What I’m Watching This Week – 28 October 2019

The Markets (as of market close October 25, 2019)

Solid corporate earnings reports and encouraging signs on the trade war front spurred stocks higher last week. The S&P 500 reached its second-highest closing value by last Friday, while the Dow is nearing a record high. Word came from government officials last Friday that progress had been made in negotiations with China on the first phase of a potential trade agreement between the two economic giants. Of the indexes listed here, the technology-heavy Nasdaq led the way gaining almost 2.0%, followed by the small caps of the Russell 2000, which surged over 1.5%. The large caps of the S&P 500 and Dow also fared well. Even the Global Dow rose more than 1.0%. As to corporate earnings, the majority of S&P 500 companies posting earnings for the third quarter beat analysts’ expectations. Investors may also be anticipating the Fed dropping interest rates this week following its October meeting.

Oil prices climbed last week, closing at $56.65 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $53.71. The price of gold (COMEX) rose for the second week in a row last week, closing at $1,507.10 by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $1,493.60. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.638 per gallon on October 21, 2019, $0.009 more than the prior week’s price but $0.203 less than a year ago.

Market/Index 2018 Close Prior Week As of 10/25 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 23327.46 26770.20 26958.06 0.70% 15.56%
Nasdaq 6635.28 8089.54 8243.12 1.90% 24.23%
S&P 500 2506.85 2986.20 3022.55 1.22% 20.57%
Russell 2000 1348.56 1535.48 1558.71 1.51% 15.58%
Global Dow 2736.74 3048.36 3079.14 1.01% 12.51%
Fed. Funds target rate 2.25%-2.50% 1.75%-2.00% 1.75%-2.00% 0 bps -50 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.68% 1.74% 1.80% 6 bps -88 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic News

  • September, the last month of the federal government’s fiscal year, recorded a budget surplus of $83 billion ($119 billion in September 2018). For the fiscal year, the deficit was $984 billion, 26.4% greater than the 2018 fiscal year deficit. In 2019, total individual income tax receipts were $1,718 billion, while corporate tax receipts were $230 billion. The largest government expenditures in 2019 were $1,044 billion for Social Security, $688 billion for national defense, and $651 billion for Medicare.
  • September proved to be a sour month in the manufacturing sector. New orders for long-lasting durable goods fell 1.1% in September from August. This decrease follows three consecutive monthly increases. Excluding transportation, new orders fell 0.3% last month. Transportation equipment led the September decrease, falling 2.7%. Shipments of durable goods, down three consecutive months, decreased 0.4% in September, likely impacted by the ongoing trade war with China. Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in September, down following two consecutive monthly increases, were essentially unchanged. Inventories of manufactured durable goods in September, up 14 of the last 15 months, increased 0.5%. Capital goods used in the manufacture of end products plunged 2.8% in September, a reflection of waning business investment.
  • After climbing for two consecutive months, sales of existing homes fell 2.2% in September. Overall, sales are still up 3.9% from a year ago. The median existing-home price in September was $272,100, down 2.2% from August’s price ($278,200) but 5.9% ahead of the September 2018 price ($256,900). Housing inventory in September was relatively unchanged from August, but is down 2.7% from last September’s inventory. Single-family home sales sat at an annual rate of 4.78 million in September, down 2.6% from August but up 3.9% from a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $275,100 in September, down from the August median sales price of $281,900.
  • Sales of new single-family homes fared no better than existing home sales last month. New home sales dropped 0.7% in September, but are still 15.5% ahead of their pace a year ago. The median sales price of new houses sold in September was $299,400 ($325,200 in August). The average sales price fell from $394,800 in August to $362,700 last month. Inventory is at a 5.5-month supply, the same as in August.
  • For the week ended October 19, there were 212,000 claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 4,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended October 12. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended October 12 was 1,682,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 4,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

This is a busy week for market-moving economic reports. The week starts off with the latest report on international trade in goods for September. The trade deficit reached $73 billion in August. The first release of the gross domestic product for the third quarter is also available this week. The economy grew at a rate of 2.0% in the second quarter. The Federal Open Market Committee meets this week. Last month, the FOMC decided to lower the target range for the federal funds rate by 25 basis points. A similar reduction could ensue following the Committee’s meeting this week. Finally, the report on personal income and spending is out at the end of the week. This report covers how much consumers are making (income), saving, and spending. The report also looks at the prices of consumer goods and services — an important inflationary indicator used by the Federal Reserve.

