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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thursday: New Home Sales, Weekly Unemployment Claims

by Calculated Risk on 5/22/2013 08:50:00 PM

Most of the coverage of the FOMC minutes today focused on this sentence:

"A number of participants expressed willingness to adjust the flow of purchases downward as early as the June meeting if the economic information received by that time showed evidence of sufficiently strong and sustained growth; however, views differed about what evidence would be necessary and the likelihood of that outcome."
emphasis added
Three words: Will Not Happen. Not in June. Probably not this year (although tapering could start late this year).

The real Fed story today was that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke scolded Congress. In his speech he said:
"Notably, over the past four years, state and local governments have cut civilian government employment by roughly 700,000 jobs, and total government employment has fallen by more than 800,000 jobs over the same period. For comparison, over the four years following the trough of the 2001 recession, total government employment rose by more than 500,000 jobs.

Most recently, the strengthening economy has improved the budgetary outlooks of most state and local governments, leading them to reduce their pace of fiscal tightening. At the same time, though, fiscal policy at the federal level has become significantly more restrictive. In particular, the expiration of the payroll tax cut, the enactment of tax increases, the effects of the budget caps on discretionary spending, the onset of the sequestration, and the declines in defense spending for overseas military operations are expected, collectively, to exert a substantial drag on the economy this year."
And in the Q&A, Bernanke added:
“I fully realize the importance of budgetary responsibility, but I would argue that it’s not responsible to focus all of the restraint on the very near term and do nothing about the long term, which is where most of the problem exists. I do think that we would all be better off, with no loss to fiscal sustainability or market confidence, if we had somewhat less restraint in the very near term – this year and next year, say – and more aggressive action to address these very real long-term issues, which threaten within a decade or so to begin to put our fiscal budget on an unsustainable path.”
Current policy is "not responsible".  Unfortunately most members of Congress weren't even aware that Bernanke was giving them a failing grade!  Most of the media reports ignored the reprimand too.  Even the FOMC statement mentioned fiscal restraint several times.  Oh well ...

Thursday economic releases:
• At 8:30 AM ET, the initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released. The consensus is for claims to decrease to 345 thousand from 360 thousand last week.

• At 9:00 AM, FHFA House Price Index for March 2013. This was original a GSE only repeat sales, however there is also an expanded index that deserves more attention. The consensus is for a 0.9% increase.

• Also at 9:00 AM, The Markit US PMI Manufacturing Index Flash for May. The consensus is for a decrease to 50.8 from 52.0 in April.

• At 10:00 AM, New Home Sales for April from the Census Bureau. The consensus is for an increase in sales to 425 thousand Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) in April from 417 thousand in March.

• At 11:00 AM, Kansas City Fed regional Manufacturing Survey for May. The consensus is for a reading of minus 2, up from minus 5 in April (below zero is contraction).