Key Economic Indicators – April 20, 2015

  • Advance estimates of retail and food services sales for March were up 0.9% from February, and were up 1.3% from March 2014. Total sales for the January through March 2015 period were up 2.2% from the same period a year ago.
  • Total manufacturing and trade sales for February were up less than 0.1% from January, while inventories were up 0.3%.
  • Total Industrial production decreased 0.6% in March, after a 0.1% increase in the previous month. For the first quarter of 2015, industrial production declined at an annual rate of 1.0%, the first quarterly decrease since the second quarter of 2009.
  • Capacity utilization for the industrial sector decreased 0.6 percentage point in March to 78.4, a rate that is 1.7 percentage points below its long-run (1972-2014) average.
  • Housing starts in March were up 2.0% from the previous month, but were down 2.5% from a year ago. Building permits were down 5.7% from the previous month, but were up 2.9% from a year ago.
  • The housing market index of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo increased 4 points to 56 in April. The index was 57 in January of 2015, and 46 in April of 2014.
  • The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates were virtually unchanged. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.67% for the week ending April 16th, up slightly from last week when it averaged 3.66%. A year ago at this time, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.27%.
  • Mortgage applications decreased 2.3% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending April 10th.
  • The federal government budget ran a deficit of $52.9 billion in March, following a deficit of $192.4 billion in the previous month. The cumulative budget deficit for the first six months of fiscal year 2015 was $439.5.5 billion, compared with a deficit of $413.3 for the same period of the previous fiscal year.
  • The producer price index for final demand increased 0.2% in March, following a decrease of 0.5% in the previous month. The producer price index for final demand decreased 0.8% from March 2014 to March 2015.
  • The consumer price index (headline index) increased 0.2% in March, The same increase as in the previous month. The core index also increased 0.2%. The consumer price index decreased 0.1% for the 12-month period ending in March, while the core index rose 1.8%.
  • Real average hourly earnings for all employees increased 0.1% from February to March. This result stems from a 0.3% increase in average hourly earnings being partilly offset by a 0.2% increase in the consumer price index.
  • The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance increased 12 thousand to 294 thousand in the week ending April 11. The 4-week moving average was 282.75 thousand, an increase of 0.25 from the previous week’s revised average.
  • The April Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicated that business activity was flat for New York manufacturers. The general business conditions index fell below zero for the first time since December, declining eight points to negative 1.2 in a sign that activity was virtually flat.
  • The Philadelphia FED business outlook survey for April reported that manufacturing activity in the region increased modestly.
  • The FED’s “Beige Book” indicated that overall economic activity continued to expand across most regions from mid-February through the end of March.
  • The Conference Board index of leading economic indicators increased 0.2% in March, following an increase of 0.1% in the previous month. The Conference Board coincident economic index increased 0.1% in March, following a 0.2% increase in the previous month.
  • The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment, preliminary, for April increased to 95.9, from 93.0 in March. The index was 84.1 in April 2014.

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