Monthly Archives: August 2012

From Jackson Hole: Bernanke Highlights

I’m here in Jackson Hole, WY for the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s annual conference. Just heard Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s policy speech. I took these to be the highlights or main points: 1. The benefits of quantitative easing (QE) far outweigh the costs. The Fed is ready to do more. Bernanke laid out [...]

Weekly Jobless Claims Steady at Slightly Higher Level

Jobless claims for the week ending on August 25 remained unchanged at 374,000 from the previous week, which was revised up slightly. Jobless claims have moved back up, now that the distortions created by the auto industry in July have played out, but they remain below the elevated levels we saw earlier this spring and [...]

Incomes and Spending Rise

Personal disposable income edged up another 0.3% in July. The contribution from wages and salaries, however, moderated relative to other categories of income. Proprietors’ income accelerated, buoyed by higher agricultural prices and insurance payments to farmers suffering from the drought. We also saw a pop in rental income, which is being supported by the shift [...]

GDP Still Stagnant

Real GDP was revised up from 1.5% to 1.7% for the second quarter, little to cheer about given the subdued rate of growth we are experiencing. The economy still decelerated from the already dismal 2% pace of the first quarter and doesn’t look to be reaccelerating much over the summer. Slightly stronger consumer spending and [...]

Europe: The Struggle between Hardliners and Realists

Two dates loom large on the future of the euro and the eurozone: On September 6, the European Central Bank (ECB) governing council will meet. Policy discussion will revolve around a new plan to purchase government bonds from individual countries, like Italy and Spain, in an attempt to contain the eurozone debt crisis. This will [...]

Consumer Confidence Declines

The Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence declined to 60.6 in August from 65.4 in July. That marks the largest decline since November of last year, when uncertainty in Europe was dominating the headlines. This contrasts with an earlier reading in August by the Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index put together by the University of [...]

Housing Prices Continue to Firm

The S&P Case-Schiller Home Price Indices increased on both a month-to-month and a quarter-to-quarter basis in June. The rise was across all 20 major cities, which showed an average 2.2% increase from May. Atlanta was the only city to post a sharp, a year-over-year decline, 12%. A surge in foreclosures is largely to blame for [...]

Durable Goods Orders Jump on Demand for Aircraft and Autos

Durable goods orders increased 4.2% in July, supported by a stunning 53.9% increase in non-defense aircraft orders. Motor vehicles and parts orders were also extremely robust, rising 12.8% for the month after falling a bit the previous month. Orders outside the volatile transportation sector declined a modest 0.4%, the second decline in two months. Losses [...]

Unemployment Insurance Claims (chart)

Mortgage Applications Take a Hit

Weekly mortgage applications decreased 7.4% for the survey ending August 17. Contract rates rose for both 30-year and 15-year loans: 3.86%, up from 3.76% for 30-year and 3.15%, up from 3.12% for 15-year loans. Those higher rates caused refinance applications to slow this week; the refinance index dropped 9% from the previous week. On the [...]