Key Economic Indicators – September 21, 2015

  • Advance estimates of retail and food services sales for August were up 0.2% from the previous month, and were up 2.2% from August 2014. Year-to-date, retail and food services sales were up 2.1% from the same period of 2014.
  • Total manufacturing and trade sales for July were up 0.1% from the previous month, but were down 2.7% from July 2014. Total business inventories for July were up 0.1% from the previous month, and were up 2.6% from a year ago.
  • Total Industrial production decreased 0.4% in August, after increasing 0.9% in the previous month.
  • The rate of capacity utilization for total industry was 78.2%, 2.5 percentage points below its 1972-2014 average, and 0.6 percentage point below its level in August 2014.
  • Housing starts in August were down 3.0% from the previous month, but were up 16.6 from a year ago. Building permits in August were up 3.5% from the previous month, and were up 12.5% from a year ago.
  • The housing market index of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo increased a point to 62 in September. The index was 57 in January, and 59 in September of 2014.
  • The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey of September 17th showed average fixed mortgage rates largely unchanged. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.91% for the week ending September 17th, up slightly from last week when it averaged 3.90%. A year ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.23%.
  • Mortgage applications decreased 7.0% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending September 11th.
  • The current account deficit decreased to $109.7 billion in the second quarter, from $118.3 billion in the previous quarter. The deficit decreased to 2.5% of GDP in the second quarter, from 2.7% of GDP in the first quarter.
  • The consumer price index (headline index) decreased 0.1% in August, following a 0.1% increase in the previous month. The core index increased 0.1%, the same increase as in the previous month. The consumer price index increased 0.2% for the 12-month period ending in August, while the core index increased 1.8%.
  • The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased 11 thousand to 264 thousand in the week ending September 12th. The 4-week moving average was 272.5 thousand, a decrease of 3.25 thousand from the previous week’s average.
  • Real average hourly earnings for all employees rose 0.5% from July to August. This result stems from a 0.3% increase in average hourly earnings combined with a 0.1% decrease in the consumer price index.
  • From March 2014 to March 2015, employment increased in 323 of the 342 largest U.S. counties (counties with 75 thousand or more jobs in 2014), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U.S. average weekly wage increased 2.1% over the year, growing to $1,048 in the first quarter of 2015.
  • The September 2015 Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicated that business activity declined for the second consecutive month for New York manufacturers.
  • The Philadelphia FED business outlook survey for September gave mixed signals for manufacturing activity. The indicator for general activity fell into negative territory, but indicators for new orders, shipments, and employment remained positive. The index of current activity decreased to negative 6.0 in September, from positive 8.3 in August.
  • The Conference Board index of leading economic indicators, which held steady in July, increased 0.1% in August. The coincident index increased 0.1%, following a 0.4% increase in July.
  • The Federal Open Market Committee decided to keep its target for the federal funds rate at 0 to 0.25%, and indicated that economic conditions may warrant keeping the target rate below levels the Committee views as normal in the longer run.

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