Economy | timiacono.com - Part 4

Economy Expands at 4.0% Annual Rate in Q2

The Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy expanded at a rate of 4.0 percent in the second quarter, well above the consensus estimate of 3.0 percent, and the contraction during the first quarter was revised up from a -2.9 percent rate to -2.1 percent.

Inventory growth was the primary reason for the strong expansion as this component contributed 1.7 percentage points to the overall growth rate after subtracting 1.1 percentage points to the first quarter rate. Consumer spending also contributed 1.7 percentage points with durable goods sales, particularly autos, responsible for the bulk of the increase.

This report also included regular annual revisions to the data that showed growth in 2011 and 2012 was worse than previously believed but that 2013 was much better. Based on the quarterly rates, 2011 growth was revised down from 2.1 percent to 1.7 percent and, in 2012, the economy expanded at a rate of just 1.6 percent versus 2.0 percent  as previously reported. Data for last year was revised sharply higher, up from 2.6 percent to 3.1 percent.

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Warren, Yellen, and Too Big to Fail

It appears they left the best for last yesterday as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) closed out day one of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s semi-annual monetary policy report to Congress with this wholly unsatisfying exchange about too-big-to-fail banks (hat tip Not Quant).

Skip to the 1:34:45 mark of the entire CSPAN video here to find another interesting exchange, this one with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) where Yellen is asked whether it might not be a better idea to just not create so many asset bubbles to begin with.

Well, he didn’t exactly ask it like that…

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Retail Sales Post Modest Gain

The Commerce Department reported(.pdf) that retail sales rose less than expected last month, up only 0.2 percent in June following an upwardly revised gain of 0.5 percent in May.

The consensus estimate for June was a gain of 0.6 percent and the miss was largely due to a surprise decline of 0.3 percent in auto sales last month. Retail sales less autos rose 0.4 percent and when both autos and gasoline are excluded, sales also rose 0.4 percent.

Sales increased for nine of the thirteen major categories, paced by a gain of 1.1 percent at general merchandise stores (e.g., department stores) and an increase of 0.9 percent at nonstore retailers (e.g., internet sales) and health & personal care stores.

Declining categories were led by home improvement stores where sales fell 1.0 percent and food service where receipts were 0.3 percent lower.

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The Labor Department reported that U.S. employers added a better-than-expected 288,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate fell from 6.3 percent to 6.1 percent, a six year low.

Payrolls for April and May were revised upward by a combined 29,000 and April’s revised gain of 304,000 marked the biggest increase in jobs in two and a half years. After a dismal winter when payrolls increased by an average of just 150,000, the last three months have seen average gains of 272,000.

The household survey also showed marked improvement as the jobless rate fell for all the right reasons, though the labor force participation rate was unchanged near multi-decade lows at 62.8 percent. Some 407,000 people were newly counted as employed and the official count of “unemployed” Americans fell by 325,000.

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