Data Updates

Data Updates

May 2009

  • 05.29.2009
  • Real GDP
  • 2009:Q1 GDP growth was revised up from a −6.1 percent annualized growth rate to a −5.7 percent growth rate in the preliminary release. Revisions to the components of GDP were relatively minor. Personal consumption expenditures were revised down from an annualized growth rate of 2.2 percent to a growth rate of 1.6 percent. All other revisions to the major subcomponents were either positive or effectively neutral. Business fixed investment, exports, government spending and inventories were revised to show slightly greater contributions to GDP growth, while imports and residential investment were largely unchanged.
  • 05.29.2009
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment increased 3.6 points in May to 68.7, its highest level since September 2008. Despite increasing 12.4 points over the past three months, consumer sentiment remains low by historical standards. The median year-ahead inflation expectation from the underlying survey was unchanged at 2.8 percent, while the median five-to-ten year inflation expectation increased slightly from 2.8 percent to 2.9 percent. Both sets of expectations remain relatively well contained within their normal longer term ranges.
  • 05.28.2009
  • Durable Goods
  • New orders for durable goods came in higher than expected, rising 1.9 percent (nonannualized) in April. However, this follows a downwardly revised 2.1 percent decrease in March (down from 0.8 percent). Over the past 12 months, new orders are down 24.4 percent, which is a slight improvement over cyclical lows. While headline new orders are somewhat encouraging, the details are more pessimistic. New orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft fell 1.5 percent in April, following a 1.4 percent decline in March, pushing its 12-month growth rate down to −24.4 percent (almost equaling January’s cyclical low of −24.5 percent). Furthermore, shipments of durables posted a record-setting ninth consecutive monthly decrease, falling 0.2 percent in April. The year-over-year growth rate in shipments slipped down to −18.4 percent (an all-time low) in April, compared to −16.8 in March. Inventories fell 0.8 percent in April, posting its fourth consecutive decline, which resulted in the first year-over-year decline in inventories (down 0.6 percent) since May 2004. However, throughout this recession, factories have struggled shed excesses as fast as the pace of shipments has deteriorated. As a consequence, the inventory-to-shipments ratio has climbed up from 1.5 months in November 2007 to nearly 1.9 months currently.
  • 05.28.2009
  • New Home Sales
  • New single-family home sales were essentially unchanged in April pushing the series three-month growth rate into positive territory for the first time since 2007. At 7.0 percent, the growth in sales over the past three months is the highest since the series peaked in 2005. However, because the sales pace remains so low, a 7.0 percent gain is not particularly substantial in terms of the number of additional homes sold. In April the number of unsold new homes on the market declined for the twenty fourth consecutive month, bringing the number of available homes down below 300,000 for the first time since 2001. The present level of inventory amounts to 10.1 months of supply at the current sales pace, down from a record high of 12.4 months in January. The 12-month growth rate in the median sales price declined to −14.9 percent, just above the record low of −15.0 percent set in February.
  • 05.27.2009
  • Existing Home Sales
  • Existing single-family home sales increased 2.5 percent in April, following a 3.3 percent decline in March, and continuing the recent pattern of bouncing around between an annual sales pace of 4.0 and 4.2 million units. The 12-month growth rate in the sales pace of existing single-family homes improved to −2.8 percent, its highest level since August 2008. The inventory of existing single-family homes for sale increased 9.2 percent in April resulting in 9.6 months of supply, up from 9.0 months in March. The median sales prices of existing single-family homes was virtually unchanged in April, resulting in a 12-month growth rate of −14.9 percent, slightly worse than in March but above January’s record low of −16.7 percent.
  • 05.27.2009
  • Home Price Inexes
  • The national S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index fell 6.9 percent in the first quarter after having fallen 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter, the largest two quarterly declines in the 22-year history of the series. On a year-over-year basis, home prices are now down 19.1 percent, also the largest drop on record. The monthly data was a bit more encouraging, as the pace of decline in both the 10- and 20-city indexes slowed in March leaving the 12-month growth rate in the 20-city index unchanged at −18.7 percent, while the 12-month growth rate in the 10-city index improved slightly to −18.6 percent.

    The FHFA Purchase-Only House Price Index decreased 1.1 percent in March, reversing the gains over the past two months. The series’ 12-month growth rate now stands at −7.3 percent, down from −6.9 percent in January and February but up from a record low of −9.0 percent in November 2009. On a quarterly basis the total FHFA index, which includes data from refinancing transactions, increased slightly for the second straight quarter, yielding a four-quarter growth rate of −3.3 percent. The quarterly purchase-only index decreased over the quarter but did so at a slower pace, resulting in a four-quarter growth rate of −7.1 percent, up from −8.3 percent in Q4. The four-quarter growth rates in both series increased for the first time since 2005.

