Data Updates

Data Updates

April 2010

  • 04.30.2010
  • Real GDP
  • Real GDP increased at an annualized rate of 3.2 percent in the first quarter, slightly less than the median expectation of 3.4 percent from the Bloomberg survey, and is now up 2.5 percent on a year-over-year basis. As was the case in the fourth quarter of 2009, the change in private inventories helped to boost the overall gain, accounting for roughly half of the overall gain in real GDP (adding 1.6 percentage points to growth) in the first quarter. Final sales, which exclude inventories from the calculation, rose 1.6 percent in the first quarter, edging down from 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. That said, final sales to domestic purchasers, a snapshot of demand in the United States (excluding inventories and net exports from the calculation), increased 2.2 percent, compared to 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter. Consumption surged in the first quarter, rising 3.6 percent, its strongest quarter since the first quarter of 2007, adding 2.6 percentage points (pp) to output growth and pushing its four-quarter growth rate up to 1.8 percent. Spending on durables jumped up 11.3 percent in the first quarter, compared to a 0.4 percent increase last quarter. Nondurables and services posted modest increases in the first quarter, rising 3.9 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. Nonresidential fixed investment rose 4.0 percent in the first quarter, despite investment in structures continuing to plummet, slipping down 14.0 percent. Residential investment, which likely suffered from a lull after the original expiration of the home-buyers tax credit in November, fell 10.9 percent in the first quarter following two consecutive gains. On a year-over-year basis, residential investment is still down 4.2 percent. Exports grew 5.8 percent in the first quarter, after surging 20.3 percent in the second half of 2009. Imports increased 8.9 percent in the first quarter, following gains of 21.3 percent and 15.8 percent in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
  • 04.30.2010
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment was revised up 2.7 points in April to a final reading of 72.2. Despite this relatively large revision, the index is still 1.4 points below its March level and only 7.1 points above its year-ago level, a low number compared to the double-digit gains seen in every prior month since October. While both components of the index were upwardly revised, the overall revision is mainly due to a 4.2 point improvement from the preliminary report in consumer expectations, as the current economic conditions component was revised up only 0.3 point. Still, both components are 1.4 points below their March levels, with April marking the third straight month of decline in consumer expectations. The current economic conditions component was at its highest level in two years last month, so April’s decline still leaves the index much higher than its record low of 58.4, reached in October 2008. Inflation expectations were unchanged from the preliminary report, which found that one-year-ahead average inflation expectations rose 0.4 percentage point to 3.8 percent in April, while the longer-run (5- to 10-year-ahead) expectations inched up 0.1 percentage point to 3.2 percent.
  • 04.29.2010
  • Fourth District Employment Conditions
  • The Fourth District’s unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage point to 10.5 percent for the month of March. The increase in the unemployment rate is attributed to an increase in the number of people unemployed (0.8 percent) and the labor force (0.1 percent) outpacing increases in the number of people employed (0.1 percent). The distribution of unemployment rates among Fourth District counties ranges from 7.6 percent (Fayette County, Kentucky) to 19.5 percent (Magoffin County, Kentucky), with the median county unemployment rate at 11.4 percent. These county-level patterns are reflected in state-wide unemployment rates as Ohio and Kentucky have unemployment rates of 11.0 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively, compared to Pennsylvania’s 9.0 percent and West Virginia’s 9.5 percent.
  • 04.27.2010
  • Housing Price Indicators
  • Growth in the S&P/Case-Shiller 10-city Home Price Index slowed in February, inching up just 0.1 percent after a 0.4 percent increase in January. Meanwhile, the 20-city index pulled back a slight 0.1 percent, breaking the solid streak of gains that started in June 2009. While the February data represent a mild cool-down in progress made over the past eight months or so, the numbers are not so drab as to dampen the indexes’ year-over-year growth. Growth in the 10-city index since last February came in at 1.4 percent and growth in the 20-city index was 0.6 percent, both positive for the first time since December 2006 and up from troughs of nearly −20 percent a little over a year ago.