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What I’m Watching This Week – 21 October 2019

The Markets (as of market close October 18, 2019)

For the second week in a row, each of the benchmark indexes listed here (except for the Dow) posted gains last week. Stocks got a boost from some strong third-quarter earnings reports as several large financial institutions recorded strong earnings. The S&P 500 came close to reaching its record high earlier in the week, while the small caps of the Russell 2000 surged ahead by more than 1.50%. Long term Treasuries saw yields fall slightly as prices inched up on news of another stalemate on new attempts to reach a Brexit accord and weak U.S. retail figures.

Oil prices dropped last week, closing at $53.71 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s price of $54.77. The price of gold (COMEX) rose last week, closing at $1,493.60 by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $1,491.70. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.629 per gallon on October 14, 2019, $0.016 less than the prior week’s price and $0.250 less than a year ago.

Market/Index 2018 Close Prior Week As of 10/18 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 23327.46 26816.59 26770.20 -0.17% 14.76%
Nasdaq 6635.28 8057.04 8089.54 0.40% 21.92%
S&P 500 2506.85 2970.27 2986.20 0.54% 19.12%
Russell 2000 1348.56 1511.90 1535.48 1.56% 13.86%
Global Dow 2736.74 3021.17 3048.36 0.90% 11.39%
Fed. Funds target rate 2.25%-2.50% 1.75%-2.00% 1.75%-2.00% 0 bps -50 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.68% 1.75% 1.74% -1 bps -94 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic News

  • Retail sales fell 0.3% in September after climbing 0.6% in August. However, retail sales are up 4.1% over September 2018. Retail trade sales were also down 0.3% for September, as were online sales (nonstore retail). For September, sales grew in clothing and clothing accessories (1.3%) and furniture and home furnishing store (0.6%). Notable decreases were seen in sales for building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (-1.0%), motor vehicle and parts dealers (-0.9%), and department stores (-1.4%). This report shows consumer spending cooled in September, which may be due to uncertainty about the economy moving forward.
  • Industrial production fell 0.4% in September after vaulting 0.8% in August, according to the latest report from the Federal Reserve. Total industrial production is 0.1% lower in September than it was a year earlier. Manufacturing dropped 0.5% last month following a 0.6% bump in August. According to the report, manufacturing output was reduced by a strike at a major manufacturer of motor vehicles. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, manufacturing slipped 0.2%. Mining plummeted 1.3%, while utilities jumped 1.4% in September. This report highlights the impact weakening demand for U.S. exports is having on manufacturing.
  • Residential construction could be in for a slowdown in the fall. Building permits for residential housing fell 2.7% in September after climbing in August. Housing starts also plummeted 9.4% last month, while home completions plunged 9.7%. On the plus side, building permits for single-family homes climbed 0.8% in September and single-family housing starts inched up 0.3%. On the other hand, single-family home completions decreased 8.6% from their August totals.
  • For the week ended October 12, there were 214,000 claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s level. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended October 5. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended October 5 was 1,679,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 5,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

The latest information on the housing sector is available this week. Sales of existing homes got a much needed boost in August, while new home sales continued to surge. Also out this week is the September report on durable goods orders. New orders have risen 3 consecutive months, but are still down 0.4% over the past 12 months ended in August.

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What I’m Watching This Week – 14 October 2019

The Markets (as of market close October 11, 2019)

Last week, President Trump said the United States and China had reached a “substantial, phase-one” agreement to resolve the trade war between the economic giants. Essentially, the United States agreed to hold off on the imposition of additional tariffs on Chinese imports, while China agreed to ramp up the purchase of U.S. agricultural products. Buoyed by the prospects of a further trade accord, investors dove into the market, sending each of the indexes listed here higher by the close of trading last week. Both the Dow and Nasdaq rose by almost 1.0%, followed by the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500. However, the biggest mover was the Global Dow, which surged almost 2.0%. With money moving to stocks, gold and 10-year Treasuries saw their respective prices slip.

Oil prices climbed last week, closing at $54.77 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $53.01. The price of gold (COMEX) fell last week, closing at $1,491.70 by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s price of $1,510.30. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.645 per gallon on October 7, 2019, $0.003 more than the prior week’s price but $0.258 less than a year ago.