  • 05.19.2009
  • Housing Starts
  • Total housing starts fell 12.8 percent in April following an 8.5 percent decrease in March. However, the decline came entirely from the volatile multi-family component of the series. Single-family starts, which track the overall series closely but are generally less-volatile, rose 2.8 percent in April after a slight increase over the past two months. April’s increase in single-family starts puts the three-month growth rate at 3.1 percent, the first time it has ventured into positive territory since April 2007. Permits for single-family homes increased 3.6 percent in March, yielding a three-month growth rate of 9.1 percent, the highest since February 2002.
  • 05.15.2009
  • The Consumer Price Index
  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) was virtually flat in April, falling a mere 0.2 percent at an annualized rate, pulled down in part by falling food and energy prices, which were down 2.2 percent and 25.1 percent, respectively. Over the past 12 months, the CPI has fallen 0.7 percent. Excluding food and energy prices (core CPI), the index jumped up 3.1 percent. Once again, the excise tax on tobacco was the smoking gun pushing up the core CPI. Tobacco prices jumped up 191.7 percent (annualized rate) as the tax went into effect on April 1. Early adopters raised prices in March, which led to a 251 percent increase. The median and 16 percent trimmed-mean underlying inflation measures seemed to disagree as well in April. The median CPI rose 2.1 percent in April and is up 2.6 percent over the past 12 months, while the 16% trim rose just 0.9 percent during the month and is up 2.1 percent over the past year. The price-change distribution revealed that roughly 25 percent of the consumer market basket exhibited price decreases this month, compared to 32 percent in March. At the same time, 17 percent of the index was in the upper tail (price increases above 5.0 percent), compared to 12 percent in March. Still, there is a significant amount of mass near the center of the distribution.
  • 05.15.2009
  • Industrial Production
  • Industrial production decreased at an annualized rate of 5.9 percent in April, its smallest decline since October 2009. However, the 12-month growth rate in production is still down -12.5 percent. Manufacturing output fell 3.7 percent in April, compared to a 22.4 percent decrease in March. The declines in mining output accelerated in April, falling 32.4 percent, compared to -15.9 percent over the three months prior. Utilities output rose by 5.1 percent in April, following a 25 percent weather-related gain in March. The capacity utilization rate continued to fall in April, ticking down from 69.4 percent to 69.1 percent (a new historical low). Since the start of the recession in December 2007, capacity utilization has plummeted by 11.5 percentage points.
  • 05.15.2009
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • Consumer sentiment continued to improve in May, jumping up 2.8 index points to a value of 67.9 (its highest since September 2008), according to the preliminary release by the University of Michigan. Much of the gain was driven by an increase in the consumer expectations component, which rose from 63.1 to 69.0 in May. According to the release, roughly two-thirds of consumers surveyed were optimistic about the current fiscal stimulus programs. The current conditions component fell to 66.2 from 68.3 in April, though still above recent cyclical lows. One-year ahead and longer-term (5-10 years ahead) average inflation expectations ticked down in May, both falling from 3.1 percent in April to 2.9 percent in May.
  • 05.14.2009
  • PPI
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods increased at an annualized rate of 3.6 percent in April, rebounding after sliding down 13.1 percent in March. Over the past 12 months, producer prices have fallen 3.5 percent. The overall increase was primarily due to a 19.4 percent spike in foods prices, as producer’s energy prices fell slightly in April, down 0.9 percent. The core PPI was virtually flat in April, rising just 0.7 percent at an annualized rate, but is still up 3.4 percent over the past 12 months. Further back on the line of production, the prices of core intermediate and core crude goods decreased&mdashlfalling 3.8 percent and 39.7 percent, respectively.
  • 05.13.2009
  • Retail Sales
  • Total retail sales continued to underperform relative to expectations, declining 0.4 percent (nonannualized) in April, after a downwardly revised 1.3 percent drop-off in March. The 12-month growth rate fell to −10.1 percent in April, slipping back down near this cycle’s low of −10.6 percent in December. Losses were fairly widespread, though particularly sharp at electronics and appliances stores (−2.8 percent) and gasoline stations (−2.3 percent). Losses at gasoline stations are somewhat noteworthy because, according to the Department of Energy, retail gasoline prices jumped up 4.6 percent in April. Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers actually increased slightly in April, rising 0.2 percent, compared to decreases of 2.0 percent and 2.8 percent in March and February, respectively. Excluding autos, retail sales fell 0.5 percent in April. It seems anything tied to healthcare is still performing relatively well, as sales at health and personal care stores rose 0.4 percent in April, and are up 4.0 percent over the past year.
  • 05.13.2009
  • Import Prices
  • Import prices increased 20.9 percent (annualized rate) in April, following a modest 2.1 percent increase in March. However, the series is still down 16.3 percent over the past 12 months. Petroleum prices were the cause of the headline increase in April—rising at a nonannualized rate of 15.4 percent. Nonpetroleum import prices fell 4.4 percent (annualized rate) in April, posting its ninth consecutive monthly decrease. Over the past year, nonpetroleum import prices are down 5.6 percent. Export prices rebounded in April, rising 6.4 percent, though much of the increase was due to a 53.4 percent increase in agricultural commodities prices. Nonagricultural commodity prices rose 3.2 percent during the month.
  • 05.12.2009
  • International Trade
  • The nominal trade deficit reversed course in March, increasing $1.4 billion to $27.6 billion, following seven months of massive declines that more than halved the deficit. Exports and imports both continued to fall in March, but the decline in exports outpaced the decline in imports by enough to cause an expansion in the deficit. Imports have now fallen eight straight months, declining a total of 34.3 percent, while exports have fallen in seven of the past eight months and declined 26.2 percent.
  • 05.08.2009
  • Employment Report
  • Nonfarm payroll employment fell by a less-than-expected 539,000 in April, posting its smallest decline in six months. However, the BLS noted that the gains to the government sector (up 72,000) were bolstered by the hiring of temporary workers for the 2010 Census survey. Revisions to the March and February estimates were to the downside again, subtracting an additional 66,000 and bringing total losses since the start of the recession to 5.7 million. Private nonfarm payrolls fell by 611,000 in April, less than the declines seen over the prior four months, but still fairly steep. Goods-producing payrolls decreased by 270,000, compared to an average of 339,000 over the three months prior. Construction employment fell by 110,000, while manufacturing employment declined by 149,000 in April. The private service sector shed 341,000 during the month, following declines of 375,000 in March and 393,000 in February. Overall, of the major components to the establishment data, only leisure & hospitality employment—which declined by 44,000—performed worse in April than it had last month (or the past few months for that matter).

