WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. wholesale businesses boosted their stockpiles in November by the largest amount in two years, while sales increased at a slower pace.
The Commerce Department says inventories held by wholesalers rose 1 percent in November after having fallen 0.1 percent in October. It was the biggest one-month gain since November 2014.
Sales at the wholesale level rose 0.4 percent in November after a 1.1 percent surge in October, the best in four months.
For much of the past year, businesses at all levels have been struggling to work down a pile of excess inventories, an effort that has been a drag on overall economic growth. However, economists believe that process is drawing to an end and inventory rebuilding will contribute to stronger growth in the future.
All accepted registrations through January 25 at 12:30p ET have been activated. Thank you! -M.W.
The classic Political Potpourri forum is back by popular demand! ~SEPARATE REGISTRATION IS NO LONGER NEEDED; ALL REGISTERED BUZZBOARD USERS ARE WELCOME TO POST!~ Be forwarned -- this forum is NOT for the intellectually weak or those of you with thin skins. Don't come crying to me if you become the subject of ridicule. **Board Administrator reserves the right to revoke posting privileges based on my sole discretion**
Wholesale Inventories rose by the largest amount since November 2014 and sales at the wholesale level were up the most in 4 months:
Citing the incoming Trump Administration the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has raised its outlook for 2017 and 2018:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The International Monetary Fund on Monday raised its forecast for the U.S. economy over the next two years, saying President-elect Donald Trump's policies should boost economic growth, particularly in 2018. But officials warned that if Trump's protectionist trade proposals set off a trade war, that could be "quite destructive" for the global economy.
The IMF also increased 2017 growth projections for a number of other countries including China, Germany, Japan and Britain, but warned that the global economy faced a number of downside risks from rising protectionism to a jump in interest rates.
The 189-nation global lending agency's latest economic outlook took note of the significant impact Trump's election has already had in giving a boost to U.S. stock prices, interest rates and the dollar. The new outlook puts U.S. economic growth at 2.3 percent this year and 2.5 percent in 2018. That would be an improvement from lackluster U.S. growth around 1.6 percent in 2016.
During the campaign, Trump said his economic policies of tax cuts, regulatory reform and boosts in infrastructure spending would lift U.S. growth to annual rates of 4 percent.
The new forecast represents a boost of 0.1 percentage point this year and an increase of 0.4 percentage point for 2018, when Trump's stimulus plans would be expected to be phased in. That is a half-point higher growth than the IMF was forecasting in October, before Trump's election.
In contrast, the World Bank last week left its U.S. forecast unchanged at 2.2 percent growth in 2017 and 2.1 percent for 2018, arguing that there was too much uncertainty over the fate of Trump's proposals to incorporate them in a forecast.
But IMF Chief Economist Maurice Obstfeld told reporters at a briefing Monday that he viewed the IMF's upgrade for the United States as a moderate increase that took into account the U.S. election results.
"We now have the presidency and the legislative branch in the same hands. It seems very clear to us that some of the promises will be delivered on," Obstfeld said. "We know the direction of policies. We don't know the specifics."
He said that the IMF had chosen not to incorporate Trump's threats of imposing higher tariffs on countries such as China and Mexico if their trade policies do not change because of a belief "that at the end of the day, countries will realize these are not in their best interests given the threat of retaliation. ... The outbreak of a trade war would be quite destructive."
For the overall global economy, the IMF left its projections unchanged growth of 3.4 percent for this year and 3.6 percent for 2018, both up from 3.1 percent growth in 2016, a year when global growth slowed to its weakest performance since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
But the IMF saw better prospects in a number of countries including Germany, Japan, Spain and Britain, thanks in part to a rebound in growth in many parts of the world in the second half of last year that provided momentum going into 2017.
"The global economic landscape started to shift in the second half of 2016," Obstfeld said, helped by a rebound in manufacturing activity in many countries and the financial market rally that started with Trump's November election victory.
But Obstfeld said there was a wider than usual range of upside and downside risks in part because of the uncertainty over how much of Trump's program will win congressional approval and what the spillover effects will be for the rest of the world.
While Trump's election victory boosted economic prospects in the United States, the impact has been uneven for the rest of the world. Some countries could see stronger growth from the increase in activity in the United States, the world's largest economy, but some emerging market countries may face challenges as global interest rates rise.
The new outlook boosted the growth forecast for China, the world's second largest economy, by 0.3 percentage point to 6.5 percent this year. The IMF expects the Chinese government to providing further stimulus to the economy.