Market/Index 2018 Close Prior Week As of 10/11 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 23327.46 26573.72 26816.59 0.91% 14.96%
Nasdaq 6635.28 7982.47 8057.04 0.93% 21.43%
S&P 500 2506.85 2952.01 2970.27 0.62% 18.49%
Russell 2000 1348.56 1500.70 1511.90 0.75% 12.11%
Global Dow 2736.74 2964.37 3021.17 1.92% 10.39%
Fed. Funds target rate 2.25%-2.50% 1.75%-2.00% 1.75%-2.00% 0 bps -50 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.68% 1.51% 1.75% 24 bps -93 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic News

  • Inflationary pressures remained subdued in September. The Consumer Price Index was unchanged last month after rising 0.1% in August. Over the last 12 months, the CPI has increased 1.7%. Prices less food and energy rose 0.1% in September after increasing 0.3% in each of the last 3 months. A closer look at consumer prices last month shows that energy prices fell 1.4% as gasoline prices sank 2.4%. Prices for used cars and trucks dropped 1.6%, apparel prices decreased 0.4%, and medical care commodities prices tumbled 0.6%. Offsetting those declines were increases in prices for food (0.1%), shelter (0.3%), transportation services (0.3%), and medical care services (0.4%).
  • Producers of goods and services at the wholesale level saw their prices drop by 0.3% in September following two consecutive monthly increases. Over the past 12 months, producer prices are up 1.4%. A closer look reveals that prices for services at the producer level dropped 0.2% in September after climbing 0.3% in August. Nearly half of the September decline in prices for services can be traced to machinery and vehicle wholesaling prices, which fell 2.7%. Producer prices for goods decreased 0.4% in September after a 0.5% drop in August. Three-fourths of the September decrease in goods prices can be traced to prices for gasoline, which fell 7.2%. This report, coupled with the CPI, supports expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates at least one more time this year.
  • Higher fuel prices drove import prices 0.2% higher in September following a 0.2% drop in August. Over the past 12 months, import prices are down 1.6%. Exports fell 0.2% last month after decreasing 0.6% in August. Since September 2018, export prices have also fallen 1.6%.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover report (JOLTS), the number of job openings slipped by a little more than 100,000 from July. The number of hires also fell by about 200,000, as did the number of separations. In August, job openings rose in such industries as construction; trade; transportation and utilities; finance and insurance; and government. During the same period, job openings fell in education and health services; manufacturing; information; and leisure and hospitality. Over the 12 months ended in August, hires totaled 69.5 million and separations totaled 67.1 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.4 million.
  • For the week ended October 5, there were 210,000 claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 1,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims inched up from 1.1% to 1.2% for the week ended September 28. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended September 28 was 1,684,000, an increase of 29,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 4,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

A few economic reports worth reviewing are out this week. The retail sales report for September, which measures prices retailers of consumer goods and services receive, is another important indicator of inflationary pressures. August saw retail sales increase by 0.4%. Total sales for the June 2019 through August 2019 period were up 3.7% from the same period a year ago. Nonstore (online) retailers continue to see sales grow — up 1.6% for the month and 16.0% since August 2018. The report on new residential construction is also out this week. August showed strong growth in building permits and housing starts, which should add to needed inventory for new residential properties for the fall. Another report out this week is the Federal Reserve’s statement on industrial production. August saw industrial production rise 0.6% after falling 0.1% in July. Manufacturing also increased 0.5% for the month — both encouraging signs for the manufacturing sector.

What I’m Watching This Week – 7 October 2019

The Markets (as of market close October 4, 2019)

Stocks and long-term bond yields fell again last week as fears of an economic slowdown, both here and abroad, worried investors. Despite a solid labor report, unfavorable reports from domestic and global manufacturers, and an expanding trade deficit apparently shook investors. Of the benchmark indexes listed here, only the tech-heavy Nasdaq posted a weekly gain, bolstered by gains in information technology shares. The Global Dow was hit the hardest, falling almost 2.0%, followed by the small caps of the Russell 2000, the Dow, and the S&P 500, each of which posted weekly losses for the third consecutive week.

Oil prices fell again last week, closing at $53.01 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s price of $56.00. The price of gold (COMEX) rose last week, closing at $1,510.30 by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $1,503.10. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.642 per gallon on September 30, 2019, $0.012 less than the prior week’s price and $0.224 less than a year ago.

