Economic Update – May 9, 2011

The Institute for Supply Management reported that the monthly composite index of manufacturing activity fell to 60.4 in April after reaching 61.2 in March. A reading above 50 signals expansion. It was the 21st straight month of expansion.

Total construction spending rose 1.4% to $768.9 billion in March, following a 1.4% decrease in February. Economists had anticipated an increase of 0.5% in March.

Retail sales fell 0.8% for the week ending April 30, according to the ICSC-Goldman Sachs index. On a year-over-year basis, retailers saw sales increase 2.8%.

Factory orders rose 3% in March to a seasonally adjusted $462.9 billion, following an upwardly revised 0.7% increase in February. Excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders rose 2.6%.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending April 29 rose 4%. Refinancing applications increased 6%. Purchase volume rose 0.3%.

The Institute for Supply Management reported that the monthly composite index of non-manufacturing activity fell to 52.8 in April from 57.3 in March. A reading above 50 signals expansion. It was the 16th straight month of expansion in the services sector.

The Labor Department reported that in the first quarter productivity rose at an annual rate of 1.6% and labor costs increased at an annual rate of 1%.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose by 43,000 to 474,000 for the week ending April 30. Continuing claims for the week ending April 23 rose by 74,000 to 3.73 million. The monthly unemployment rate rose to 9% in April from 8.8% in March.


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Economic Update – March 21, 2011

Last Week in the News


Retail sales rose 0.1% for the week ending March 12, according to the ICSC-Goldman Sachs index. On a year-over-year basis, retailers saw sales increase 3.1%.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing market index rose one point in March to 17. An index reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending March 11 fell 0.7%. Refinancing applications increased 0.9%. Purchase volume fell 4%.

The combined construction of new single-family homes and apartments in February fell 22.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 479,000 units. Single-family starts decreased 11.8%. Multifamily starts dropped 46.1%. Applications for new building permits, seen as an indicator of future activity, fell 8.2% to an annual rate of 517,000 units.

The producer price index, which tracks wholesale price inflation, rose 1.6% in February after a revised 0.7% increase in January. Core prices — excluding food and fuel — rose 0.2% in February.

Consumer prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in February, following a 0.4% increase in January. For the year, seasonally adjusted consumer prices are up 2.2%.

Industrial production at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities fell 0.1% in February, following a revised 0.3% increase in January. Compared to a year ago, industrial production is up 5.6%. Capacity utilization was 76.3% in February.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 16,000 to 385,000 for the week ending March 12. Continuing claims for the week ending March 5 fell by 80,000 to 3.7 million.