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Weekly Economic Update for July 1, 2013

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CHECKING IN ON THE CONSUMER

According to the Commerce Department, consumer spending improved 0.3% in May as consumer incomes increased 0.5%. The latest household sentiment polls seemed to reflect the good news. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence gauge hit 81.4 in June, the best mark since January 2008; the University of Michigan’s final June survey came in at 84.1, up from a preliminary reading of 82.7.1,2

 

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Weekly Economic Update for June 24, 2013

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FED OUTLINES END FOR STIMULUS, STOCKS SLIP

Last Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke shared the central bank’s vision for winding down its current aggressive easing effort – the potential tapering of QE3 by late 2013, and the end of the program by mid-2014 if economic conditions permit. Wall Street reacted abruptly – the Dow sank more than 550 points in less than two trading sessions. In the near term, the Fed will keep buying $85 billion in bonds per month and maintain interest rates at near-zero levels.1,2

INFLATION PRESSURE MINIMAL IN MAY

The 0.1% rise in the Consumer Price Index last month put yearly inflation at 1.4%, well under the Fed’s 2.0% target. Energy prices rose 0.4% in May but fell 1.0% in a year; medical costs declined 0.1% for May, the first monthly decrease since 1975.3  

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Weekly Economic Update for June 3, 2013

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CONSUMERS UPBEAT IN MAY, SPEND LESS IN APRIL

Consumer spending slipped 0.2% in April, with a 4.4% drop in purchases of gas, electricity and other energy goods and services being a major influence. In better news, the Commerce Department noted a 3.4% rise in personal spending in Q1, and the two most-watched consumer confidence gauges beat consensus forecasts last week. The Conference Board’s May survey came in at 76.2, topping the 72.5 projected by analysts polled by Briefing.com. The final May consumer sentiment survey from the University of Michigan rose to 84.5; the same group of forecasters had projected it at 82.5.1,2

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Weekly Economic Update for June 17, 2013

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IMF: FED SHOULD WAIT 6 MONTHS TO TAPER QE3

On Friday, the International Monetary Fund called for the Federal Reserve to keep easing at current levels at least until the end of 2013 and to carefully manage any exit from QE3. In its annual review of the U.S. economy, the IMF characterized the March 1 federal budget cuts as “excessively rapid and ill-designed” and called for their repeal. It lowered its 2014 GDP projection for the U.S. to 2.7%. The IMF still projects U.S. growth for 2013 at 1.9%.1,2

RETAIL SALES UP 0.6% IN MAY

This Commerce Department announcement was a nice surprise, as retail purchases advanced just 0.1% in April. A 1.8% jump in car and truck sales was instrumental, though the pace of overall retail purchases still improved 0.3% for May with vehicle sales factored out.3  

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Weekly Economic Update for May 28, 2013

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APRIL DATA AFFIRMS HOUSING REBOUND

Last month brought a 2.3% gain in new home sales and an 0.6% increase in existing home sales. Distressed properties (short sales and foreclosures) represented only 18% of residential resales in April, the National Association of Realtors noted; compare that with 28% of sales in April 2012. NAR also announced that the median existing home price was $192,800 in April, 11.0% higher than a year ago. The pace of new home buying has improved 29.0% in the past 12 months, according to the Census Bureau.1,2

FED MINUTES DISCLOSE THOUGHTS OF TAPERING QE3

The May 1 Federal Open Market Committee minutes were released last Wednesday, shortly after Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke mentioned the need to sustain the central bank’s current stimulus effort in Congress. The minutes, however, noted that “a number” of Fed officials were open to scaling down QE3 as soon as June if economic indicators sufficiently improved. Concern and confusion about these mixed messages put more volatility into the markets and factored into a 3-day losing streak for the S&P 500.3

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