Market/Index 2018 Close Prior Week As of 10/4 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 23327.46 26820.25 26573.72 -0.92% 13.92%
Nasdaq 6635.28 7939.63 7982.47 0.54% 20.30%
S&P 500 2506.85 2961.79 2952.01 -0.33% 17.76%
Russell 2000 1348.56 1520.48 1500.70 -1.30% 11.28%
Global Dow 2736.74 3019.31 2964.37 -1.82% 8.32%
Fed. Funds target rate 2.25%-2.50% 1.75%-2.00% 1.75%-2.00% 0 bps -50 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.68% 1.67% 1.51% -16 bps -117 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic News

  • September saw 136,000 new jobs added while the unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage point to 3.5% — its lowest rate since December 1969. Over the month, the number of unemployed persons decreased by 275,000 to 5.8 million. Job growth has averaged 161,000 per month thus far in 2019, compared with an average monthly gain of 223,000 in 2018. In September, new jobs were added in health care (39,000 jobs), professional and business services (34,000 jobs), government (22,000 jobs), and transportation and warehousing (16,000 jobs). The labor force participation rate held at 63.2% in September. The employment-population ratio, at 61.0%, inched up 0.1 percentage point over the month but was up by 0.6 percentage point over the year. Last month, average hourly earnings fell $0.01 to $28.09 after increasing $0.11 in August. Over the past 12 months ended in September, hourly earnings have increased 2.9%. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.4 hours in September.
  • The trade deficit increased by $0.9 billion in August to $54.9 billion. August exports were $207.9 billion, $0.5 billion more than July exports. August imports were $262.8 billion, $1.3 billion more than July imports. The August figures showed surpluses in goods trades with South and Central America ($5.0 billion), Hong Kong ($2.2 billion), and the United Kingdom ($0.6 billion). Deficits were recorded with China ($28.9 billion), the European Union ($15.6 billion), Mexico ($8.4 billion), and Japan ($6.1 billion).
  • Purchasing managers reported an uptick in production in September, but not enough to save the manufacturing sector from experiencing its worst quarter since 2009. The IHS Markit U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index™ (PMI™) posted 51.1 in September, slightly higher than 50.3 in August. According to the report, “Expansions in production and new orders remained only modest, meaning firms were encouraged to increase their workforce numbers only tentatively. Business confidence remained relatively gloomy due to muted demand conditions.”
  • Respondents in the Institute for Supply Management survey also saw a slowing manufacturing sector. The results from the latest report included a decrease in the purchasing managers index in September from the prior month. New orders rose slightly, while production, employment, deliveries, new export orders, and inventories each declined. Prices rose marginally. On the whole, respondents noted that demand and consumption contracted last month.
  • In the services sector, purchasing managers were dovish with respect to growth in September. According to the Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®, business activity, new orders, and employment fell in September from August. Prices increased in September for the 28th consecutive month. Some of the non-manufacturing (services) industries reporting include utilities, retail trade, construction, accommodation & food services, transportation & warehousing, and health care & social assistance.
  • For the week ended September 28, there were 219,000 claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 2,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.1% for the week ended September 21. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended September 21 was 1,651,000, a decrease of 5,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 6,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

This week, inflationary measures are in the news with reports on the costs of consumer goods and services in September. In August, both consumer prices and producer prices increased a scant 0.1%, respectively. For the year, the Consumer Price Index is up 1.7% — well below the Fed’s target of 2.0%.

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Quarterly Market Review: July – September 2019

The Markets (third quarter through September 30, 2019)

The third quarter was full of ups and downs for stocks, much like the second quarter. Stock values moved in response to the rhetoric from the participants in the trade war between the United States and China. The Federal Reserve lowered interest rates two times during the quarter. More new jobs were added, but at a reduced rate, while wage growth continued. Manufacturing and industrial production remain muted, influenced, in part, by the waning global economy. Nevertheless, consumers were undaunted by economic developments, spending at a steady rate throughout the quarter.

July kicked off the third quarter in a somewhat lackluster manner, as the benchmark indexes listed here posted gains over June’s respective closing values. The Nasdaq gained over 2.0% for the month, followed by the S&P 500, which rose 1.31%. The Dow and Russell 2000 inched ahead by less than one percent, while the Global Dow dipped by almost half a percent. The Federal Open Market Committee reduced short-term interest rates 25 basis points, which sent stocks reeling. However, strong corporate earnings reports, low unemployment, and higher wages helped ease investors’ concerns by the end of the month.

