as well as maintain positive annual rates throughout 2010.

    The FHFA reported that United States home prices have fallen for the third straight month decreasing .30 percent in January. Meanwhile, December’s reported decline has been revised to an even steeper 1 percent decrease from November’s prices. Compared to last January, home prices have decreased 3.9 percent. January’s prices varied across the nine census divisions relative to December, ranging from a 1.3 percent decrease in the South Atlantic division to a 1.6 percent increase in the West South Central division. Overall home prices are down 16.5 percent below the April 2007 peak which has led to record numbers of all-cash and first-time home buyers.

  • 03.28.2011
  • Personal Income
  • Nominal personal income rose 0.3 percent (non-annualized) in February, following an upwardly revised 1.2 percent gain in January (largely influenced by changes that boosted disposable personal income). On a year-over-year basis, personal income is up 5.1 percent (its highest growth rate since June 2008). Disposable personal income increased 0.3 percent in February, after a 0.8 percent jump up in January as tax changes reduced employee contributions for government social insurance and the “Making Work Pay” provisions from the 2009 ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) ended, a partially offsetting factor. Excluding the effects of the tax changes, the release noted that disposable personal income would have risen 0.2 percent in January and 0.3 percent in February. After adjusting for price changes, “real” disposable personal income slipped down 0.1 percent in February and its 3-month annualized growth rate fell from 3.6 percent in January to 2.4 percent in February, slightly below its 12-month trend of 2.7 percent. Real personal consumption expenditures increased 0.3 percent in February, largely on a 1.4 percent pop-up in durables purchases, and is up 2.5 percent over the past year. The personal savings rate slipped down from 6.1 percent to 5.8 percent during the month, though it has been oscillating around 6.0 percent since mid-2008.
  • 03.28.2011
  • PCE Price Index
  • The Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) price index rose at an annualized rate of 4.9 percent in February, as energy prices continued to spike (rising 51 percent during the month). Food prices also rose relatively sharply in February—up nearly 10 percent—but have risen just 2.4 percent over the past year, matching its 10-year annualized trend. On a year-over-year basis, headline PCE prices are up 1.6 percent. Excluding volatile food and energy prices (core PCE), the index rose 1.9 percent during the month following an upwardly revised 2.0 percent increase in January. The near-term (3-month) annualized growth rate in the core PCE stands at 1.3 percent as of February, slightly above its 12-month growth rate of 0.9 percent, but still below its long term (10-year) growth rate of 1.8 percent. Looking just at the index of market-based price changes shows that the (market-based) core PCE rose 2.1 percent in February, a slight acceleration from January’s 1.4 percent increase, though the 12-month growth rate in this series matches the “official” core PCE growth rate of 0.9 percent.
  • 03.25.2011
  • GDP
  • Real GDP was revised up in the fourth quarter, from a 2.8 percent increase to a 3.1 percent gain, according to the third estimate from the Burea of Economic Analysis. The upward revision was primarily a result of an upward adjustment to private inventories that lessened its drag on fourth quarter real GDP growth by 0.3 percentage point. An upward revision to nonresidential fixed investment also bolstered the headline number, as both equipment and software and structures investment were revised up. Notably, structures investment was revised up from 0.9 percent in the advance estimate for the fourth quarter to a 7.7 percent annualized gain currently. On the other hand, export growth was revised down by a percentage point to an increase of 8.6 percent, partially offsetting upward revisions in other areas. Alternative measures of demand—final sales of domestic product (which subtracts inventories) and final sales to domestic purchasers (GDP less net exports and inventories)—were largely unchanged during the revision. The growth rate in final sales of domestic product remained at a robust 6.7 percent gain, while final sales to domestic purchasers ticked up 0.1 percentage point to 3.2 percent.
  • 03.25.2011
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • According to the latest release from the University of Michigan, its Index of Consumer Sentiment was revised down in late March, from a level of 68.2 to 67.5. The new level reflects a full 10-point decline from February’s level of 77.5. The release noted that the quick erosion in confidence was largely due to rising gas prices and was “concentrated among lower-income households.” Also, the release noted that the fewest consumers on record expected nominal income increases over the year to come. Much of the overall decline in confidence came as the expectations component fell from a level of 71.6 in February to 57.9 in March, while the current conditions component slipped down 4.4 points to 82.5 during the month. True to its historic correlations, as food and energy prices rise, median one-year-ahead inflation expectations jumped up, too—from 3.4 percent to 4.6 percent in March. Still, these levels are below the recent peak of 5.2 percent set during the mid-2008 oil price shock. Longer-term expectations (which were unchanged in the March revision) edged up from 2.9 percent in February to 3.2 percent in March, and remained 0.2 percentage point below their mid-2008 levels. As longer-term expectations remained somewhat anchored, this may be tentative evidence that consumers do not see recent relative prices changes as persistent increases in inflation.