    The picture from the perspective of FHFA Purchase-Only House Price Index has looked quite different from that of the S&P/Case-Shiller index in recent months. The FHFA index retreated a slight 0.2 percent in February, tacking on the smallest of three consecutive declines. Year-over-year growth, which had a brief positive stint last November, dipped further to −3.4 percent in February. Of all nine U.S. regions tracked by the FHFA, only the West South Central (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana) and Pacific (Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California) regions have seen home prices grow over the last year.

  • 04.23.2010
  • Durable Goods
  • New orders for durable goods slipped down 1.3 percent (nonannualized) in March, following an upwardly revised 1.1 percent gain in February. However, the overall decline was mostly due to an outsized decline in aircraft and parts orders (down 42.2 percent). Excluding transportation, new orders rose 2.8 percent in March, pushing up its 12-month growth rate to a relatively strong 13.5 percent. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft?a leading indicator or investment spending—jumped up 4.0 percent during the month, pushing its 3-month annualized growth rate up to 6.2 percent, and its 12-month growth rate up to 12.6 percent (highest since September 2006). Shipments of durables rose 1.2 percent in March, following two consecutive slight declines. Also, manufacturers added to inventories for the third month in a row, increasing 0.2 percent in March, though the series is still down 7.2 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • 04.23.2010
  • New Home Sales
  • New single-family home sales soared 26.9 percent in March, breaking a chain of four consecutive declines and boosting the annual sales pace to 411,000 units, the highest level since last July. Percentage-wise, the increase was the second largest since records began in 1963. However, despite the outsized uptick, the current sales pace still runs far below historic averages due to the depth of the housing downturn and recession. Year-over-year growth in sales jumped all the way up from −13.8 percent to 22.6 percent. Until this point, year-over-year growth had been solidly negative since December 2005, the only exception being a brief stint of growth last October. Months of supply dropped from 8.6 to 6.7 months in March and have deflated significantly since the 12.4-month peak reached in January 2009. Year-over-year growth in the median sales price currently stands at 4.3 percent and has been positive now for three months straight.
  • 04.23.2010
  • Federal Reserve Balance Sheet
  • There was little change in the asset side of the balance sheet this week. At the end of March, the Large Scale Asset Purchase programs expired and most potential inflows into the balance have now passed. There is still room for mild growth as some of the final purchases are processed and cleared. All lending to financial institutions and credit markets declined only slightly throughout the week. Most changes in the balance sheet this week occurred as the composition of the liabilities shifted. Notably, excess reserves retreated by almost $50 billion. This drop can be attributed to two dramatic increases in Treasury accounts. The Treasury’s general account at the Fed, which could be expanding with the receipt of tax payments, grew by about $30 billion. The other jump occurred in the Treasury’s Supplemental Financing Program (SFP) account, as the final $25 billion auction of SFP Treasury securities was recorded. As the debate on how to exit from the Fed’s balance sheet expansion heats up, these Treasury accounts may be an unpredictable but helpful source of reserve draining.
  • 04.22.2010
  • PPI
  • The Producer Price Index for finished goods rebounded from a 6.5 percent (annualized rate) decrease in February, jumping up 8.4 percent in March. Food prices jumped up 32.5 percent in March, accounting for “over 70 percent of the increase” in the overall index according to the BLS. Energy prices also rose during the month, increasing 9.1 percent following a 29.6 percent decline in February. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the “core” PPI was virtually unchanged in March, rising just 0.7 percent, and is up 1.9 percent over the past three months. Over the past 12 months, the headline PPI is up 6.0 percent, but the core PPI is up a paltry 0.9 percent. Further back on the line of production there was some evidence of pricing pressure, as core intermediate goods prices increased 9.1 percent and core crude goods prices jumped up 101 percent. Over the past 12 month these volatile series are up 4.0 percent and 44.6 percent, respectively.
  • 04.22.2010
  • Existing Home Sales
