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May 22, 2017

This Week’s Top Economic Data Points: U.S., Canadian Metals Shipments Fell Slightly In April

  • The Metals Service Center Institute announced last week that metal shipments declined by small amounts in both the United States and Canada in April, reversing the increases posted in March. In April 2017, U.S. service center steel shipments decreased by 4.2 percent from April 2016 while steel product inventories fell six percent. U.S. service center shipments of aluminum products in April decreased by 0.4 percent from the same month in 2016. Inventories of aluminum products fell one percent. Canadian service center shipments of steel products declined by 2.8 percent between April 2016 and April 2017 while steel product inventories fell 10 percent. Canadian service center aluminum shipments in April fell by 4.3 percent from the same month in 2016. Inventories of aluminum products were down 4.2 percent.
  • The U.S. Federal Reserve announced last week that industrial production expanded one percent from March to April. Manufacturing (one percent increase), mining (1.2 percent increase), and utilities’ (0.7 percent increase) output all improved last month. Total industrial production in April was 2.2 percent above its April 2016 level.
  • Manufacturing sales in Canada increased by one percent between February and March. According to Reuters, sales rose in 16 of 21 industries while inventories increased 1.2 percent.
  • Regional manufacturing readings have been mixed so far this month. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia announced that its manufacturing index increased to +38.8 in May from +22.0 in March due to high rates of new orders and shipments. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, meanwhile, said its survey fell to -1.0 in May from +5.0 in April due to declines in new orders and shipments. Employment in the New York region improved slightly.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 232,000 individuals filed for federal unemployment benefits during the week that ended May 13, down from 236,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of first-time claims also declined, as did the number of people who continued to receive benefits. That figure dropped to 1.898 million for the week that ended May 6 from 1.92 million the week before. The number of continuing claims was at its lowest level since November 1988. The four-week moving average of continuing claims also declined. In other employment news: nine states added jobs in April while one lost jobs. Employment was stable in the remaining 40 states.
  • The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) increased to 126.9 in April from 126.6 in March. Conference Board Director of Business Cycles and Growth Research Ataman Ozyildirim said, “The recent trend in the U.S. LEI, led by the positive outlook of consumers and financial markets, continues to point to a growing economy, perhaps even a cyclical pickup. First quarter’s weak GDP growth is likely a temporary hiccup as the economy returns to its long-term trend of about two percent.”
  • In other economic news: the number of new homes under construction in the United States fell 2.6 percent between March 2017 and April 2017, but was up 0.7 percent from April 2016 to April 2017.