A solid rise in residential spending offset a mixed showing for non-housing components and made for a 0.1 percent July rise in overall construction spending to barely come within Econoday’s consensus range. Residential spending rose 0.6 percent but July’s gain was entirely centered in home improvements which jumped 2.1 percent to offset outright declines of 0.3 percent in single-family homes and 0.4 percent for multi-families.
Private non-residential spending fell 1.0 percent in the month, pulled down by a sharp fall in commercial projects, where spending has been uneven in recent months, that offset a fourth straight sharp gain in transportation. Public spending on educational building and highways & streets posted gains following declines in June.
Year-on-year rates help underline what is a healthy rate of growth in construction spending, up 5.8 percent overall with residential spending up 6.7 percent and both private nonresidential and public categories showing low to mid single digit gains. Nevertheless, reports out of housing have been uneven and are clouded further by the declines in single- and multi-family homes in this report.
Strength in consumer spending was shaved slightly while contraction in residential investment deepened slightly, factors however outweighed by upward revisions to both nonresidential fixed investment and government purchases with revisions to inventories and net exports also slightly favorable. The net result is a 2 tenths upward revision to second-quarter GDP to a 4.2 percent annualized rate.
Consumer spending is now at a 3.8 percent growth rate vs 4.0 percent in the first estimate. Spending on both durables and non-durables was lowered, to a still enormously strong 8.6 percent for the former and to 3.7 percent for the latter, with spending on services unchanged at 3.1 percent.
Residential investment was at minus 1.1 percent in the first estimate and is now at minus 1.6 percent in the second estimate. Nonresidential fixed investment gets a sizable 1.2 percentage point upgrade to an enormously strong 8.5 percent with components for equipment, now at 4.4 percent, and intellectual property, at 11.0 percent, both revised higher.
Inventories subtracted a little less while net exports added a little more. Government purchases are upgraded 2 tenths to a 2.3 percent growth rate.
Price readings are little changed with the overall index steady at an elevated 3.0 percent with the core 1 tenth higher at 2.8 percent. These readings had been subdued before shifting higher in the second quarter underscoring the risk of overshooting by the Fed.
The second quarter, in fact, was very strong led by consumer spending, where gains reflected strong demand for labor and also this year’s tax cut, and also by business spending which has been getting a lift from this year’s corporate tax cut. Exports were also very strong in the quarter.
The early outlook right now for the third quarter is mixed as goods exports sunk back in July in a negative offset by what looks to be a sharp rise in July inventories. Initial indications on consumer spending from the July retail sales report are positive. Watch for more third-quarter GDP inputs, including for inflation, in Thursday’s personal income & outlays report for July.
New Home Sales
The headline shows a decline but the message from the July new home sales report is nevertheless mostly positive. New home sales slipped 1.7 percent in the month to a 627,000 annualized rate that misses Econoday’s consensus by 22,000 and the Econoday’s low estimate by 3,000. Revisions are neutral with June revised 7,000 higher to 638,000 but with May revised 12,000 lower to 654,000.
Now the good news. Supply moved into the market, up 2.0 percent to 309,000 new homes for sale which is the best showing since 2009. More homes for sale gives buyers more choices in what will be a likely positive for sales in the coming months. Relative to sales, supply is at 5.9 months vs 5.7 and 5.5 in the two prior months.
Another positive is a rise in prices, up a sharp 6.0 percent on the month to a median $328,700 for what is still, however, a modest 1.8 percent year-on-year increase.
Regional data show both the West and Midwest posting strong monthly gains with yearly rates at 18.5 percent and 18.2 percent respectively. The yearly rate for the South is at 17.2 percent with, however, the Northeast, which is by far the smallest region for new housing, down nearly 50 percent.
The overall year-on-year rate of growth is at 12.8 percent which if sustained would point to a badly needed uplift for the housing sector in general going into the second-half of what has been a very subdued 2018.
Sales are still up Year over Year July 2017 roughly 550,000.
American industrial production is up and shows no signs of slowing down. Our overall output was up 0.7% in each of the months of March and April. These statistics come to us even with a fall in vehicle production by 1.3% in the month of April. Our manufacturing output does not look to be waning anytime soon. However, the threat of tariffs and our current looming trade war can greatly affect America’s overall industrial production significantly.
Continuing strength is evident from today’s jobless claims data. Jobless claims data where initial claims for the August 4 week were below the Econoday consensus range at 213,000. The 4-week average was down 500 to 214,250. Continuing claims in lagging data for the July 28 week were up 29,000 to 1.755 million with this 4-week average down 4,000 to 1.742 million. The unemployment rate, like all the readings in this report, was very low, at only 1.2 percent.
