Popular Economics Weekly
Barron’s economist Gene Epstein forecasts the possibility tomorrow’s Q2 GDP growth could be revised from 2.3 to 3.5 percent. I believe he’s a bit optimistic, but today’s snapback of stocks does mean that emerging market problems may have panicked the day traders that are seldom interested in fundamentals.
Those fundamentals are impressive—durable goods orders are up, and consumer confidence is soaring. New-home sales are advancing due to rock bottom interest rates, thanks in part to plummeting oil prices. And gas prices in some east coast areas are close to $2 per gallon. That is boosting retail sales and Fall season back to school spending.
Consumer confidence is soaring to new heights. Econoday reports “Enormous improvement in the assessment of the current labor market drove the consumer confidence index well beyond expectations, to 101.5 in August for a more than 10 point surge from July. A rare 6.5 percentage point drop to 21.9 percent in those describing jobs as currently hard to get points to outsized gains for the August employment report.”
This reading will have forecasters scratching their heads. The gain for this reading lifts the present situation component to 115.1 for a more than 11 point increase from July that points to consumer power for August.
And consumer spending is consequently soaring. Big upward revisions underscore a very solid and very important retail sales report. Retail sales rose 0.6 percent in July with June revised to unchanged from an initial reading of minus 0.3 percent and with May revised to a jump of 1.2 percent from 1.0 percent. The revisions to June and May point to an upward revision for second-quarter GDP.
Exports have been weak but they didn't hold down July's durable orders which, for a second straight month are strong and strong nearly across the board. New orders rose 2.0 percent in the month which easily beat out top-end Econoday expectations for 1.2 percent. Excluding transportation, orders rose 0.6 percent which is near the top-end forecast for 0.7 percent. Capital goods data show special strength with nondefense ex-aircraft orders up 2.2 percent following June's 1.2 percent gain and with related shipments up 0.6 percent following a gain of 0.9 percent.
Lastly, even new-home sales have picked up, which gives a boost to economic growth within the construction, insurance, and professional occupations. New home sales rose solidly in July from a downdraft in June, up 5.4 percent to a 507,000 annual pace. Year-on-year, sales have surged, up 26 percent. The strength in sales has thinned an already tight market where supply is at 5.2 months, down from 5.3 months in June and compared with 6.1 months a year ago.
Harlan Green © 2015
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