  • 03.25.2011
  • Federal Reserve Balance Sheet
  • On March 23, the New York Fed announced that it will be conducting more small-scale reverse repurchase agreement operations using all eligible collateral types. The first set of operations will be conducted with only the expanded list of mutual fund counterparties announced in January, and the second set will be open to all eligible counterparties. The operations were again cited as a matter of prudent advance planning by the Fed. Also, the balance of the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility has fallen below $20 billion for the first time since June 2009. Excess reserves have now topped $1.37 trillion after another $30 billion of Treasury securities were purchased. The Treasury General Account shot up as the end of the first quarter nears, jumping from $42 billion to $87 billion. A portion of the outstanding balances for Maiden Lane I and Maiden Lane III were repaid as well.
  • 03.24.2011
  • Durable Goods
  • New orders for durables fell 0.9 percent (nonannualized rate) in February, following an increase in January that was revised up from 2.7 percent to 3.6 percent. Compared to recent estimates of aircraft orders (a 54 percent decline in December and 187 percent spike in January), February dropped in at a tame 8.7 percent. Excluding transportation, durables fell 0.6 percent, recovering somewhat from January’s upwardly revised 3.0 percent drop. The 3-month annualized growth rate in durables new orders excluding transportation now stands at a 3.6 percent decline, and the 12-month growth rate is currently 8.5 percent. An important signal of future equipment and software investment—new orders of nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft—fell 1.3 percent in February. Its 12-month growth rate slipped to 9.3 percent in February (down from 16.0 percent in January) and its 3-month annualized growth rate tumbled to a 13.4 percent decline. Shipments of durables excluding transportation rose at the same 0.1 percent rate as in January and are up 8.5 percent over the past year. Durables inventories continued to grow, with February adding another 0.9 percent.
  • 03.23.2011
  • New Home Sales
  • Sales of new single-family homes fell 16.9 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 250,000, representing an all-time low since the series began in January 1963. On a year-over-year basis, sales of new single-family homes are down 28.0 percent, falling for the tenth consecutive month. Sales of new single-family homes were down in every region, with sales declining 57.1 percent, 27.5 percent, 6.3 percent and 14.7 percent in the Northeast, Midwest, South and West respectively. The median sales price plummeted 13.9 percent from January to 202,100 and is down 8.9 percent since February 2010. The number of single-family homes for sale at the end of January stood at 183,000, representing a 9.6 months’ supply at the current sales pace. While part of February’s poor performance could be attributed market distortions resulting from the expiration of the California tax credit in December and poor weather conditions that made home shopping difficult, the majority of February’s decline is likely attributed to continued weakness in the housing sector.
  • 03.21.2011
  • Exisitng Home Sales
  • Single-family home sales fell sharply in February after three months of growth. Overall sales were down 9.6 percent from January and declined across the country from 6.5 percent to 12.4 percent. The amount of existing sales in February was 4.25 million, down from 4.7 million in January and 2.75 percent below the level in February 2010 of 4.37 million. Housing inventory rose 1.7 percent to 2.97 million, while the median price of existing single-family homes fell to $157,000, which is 4.2 percent below its level last February. Although down, sales of existing single-family home still remain 20.23 percent above the cyclical low of 3.39 million that was reached last July.
  • 03.17.2011
  • Consumer Price Index
  • The headline CPI jumped up at an annualized rate of 6.8 percent in February, and while food and energy price increases were significant contributors to the overall increase, there is some evidence of broad-based price gains. Energy prices rose 48.5 percent in February, and in contrast to previous months, household energy prices rose alongside motor fuel prices. Still, over the past 12 months, household energy prices are up just 1.5 percent. Food prices rose 6.8 percent in February (their largest monthly increase since September 2008), as five out of the six major grocery store groups posted increases.

