Tag Archive: consumer spending

Fading Black Friday

Black Friday was once the king of all shopping. A retailer could make its year up on that one day, often by gimmicking its way to insane single-day volume. Those days, however, are certainly over. Though the day after Thanksgiving still means a great deal, as the annual flood of viral consumer brawl videos demonstrate, it’s just not what it once was.

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Consumer Credit Both Accelerating and Decelerating Toward The Same Thing

Federal Reserve revisions to the Consumer Credit series have created some discontinuities in the data. Changes were applied cumulatively to December 2015 alone, rather than revising downward the whole data series prior to that month. The Fed therefore estimates $3.531 trillion in outstanding consumer credit (seasonally-adjusted) in November 2015, and then just $3.417 trillion the following month.

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Four Point One

The payroll report for October 2017 was still affected by the summer storms in Texas and Florida. That was expected. The Establishment Survey estimates for August and September were revised higher, the latter from a -33k to +18k. Most economists were expecting a huge gain in October to snapback from that hurricane number, but the latest headline was just +261k.

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The (Economic) Difference Between Stocks and Bonds

Real Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) rose 0.6% in September 2017 above August. That was the largest monthly increase (SAAR) in almost three years. Given that Real PCE declined month-over-month in August, it is reasonable to assume hurricane effects for both. Across the two months, Real PCE rose by a far more modest 0.5% total, or an annual rate of just 3.4%, only slightly greater the prevailing average.

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US Retail Sales: Retail Storms

Retail sales were added in September 2017 due to the hurricanes in Texas and Florida (and the other states less directly impacted). On a monthly, seasonally-adjusted basis, retail sales were up a sharp 1.7% from August. The vast majority of the gain, however, was in the shock jump in gasoline prices. Retail sales at gasoline stations rose nearly 6% month-over-month, so excluding those sales retail sales elsewhere gained a far more modest 0.6%.

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The Damage Started Months Before Harvey And Irma

Ahead of tomorrow’s payroll report the narrative is being set that it will be weak because of Harvey and Irma. Historically, major storms have had a negative effect on the labor market. Just as auto sales were up sharply in September very likely because of the hurricane(s) and could remain that way for several months, payrolls could be weak for the same reasons and the same timeframe.

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Incomes Are What Matters, So Bad Month, Bad Year, Bad Decade

Sometimes economics can be complicated, such as why the labor market has slowed in such lingering fashion since early 2015. Sometimes economics can be easy, such as why there is so much less to the economy this year than thought. The easy part relates to the hard part. The labor market slowed and so did national income. Though so much of official focus is on debt supplementation, it’s always, always about income.

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Expectations and Acceptance of Potential

The University of Michigan reports that consumer confidence in September slipped a little from August. Their Index of Consumer Sentiment registered 95.3 in the latest month, down from 96.8 in the prior one. Both of those readings are in line with confidence estimates going back to early 2014 when consumer sentiment supposedly surged.

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Retail Sales and the End of ‘Reflation’

There will be an irresistible urge to the make this about the weather, but more and more data shows it’s not any singular instance. Nor is it transitory. What does prove to be temporary time and again is the upside. The economy gets hit (by “dollar” events), bounces back a little, and then goes right back into the dumps. This, it seems, is the limited extent of cyclicality in these times.

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A Clear Anchor

All the way back in January I calculated the total size of China’s 2016 fiscal “stimulus.” Starting in January 2016, authorities conducted what was an enormous spending program. As it had twice before, the government directed increased “investment” from State-owned Enterprises (SOE). By my back-of-the-envelope numbers, the scale of this fiscal side program was about RMB 1.45 trillion, or nearly 2% of GDP

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2017 Is Two-Thirds Done And Still No Payroll Pickup

The payroll report for August 2017 thoroughly disappointed. The monthly change for the headline Establishment Survey was just +156k. The BLS also revised lower the headline estimate in each of the previous two months, estimating for July a gain of only +189k. The 6-month average, which matters more given the noisiness of the statistic, is just +160k or about the same as when the Federal Reserve contemplated starting a third round of QE back in 2012.

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Proving Q2 GDP The Anomaly, Incomes Yet Again Fail To Accelerate

One day after reporting a slightly better number for Q2 GDP, the BEA reports today that there is little reason to suspect it was anything more or lasting. The data for Personal Income and Spending shows that the dominant condition since 2012 remains in effect – “good” quarters, or whatever passes for one these days, are the anomaly. There still is no meaningful rebound in income.

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United States: Still No Up

The Asian flu of the late 1990’s might have been more accurately described as the Asian dollar flu. It was the first major global test of the mature eurodollar system, and it was a severe disruption in the global economy. It doesn’t register as much here in the United States because of the dot-com bubble and the popular imagination about Alan Greenspan’s monetary stewardship in general.

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U.S. Industrial Production: Industrial Drag

Completing a busy day of US economic data, Industrial Production was, like retail sales and inflation data, highly disappointing. Prior months were revised slightly lower, leaving IP year-over-year up just 2% in June 2017 (estimates for May were initially 2.2%). Revisions included, the annual growth rate has been stuck around 2% now for three months in a row, suggesting like those other accounts a pause or even possible end to the mini-improvement...

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Pending Home Sales: Home Attitude Adjustments

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported today that pending home sales declined for the third straight month. As with so many other accounts, it’s not really the downside that is relevant but how instead there has been little to no growth for quite some time now. The NAR’s index value, which is how the organization reports the level of pending sales, was 108.5 in May 2017. That’s up 42% from the low in 2010, but also slightly less than...

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More Pieces of Impossible

On his company’s earnings conference call back on Valentine’s Day, T-Mobile CEO John Legere was unusually feisty. Never known for shyness, Legere had reason behind his bluster. T-Mobile had practically built itself up on price, being left the bottom tier of the wireless space practically to itself. That all changed, however, as both Verizon and Sprint were set to escalate the wireless price war.

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Defying Labels

Last month US Industrial Production rose rather quickly. Gaining more than 1.1% month-over-month, it might have appeared that the US economy once dragged into downturn by manufacturing and industry was finally about to experience its belated upturn. But frustration is how it has always gone, not just in this latest phase but for all phases since around 2011. Each good month is followed immediately by a disappointing one. What should be...

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Retail Sales Weren’t All That Bad, Meaning They Were The Worst

Taken in comparison to the last few years, today’s retail sales report wasn’t that bad. Total sales for May 2017, including autos, grew by 5.17% year-over-year (NSA). That was the highest growth rate since last February. The 6-month average is now just shy of 4%, the best since early 2015. It is clear the US economy has shrugged off the effects of last year’s downturn.

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Wealth Paradox Not Effect

US Household Net Worth rose to a record $94.8 trillion in Q1 2017. According to the Federal Reserve’s Financial Accounts of the United States (Z1), aggregate paper wealth rose by more than 8% year-over-year mostly as the stock market shook off the effects of “global turmoil.” It was the best rate of expansion since the second quarter of 2014 just prior to this “rising dollar” interruption.

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Simple (economic) Math

The essence of capitalism is not strictly capital. In the modern sense, the word capital has taken on other meanings, often where money is given as a substitute for it. When speaking about things like “hot money”, for instance, you wouldn’t normally correct someone referencing it in terms of “capital flows.” Someone that “commits capital” to a project is missing some words, for in the proper sense they are “committing funds to...

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