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April 21, 2017

This Week’s Top Economic Data Points: U.S., Canadian Steel Shipments Grow Substantially

  • According to the Metals Service Center Institute, U.S. and Canadian service center steel shipments grew substantially last month. U.S. service center steel shipments increased by 9.7 percent from March 2016 to March 2017 while steel product inventories decreased 6.1 percent from March a year ago. U.S. service center shipments of aluminum products increased by 13 percent year-over-year while inventories were up one percent. Canadian service center shipments of steel products, meanwhile, increased by 7.4 percent from March 2016 to March 2017 while inventories fell two percent. Canadian service center aluminum shipments decreased 2.7 percent year-over-year while inventories declined two percent.
  • Industrial production in the United States increased 0.5 percent from February to March. The improved reading was driven by an 8.6 percent increase in the output of utilities. Manufacturing production declined 0.4 percent due to “a large step-down in the production of motor vehicles and parts” while mining production increased 0.1 percent.
  • Regional manufacturing readings for the United States have been somewhat softer so far in April. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia announced last Thursday that its manufacturing index fell to +22.0 in April from +32.8 in March due to declines in new orders and shipments. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said its manufacturing survey fell to +5.2 in April from +15.2 in March due to declines in the number of new orders and the number of unfilled orders.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 244,000 individuals filed for federal unemployment benefits for the first time during the week that ended April 15, up from 234,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of first-time claims was 243,000, a decrease of 4,250 from the previous week’s average of 247,250. The number of individuals who continued to file for benefits also fell, dropping to 1.979 million during the week that ended April 8 from 2.028 million the week before. The continuing claims number was at its lowest since April 2000. The four-week moving average of continuing claims also declined. In other employment news: unemployment rates were lower in March in 17 states and stable in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
  • In other economic news: the Conference Board index of leading economic indicators increased 0.4 percent in March to 126.7, following a 0.5 percent increase in February, and a 0.6 percent increase in January; the number of new homes under construction in the United States fell 6.8 percent between February 2017 and March 2017, but increased 9.2 percent between March 2016 and March 2017; and the number of existing homes sold in the United States increased 4.4 percent from February to March and 5.7 percent year-over-year.