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Vital Signs

 

Vital Signs

Vital Signs: Operating Rates Edge Closer to Pre-Recession Levels

Larger-than-expected gains in production mean the U.S. industrial sector is operating at its highest rate since 2008.
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that industrial output increased a larger-than-expected 0.7% in March on top of a 1.2% jump in February. In turn, capacity utilization increased to 79.2% in March, the best reading since June 2008. Manufacturing alone is using 76.7% of its available capacity, well above the 63.9% low hit during the last recession.


Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/16/vital-signs-operating-rates-edge-closer-to-pre-recession-levels/?mod=WSJBlog

Vital Signs: Higher Taxes and Higher Tax-Prep Fees

Today, April 15, is Tax Day in the U.S. when Americans fork over money to Uncle Sam — and to their tax preparer.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, more than half of taxpayers hire someone to prepare their taxes. The cost of that service is rising at a far faster pace than the costs of all goods and services. According to the consumer price index data released Tuesday, the price of tax preparation and other accounting fees increased 5.1% in the year ended in March compared to the 1.5% gain for the top-line CPI.


Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/15/vital-signs-higher-taxes-and-higher-tax-prep-fees/?mod=WSJBlog

Vital Signs: The Temperatures Warm, and So Does Retailing

The unexpectedly large increase in March retail sales lends credence to the idea that weather was the major drag on first-quarter U.S. economic growth and demand is picking up in the warmer second quarter.
The Commerce Department reported Monday that total sales jumped 1.1% last month—the biggest gain in 18 months—and February sales were better than first thought. The report showed a broad revival in shopping, with sales at electronic stores and gasoline station that only blemishes (although the drop in gas sales could be price-related.)


Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/14/vital-signs-the-temperatures-warm-and-so-does-retailing/?mod=WSJBlog

Vital Signs: Inflation Is Still Low, and the Fed Is Still Concerned

Pricing power remains weak for most businesses, a sign that demand in the U.S. economy lags available supply. That gap is a growing concern at the Federal Reserve.
According to Friday’s producer price index report, producer prices for final demand goods and services were up just 1.4% in the year ended in March. The PPI for just goods was up 1.1%, and for services, 1.6%.
After energy prices pumped up inflation in 2011, price increases at the production level have not shown much momentum. Except for one or two months, yearly price gains have stayed below 2%.


Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/11/vital-signs-inflation-is-still-low-and-the-fed-is-still-concerned/?mod=WSJBlog

Vital Signs: Jobless Claims Drop to Pre-Recession Levels

The fewest number of people filed last week for unemployment benefits since before the recession, a sign of the continued improvement in the U.S. labor markets.
Jobless claims declined by 32,000 to 300,000 for the week ended April 5. That was the lowest number since May 2007. On a four-week moving average, claims are not as low as in September 2013, but are better than during the winter weeks.


Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/10/vital-signs-jobless-claims-drop-to-pre-recession-levels/?mod=marketbeat

Vital Signs: Wholesalers Are Keeping an Eye on Inventories

The bump-up in the inventory-sales ratio among wholesalers so far this year would look worrisome, until you take a longer-run perspective.
In February, wholesalers had enough goods on hand to cover 1.19 months of sales. That was the same inventory-sales ratio as in January but up from a 1.16 average in the second half of 2013. A combination of rising inventories and volatile sales pushed up the most recent numbers.


Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/09/vital-signs-wholesalers-are-keeping-an-eye-on-inventories/?mod=WSJBlog

Vital Signs: 2.5 Unemployed People for Each Job Opening

The number of job openings in the U.S. jumped to 4.2 million in February, putting the number of unemployed per open position at 2.5 — the lowest level since July 2008, according to Labor Department data.
The ranks of the unemployed have been steady so far this year, as some discouraged workers have come back into the labor force. The rising number of openings indicates that there may be more jobs available for them, as employers had the most open positions since February 2008.


Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/08/vital-signs-2-5-unemployed-people-for-each-job-opening/?mod=WSJBlog

Vital Signs: A Basket of Labor Data Suggests Job Gains Will Continue

On the heels of a decent employment report comes news that the pace of hiring should hold up in coming months.
The Conference Board’s employment trend index increased in March for the third consecutive month. Now back to 117.52, the index is up 5.1% above its year-ago reading and has re-captured almost all of the ground lost during the last recession.


Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/07/vital-signs-a-basket-of-labor-data-suggests-job-gains-will-continue/?mod=WSJ_EC_RT_Blog

Vital Signs: Foreign Trade Cut Into First-Quarter Growth

An unexpected widening in the February trade deficit is leading economists to lower their estimate for growth in the first-quarter gross domestic product.
The nominal trade deficit for goods and services increased to $42.3 billion in February, from $39.3 billion in January, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.


Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/03/vital-signs-foreign-trade-cut-into-first-quarter-growth/?mod=WSJ_EC_RT_Blog

Vital Signs: Winter Skewed Who Hired in First Quarter

One advantage the ADP jobs report has over the Labor Department‘s monthly nonfarm payrolls is that ADP breaks down private payrolls by size of firm. The latest numbers show that so far in 2014, job creation is more evenly distributed by firm size, but that might reflect the vagaries of this harsh winter.


Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/02/vital-signs-winter-skewed-who-hired-in-first-quarter/?mod=marketbeat
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