August started with President Trump’s threat to impose additional tariffs on Chinese imports, which sent stocks plummeting. Throughout the month, each of the benchmark indexes listed here continued to lose value. Even a final-week push couldn’t save stocks from posting month-over-month losses. The small caps of the Russell 2000 were hit particularly hard, falling over 5.0% in August. The Global Dow lost almost 3.5%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped more than 2.5%. The large caps of the Dow and S&P 500 also fell close to 2.0%. Oil and gas prices at the pump fell in August, while long-term bond yields plunged as prices soared.

September saw each of the benchmark indexes listed here post solid gains, led by the Global Dow, which rode a solid close to the month on encouraging economic data from China. The Russell 2000 climbed almost 2.0% ahead of its August closing total, while both the Dow and S&P 500 exceeded their respective August closing marks by respectable amounts. The Nasdaq gained about half a percent on the month. The Federal Open Market Committee once again lowered interest rates 25 basis points in September following July’s 25-basis-point cut (the FOMC did not meet in August). By the close of trading on September 30, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $54.37 per barrel, down from the August 30 price of $55.16 per barrel. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.654 per gallon on September 23, up from the August 26 selling price of $2.574 but $0.190 lower than a year ago. The price of gold dropped by the end of September, falling to $1,479.30 by close of business on the 30th, off from $1,529.20 at the end of August.

For the third quarter, large caps performed better than small caps. The Dow and the S&P 500 each finished 1.19% above their respective second-quarter closing values. The tech stocks of the Nasdaq broke about even for the quarter, while the Russell 2000 and the Global Dow lost value. For the quarter, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $3.79 per barrel lower than its June 28 price. Gold closed the third quarter $66.00 higher than its second-quarter closing price. And the national average retail regular gasoline price, at $2.654 per gallon on September 23, did not change from its average price at the end of the second quarter.

Market/Index 2018 Close As of September 30 Monthly Change Quarterly Change YTD Change
DJIA 23327.46 26916.83 1.95% 1.19% 15.39%
Nasdaq 6635.28 7999.34 0.46% -0.09% 20.56%
S&P 500 2506.85 2976.74 1.72% 1.19% 18.74%
Russell 2000 1348.56 1523.37 1.91% -2.76% 12.96%
Global Dow 2736.74 3021.34 2.31% -1.73% 10.40%
Fed. Funds 2.25%-2.50% 1.75%-2.00% -25 bps -50 bps -50 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.68% 1.67% 17 bps -33 bps -101 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Latest Economic Reports