ADP Employment Report
ADP has underestimated the strength of the last two employment reports making perhaps today’s much higher-than-expected 219,000 result for July a noticeable indication of strength for Friday’s report. ADP’s estimate compares with a 184,000 consensus for July private payrolls.
Existing Home Sales
Existing home sales have been flat and results for June are on the low end of expectations, at a 5.380 million annualized rate for a 0.6 percent decline from May’s 5.410 million. Year-on-year sales in June were down 2.2 percent.
For home sellers, the good news in the report is strength in prices, up 4.5 percent for the median to $276,900 and a 5.2 percent year-on-year gain. For buyers, the good news is a 4.3 percent rise in the number of homes on the market, at 1.950 million and, relative to sales, a gain to 4.3 months from 4.1 months.
Yet the sales results are nevertheless very soft with only the South, at a mere 0.4 percent, in the year-on-year plus column. Watch for new home sales on Wednesday which have been doing better than resales though a fractional decline is Econoday’s consensus.
Strong gains for the discretionary categories of autos and restaurants and a big upward revision to May highlight the June retail sales report. Total sales rose an as-expected 0.5 percent in June with May, in what will be a positive for second-quarter GDP estimates, revised a sharp 5 tenths higher to an outsized 1.3 percent jump.
What’s striking is that autos were very strong in both June and May, up 0.9 and 0.8 percent respectively, with restaurants really showing unusual acceleration, up 1.5 and 2.6 percent in the two months. Gains here point to new confidence among consumers and are consistent with the strength underway in the labor market.
Sales at health & personal care stores were unusually strong in June, up 2.2 percent following a series of very strong gains in the 1 percent range. Nonstore retailers, in a sign of e-commerce strength, rose 1.3 percent in June and continue to make ground compared to other components. Gasoline stations, boosted by high gas prices, saw a 1.0 percent rise in June sales following a 3.0 percent spike in May. Building materials, at plus 0.8 percent in June, and furniture store sales, up 0.6 percent, are both positive indications for residential investment.
Consumer spending in May was at first modest overall on weakness in spending on services though today’s upward retail revision will offer a major lift for May’s final result. And unless services prove flat again, June — based on today’s report — should prove a very strong finish for the second-quarter economy.
The government’s deficit wasn’t quite as deep as expected in June, at $74.9 billion vs Econoday’s consensus for $91.0 billion. Nine months into the government’s fiscal 2018, the deficit totals $607.1 billion and is up significantly from a $523.1 billion at this time last year. Tax receipts this fiscal year are up 8.9 percent for individuals, at $1.305 trillion so far, and down 27.6 percent for corporations, at $161.7 billion. Customs duties so far this fiscal year, which is something of course to keep an eye on given widening tariffs, are $28.3 billion for a $3.1 billion gain. On the spending side, defense spending is up 5.5 percent at $497.2 billion.
May proved to be a good month for manufacturing after all as factory orders rose 0.4 percent vs Econoday’s consensus for no change. Durable orders did slip 0.4 percent on an expected downswing in aircraft orders which otherwise have been strong and also on supply snags tied to a fire at an auto supplier. Orders for nondurables, the new data in today’s report, proved very strong on energy products, rising 1.1 percent on the month on gains for petroleum and coal.
Solid news comes from capital goods where core orders (nondefense ex-aircraft) rose a respectable 0.3 percent on top of the prior month’s 2.0 percent surge. Shipments for this reading in May, which are inputs into GDP business investment, are revised higher from last week’s advance data, up 3 tenths from the initial reading to a gain of 0.2 percent (in an offset, April’s shipments are revised 2 tenths lower to what is still a very strong 0.8 percent gain).
Orders for steel, where tariffs are in effect, slipped in May after rising strongly the prior two months with aluminum orders extending a strong 3-month run. Inventories for the metals are building strongly. A major positive in this report is a fourth straight strong build for total unfilled orders, up 0.5 percent which hints at strength for factory payrolls in Friday’s employment report.
This report overshadows a decline in the Federal Reserve’s measure of manufacturing production, one skewed lower by a cut in factory hours tied to the auto sector snag, and it closes the book favorably on May. Advance factory data so far in June have been mostly strong including yesterday’s ISM report and month-end upgrade for the manufacturing PMI. Tariffs and the risk of trade disruptions aside, the factory sector is a major driver right now for the 2018 economy.