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March 1, 2015

Latest Economic News From The U.S. & Canada

  • The U.S. Labor Department (DOL) announced last Friday that the U.S. economy expanded at a 2.2 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter of 2014, less than half the economy’s third quarter growth rate of five percent. The reading was also significantly below the department’s initial estimate for fourth quarter growth. Last month, DOL estimated the economy expanded at a 2.6 percent annualized rate between October and December. The department said a decline in federal government spending contributed to the lower reading this month. Meanwhile, according to the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank’s National Activity Index, the U.S. economy improved somewhat in January. The bank’s index rose to +0.13 in January from -0.07 in December as production-related indicators improved. 
  • Consumers felt a little bit shakier last month. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell to 96.4 last month from 103.8 in January as consumers told the board they feel less secure about the economy today and much less optimistic about future economic growth and job opportunities. The University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey also reflected a more pessimistic mood about the current economic situation and future prospects. That index fell to 95.4 in February from 98.1 in January.
  • Meanwhile, the U.S. Consumer Price Index fell 0.7 percent from December 2014 to January 2015 and was also down 0.1 percent from January 2014 to January 2015. Gas prices drove the decline: the energy index fell 9.7 percent as the cost of gas tumbled 18.7 percent for the month.
  • The manufacturing sectors in various regions of the United States softened last month. The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank’s manufacturing index fell to -11.2 in February from -4 in January. At +0.7, the production index was essentially unchanged from the previous month, but the new orders and shipments indices each fell to their lowest levels since 2009. The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank’s index indicated the manufacturing sector slowed in the Central Atlantic region too. The bank’s composite index dropped to 0 in February from +6 in January as the shipments, new orders, capacity utilization and employment readings all declined. Finally, the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank announced its manufacturing index fell to +1 in February from +3 in January as the prices, new orders and employment indices all declined. The bank also said, “The overall slower growth was mostly attributable to large declines in primary metals and computer and electronics production.”
  • The number of Americans who filed for federal unemployment benefits for the first time increased to 313,000 for the week that ended Feb. 21 from 282,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of first-time claims also increased while the number of Americans who continued to receive federal jobless benefits fell to 2.401 million for the week that ended Feb. 14 from 2.422 million the week before.
  • In other economic news: U.S. existing home sales fell 4.9 percent between December 2014 and January 2015, but were up 3.2 percent from January 2014 to January 2015; the number of new homes sold in the U.S. fell 0.2 percent between December and January but was up 5.3 percent year-over-year; and Canadian retail sales fell two percent from November 2014 to December 2014, the largest decline in nearly five years. A 7.4 percent drop in gasoline sales contributed heavily to the negative report.