Shopfloor Economics

Durable Goods Orders Off by 1.2% in October on Aircraft Sales Volatility, Long-Term Trend Remains Favorable

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The Census Bureau said that growth in new durable goods orders decreased by 1.2 percent in October, ending two straight months of solid gains in August and September. The decline in October stemmed largely from significant declines in defense and nondefense aircraft and parts orders, which can often be highly volatile from month to month. (The November numbers should rebound strongly on healthy airplane demand at the Dubai Airshow.) Excluding transportation equipment, new durable goods orders were up 0.4 percent, rising for the fourth consecutive month. New durable goods orders have generally trended in the right direction over the course of the past 12 months. New durable goods orders have increased by 1.0 percent since October 2016, but these gains were more sizable when transportation equipment were excluded, up 7.4 percent year-over-year.  Read More

Existing Home Sales up 2% in October

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The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that existing home sales rose 2.0 percent in October, increasing for the second straight month and rebounding from summertime lulls. Sales of existing homes rose from 5.37 million units at the annual rate in September to 5.48 million in October, its best reading since June. Existing home sales remain off from February’s 5.70 million units, but the upward movement in the autumn months has been promising. The overall outlook for single-family home sales continues to be encouraging. Improvements in the macroeconomy and rising wages incentivizing more Americans to purchase a new home, according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. At the same time, there are “residual effects on sales from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma” that still need to be worked through.

In the latest release, both single-family (up from 4.77 million to 4.87 million) and condominium and coop (up from 600,000 to 610,000) sales increased in October. Nonetheless, existing home sales have declined by 0.9 percent from 5.53 million units in October 2016, with single-family units off by 1.0 percent (down from 4.92 million) and condo/co-op sales unchanged year-over-year. The median sales price in August was $247,000, up 5.5 percent from one year ago.

Kansas City Fed: Manufacturing Activity in November Pulled Back Somewhat but “Remained Solid”

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The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity pulled back somewhat in November but “remained solid,” according to the latest survey data. The composite index of general business conditions declined from 23 in October, a level not seen since March 2011, to 16 in November. Even with some easing, manufacturers in the district are more upbeat today than one year ago, when the headline index was zero. In November, most of the key measures softened a little, while continuing to indicate healthy expansions overall. This included new orders (down from 27 to 22), production (down from 20 to 15), shipments (down from 25 to 20), employment (down from 21 to 16) and the average workweek (down from 12 to 7). On the hiring front, the sample comments once again cited challenges in attracting talent. In terms of downsides in the current data, exports (down from 8 to -2) contracted for the first time in four months, and raw material prices (down from 25 to 24) remained elevated. Read More

Housing Starts Jumped to a One-Year High in October

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The Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that new housing starts jumped to a one-year high in October, bouncing back from hurricane-related softness in the prior release. New residential construction rose 13.7 percent from 1,135,000 units at the annual rate in September to 1,290,000 units in October, its fastest pace in 12 months. That is encouraging news, and yet, it is worth noting that the bulk of that increase stemmed from better multifamily activity, which can often be highly volatile from month to month. Multifamily housing starts soared from 302,000 to 413,000 in this release, the best reading since January. New single-family construction was also higher, up from 833,000 to 877,000, an 8-month high. Read More

Home Builder Optimism Remained Highly Elevated in November

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The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo reported that the Housing Market Index (HMI) increased from 68 in October to 70 in November. That is the highest figure since March (71), which was the best reading since July 2005. As such, builders remain very positive in their outlook, with index readings greater than 50 indicating favorable conditions in the overall outlook for the sector. The headline index has now exceeded 60 for 14 straight months, averaging 66.7 over that time frame. NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said, “Demand for housing is increasing at a consistent pace, driven by job and economic growth, rising homeownership rates and limited housing inventory.” On the latter point, respondents also cited ongoing challenges in attracting workers and with raw material price increases. Read More

Consumer Inflation Slowed in October on Reduced Energy Costs

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that consumer prices edged up by 0.1 percent in October, slowing from more robust growth in both August and September. The increases in the prior two months were led by significant growth in energy costs, largely on negative impacts from recent hurricanes, which were up by 2.8 percent and 6.1 percent in those months, respectively. Energy prices began normalizing in October, off by 1.0 percent, with gasoline prices down 2.4 percent. At the same time, food prices were unchanged. Since October 2016, food and energy costs have increased 1.3 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively. Excluding food and energy, core consumer inflation increased by 0.2 percent in October, buoyed by higher costs for medical and transportation services, shelter expenses and used car and trucks.

Overall, the consumer price index (CPI) increased 2.0 percent year-over-year in October, down from 2.2 percent in September. There has been an acceleration in pricing pressures since June’s 1.6 percent year-over-year reading, but the current pace remains well below the 2.8 percent pace seen in February. In addition, core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy costs, have risen 1.8 percent over the past 12 months, inching up slightly from 1.7 percent in the prior release. Read More

New York Fed: Manufacturing Activity Pulled Back from a 3-Year High but Remained Strong

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Manufacturing activity in the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s district pulled back in November from October’s 3-year high but remained strong. In the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey, the composite index of general business conditions declined from 30.2 in October, a pace not seen since September 2014, to 19.4 in November. The underlying indicators were somewhat mixed. On the positive side, new orders (up from 18.0 to 20.7) accelerated, which was encouraging. The percentage of respondents saying that sales had increased in the month rose from 32.3 percent in October to 40.7 percent in November, which was more than enough to offset the gain in those suggesting reduced orders, up from 14.3 percent to 20.0 percent. Shipments (down from 27.5 to 18.4) and employment (down from 15.6 to 11.5) continued to expand at decent rates despite some easing, but unfilled orders (down from 2.3 to -4.6) and the average workweek (down from zero to -0.8) both turned slightly negative. Read More