    Excluding food and energy prices, the index rose 2.4 percent in February, outpacing its near-term (3-month) growth rate of 1.8 percent. Over the past 12 months, the “core” CPI is up 1.1 percent. Measures of underlying inflation produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland—the median CPI and the 16 percent trimmed-mean CPI—showed some interesting disagreement in February, as the median rose 2.4 percent, while the trim was up 3.8 percent during the month. February’s increase in the trimmed-mean measure pushes up its near-term (3-month) growth rate to 2.6 percent, somewhat elevated compared to a 1.9 percent increase in the median over that time period. Over the past year, the median is up just 1.0 percent, and the trim has risen just 1.2 percent.

    Digging into the price-change distribution reveals why the trim was a little higher than the median in February. Nearly half of the overall index (by expenditure weight) rose at rates above 3.0 percent in February (the highest level since September of 2008), compared to an average of 23 percent over the prior six months. Further out on the upper tail, nearly 17 percent of the market basket rose at rates above 12 percent in February, and the 16 percent trimmed-mean picked up on some of that. On the other end of the distribution, just 8 percent of the index posted outright price declines, in stark contrast to the average over the prior six months of 32 percent.

  • 03.17.2011
  • Industrial Production
  • Industrial production edged down 0.1 percent (nonannualized) in February, following an upwardly revised 0.3 percent increase in January. Over the last 12 months, industrial production is up 5.5 percent. February’s decline in headline output can be traced to a 4.5 percent decline in utilities output, which was attributed to “unseasonably warm weather in February.” Manufacturing production increased 0.4 percent in February after a 0.9 percent gain in January, and it is up 6.9 percent over the past year. Durable goods production increased 0.9 percent in February, as gains were broad based across major categories with motor vehicles and parts (+4.2 percent) leading the increases. Nondurable output was unchanged and is up 3.2 percent over the last 12 months. Mining output rose 0.8 percent reflecting, higher extraction rates of crude oil and natural gas in February. Overall, capacity utilization dipped slightly (−0.1 percentage point) to 76.3 percent.

  • 03.16.2011
  • Producer Price Index
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods surged in February, rising at an annualized rate of 21.2 percent largely as food and energy prices spiked (up 58.4 percent and 47.6 percent, respectively). On a year-over-year basis, the headline PPI is up 5.6 percent, its highest level since last March, though well below the near 10 percent growth rate seen during the mid-2008 energy price shock. Excluding volatile food and energy items, producer prices rose a modest 2.8 percent in February, compared to a 6.4 percent jump up in January. The series is up 1.9 percent over the past 12 months, below its longer-run (30-year) growth rate of 2.2 percent. Further back on the line of production, pricing pressure remains on the upside as core intermediate goods rose 14.4 percent and core crude goods spiked up 31.3 percent, leading to year-over-year growth rates for the two series of 5.4 percent and 28.3 percent, respectively.
  • 03.16.2011
  • Housing Starts
  • Single-family housing starts lost ground in February, plummeting 11.8 percent and falling to their lowest level since March 2009. The decline follows a small increase of 1.4 percent in January. The pace of starts is currently 375,000 annualized units, which is 28.8 percent below February 2010’s pace. Only the South region saw an improvement in single-family housing starts, rising 3.9 percent. The Northeast, Midwest, and West declined 20.4 percent, 31.2 percent, and 25.5 percent, respectively. Additionally, single-family housing permits declined 9.3 percent, falling to 382,000 annualized units, which is 27.0 percent below February 2010’s pace. The weakness in single-family housing starts and permits was attributed to a high level of foreclosed homes, which has reduced the demand for new construction.