  • Existing single-family home sales rebounded 7.3 percent in March following three consecutive declines, an indication that the homebuyer tax credit may at last be generating results. All four regions of the U.S. shared the gain, and the national 12-month growth rate bumped up from 4.4 percent to 16.6 percent. According to the release, the National Association of Realtors considers March the beginning of an expected spring surge, and chief economist Lawrence Yun says he is encouraging to see sales above year-ago levels for nine straight months. The current annual sales pace of 4.7 million units is now roughly on par with the pace at the end of 2007 but still falls about 458,000 units (or 8.9 percent) short of the average over the past decade. Despite the 1.4 percent rise in inventory of existing single-family homes in March, the months’ supply relaxed a bit from 8.2 to 7.7, due to the concurrent pick-up in sales over the month. Year-over-year growth in the median sales price climbed out of negative territory for the first time since July 2006, to 0.6 percent. “With home values stabilizing, a revival in home buying confidence will likely help the housing market get back on its feet even as the tax credit impact disappears,” says Yun.
  • 04.16.2010
  • Housing Starts
  • Single-family housing starts declined a slight 0.9 percent in March resulting entirely from a large 33.7 percent drop in the Midwest, as all other regions gained over the month. The pace of housing starts in January and February was revised upward, boosting their respective month-over-month increases to 5.4 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively. The current annual sales pace in March sits at 531,000 single-family units, up nearly 49 percent from the series’ record low last February of 357,000 units. But in recent months the sales pace has trended relatively flat and remains depressed by any standard over the past five decades since the Census Bureau began keeping track. Total housing starts, on the other hand, rose for a third consecutive month in March, due to an 18.8 percent gain in the more volatile multi-family starts series.
  • 04.16.2010
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment slipped 4.1 points (largest decline since July 2009) in April to 69.5 according to the preliminary report. The index is only 4.4 points above its year-ago level and 4.9 points below January’s recent high of 74.4. Both components of the index contributed to its decline, with current conditions dropping 1.7 points and consumer expectations declining 5.6 (largest drop since February 2009). While sentiment has shown considerable improvement from the recession lows recorded more than a year ago, it has moved horizontally during the past six months with only small monthly variations. According to the release, consumers think the overall economy will continue to improve, however they still hold negative views on their own income and job prospects. Inflation expectations were little changed from March. One-year-ahead average inflation expectations ticked up 0.4 percentage point to 3.8 percent in April, while the longer-run (5- to 10-year-ahead) expectations also increased 0.1 percentage point to 3.2 percent.
  • 04.16.2010
  • Fed Balance Sheet
  • For the week ending April 16, the amount outstanding under the Term Auction Facility, which was an extension of the Discount Window, fell to $0. Traditional lending channels, the types of lending used by the Federal Reserve to serve as the nation’s “lender of last resort,&rsduo; are now almost down to their pre-crisis levels. The only outstanding traditional lending remaining is typical Discount Window lending, but that amount has also fallen precipitously since the crisis and now sits at just under $7.4 billion. These traditional channels of lending peaked at over $1.1 trillion dollars during the height of the crisis. Overall, lending by the Federal Reserve continues to decline at a slow rate, offsetting the settlement of the final purchases of the Fed’s Large-Scale Asset Purchase programs. On the liabilities side of the balance sheet, the Treasury’s Supplemental Financing Program (SFP) balance continues to rise following the weekly Treasury auctions, nearing $175 billion. The SFP’s effect on the balance of excess reserves will be reflected in next week’s release, following the end of the reserve maintenance period.
  • 04.15.2010
  • Industrial Production
  • Industrial production rose at an annualized rate of 1.1 percent in March, following an upwardly revised 3.6 percent gain in February. Industrial production finished the quarter at a strong 7.8 percent, its largest annualized quarterly gain since 1999:Q4. Manufacturing production jumped up 11.0 percent (annualized rate) in March, after a slight 2.4 percent gain in February that was likely restrained by winter storms. Factory production rose 6.6 percent in the first quarter and is up 4.7 percent over the past year. In March, durables manufacturing rose 17.9 percent, while nondurables rose 6.6 percent. Mining output jumped up 30.8 percent, finishing the first quarter up 17.6 percent, and is up 5.2 percent over the past year. Utilities production posted an outsized decrease in March, slipping down nearly 55 percent at an annualized rate, though the release noted that was a function of warmer than usual weather. Capacity utilization continued to improve in March, rising from 73 percent to 73.2 percent, though is still well below its ten year average of 77.3.