The outlook also boosted 2017 growth projections for Germany, Japan, Spain and Britain to reflect stronger-than-expected performances in the second half of last year. At the same time, the IMF lowered its forecasts for Italy, South Korea, India and Brazil, reflecting disappointing performances in the last half of 2016.
The IMF said that growth prospects in Latin America were being hurt by rising uncertainty about the outlook in Mexico, given Trump's statements overhauling trade relations between the United States and Mexico. about The IMF slashed its growth projections for Mexico by 0.6 percentage point in both 2017 and 2018 to 1.7 percent this year and 2 percent next year.
Obstfeld said that among the risks facing the global economy at the moment were "higher popular antipathy toward trade, immigration and multilateral engagement" among voters in the U.S. and Europe.
Prediction...this data will end up being about as useful as your election polls thread.
"Nobody can get the truth out of me because even I don't know what it is. I keep myself in a constant state of utter confusion."
Except this isn't polling... just like there... if you don't like it nobody forced your hand to choose to click on it and nobody glued your eyes open and tied you up to stare at it. Get a life. I'm doing it to see how The Donald does with the economy. If you want to know what's actually going on and which way things are going you have to look at the data. No amount of cute talking points changes that fact.Colonel Flagg wrote:Prediction...this data will end up being about as useful as your election polls thread.
Audio... you're right it was more accurate as to who won. Your numbers were hardly representative since he won by 10,000 statewide. I get what you mean though... I was just reporting what the Real Clear Politics site listed for polls. Interestingly it's likely the polls were right until the second Comey announcement. It's widely thought that the polls couldn't recover and show the Trump wave and lead change to Trump in the week after she had been cleared by the FBI from the laptop email find. I think October surprises usually happen earlier than October 30th... if it had then Trump would have been up by 1 or 2 in the 3 key states that got him in...
I didn't mind you posting those - I actually liked you doing that!
I was kidding around on the yard sign polls - even thought it gave a good hint to what was about to happen.
I was kidding around on the yard sign polls - even thought it gave a good hint to what was about to happen.
Ask not what your country can do FOR you; ask what they are about to do TO YOU!!
I know... I appreciate that by the wayaudiophile wrote:I didn't mind you posting those - I actually liked you doing that!
I was kidding around on the yard sign polls - even thought it gave a good hint to what was about to happen.
I was really surprised how predictive they were. I thought maybe only diehards had them since relatively few houses had signs. We should try to do it again in 2020 and see if we get a similar result...
Consumer prices edged up 0.3% in December, for the year it rose at the fastest rate in 5 years:
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer prices, driven up by rising energy costs, rose moderately in December, closing out a year in which consumer inflation rose at the fastest pace in five years.
The Labor Department reported Wednesday that its consumer price index increased 0.3 percent last month, up from a 0.2 percent gain in November. Energy prices, which have been rebounding, were up 1.5 percent, led by another jump in gasoline pump prices. Food costs were unchanged for the fifth straight month.
For all of 2016, prices were up 2.1 percent, compared to a 0.7 percent rise in 2015. It was the largest annual increase since a 3 percent jump in 2011. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, was up 0.2 percent in December and 2.2 percent for the year.
After four years of extremely low inflation, prices have begun to accelerate with both overall inflation and core inflation above the 2 percent target set by the Federal Reserve. The low inflation figures had allowed the central bank to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels with its key rate at a record low near zero for seven years.
The Fed has now boosted rates twice in December 2015 and again last month by modest quarter-point moves. Fed officials are projecting that they will boost rates another three times in 2017. Fed officials continue to stress that they believe prices will be rising by modest amounts that will allow them to move interest rates up gradually.
Andrew Hunter, U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said that core inflation has been relatively stable, rising at rates just above 2 percent over the past year. He said that would allow the Fed to keep interest rates steady until mid-year. But after that, he said a variety of factors including tax cuts and spending increases supported by the Trump administration will likely prompt the Fed to begin moving rates higher at a faster clip.
"We expect that a sharper acceleration in inflation will eventually force the Fed to tighten policy much more aggressively" in the second half of this year, Hunter said, saying the Fed could hike rates four times this year.
But other analysts said they were still looking for slower rise in rates. Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group, said he still believed the Fed would raise rates only twice in 2017, in June and December.
For 2016, food costs actually declined 0.2 percent for the 12 months ending in December while energy costs were up 5.4 percent from a year ago. Currently, the national price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.36 up from $1.89 a year ago, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge.
Medical care services was one of the fastest rising categories last year, rising by 3.9 percent over the past 12 months.
