Dashboard update: Fed minutes and recent data advance interest rate hike expectations

Monitor more than 80 economic indicators with the macro and markets dashboard:

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United States Macroeconomic and Markets Dashboard: Updated May 21, 2016

Dashboard update summary:

New data continue to strengthen the U.S. macroeconomic picture. Minutes from the most recent meeting of the Federal Reserve Open Markets Committee (FOMC) signal that the U.S. central bank may increase its key federal funds interest rate target by 25 basis points in June. Markets have responded by increasingly pricing higher interest rate expectations into the bond and foreign exchange markets.

Industrial production stronger than expected

The Federal Reserve publishes an index of U.S. industrial production that goes back to 1919. The monthly index data for April was released on Tuesday, and showed greater-than-expected industrial sector output. This was a result largely of a month-over-month spike in production in the utilities sector, which had previously been hard hit by declines in both demand for utilities and commodity prices (see below). The index had declined each month so far during the year, and rebounded by seven tenths of a percent from March to April.

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Jobless claims drop to less alarming level

Data from the week of May 7 on the number of new claims of joblessness hit a recent high, drawing some attention. New data for the week of May 14 were better, with 278,000 new jobless claims during that week.

Inflation low and steady but pointed higher

April data on inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, was released on Tuesday. Annualized inflation for all items was 1.1 percent in April, while the Core CPI (the CPI excluding food & beverage, and energy) grew by 2.1 percent. Healthcare continues to grow at the fastest rate of any major item category in the basket. Energy and transportation costs are still below their previous year level, but less so than in March (see below).

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FOMC minutes suggest June hike more likely

On Wednesday, the Fed released minutes from the FOMC meeting at the end of April. The minutes indicate that if new labor market data shows continued strengthening, and inflation continues toward two percent, then the committee will likely raise the federal funds target rate in June.

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An increase in the federal funds rate causes other short-term (and to a lesser extent long-term) interest rates to rise. In essence, the fed funds target rate should act as a floor on the cost of risk-free borrowing of U.S. dollars.

Reaction of markets

Expectations about future interest rates play a major role in finance. Short term interest rate increases, like those from fed funds rate increases, generate broad effects, including on long term interest rates, the demand for money in the real economy, the propensity to save and invest, and bond and foreign exchange markets. Markets react today to changes today in expectations about the future. This happened following the release of the FOMC minutes; U.S. treasury bond prices fell immediately. The yield on ten- and two-year treasury bonds jumped, closing the week at 1.85% and 0.89% respectively.

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See more indicators, as well as foreign exchange rates, in the dashboard:

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Dashboard update: lowered expectations

Dashboard PDF file:

Macro and Markets Dashboard: United States (April 16, 2016 — PDF)

Dashboard update summary:

Much of the past week’s macroeconomic news offered disappointment, yet markets dismissed the weak data as a result of what seems like lowered expectations. Retail sales, business inventories, and industrial production reports showed weakness in March (though labor market continues to look good). Corporate earnings have been quite soft in the first quarter, and GDP figures are likely to reflect the first quarter slowdown in output. Investors, however, seem relatively more risk-on, despite the weak macroeconomic data. Their expectations about earnings have fallen low enough to not only absorb the recent results, but to react positively in some cases. These investors are also faced with fewer high-earning alternatives, given sluggish and slowing growth abroad.

CPI and PPI data show little change, while oil prices continue to rebound. Currency markets are quite active, especially on the emerging markets side, where the dollar is weaker, partially as a result of the commodity price rebound.

Macro and Labor Market Indicators

Industrial production and total capacity utilization both fell in March. The industrial production index was down 0.6 points, largely stemming from decreases in production in mining and utilities market groups. This was magnified in the total percentage of capacity utilized figure, which fell to its lowest level since 2010. Mining capacity grew 1.6 percent year over year, despite a simultaneous 12.9 percent fall in production.

tcu_apr162016

The inventories to sales ratio ticked up in February, as a result of a fall in sales of 1.4 percent and an increase of inventories by 1.2 percent over their February 2015 levels. The most recent week’s data on new jobless claims showed the fewest new claims since 1973.

Equities and Fixed Income

Despite the weak data from the corporate side, equity markets were up and corporate bond yields down during the week. The Nasdaq and Dow were up 1.8 percent on the week, while the S&P 500 climbed 1.6 percent. Yields on U.S. Treasury bonds at all maturities, and U.S. corporate bonds at all maturities and credit ratings, have fallen over the past month, pushing prices higher.

Prices and Currency Markets

This week brought the release of March PPI and CPI data. Both were largely unchanged, as the PPI for all commodities increased slightly and the CPI fell slightly, over their February year over year percentage change levels. There was a surprise in CPI apparel prices, which fell 0.6 percent over their March 2015 levels, despite an increase in February. The data continue to reflect the very low prices of energy and moderate prices increase in healthcare and housing.