  • Employment: Total employment increased by 130,000 in August after adding 159,000 (revised) new jobs in July. The average monthly job gain so far in 2019 fell to 158,000 per month (223,000 in 2018). Notable employment increases for August occurred in professional and business services (37,000), health care (24,000), financial activities (15,000), and social assistance (13,000). The unemployment rate remained at 3.7% in August. The number of unemployed persons fell slightly to 6.0 million (6.1 million in July). The labor participation rate edged up 0.2 percentage point to 63.2%, and the employment-population ratio was 60.9% (60.7% in July). The average workweek increased 0.1 hour to 34.4 hours for August. Average hourly earnings increased by $0.11 to $28.11. Over the last 12 months ended in August, average hourly earnings have risen 3.2%.
  • FOMC/interest rates: The Federal Open Market Committee followed July’s 25-basis-point cut by lowering interest rates another 25 basis points in September. The federal funds rate range has been decreased by 50 basis points so far this year. Interestingly, the Committee’s action was not unanimous. Of the 10 members voting, 1 voted for a 50-basis-point reduction, while 2 members opted for no rate reduction. Nevertheless, in support of its decision to reduce interest rates, the Committee noted that inflation continues to run below the Fed’s 2.0% target rate, business fixed investment and exports have weakened, and global economic developments are uncertain.
  • GDP/budget: Economic growth slowed in the second quarter but was still solid. According to the third and final estimate of the gross domestic product, the second quarter grew at an annualized rate of 2.0%. The first quarter saw an annualized growth of 3.1%. Consumer prices and spending increased in the second quarter, rising 2.4% and 4.6%, respectively. Pulling the GDP down in the second quarter were negative contributions from business fixed investment (equipment, software, structures, etc.) and exports. The federal budget deficit was $200 billion in August ($119.7 billion in July). Through the first 11 months of the fiscal year, the government deficit sits at $1,067 billion,18.8% more than the deficit over the same period last year.
  • Inflation/consumer spending: Inflationary pressures remain weak, as consumer prices showed no increase in August and are up 1.4% over the last 12 months. Consumer prices excluding food and energy inched up 0.1% in August (0.2% increase in July) and 1.8% since August 2018. In August, consumer spending rose 0.1% (0.5% in July). Personal income and disposable (after-tax) personal income climbed 0.4% and 0.5%, respectively, in August.
  • The Consumer Price Index increased 0.1% in August following a 0.3% advance in July. Over the 12 months ended in August, the CPI rose 1.7%. Energy prices fell 1.9% on the month with gasoline down 3.5%. Prices less food and energy rose 0.3% in August — the same increase as in July. Since last August, core prices (less food and energy) are up 2.4%.
  • According to the Producer Price Index, the prices companies received for goods and services rose 0.1% in August after increasing 0.2% in July. The index increased 1.8% for the 12 months ended in August. Prices for goods fell 0.5% in August, pulled down by falling energy prices. Prices for services increased 0.3% last month. However, the price index less foods, energy, and trade services jumped 0.4% in August after dropping 0.1% the prior month. The price index less foods, energy, and trade services increased 1.9% over the last 12 months.
  • Housing: Activity in the housing market can be described as erratic at best. Existing home sales jumped 1.3% in August after climbing 2.5% in July. Year-over-year, existing home sales are up 2.6%. Existing home prices fell in August, as the median price for existing homes was $278,200, down from July’s median price of $280,800. Nevertheless, existing home prices were up 4.7% from August 2018. Total housing inventory for existing homes for sale in August decreased to 1.86 million (1.89 million in July), representing a 4.1-month supply at the current sales pace. After falling close to 9.5% in July, sales of new single-family houses climbed 7.1% in August. New home sales are up 18.0% over their August 2018 estimate. The median sales price of new houses sold in August was $328,400 ($305,400 in July). The average sales price was $404,200 ($372,700 in July). Inventory at the end of August was at a supply of 5.5 months (5.9 months in July).
  • Manufacturing: According to the Federal Reserve, industrial production rose 0.6% in August after falling 0.1% July. Manufacturing output advanced 0.5% following a 0.4% drop in July. In August, mining output and utilities climbed 1.4% and 0.6%, respectively. Total industrial production was 0.4% higher in August than it was a year earlier. Orders for durable goods increased for the second month in a row in August, climbing 0.2% after increasing 2.0% in July. New orders for capital goods used by businesses to produce consumer goods fell 2.1% in August. New orders for capital goods excluding transportation increased 0.5% last month, while new orders for capital goods excluding defense fell 0.6%.
  • Imports and exports: Both import and export prices ebbed in August, falling 0.5% and 0.6%, respectively. For the year, import prices are down 2.0%, while export prices are off 1.4%. In August, a drop in fuel prices was the main drag on import prices, while falling agricultural and nonagricultural prices pulled export prices lower. The latest information on international trade in goods and services, out September 4, is for July and shows that the goods and services deficit was $54.0 billion, down from the revised $55.5 billion deficit in June. July exports were $207.4 billion, $1.2 billion more than June exports. July imports were $261.4 billion, $0.4 billion less than June imports. Year-to-date, the goods and services deficit increased $28.2 billion, or 8.2%. Exports decreased $3.4 billion, or 0.2%. Imports increased $24.9 billion, or 1.4%. The advance report on international trade in goods (excluding services) revealed the trade deficit rose to $72.8 billion in August, up from $72.5 billion in July. Exports of goods in August were $137.8 billion, $0.2 billion more than July exports, while imports of goods were $210.6 billion, $0.5 billion more than July imports.
  • International markets: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempted to shut down Parliament for several weeks as part of his effort to shunt opponents to his plan to push through a “no deal” Brexit by October 31. However, the UK Supreme Court ruled the move was unlawful. This decision will likely put pressure on Johnson to resign. How this affects Brexit moving forward remains unclear. Household spending helped push the eurozone gross domestic product ahead 0.2% in the second quarter. The eurozone economy has grown 1.2% year-over-year. In China, economic activity worsened in August as industrial production slowed to its weakest pace since 2012, most likely impacted by the trade war with the United States.
  • Consumer confidence: While consumer confidence has been relatively strong for much of the year, it did fall back in August. Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions decreased, as did consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions.

Eye on the Month Ahead

Economic growth has slowed so far this year, as lagging export orders have quelled manufacturing output. Wages continued to grow, while consumers ratcheted up their spending. The fourth quarter will likely ride the ebb and flow of economic and world events, not the least of which is the ongoing trade war between the world’s two economic giants: China and the United States.