  • 03.16.2011
  • Current Account
  • The U.S. current account deficit narrowed to $113.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, down $12.1 billion from the third quarter’s revised $125.5 billion. The decrease marks current account deficit as 3.1 percent of gross domestic product, down from 3.4 percent in the third quarter of 2010. Although the deficit continues to decrease from a peak of 6.5 percent of GDP in the fourth quarter of 2005, it has been widening since a low of 2.4 percent of GDP in the second quarter of 2009. The narrowing was largely driven by a decrease in the deficit of goods and services ($116.7 billion), down from the third quarter’s revised $132.6 billion. Additionally, a decline in the surplus on income to $38.6 billion in the fourth quarter ($41.4 billion, previously) offset a widening in net unilateral current transfers to $35.2 billion in the fourth quarter ($34.2 billion, previously).
  • 03.15.2011
  • Import and Export Prices
  • Rising crude oil and food prices made February the fifth consecutive month to mark an increase in import prices above 1 percent. Import prices increased 1.4 percent from January, which was revised down to 1.3 percent (previously 1.5 percent). Year-over-year growth rose to 6.9 percent compared to January’s 5.4 percent, showing the highest increase since May 2010. Petroleum prices jumped 3.4 percent from last month, marking a five-month consecutive increase. Excluding petroleum, import prices increased slightly by 0.6 percent, down from January’s 0.8 percent gain. Although nonpetroleum import prices showed decreased gains compared to the previous month, they grew on a year-ago basis by 3.5 percent indicating the largest gain in more than two years. Food and beverage import prices decelerated from last month (2.5 percent) to 0.8 percent. Nonetheless, the year-over-year change of food and beverage prices, currently 15.8 percent, has charted double-digit growth since October 2010.

    Export prices increased 1.3 percent in February showing a modest 0.1 percent gain from January (1.2 percent). On a year-over-year basis, export prices increased 8.6 percent. Similar to last month, gains were broad based across categories.

