Key Economic Indicators – May 23, 2016

  • Total Industrial production increased 0.7% in April, following a 0.9% decrease in the previous month. The index of industrial production in was 1.1% below its year-ago level. Manufacturing output increased 0.3% in April, following a 0.3% decrease in the previous month. Output of mining decreased 2.3%, while output of utilizes increased 5.8%.
  • The rate of capacity utilization for total industry was 75.4%, 4.6 percentage points below its long-run (1972-2015) average.
  • Housing starts were up 6.6% in April from the previous month, but were down 1.7% from a year ago. Building permits were up 3.6% in April from the previous month, but were down 5.3% from April 2015.
  • April existing home sales increased 1.7% to an annualized rate of 5,450 thousand units, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales were up 6.0% from a year ago. The median sales price of existing houses sold was $232.5 thousand, 6.3% above April 2013. There were 2,140 thousand homes for sale at the end of the month. This represents a supply of 4.7 months at the current sales rate, compared to 5.2 in April of 2015.
  • The housing market index of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo held steady at 58 in May. The index was 54 a year ago, and 61 in January 2016.
  • The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates largely unchanged. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 3.58% for the week ending May 19, up slightly from last week when it averaged 3.57%. A year ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate averaged 3.84%. The 15-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 2.81%, unchanged from last week. A year ago at this time, the 15-year fixed-rate averaged 3.05%.
  • Mortgage applications decreased 1.6% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending May 13th.
  • The consumer price index (headline index) increased 0.1% in April, following a 0.1% increase in the previous month. The core index increased 0.2%, following a 0.1% increase in the previous month. The consumer price index (headline index) increased 1.1% for the 12-month period ending in April, while the core index rose 2.1%.
  • The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased 16 thousand to 278 thousand in the week ending May 14. The 4-week moving average was 275.75 thousand, an increase of 7.5 thousand from the previous week’s average.
  • Real average hourly earnings for all employees decreased 0.1% from March to April. This result stems from a 0.3% increase in average hourly earnings being more than offset by a 0.4% increase in the consumer price index.
  • Labor productivity rose in 15 of 28 selected service providing industries in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was fewer than in 2014, when labor productivity increased in 20 of 28 industries. Labor productivity in the wireless telecommunications carriers sector surged 26.5% in 2015, when output grew 11.3% and hours worked decreased 12.0%.
  • The May 2016 Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicated that business activity declined for New York manufacturers. The headline index of general business conditions decreased nineteen points to negative 9.0. On the other hand, the prices paid index decreased 2.5 points to 16.7 and the prices received index fell 6 points to negative 3.1.
  • The Philadelphia FED business outlook survey for May reported that manufacturing activity in the region was weak. The diffusion index for current activity has registered a negative reading in eight of the last nine months.
  • The Conference Board index of leading economic indicators increased 0.6% in April, while the coincident economic index increased 0.3%. Both indexes held steady in March. In the six-month period ending April 2016, the leading index increased 0.6% (about 1.1% annual rate), while the coincident index rose 0.8% (about 1.6% annual rate).

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