  • 04.14.2010
  • CPI
  • The CPI increased a slight 0.8 percent (annualized rate) in March, following a flat reading in February. The release noted that the overall index was buoyed by an outsized jump in fresh fruits and vegetables prices (up 72.4 percent) which “accounted for 60 percent of the all items increase.” Excluding food and energy prices, the core CPI was virtually unchanged in March (up just 0.5 percent a.r.) and has risen a meager 1.1 percent over the past 12 months (its slowest growth rate since January 2004). Owners’ equivalent rent slipped down 1.3 percent in March and is now flat on a year-over-year basis, which has helped to pull down the core CPI. However, the recent price declines aren’t relegated to shelter. Many discretionary spending categories exhibited price decreases in March (apparel, household furnishings and operations, recreation, food away from home, and miscellaneous personal goods). In fact, 56 percent of the overall index (by expenditure weight) had decreasing prices in March. Over the past three months, roughly 51 percent (a majority) of the index has been in that lowest bin. Moreover, on the other side of the price change distribution, just 25 percent of the index rose at rates exceeding 3.0 percent, compared to an average of 52 percent in 2007 (the year leading up to the recession). As the price change distribution has shifted lower, so has the median CPI and 16 percent trimmed-mean CPI. The median CPI was nearly flat in March, slipping down 0.2 percent, while the trimmed-mean measure increased just 0.3 percent during the month. Over the past 3 months, the median CPI has been unchanged and the 16 percent trimmed-mean is up a mere 0.6 percent. Over the past 12 months, the median CPI is up just 0.6 percent (a record low) and the 16 percent trimmed-mean is up just 1.0 percent.
  • 04.14.2010
  • Retail Sales
  • Total retail sales jumped up 1.6 percent (nonannualized) in March, following a 0.5 percent increase in February. Over the past 12 months, retail sales are now up 7.6 percent, its highest growth rate since mid-2005. Some of the increase in March was driven by a 7.5 percent jump in motor vehicle and parts sales. Excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.6 percent during the month, and are trending at an annualized 3-month growth rate of 9.3 percent. Sales were up in every category except for electronics and appliance stores (down 1.3 percent) and at gasoline stations (down 0.4 percent). An addendum measure meant to get at “core” retail sales—sales excluding autos, building supplies, and gas stations—rose 0.5 percent in March, after an upwardly-revised 1.2 percent gain in February. Its 3-month annualized growth rate improved from 6.9 percent in February to 10.1 percent (its highest growth rate since October 2005), while its 12-month growth rate jumped up from 2.9 percent to 4.4 percent in March.
  • 04.13.2010
  • International Trade
  • The nominal trade deficit widened by $2.8 billion to $39.7 billion in February, nearly erasing its $3.0 billion narrowing in January. This marks the third widening in four months and brings the deficit to $13.9 billion above its recent low reached last May. Both exports and imports rose modestly in February, though the 1.7 percent increase in imports outweighs the 0.2 percent increase in exports. A 0.5 percent increase in exports of services drove the overall rise in exports, while imports were led by a 2.1 percent increase in industrial supplies and materials and a 3.1 percent jump in consumer goods. Automobile exports climbed 2.3 percent and automobile imports fell 4.7 percent to their lowest level since August. The 12-month growth rate of exports slipped to 14.3 percent, while year-over-year import growth leapt to 20.5 percent from 11.8 percent in January.
  • 04.13.2010
  • Import Prices
  • Import prices rose 0.7 percent (nonannualized) in March, following a 0.2 percent decline in February. The series’ 12-month growth rate remained relatively stable for the third straight month, at 11.4 percent. Since its recent low in January 2009, the index has been climbing at a fairly steady pace and now sits at nearly the same level as it did at the start of the recession. A 4.0 percent leap in petroleum prices drove the increase in import prices, as nonpetroleum import prices declined 0.2 percent. Despite the drop, year-over-year growth of nonpetroleum import prices climbed for the eighth month in a row, to 2.8 percent. Export prices rose 0.7 percent for the third time in four months, led by a 1.5 percent increase in industrial supplies and materials. The 12-month growth rate of export prices jumped to 4.6 percent after slipping to 3.2 percent in February.
  • 04.08.2010
  • Fourth District Employment Conditions
  • The Fourth District’s unemployment rate increased 0.2 percentage point to 10.4 percent for the month of February. The increase in the unemployment rate is attributed to an increase of the number of people unemployed (1.9 percent) and an increase in the labor force (0.2 percent).