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Currency markets were busy during the past week. The dollar strengthened against the Euro (0.91 percent), Yen (0.81 percent), and Swiss Franc (1.06 percent), while, as pointed out by FT’s hard currency, the dollar weakened further against the four R’s, the ruble, real, ringgit, and rand. These four currencies have seen a dramatic change in direction over the past month, appreciating against the dollar by more than 3.5 percent each and more than 5 percent in the case of the rand.

Note:

I try to gradually improve the dashboard and how I summarize changes. Any feedback would be much appreciated. Please feel free to leave a comment, or send me an email at brianwdew@gmail.com.

Dashboard update: signs of price pressure

Macro and Markets Dashboard: United States (April 9, 2016 — PDF)

The first full week of April saw active but net slightly down equity markets. While new economic data during the week was positive, expectations about corporate profits and output levels in the first quarter of 2016 are low. In light of solid fundamentals, and increasing aggregate demand, pessimists (including on the campaign trail) seem to be overreacting. Price data shows signs of upward pressure after an extended decline, and may soon join labor market and equity market indicators in signalling accelerating economic expansion.

The Nasdaq composite index fell 1.3 percent on the week, while both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.2 percent. Volatility, as measured by the VIX, closed Friday 17 percent above its previous week level. The Shiller index of price to earnings ratios climbed in March to 25.5. Expectations about first quarter earnings are very weak.

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Prices data showed a continuation of upward pressure in March from commodity and food prices. Oil prices climbed more than eight percent during the past week. U.S. oil inventory fell for the first time in eight weeks. March CPI data, due out next week, should reflect the rising fuel and commodity prices.

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World food prices, measured by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, showed an uptick in March from a jump in sugar prices. This is only the second material increase in the world food price index since early 2014.

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The trade-weighted dollar index continues to show a depreciation in the U.S. dollar. To the frustration of the Bank of Japan, the Yen appreciated nearly three percent against the dollar during the past week, which is not included in the lagged trade-weighted index. The dollar did appreciate against many emerging market currencies, pound sterling, and the Canadian dollar, during the past week.

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Dashboard update: recent economic data

Macro and Markets Dashboard: United States (March 19, 2016 — PDF)

As expected, the Fed left key interest rates unchanged. New economic data covering prices, industrial production, jobless claims, and inventories did not offer any dramatic surprises. Equity markets were up on the week, while treasury bond yields fell. The dollar weakened against nearly all major currencies.

Markets reacted positively to the Fed’s key interest rate decision and reduction of their forecast for 2016 rate hikes to two from four. The Nasdaq composite index increased one percent on the week, while the S&P 500 climbed 1.35 percent. Ten-year treasury bond yields fell to 1.88 percent on Friday.

Monthly CPI figures for February showed a year over year consumer price level increase of one percent, compared with a 1.3 percent increase in January. Energy and transportation costs fell more in February than January. Energy costs dropped 12.7 percent over their February 2015 level, while transportation costs fell 3.6 percent over the one-year period.  Healthcare, food, housing, and apparel prices all increased over the previous year’s level. Healthcare costs were up 3.5 percent.

cpi_mar192016

The industrial production index and total capacity utilization figures were both down slightly in February, following a modest increase in January.

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New weekly jobless claims, at 265,000, showed no sudden increase, further supporting the so far solid labor market data. January data on manufacturing and trade inventories and sales, from the U.S. Census Bureau, showed that sales were down 1.1 percent over their January 2015 level, while inventories were up 1.8 percent over the same period, pushing the inventories to sales ratio to 1.4.

jobinv_mar192016

Over the past week, the U.S. dollar weakened against all major currencies except for the Egyptian pound, which was devalued by 14 percent against the dollar during the week. The dollar fell roughly two percent or a bit more against the Euro, Yen, and Canadian Dollar, and nearly a percent and a half against Pound Sterling and Swiss Francs. The dollar fell against the Yuan by nearly three quarters of a percent on Friday.

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Dashboard update: adjusting the tools

Macro and Markets Dashboard: Japan (February 20, 2016 — PDF)

Macro and Markets Dashboard: United States (February 20, 2016 — PDF)

Given a relatively calm week for markets, I’m going to make a more procedural update this week and share two developments with my tools. First, I’m including a draft dashboard for Japan. Second, I’ll be sprinkling in some bar chart plots, which I hope dig a bit deeper into some interesting time series.

The draft dashboard for Japan still needs a lot of work, but provides a few interesting indicators of macro and market conditions in the land of the rising sun. For example, Japanese government bonds (JGBs) were in the news when the BOJ negative interest rate policy pushed yields on ten year bonds negative. While the shorter-duration bond yields are still negative, ten year yields are now virtually flat (see below). JGB_Feb202016

Additionally, I’ve developed some bar plots for looking deeper into changes to prices. Below, I include the decomposition of the Consumer Price Index and Producer Price Index into selected categories. I’ve used the 12-month percentage change to individual CPI and PPI series in this example. Hopefully, I can integrate these charts into the main dashboard, over the coming weeks. We can see from this example, that health care costs continue to rise more rapidly than other costs, and that the fall in energy prices slowed during January.

Prices_Feb202016