March 29, 2015

Latest Economic News From The U.S. & Canada

  • The U.S. Commerce Department last week released its updated estimate for economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2014. The department said the U.S. economy expanded at a 2.2 percent annualized rate at the end of last year – the same growth rate it reported last month. The department said, “While increases in exports and in personal consumption expenditures were larger than previously estimated, the change in private inventories was smaller.” The U.S. economy expanded at a 5.0 percent annualized rate in the third quarter; the Commerce Department blamed an increase in imports and a slowdown in government spending for the fourth quarter’s more tepid rate. In other growth-related news, the Chicago Federal Reserve’s National Activity Index fell from -0.10 in January to -0.11 in February as production and personal consumption eased.
  • In an advance report, the U.S. Commerce Department said orders for durable goods fell 1.4 percent from January to February. Excluding transportation, orders were down 0.4 percent.
  • Manufacturing readings from various regions of the U.S. were negative in March. According to the Richmond Federal Reserve, the Central Atlantic region’s manufacturing sector contracted this month. The bank’s reading fell to -8 in March from zero the month before as shipments and new orders fell significantly. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Federal Reserve announced its index for manufacturing in the Midwest fell to -4 this month from +1 in February. The bank said, “The overall slower growth was mostly attributable to declines in plastics, food, and chemical production and continued weakness in metals and machinery.”
  • The number of Americans who filed for federal unemployment benefits fell to 282,000 for the week that ended March 21 from 291,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of first-time claims also declined, as did the number of Americans who continued to receive benefits. That figure dropped to 2.416 million for the week that ended March 14 from 2.422 million the week before. The four-week moving average of continuing claims did increase slightly, however. The U.S. Department of Labor also reported last week that 26 states saw their unemployment rates decline in February while seven states saw their rates rise. (Rates stayed the same in the remaining 18 states.) Thirty-six states added jobs last month while 13 lost jobs. (Wyoming saw no change in its employment level.)
  • In other economic news: existing home sales in the U.S. rose 1.2 percent between January 2015 and February 2015 and 4.7 percent between February 2014 and February 2015; new home sales in the U.S. increased 7.8 percent between January and February and were up 24.8 percent year-over-year; the U.S. consumer price index increased 0.2 percent from January to February and was flat year-over-year; and the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index fell to 93.0 in March from 95.4 in February.