New car prices were up a slight 0.3 percent but used car prices were down 3.5 percent and clothing prices were down 0.1 percent over the past 12 months.
In addition to a big fall in energy costs, inflation has been kept low in recent years by a rise in the value of the dollar against foreign currencies which makes imports, including clothing imports, cheaper for U.S. consumers.
The Fed has used low interest rates and other measures to provide a boost for the U.S. economy as it struggled to emerge from the worst recession since the 1930s.
U.S Industrial Production rose by 0.8% in December, the biggest jump since November 2014. For all of 2016 industrial production was up 0.2%:
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. industrial production increased in December at the strongest pace in two years, as auto factories cranked out more vehicles and power plants helped heat homes and businesses.
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that output at America's factories, mines and utilities rose 0.8 percent last month, the largest percentage gain since November 2014.
The report suggests that the U.S. industrial sector is recovering from a prolonged slump. The combination of falling energy prices and a strong dollar hurt manufacturers, who saw orders for pipeline and drilling equipment cancelled as their goods became more expensive abroad. The Fed measure of industrial output began to slump at the start of 2015 and only began to show signs of rebounding in the middle of last year.
In December, manufacturing output improved 0.2 percent, led by gains in motor vehicles and primary metals that offset declines in textiles and chemicals. Factory production has increased 0.2 percent over the past 12 months, a sign that manufacturers may have adjusted to the headwinds caused by the energy sector and sluggish global growth.
Utility output surged 6.6 percent as temperatures fell after an unseasonably warm November.
Mining production, which includes oil and natural gas drilling, was flat last month.
The National Association of Realtors / Wells Fargo Builder Sentiment Index pulled back slightly in December. It declined 2 point to 67 from Novembers 69. Anything above 50 indicates more positive than negative views of building conditions. A measure of current sales of single family homes fell from 75 to 72. A gauge of traffic by perspective buyers fell from 52 to 51 and a measure of builders view of sales in the next 6 months fell from 78 to 76.
Washington (AP) U.S. homebuilders are feeling slightly less confident this month about their sales prospects, a pullback from December when builders' confidence reached the highest level in 11 years.
The decline in builder confidence comes amid heightened concerns about mortgage rates, which have been mostly rising since early November. Higher mortgage rates make home loans more expensive, which could dampen sales.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Wednesday fell to 67 this month. That's down two points from a revised reading of 69 in December.
Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has been above 60 since September.
Builders' view of sales now and over the next six months also fell, as did a gauge of traffic by prospective buyers.
"Concerns going into the year include rising mortgage interest rates, as well as a lack of lots and access to labor," said Robert Dietz, the NAHB's chief economist. Builders have complained in recent years about a shortage of skilled construction workers and land parcels cleared for home construction.
Despite the pullback in this month's builder confidence index and the potential setback of rising mortgage rates, builders' overall outlook remains positive. The homebuilder trade group forecasts that single-family home construction will climb 10 percent this year.
A stable job market and still-low mortgage rates helped spur demand for homes in 2016, driving prices higher. Sales hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 592,000 in November, a 16.5 percent increase from a year earlier and the fastest pace since July. Figures for December sales are due out next week.
But the cheap loans that have supported stronger sales may be vanishing. Long-term mortgage rates have mostly risen since the presidential election.
Last week, the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 4.12 percent, the second weekly decline after a nine-week run of increases. While still low by historical standards, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage is up sharply after averaging 3.65 percent for all of 2016.
Investors have bid rates higher because they believe President-elect Donald Trump's plans for tax cuts and higher infrastructure spending will drive up economic growth and inflation. Last month, the Federal Reserve raised short-term U.S. interest rates for only the second time in a decade, citing improvement in the U.S. economy.
This month's builder index was based on 334 respondents.
A measure of current sales conditions for single-family homes fell three points to 72, while a gauge of traffic by prospective buyers dipped one point to 51. Builders' view of sales over the next six months slipped two points to 76.
It's been pretty quiet data wise but 3 states gained jobs in December, 5 lost and the other 42 were unchanged:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Employers significantly increased hiring in just three U.S. states last month, while five states reported large cuts.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that job totals were little changed in the other 42. Unemployment rates fell noticeably in 10 states and rose in just one.
The weak gains in most states partly reflect a downshift in hiring nationwide. Employers added 156,000 jobs last month, down from 204,000 in November, and the U.S. unemployment rate ticked up to 4.7 percent from 4.6 percent. In the final three months of last year, hiring averaged 165,000 a month, down from 282,000 a year earlier.
