Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wednesday: Beige Book, Mortgage Applications

by Calculated Risk on 4/16/2013 08:23:00 PM

Another Spring slowdown?

From Tim Duy at EconomistsView Fed Watch: Another Spring Slowdown?

On net, I think the data is telling us a familiar story: The positives in the US economy are difficult to ignore. Housing starts are a very good indicator of the direction of the economy, and that direction appears to be up. But it doesn't pay to get too carried away with any one quarter's worth of data. Underlying growth has been slow and steady since the end of the recession, with positive quarters offset by negative quarters. And the impact of tighter fiscal policy looks likely to produce a similar trend this year. The light at the end of the tunnel, however, is that as the fiscal effect fades toward the end of this year and into next, activity could finally see a more of the sustained improvement we have been looking for.

But, at the moment, that sustained improvement looks ephemeral. That is the message of the bond market as yields plunged back to the 1.7 percent range since the beginning of the year. And the beat-down of commodity prices indicates nervousness on the global outlook as well. If I was a monetary policymaker, I would be paying attention, especially as the inflation numbers are not telling us that imminent tightening is necessary ...
From Ylan Q. Mui at the WaPo: Spring is a season of growth — but not for the U.S. economy
For the third year in a row, the nation’s economic recovery seems to be petering out just as temperatures start to go up. Hiring has dropped off. Shoppers are putting away their wallets. Government spending cuts are looming.

That has fueled predictions of an abrupt slowdown over the next few months. Economists are forecasting tepid growth of just over 1 percent during the second quarter of the year.
No one seems to have a good explanation for why the recovery has taken a nosedive around the same time each year. ... At first, economists wondered whether the problem was purely technical. The 2008 financial crisis upended mathematical models for how many people are hired and fired on a normal basis, resulting, they hypothesized, in artificial boosts in the fall that evaporated by spring.

But that explanation for the swoon was almost too easy — and certainly too optimistic. It turns out the trouble lay not in the data but in the real world.

In 2011, the problem was international. A tsunami in Japan coincided with a financial crisis in Europe that pushed Greece into default and almost caused a collapse of the continent’s common currency. Last year, economists blamed the weather. The mild winter, they said, siphoned away traditional springtime jobs.

This year, all fingers are pointed at Washington.
I think seasonal adjustments played a role in earlier slowdowns (as did the tsunami in Japan and the problems in Europe), but I think this slowdown is mostly related to fiscal tightening (mostly the payroll tax hike and the sequestration budget cuts). As Tim Duy notes, the fiscal effect should fade towards the end of this year.

Wednesday economic releases:
• At 7:00 AM ET, The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) will release the results for the mortgage purchase applications index.

• At 2:00 PM, Federal Reserve Beige Book, an informal review by the Federal Reserve Banks of current economic conditions in their Districts. Analysts will look for signs of a slow down.