November’s final Consumer Sentiment reading fell more than expected to 97.5 points, continuing a slide off of March’s fourteen-year-high reading of 101.4. New housing starts grew last month amid rising tariff-related costs for builders, driven by new construction of multi-family housing units. Lastly, initial unemployment claims rose suddenly to a four-month high of 224,000, despite continuing claims falling to 1.67 million, a level not seen since the early 1970s.
A larger jump in retail sales proved to be one of very few optimistic highlights in last week’s economic news. The week entailed mostly negative news, as housing starts increased less than expected, the Philly Fed’s Manufacturing Index slipped significantly, and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index fell unexpectedly.
Last week, reports from the Commerce Department and the National Association of Home Builders indicated the housing market is beginning to cool off. Also, the Department of Commerce released their U.S. retail sales report for the month of June, showing a slight increase in retail activity. Finally, on Thursday, the Department of Labor announced that weekly jobless claims reached their lowest level since 1969.
Last week, consumer confidence (slightly below expectations) and consumer sentiment (up slightly) measures were released by the Conference Board. These readings provided an indication of whether citizens have enough faith in the economy to make a big purchase. Also, the Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index (down slightly) gave a reading on manufacturing and industrial economic performance throughout the Western Great Plains. Lastly, the Mortgage Bankers Association released their weekly Mortgage Applications Survey (down).
Last week’s economic news was largely mixed, as home building saw strength in starts but weakness in permits, while the manufacturing sector showed signs of slowing (but still expanding) in purchasing activity, and manufacturing services saw continued growth in activity.
This past week, mortgage applications and refinancing activity continued to decrease, with refinances falling to 18-year lows. Jobless claims also rose to a seven-week high for the week ended May 19th, with the four-week average reversing course to an increase.
Weakness in housing measures highlighted last week’s economic news, as pending home sales barely inched up, and home sales and mortgage applications declined. In other news, the Federal Reserve kept its federal funds rate unchanged.
Of all economic news last week, perhaps the most intriguing are the jobless claims and GDP reports. Jobless claims fell to the lowest level since 1961, and GDP for the first quarter of 2018 slipped on consumer spending weakness.
In a relatively slow week for economic news, retail sales reversed a downward trend and home buyers began shopping as weather improved. Yet, the markets paid close attention to the yield of the 10-year Treasury and its approach to 3%.
Historically Low Jobless Claims & Strong GDP Results Amid Lower-Than-Expected 4Q17 Corporate Profits
Generally positive economic news, including record low jobless claims, overshadowed weakness in corporate profits in last week’s economic news, and markets became nerved over potential backlash from China regarding a potential trade war.