  • 03.11.2011
  • Retail Sales
  • Retail sales jumped up 1.0 percent in February following upwardly revised estimates for January’s sales figures—from 0.3 percent to 0.7 percent. Sales gains were relatively broad-based in February, led by autos sales (up 2.3 percent), miscellaneous store retailers (up 2.0 percent), and gasoline stations (up 1.4 percent). Only three of the 14 major categories of retail sales posted sales declines in February. Notably, sales at furniture and home furnishing stores fell 0.8 percent in February, and are down 4.0 percent over the past year. Recent gains in gasoline stations have likely been driven by price increases, as the series is up at an annualized rate of 26 percent over the past six months, perhaps adding an upward bias to overall sales recently. A less-noisy measure of the trend in retail sales—sales excluding autos, building supplies, and gas stations—rose 0.6 percent in February, following an upwardly revised 0.6 percent gain in January (up from 0.4 percent). Over the past three months, this “core” measure of retail sales is trending at an annualized rate of 4.5 percent, equaling its 12-month growth rate.
  • 03.11.2011
  • Federal Reserve Balance Sheet
  • Maiden Lane II made a payment on its outstanding loan from the New York Fed, dropping the outstanding balance by about $200 million to $12.4 billion. Also related to Maiden Lane II, AIG appears to have made an offer to buy the securities in the Maiden Lane II portfolio back from the Fed. AIG has reportedly offered $15.7 billion for the securities, which are currently valued at $15.9 billion. If the transaction were to take place, the Fed would still net a $1.5 billion profit. The new schedule for Treasury purchases was released on March 10, and it seems to be more heavily weighted toward the purchase of new assets (as opposed to principal reinvestment from mortgage-backed securities and agency debt) than in previous months. According to the schedule, about $110 billion in purchases will be made in the next month, $80 billion of those being new asset purchases. In other balance sheet news, he European Central Bank (ECB) did not draw on its currency swap line this week. The line has only been lightly used, but this marks the first week since May of last year that the ECB has not conducted any swap operations. Other trends have continued, with asset purchases up $53 billion, excess reserves up $91 billion, and the Supplemental Financing Account down $50 billion.
  • 03.11.2011
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment took a large hit in early March as gas prices eroded consumer confidence. The index fell 9.3 index points (or 12 percent) to a level of 68.2, its lowest level since October 2010. The decrease came as the expectations component fell from 71.6 to 58.3 (19 percent), its first foray below 60.0 since March 2009. The release noted that the decrease in expectations was largest at the lower end of the income distribution. The current conditions component edged down modestly relative to expectations, slipping down from 86.9 in February to 83.6 in the preliminary estimate for March. Median one-year-ahead rose from 3.4 percent to 4.6 percent in March, still the recent peak of 5.2 percent set during the mid-2008 oil price shock. Longer-term expectations edged up from 2.9 percent to 3.2 percent, though remained 0.2 percentage point below mid-to-late 2008 levels.
  • 03.10.2011
  • International Trade
  • The nominal trade deficit grew by $6 billion in January to a total of $46.3 billion, the highest level in seven months. Exports rose $4.4 billion to $167.7 billion and imports expanded $10.5 billion to $214.1 billion. The 5.2 percent jump in imports, the most since March 1993, can be attributed to petroleum (4.7 percent) and increased purchases of industrial supplies and consumer goods. The increase in exports, 2.7 percent from last month, stems from increases in industrial supplies and materials as well as automotive vehicles and parts. Since January 2010, U.S. exports have grown 15.9 percent, while imports have risen 19.3 percent. Rising crude oil prices, up 0.4 percent from December, accounted for nearly half of the increase of both imports and exports. In turn, the sharp rise in imports and exports contribute to the widening deficit and reflect the expansion of the U.S. economy.
  • 03.07.2011
  • Consumer Credit
  • Consumer credit rose for the fourth consecutive month, increasing 0.2 percent in January. The growth in credit was driven by an increase in non-revolving account balances, which were up 0.6 percent in January and are up on a year-over-year basis 1.6 percent. The strength in non-revolving account growth was attributed to a reduction in auto loan write-offs. Revolving accounts continued their decline, falling 0.5 percent in January and are down 7.2 percent on a year-over-year basis. Revolving account balances had fallen for twenty-seven consecutive months before increasing 0.25 percent in December.
  • 03.04.2011
  • The Employment Situation
  • Nonfarm payrolls rose by 192,000 in February, following upwardly revised estimates for January and December that, in sum, added 58,000. Private payroll gains outpaced the headline increase, rising by 222,000 in February as government payrolls slipped down by 30,000 (the loss was roughly split between state and local governments). Over the past three months, private payroll gains have averaged 152,000, compared to an average monthly gain of 107,000 over the previous twelve months. Goods-producing employment increased by 70,000 in February, posting its largest monthly gain in five years. Part of the reason for the relatively strong increase was that construction payrolls jumped up by 33,000, reversing a (likely weather-related) 22,000 decline in January. Manufacturing employment also rose by 33,000, but this came on the heels of an upwardly revised 53,000 increase in January. The durables sector accounted for nearly all of February’s gain, continuing its recent trend. Since December 2009, durables employment has risen 233,000, while nondurables payrolls have decreased 37,000. On the service side, February payroll gains were led by healthcare and social assistance (up 36,200), leisure and hospitality (up 21,000), and temporary help services (up 15,500). Retail trade payrolls decreased by 8,000 in February, partially reversing a 31,000 gain in January.