    On the household side, the unemployment rate jumped up 0.4 percentage point to 8.9 percent in April. However, that increase in the unemployment rate was driven in large part by a 683,000 worker spike in the labor force, which pushed up the participation rate by 0.3 percentage point to 65.8 percent. An alternative (and perhaps less-noisy) measure of employment—the employment-to-population ratio—remained steady at 59.9 percent in April.

  • 05.07.2009
  • Productivity and Costs
  • Nonfarm business sector productivity (output per hour of all persons) increased at an annualized rate of 0.8 percent in the first quarter, according to the preliminary release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the past year, productivity is up 1.8 percent. While the series has been slowing lately, it has yet to dip below zero during this recession, compared to negative productivity growth rates seen during the 1973-75, 1980, and 1982 recessions. The gains in productivity came as hours fell by 9.0 percent during the first quarter, compared to an 8.3 percent decline in the fourth quarter. Unit labor costs, a measure some use to detect the onset of inflationary pressures, increased 3.3 percent in the first quarter, following a 5.7 percent jump in the fourth quarter. Over the past four quarters, unit labor costs are up 2.4 percent.
  • 05.04.2009
  • Construction Spending
  • Total construction spending increased 0.3 percent in March, its first increase since September 2008. Private construction spending also had its best month since September, as it fell only 0.1 percent. During the five months prior to March, private construction spending fell a combined 14.9 percent. March’s relatively positive numbers were the result of a substantial increase—2.7 percent—in nonresidential construction spending. Private residential construction continued to decline in March, falling 4.2 percent over the month, on par with declines in recent months.
  • 05.01.2009
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • Consumer sentiment was revised up strongly in April, from an index value of 61.9 to 65.1, according to the final release from the University of Michigan. It was enough of a bump to push the 12-month growth rate above zero (4.0 percent) for the first time since August 2007. Much of the gain in the headline number was due to an upward revision to the consumer expectations component—from 58.9 to 63.1. The release points to the fiscal stimulus (perhaps decreased tax withholdings) as improving consumers attitudes on the national economy and their own personal finances. While one-year ahead average inflation expectations were revised down from 3.4 percent to 3.1 percent, the longer-term (five-to-ten year) expectations were revised up from 2.8 percent to 3.1 percent in April.
  • 05.01.2009
  • ISM Manufacturing
  • The ISM Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) continued to improve off of a cyclical low of 32.9 in December, rising from an index value of 36.3 in March to 40.1 in April. The ISM PMI is a diffusion index, which means that values above 50 indicate expansion. While the series did improve in April, it is still well below its breakeven threshold of 50. The new orders index jumped up to 47.2 from 41.2 a month ago, accounting for much of the headline gains. Modest gains were also seen in the other components (production, employment, supplier deliveries, and inventories) that comprise the PMI.
  • 05.01.2009
  • Factory Orders
  • New orders for manufactured goods fell 0.9 percent (nonannualized) in March, following a 0.7 percent increase in February, pulling its 12-month growth rate down to −21.6 percent (a current cyclical low). However, orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft increased 0.4 percent, after a 4.1 percent jump in February. Still, over the past three months the series is still down 8.2 percent. Manufacturing shipments fell 1.2 percent in March, posting its eighth consecutive monthly decrease. On a year-over-year basis, shipments are now down 17.1 percent, a series low going back to 1958. Manufacturers continued to shed excess inventories in March, though not as fast as the pace of shipments is falling. The resulting inventory-to-shipments ratio ticked up from 1.45 months in February to 1.46 months in March.