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January 30, 2017

This Week’s Top Economic Data Points: U.S. Economic Growth Slows In The Fourth Quarter

  • According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the nation’s economy increased at an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, down from a 3.5 percent annualized growth rate in the third quarter. The department said the slower growth reflected a downturn in exports, an acceleration in imports, and decelerations in both consumer spending and  federal government spending. Other economic growth indicators were positive for the end of 2016. The Federal Reserve Board of Chicago’s National Activity Index increased to +0.14 in December from -0.33 in November and the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index increased to 124.6 in December from 124.1 in November. The Conference Board said, “The U.S. Leading Economic Index increased in December, suggesting the economy will continue growing at a moderate pace, perhaps even accelerating slightly in the early months of this year.”
  • Manufacturing readings for January from the various regional Federal Reserve Boards continued to be positive. The Federal Reserve Board of Richmond announced that its manufacturing survey climbed to +12 in January from +8 in December due to improvements in readings for shipments and new orders. The Federal Reserve Board of Kansas City’s index held steady this month at +9. The regional Fed board said, “Activity in durable goods plants increased moderately, particularly for metals, electronics, and machinery, while nondurable goods plants expanded at a slower pace with food production falling considerably.”
  • According to the U.S. Labor Department, 259,000 individuals filed for federal unemployment benefits during the week that ended January 21, up from 237,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of first-time claims fell, however, and was at its lowest level since November 1973. The number of individuals who continued to file for benefits rose to 2.1 million for the week that ended January 14 from 2.059 million the week before. The Labor Department also announced last week that the unemployment rates in individual states were significantly lower in December in 10 states, higher in one state, and stable in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
  • In other economic news: the University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment rose to 98.5 in January from 98.2 in December; new home sales in the United States fell 10.4 percent from November 2016 to December 2016, but were down just 0.4 percent from December 2015 to December 2016; and despite dropping from November to December, the number of existing home sales in the United States last year were at their highest level since 2006.