It’s Friday and that means it’s time to review the latest economic data and identify which pockets of the economy are heating up and which are slowing down. Don’t worry about catching every headline and every report throughout the week—I recap all of the most important news impacting your wealth right here every Friday. Let’s take a look at this week’s big headlines:
Factory Goods Orders
In February, new factory goods orders fell 1.7%. January’s orders were revised lower to show a 1.2% gain, down from the previously reported 1.6% increase. Orders for non-defense capital goods declined 2.5% in February, while core capital goods orders slipped 1.7%. Factory goods orders have now fallen 14 of the last 19 months, and inventories have declined for eight-straight months. The strong U.S. dollar and weakening global demand continue to weigh on the U.S.’s manufacturing sector—and could negatively impact first-quarter GDP growth.
Balance of Trade
The Commerce Department reported that the U.S. trade deficit widened to $47.1 billion in February, which exceeded economists’ estimates for a deficit of $46.2 billion. Imports increased 1.3% to $225.1 billion in February, while exports rose 1% to $178.1 billion. After three consecutive months of increases, the U.S. trade deficit is now at a six-month high. Demand for American-made goods remains lukewarm due to the strong U.S. dollar, and that, too, could hurt U.S. GDP growth in the first quarter.
Initial Claims for Unemployment
For the week ending April 2, initial claims for unemployment fell by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000. That was more than economists had forecast, as they were expecting claims to fall to 270,000. The four-week moving average increased slightly to 266,750. Overall, the jobs market continues to improve; jobless claims have been below the 300,000 threshold for 57-straight weeks. That’s the longest stretch in more than 40 years.
In February, consumer credit rose to $17.3 billion. This was a 5.8% increase from January’s final figure of $14.8 billion, which was revised up from $10.5 billion. Both revolving and nonrevolving credit increased year-over-year; revolving by 3.7% and nonrevolving by 6.6%. February’s report easily exceeded economists’ expectations of $15.0 billion in borrowing and reinforced that consumers are once again putting their money back into the market.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced that February wholesales were down 0.2%, which was lower than economists’ forecasts of -0.1%. January inventories were revised downward to 0.2%, compared to the previously reported 0.3%. Durable goods saw increased sales, while sales on nondurable goods were down this month. At the current sales pace, wholesalers have enough inventory to last 1.36 months.
Have a great weekend,