    The distribution of unemployment rates among Fourth District counties range from 7.5 percent (Butler County, Pennsylvania) to 20.8 percent (Magoffin County, Kentucky), with the median county unemployment rate at 11.4 percent. These county-level patterns are reflected in statewide unemployment rates as Ohio and Kentucky have unemployment rates of 10.9 percent and 10.9 percent, respectively, compared to Pennsylvania’s 8.9 percent and West Virginia’s 9.5 percent.

  • 04.02.2010
  • The Employment Situation
  • Nonfarm payrolls jumped up 162,000 in March, following upward revisions to January and February that added, on net, an additional 62,000. Yes, today’s report was bolstered by temporary Census hiring, but not quite to the extent of some had expected (adding 48,000). Private nonfarm payrolls jumped up 123,000 in March, its largest monthly gain since May 2007, though there may be some “payback” in there from February’s winter storms that blanketed the Northeast. That said, even if you average over February and March (+66,000), it’s still the largest two month average in a little over two years. Gains were broad-based in March, as nearly every major category posted increases except for financial activities (−21,000). As has been the case over the past six months or so, temporary help services posted another relatively strong increase, rising 40,000 March, and has added 313,000 since last October. Healthcare and education employment also continued to trend higher, increasing 45,000 and 22,000, respectively in March. Also, the manufacturing sector eked out a slight gain (up 17,000) in March, while construction employment increased for the first time since June 2007 (up 15,000). Other positive signs coming from the establishment survey included a 0.2 hour increase in the average workweek of production and nonsupervisory workers (rising from 33.1 hours to 33.3 hours), a tick up in the manufacturing workweek, and a 0.2 hour increase in factory overtime.

    As for the household survey; the unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent as the number of unemployed persons continued to hover around 15 million in March. However, the labor force participation rate continued to edge higher, rising 0.1 percentage point (pp) to 64.9 percent in March, up 0.3 pp from its current cyclical low in December. Also, the employment-to-population ratio ticked-up 0.1 pp to 58.6 percent in March.

  • 04.01.2010
  • ISM Manufacturing
  • The ISM’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) rebounded in March, surprising expectations of a slight increase, jumping up 1.9 points to its highest level (59.6) since July 2004, after a 1.9 point decrease in February. The largest contributions to the overall change came from inventories and supplier deliveries. The inventories sub-index shot up a whopping 8.0 points to 55.3 to its highest level since the mid-80s, rising above the ISM’s growth threshold of 50 for the first time since April 2006. Supplier deliveries rose from 61.1 to 64.9 in March and have been on the uptrend since hitting a recent low of 44.4 in March 2009. Both the new orders and production components posted modest increases during the month. However, the employment index slipped down a point to 55.1 in March following three consecutive increases.
  • 04.01.2010
  • Construction Spending
  • Total private construction spending declined 1.2 percent in February following a 1.7 percent drop in January, leaving spending at its lowest level since 1999. Despite the fact that construction spending has fallen in ten of the past twelve months, year-over-year growth improved mildly in February to a still-depressed −16.3 percent, and the series is up from an all-time low of −23.7 percent last September. Most of the yearly descent has stemmed from falling non-residential construction spending, which stands at −24.3 percent over the last 12 months. In particular, spending on manufacturing and commercial structures has seen large declines. Private residential spending, on the other hand, has improved dramatically on a year-over-year basis, having climbed all the way up from growth rates below −30 percent throughout much of 2009 to its current rate of −3.8 percent.