In all of last year, half the states reported large job gains, while only two — Wyoming and North Dakota — lost a significant number of positions.
Oregon reported the biggest gain in 2016, adding 3.3 percent more jobs. Florida followed, with a 3.1 percent gain, and Nevada and Washington both reported 3 percent increases.
California added the largest number of jobs, adding 332,500, followed by Florida with 251,400 and Texas with 210,200. Those increases partly reflect their larger populations.
Steady, if modest, hiring during the seven-year old recovery has pushed many states' unemployment rates to rock-bottom levels. New Hampshire has the nation's lowest rate, at 2.6 percent. Massachusetts and South Dakota follow at 2.8 percent each.
Alaska reported the nation's highest rate, at 6.7 percent. New Mexico has the second-highest, at 6.6 percent.
Housing is in short supply... the number of existing homes for sale fell in December to their lowest level since 1999. This caused a 2.8% drop in sales of existing homes in December and for all of sales rose 3.8%:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans retreated from purchasing homes in December, as the number of properties listed for sale sank to its lowest level since 1999.
The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales of existing homes fell 2.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million. For all of 2016, sales posted an annual gain of 3.8 percent to 5.45 million.
But the housing market has become trapped by a supply shortage that has pushed prices higher and may limit the potential for additional sales growth. Homebuyers simply have fewer choices, as new construction has yet to meet demand and existing homeowners have been reluctant to list their properties for sale.
"Home buying is likely to face additional headwinds going forward, which include low inventory levels, rebounding prices and higher mortgage rates," said Admir Kolaj, an analyst at TD Bank, who added that these factors are unlikely to "completely derail" the housing market.
Just 1.65 million homes were listed for sale in December. This marks a 6.3 percent drop from a year ago to the smallest total since 1999.
The tight supplies pushed the median sales price to $232,200 last month, up 4 percent from a year ago.
Homebuyers were able to manage the rising sales prices in part because of low mortgage rates in 2016, but those rates have climbed upward and settled above 4 percent since Donald Trump's presidential victory. The financial markets expect that Trump will try to stimulate economic growth through deficit spending, which caused the rates to rise on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note and mortgages.
The Realtors estimate that rising mortgage rates in recent months increased the typical monthly payment by $75, or $900 a year.
It's possible that rising mortgage rates are causing more people to buy homes earlier than they otherwise would in hopes of locking in lower monthly payments.
"When that activity dies down, we're not sure where the next wave of buyers is coming from," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said last week that the rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans averaged 4.09 percent from 4.12 percent. That was dramatically higher than a 30-year rate that averaged 3.65 percent for all of 2016, the lowest level recorded from records going back to 1971.
In December, sales fell in the Northeast, Midwest and West, while staying unchanged in the South, according to the Realtors.
4th Quarter 2016 GDP growth was 1.9%:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy lost momentum in the final three months of 2016, closing out a year in which growth turned in the weakest performance in five years.
The gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of just 1.9 percent in the October-December period, a slowdown from 3.5 percent growth in the third quarter, the Commerce Department reported Friday. GDP, the broadest measure of economic health, was held back by a jump in the trade deficit.
For 2016, the economy grew 1.6 percent. It was the worst showing since 2011 and down from 2.6 percent growth in 2015.
President Donald Trump has set a goal of doubling growth through an ambitious stimulus program featuring tax cuts, deregulation and higher infrastructure spending.
Private economists believe sustained annual growth rates of 4 percent will be a high hurdle to achieve given underlying trends such as slow growth in the labor market and weak productivity. However, many analysts have been boosting their forecasts believing that Trump will succeed in getting at least a portion of his program approved by a Republican-led Congress.
For the fourth quarter, the biggest factor contributing to the slowdown was a widening in the trade deficit. Exports, which had been temporarily bolstered by a surge in sales of soybeans to Latin America, retreated in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, imports surged.
Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said the slowdown in fourth quarter growth was not a cause for concern since the third and fourth quarter performances were heavily influenced by a temporary swing in exports.
"We would be wary of reading too much into the slowdown in GDP growth ... because the temporary spike in soybean exports boosted" the third quarter and subtracted from the fourth quarter, he said.
Trade cut 1.7 percentage point from growth in the fourth quarter after adding 0.9 percentage point to growth in the third quarter. A higher trade deficit subtracts from economic growth because it means more production is being supplied from abroad.
Consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic growth, slowed to still-solid growth of 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter from a 3 percent gain in the third quarter. But business investment spending accelerated in the fourth quarter, rising at a 2.4 percent rate, the best showing in more than a year. That's a hopeful sign that a prolonged slowdown in investment spending, reflecting in part big cuts by energy companies, is coming to an end.
Residential construction, which had been falling for two quarters, rebounded in the fourth quarter, rising at an annual rate of 10.2 percent while government spending grew at a 1.2 percent rate as strength in state and local activity offset a drop in activity at the federal level.
Rebuilding of business stockpiles added 1 percentage point to growth in the fourth quarter. The cutbacks in business investment along with efforts by companies to reduce an overhang of unwanted inventories were major reasons growth slowed in 2016.
Economists are forecasting a better performance in 2017, with many raising their forecasts to incorporate the potential impact of Trump's stimulus program. They believe that the prolonged reduction in stockpiles has run its course and business spending on new plants and equipment will begin to rebound.
Economists at the International Monetary Fund last week boosted their outlook for U.S. GDP to 2.3 percent this year and 2.5 percent in 2018, saying the increase reflected expectations that Trump's economic program of tax cuts, regulatory relief and higher infrastructure had boosted growth prospects.
Some private economists are even more optimistic. Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC, said he had pushed his outlook up to growth of 2.4 percent in 2017 and 2.7 percent in 2018.
Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State's Martin Smith School of Business, said there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment about Trump's program since the new administration has yet to put forward its plan for Congress to consider.
"At the moment, we don't know the size, the scale and the timing of the Trump program," Sohn said. "But it is very possible that we will get a significant boost to economic growth in the second half of next year if Trump is successful getting his program through Congress."
Sohn predicted growth rates could jump to 3.5 to 4 percent. GDP growth has averaged a lackluster 2.1 percent in the 7½ years since the recession ended, a point that Trump repeatedly brought up during the campaign.
Business Spending and Durable Goods Orders rose for a third straight month in December:
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses ramped up their investment in industrial machinery, semiconductors and other big-ticket items last month, boosting demand for factory goods.
A measure that tracks business spending plans climbed 0.8 percent in December, after jumping 1.5 percent the previous month, the Commerce Department said Friday.
Orders for all durable goods, which are meant to last longer than three years, slipped 0.4 percent, mostly because of a sharp fall in demand for defense aircraft, a volatile category. Excluding transportation-related goods, orders rose 0.5 percent, the sixth straight increase.
The report adds to recent evidence that manufacturers are climbing out of a roughly two-year rut. A strong U.S. dollar and falling oil and gas prices had sliced demand for factory products, as drillers ordered less steel pipe and other equipment. Yet demand has risen since oil prices have stabilized.
Orders for industrial machinery rose 0.4 percent last month, while demand for computers, semiconductors and electronic goods jumped 2.4 percent. Orders for autos climbed 2 percent, a sign automakers expect additional sales growth.
Other measures of the U.S. manufacturing sector have also improved. A private survey earlier this month found that manufacturing activity in December rose to its highest level in two years, led higher by strong increases in new orders and production.
And manufacturing output rose 0.2 percent in December, according to a report from the Federal Reserve. Auto sales reached a record level in 2016, and automakers continued cranking out vehicles through the end of the year.
Still, manufacturing has not yet fully rebounded. Manufacturing output rose just 0.2 percent in all of 2016, according to the Fed.
And business investment in long-lasting goods fell 3.4 percent last year, despite the gains of the last three months.
Pending home sales rose in December:
WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in December. The increase possibly reflects more people scrambling to purchase homes as mortgage rates have been rising and increasing the costs of ownership.
The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 1.6 percent to 107.3, a slight rebound after declining in November. Pending sales rose in the West and South but dipped in the Northeast and Midwest.
Mortgage rates began to surge after Donald Trump's presidential win in November. Average 30-year fixed rate mortgages were 4.19 percent last week, after averaging a low 3.65 percent for all of 2016.
Pending sales contracts are a barometer of future purchases. A sale is typically completed a month or two after a contract is signed.
In terms of completed sales of existing homes, buying activity dipped in December as the number of available homes for sale fell to their lowest level since 1999. The inventory squeeze has caused prices to rise and potentially led more people to sign contracts in December out concerns that the number of listings could keep dropping.
The Realtors said last week that sales of existing homes fell 2.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million. For all of 2016, sales posted an annual gain of 3.8 percent to 5.45 million.
Only 1.65 million homes were listed for sale in December, a 6.3 percent decline from a year ago.