· Real GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.3% in the first quarter of 2018, according to the “advance” estimate by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter of 2017, real GDP increased 2.9%.
· The price index for gross domestic purchases increased 2.8% in the first quarter of 2018, compared with an increase of 2.5% in the previous quarter. The personal consumption expenditures price index increased 2.7%, the same increase as in the fourth quarter. Excluding food and energy prices, the personal consumption expenditures price index increased 2.5%, compared with an increase of 1.9%.
· Real final sales of domestic product (GDP less change in private inventories) increased 1.9% in the first quarter, in contrast to an increase of 3.4% in the final quarter of 2017.
· Average expenditures per consumer unit for July 2016 through June 2017 were up 3.9% compared with the July 2015 through June 2016 midyear average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the same period, the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) rose 1.9% and average pretax incomes increased 0.3%. Most major components of household spending increased over the 12 months ending June 2017. The 15.2% rise in cash contributions spending was the largest percentage increase among all major components, followed by a 10.6% rise in education expenditures. Expenditures on personal insurance and pensions were up 5.9%, and expenditures on healthcare were up 5.4%. Expenditures on housing increased 4.5%, while expenditures on food increased 2.9%.
· New orders for manufactured durable goods increased 2.6% in March, while shipments increased 0.3%. Excluding transportation, new were virtually unchanged, while shipments decreased 0.4%. Year-to-date new orders were up 8.7% from the same period a year ago, while shipments were up 6.8%.
· Retail inventories for March were down 0.4% from the previous month, but were up 1.6% from March 2017.
· Wholesale inventories for March, were up 0.5% from February, and were up 5.8% from a year ago.
· The international trade deficit was $68.0 billion in March, down $7.8 billion from $75.9 billion in February, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Exports of goods for March were $140.1 billion, $3.4 billion more than February exports. Imports of goods for March were $208.1 billion, $4.4 billion less than February imports.
· March existing home sales increased 1.1% to an annualized rate of 5,600 thousand units. The March figure was 1.2% below the March 2017 figure. The median sales price of existing houses sold was $250.4 thousand, 5.8% above March 2017. There were 1,670 thousand homes for sale at the end of the month. This represents a supply of 3.6 months at the current sales rate, compared to 3.8 in March of 2017.
· March new home sales were up 4.0% from the previous month, and were up 8.8% from March 2017. The median sales price of new houses sold was $337.2 thousand, 4.8% above a year ago.
· The S & P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National U.S. Home Price Index for February indicated that home prices continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months. The U.S. National Index recorded a 6.3% annual gain in February, up from 6.1% last month. The 10-City Composite annual increase came in at 6.5%, up from 6.0% in the previous month. The 20-City Composite posted a 6.8% year-over-year gain, up from 6.4% in the previous month.
· The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index increased 0.6% in February. From February 2017 to February 2018, house prices were up 7.2%. The 12-month changes ranged from 4.8% in the Middle Atlantic division to 10.3% in the Pacific division.
· The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates moving higher and reaching their highest level since the week of August 22, 2013. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.58% for the week ending April 26, up from last week when it averaged 4.47%. A year ago at this time, the 30-year rate was 4.03%. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.02%, up from last week when it averaged 3.94%. A year ago at this time, the 15-year rate was 3.27%.
· Mortgage applications decreased 0.2% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending April 20th.
· The Employment Cost Index for total compensation rose 0.8%, seasonally adjusted, for the 3-month period ending March 2018, following a 0.6% increase for the 3-month period ending December 2017. Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 2.7% for the 12-month period ending in March 2018, following a 2.6% increase for the 12-month period ending December 2017. Compensation costs for private industry workers increased 2.8% for the 12-month period ending March 2018, while compensation costs for state and local government workers increased 2.2%.
· The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased 24 thousand to 209 thousand in the week ending April 21. This is the lowest level for initial claims since December 6, 1969 when it was 202 thousand. The 4-week moving average was 229.25 thousand, a decrease of 2.25 thousand from the previous week’s revised average.
· The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index, which had decreased in March, increased in April. The index now stands at 128.7 (1985=100), up from 127.0 in March. The present situation index increased to 159.6, while the expectations index increased to 108.1 in April.
· The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment for April was 98.8, compared with 101.4 in March and 97.0 in April of last year. The Index of Consumer Expectations edged down to 88.4 in April, from 88.8 in March, while the Index for Current Economic Conditions decreased to 114.9, from 121.2.
· The Chicago FED National Activity Index decreased to 0.10 in March, from 0.98 in February. The index’s 3-month moving average decreased to 0.27 in March from 0.31 in February.