Key Economic Indicators – April 24, 2017

·      Total Industrial production increased 0.5% in March following a 0.1% increase in the previous month. The increase in March was more than accounted by an 8.6% surge in output of utilities – the largest monthly increase in the history of the index. The index was 1.5% above its March 2016 level. For the first quarter of 2017, industrial production increased at an annual rate of 1.5%.

·      Capacity utilization for the industrial sector increased 0.4 percentage point in March to 76.1, a rate that is 3.8 percentage points below its long-run (1972-2016) average.

·      Finance and insurance, retail trade, and professional, scientific, and technical services were the leading contributors to the increase in U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. 19 of 22 industry groups contributed to the overall 2.1% increase in real GDP in the fourth quarter. Real GDP increased 1.6% in the year 2016. The private as well as the government sector contributed to the increase. Growth was widespread, with 19 of 22 industry groups contributing to the increase. Information services, professional, scientific, and technical services, and health care and social assistance were the leading contributors to the increase in real GDP in the year 2016.

·      March existing home sales increased 4.4% to an annualized rate of 5,710 thousand units. The March figure was 5.9% above the March 2016 figure. The median sales price of existing houses sold was $236.4 thousand, 6.8% above March 2016. There were 1,830 thousand homes for sale at the end of the month. This represents a supply of 3.8 months at the current sales rate, compared to 4.4 in March of 2016.

·      Housing starts in March were down 6.8% from the previous month, but were up 9.2% from a year ago. Building permits were up 3.6% from the previous month, and were up 17.0% from a year ago.

·      The housing market index of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo decreased to 68 in April, from 71 in March. The index was 67 in January of 2017, and 58 in April of 2016.

·      The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates moving lower. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.97% for the week ending April 20, down from last week when it averaged 4.08%. A year ago this time, the 30-year fixed-rate averaged 3.59%. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.23% for the week ending April 20, down from last week when it averaged 3.34%. A year ago this time, the 15-year fixed-rate averaged 2.85%.

·      Mortgage applications decreased 1.8% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending April 14th.

·      The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance increased 10 thousand to 244 thousand in the week ending April 15. The 4-week moving average was 243 thousand, a decrease of 4.25 thousand from the previous week’s average.

·      Unemployment rates were lower in March in 17 states and stable in 33 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Eighteen states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, and 32 states and the District of Columbia had little or no change. Over the year, 27 states added nonfarm payroll jobs, 2 states lost jobs, and 21 states and the District of Colombia were essentially unchanged.

·      The Conference Board index of leading economic indicators increased 0.4% in March, following an increase of 0.5% in the previous month. Over the six-month span through March, the leading index increased 2.4% (about a 4.9% annual rate). The Conference Board coincident economic index increased 0.2% in March, the same increase as in the previous month. Over the six-month span through March, the coincident index increased 1.0% (about a 1.9% annual rate).

·      The FED’s “Beige Book” indicated that overall economic activity continued to expand at a modest to moderate pace between mid-February and the end of March.

·      The April Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicated that business activity grew at a more subdued pace in New York. The general business conditions index decreased to 5.2 in April, from 16.4 in March. The prices paid index increased 1.8 points, while the prices received index rose 3.6 points.

·      The Philadelphia FED business outlook survey for April reported a slower growth in manufacturing activity in the region. The indicator for general activity, decreased to 22.0 in April, from 32.8 in March.

·      The Chicago FED National Financial Conditions Index was unchanged at negative 0.78 in the week ending April 14.

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