Saturday, April 14, 2012

Summary for Week ending April 13th

by Bill McBride on 4/14/2012 08:05:00 AM

It was a light week for U.S. economic data. The trade deficit was smaller than expected, suggesting some upward revisions to Q1 GDP forecasts (the advance report for Q1 GDP will be released in two weeks on April 27th).

Other data disappointed a little. Initial weekly unemployment claims increased to 380,000, consumer sentiment dipped, and the NFIB small business survey declined slightly. After several months of stronger-than-expected data, the data flow is now coming in mostly at or below expectations.

In other news, recent Fed comments suggest QE3 is likely only if the economy falters. And overseas, the yield on Spanish bonds increased sharply with the 10 year almost up to 6%. Here comes another round of Euro worries – and elections.

There will be several housing reports released next week (builder confidence, housing starts and existing home sales), and we will see if there is any pickup in activity.

Here is a summary in graphs:

Trade Deficit declined in February to $46 Billion

U.S. Trade Exports Imports Click on graph for larger image.

The Department of Commerce reported:
"[T]otal February exports of $181.2 billion and imports of $227.2 billion resulted in a goods and services deficit of $46.0 billion, down from $52.5 billion in January, revised. February exports were $0.2 billion more than January exports of $180.9 billion. February imports were $6.3 billion less than January imports of $233.4 billion".

The trade deficit was well below the consensus forecast of $51.7 billion.

Oil averaged $103.63 per barrel in February, down slightly from January. The decline in imports was a combination of less petroleum imports and less imports from China.

Exports to the European Union were $22.5 billion in February, up from $20.0 billion in February 2011.

Key Measures of Inflation in March

Inflation Measures This graph shows the year-over-year change for four key measures of inflation. On a year-over-year basis, the median CPI rose 2.4%, the trimmed-mean CPI rose 2.4%, and core CPI rose 2.3%. Core PCE is for February and increased 1.9% year-over-year.

These measures show inflation on a year-over-year basis is mostly still above the Fed's 2% target.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims increased to 380,000

This graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since January 2000.

The dashed line on the graph is the current 4-week average. The four-week average of weekly unemployment claims increased to 368,500.

The 4-week moving average has been moving sideways at this level for about two months.

All current Employment Graphs

BLS: Job Openings increased slightly in February

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey The following graph shows job openings (yellow line), hires (dark blue), Layoff, Discharges and other (red column), and Quits (light blue column) from the JOLTS.

Jobs openings increased slightly in February, and the number of job openings (yellow) has generally been trending up, and are up about 16% year-over-year compared to February 2011.

Quits increased in February, and quits are now up about 9% year-over-year and quits are now at the highest level since 2008. These are voluntary separations and more quits might indicate some improvement in the labor market. (see light blue columns at bottom of graph for trend for "quits").

NFIB: Small Business Optimism Index declined in March

Small Business Optimism IndexThis graph shows the small business optimism index since 1986. The index declined to 92.5 in March from 94.3 in February. This is slightly above the 91.9 reported in March 2011.

This index remains low - probably due to a combination of sluggish growth, and the high concentration of real estate related companies in the index. And the single most important problem remains "poor sales".

Consumer Sentiment declines slightly in April to 75.7

Consumer Sentiment The preliminary Reuters / University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for April declined slightly to 75.7, down from the final March reading of 76.2.

This was below the consensus forecast of 76.2. Overall sentiment is still fairly weak - probably due to a combination of the high unemployment rate, high gasoline prices and sluggish economy - however sentiment has rebounded from the decline last summer and is up from 69.8 in April 2011.

Other Economic Stories ...
LPS: House Price Index declined 0.9% in January
US mortgage and foreclosure law
Labor Force Participation Rate Projection Update
• Fed's Beige Book: Economic activity increased at "modest to moderate" pace, Residential real estate "activity improved"

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