    A positive sign buried in the details: the one-month diffusion index for private establishments—a measure of the breadth but not intensity of employment gains—jumped up from 60.1 percent to 68.2 percent in February (its highest level since May 1998). On the household side, the unemployment rate edged down from 9.0 percent to 8.9 percent as the number of unemployed persons fell by 190,000, outpacing an increase in the labor force by 60,000. While there are some technical reasons to discount the recent decrease in the unemployment rate, it still has fallen by nearly a percentage point over the past three months. In contrast, the employment-to-population ratio has only improved by 0.2 percent to 58.4 percent over that time period.

  • 03.04.2011
  • Factory Orders
  • New orders for manufactured goods jumped up 3.1 percent (nonannualized) in January, following an upwardly revised 1.4 percent gain in December. Excluding transportation, new orders rose 0.7 percent in January and are up 11.6 percent over the past year. Nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders fell −6.2 percent in January. However, this series is trending at an annualized rate of 3.1 percent over the past three months, below its 12-month growth rate of 14.7 percent. Shipments of manufactured goods increased 1.8 percent in January and are up 8.9 percent over the past year. Inventories continued to pile up, increasing 1.3 percent in January.
  • 03.03.2011
  • Productivity and Costs
  • Nonfarm business sector productivity—real output per hour of all persons—remained at a 2.6 percent increase after fourth quarter revisions, outpacing the 2.3 percent rise in the third quarter. Although the revision kept productivity constant, output was revised down from 4.5 percent to 4.0 percent, and hours were revised lower by 0.4 percentage point to 1.4 percent. Hourly compensation for the third and fourth quarter were both upwardly revised, bumping the gain to 2.5 percent in the third quarter and 2.0 percent in the fourth quarter. Real hourly compensation, after adjusting for price changes, fell 0.6 percent, but was revised up to 0.6 percent on a year-over-year basis following large upward revisions in the second and third quarter. As a result of the stronger compensation numbers, unit labor costs, while still relatively weak, were revised up on a year-over-year basis—from −0.2 percent to −0.1 percent.
  • 03.01.2011
  • ISM Manufacturing
  • The ISM’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) continued its upward climb, rising to an index value of 61.4 in February, its highest level since May 2004. All the components of the ISM’s PMI increased in February except for the inventories index (which slipped down from 52.4 to 48.8 in February). Notably, the employment index jumped up by 2.8 index points to 64.5 (its highest value since January 1973). The production index jumped up from 63.5 to 66.3 during the month, while the new orders and supplier deliveries indexes posted modest increases. Also, the prices index, which is not seasonally adjusted and does not factor into the overall PMI, continued its recent climb, edging up from 81.5 to 82.0 in February, though remains below its recent peak of 91.5 in June 2008.
  • 03.01.2011
  • Construction Spending
  • Total construction spending ticked down in January, as a 5.1 percent increase in residential spending was offset by a decline of 3.3 percent in the larger contributor to total spending, non-residential construction. These movements combined for a monthly decrease of 0.7 percent in total construction spending.

    Driving the decline in non-residential were lodging, which decreased by 20.2 percent, and power, which decreased by 10.9 percent. Public safety, conservation and development, and water supply were among a handful of segments that increased slightly over the month. Private construction spending exhibited the same dynamic: monthly increases in residential spending offset by decreases in nonresidential with lodging and power driving the decline.

    Looking over the longer term, total construction spending has decreased −5.9 percent since January 2010. Residential spending decreased 7.0 percent over that period and non-residential spending decreased 5.3 percent. The largest long term declines were seen in lodging (−44.9 percent), manufacturing (−25.5 percent) and office (−22.6 percent). Water supply, conservation and development, and highway and street construction were bright spots, all posting double-digit percent increases in spending over the year.