Wednesday, January 28, 2015

FOMC Policy Statement: January 28, 2015

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in December suggests that economic activity has been expanding at a solid pace.  Labor market conditions have improved further, with strong job gains and a lower unemployment rate.  On balance, a range of labor market indicators suggests that underutilization of labor resources continues to diminish.  Household spending is rising moderately; recent declines in energy prices have boosted household purchasing power.  Business fixed investment is advancing, while the recovery in the housing sector remains slow.  Inflation has declined further below the Committee’s longer-run objective, largely reflecting declines in energy prices.  Market-based measures of inflation compensation have declined substantially in recent months; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability.  The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace, with labor market indicators continuing to move toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate.  The Committee continues to see the risks to the outlook for economic activity and the labor market as nearly balanced.  Inflation is anticipated to decline further in the near term, but the Committee expects inflation to rise gradually toward 2 percent over the medium term as the labor market improves further and the transitory effects of lower energy prices and other factors dissipate.  The Committee continues to monitor inflation developments closely.

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee today reaffirmed its view that the current 0 to 1/4 percent target range for the federal funds rate remains appropriate.  In determining how long to maintain this target range, the Committee will assess progress--both realized and expected--toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation.  This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments.  Based on its current assessment, the Committee judges that it can be patient in beginning to normalize the stance of monetary policy.  However, if incoming information indicates faster progress toward the Committee’s employment and inflation objectives than the Committee now expects, then increases in the target range for the federal funds rate are likely to occur sooner than currently anticipated.  Conversely, if progress proves slower than expected, then increases in the target range are likely to occur later than currently anticipated.

The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction.  This policy, by keeping the Committee’s holdings of longer-term securities at sizable levels, should help maintain accommodative financial conditions.

When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.  The Committee currently anticipates that, even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels, economic conditions may, for some time, warrant keeping the target federal funds rate below levels the Committee views as normal in the longer run.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Janet L. Yellen, Chair; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Lael Brainard; Charles L. Evans; Stanley Fischer; Jeffrey M. Lacker; Dennis P. Lockhart; Jerome H. Powell; Daniel K. Tarullo; and John C. Williams.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Farm Prices

The Department of Agriculture releases at the end of the month the index of prices received by farmers for the current month. This report is entitled Agricultural Prices. Prices received represent sales from producers to first buyers. They include all grades and qualities. For most items, the current month's preliminary price represents a 3-5 day period around the 15th of the month. However, previous month's prices (revised) cover the entire month. The index is not adjusted for seasonal variation. It includes crop prices and livestock & product prices

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Consumer Sentiment

The University of Michigan's Consumer Survey Center questions 500 households each month on their financial conditions and attitudes about the economy. Consumer sentiment is directly related to the strength of consumer spending. Consumer confidence and consumer sentiment are two ways of talking about consumer attitudes. Among economic reports, consumer sentiment refers to the Michigan survey while consumer confidence refers to The Conference Board's survey. Preliminary estimates for a month are released at mid-month. Final estimates for a month are released near the end of the month.

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Chicago PMI

The Institute For Supply Management - Chicago compiles a survey and a composite diffusion index of business conditions in the Chicago area. Since October 2011, the survey has been conducted by Market News International. Manufacturing and non-manufacturing firms both are surveyed. Hence, it is not directly comparable to pure manufacturing surveys. Readings above 50 percent indicate an expanding business sector.

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GDP

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the broadest measure of aggregate economic activity and encompasses every sector of the economy.

This is a very broad aggregated measure that should be taken with a pinch of salt. Further libertarian-leaning economists argue that government economic activity is not an addition to national economic income and should not be a part of GDP.

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US Money Supply

Money supply data is the most important data to watch in relation to understanding trends in the economy, such as price inflation and interest rates. It is at the business cycle. (SEE: Austrian School Business Cycle Theory by Murray Rothbard)

 The Federal reserve releases money supply data in terms of two components—M1 and M2 (the Fed formerly produced a version called M3 but no longer does so). M1 and M2 are progressively more inclusive measures of money: M1 is included in M2. M1, the more narrowly defined measure, consists of the most liquid forms of money, namely currency and checkable deposits. The non-M1 components of M2 are primarily household holdings of savings deposits, small time deposits, and retail money market mutual funds.

M2 provides the best rough estimate of the supply of money in the economy.

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Pending Home Sales Index

The National Association of Realtors developed the pending home sales index as a leading indicator of housing activity. Specifically, it is a leading indicator of existing home sales, not new home sales. A pending sale is one in which a contract was signed, but not yet closed. It usually takes four to six weeks to close a contracted sale.

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Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index is a weekly, random-sample survey tracking Americans' views on the condition of the U.S. economy, their personal finances and the buying climate. The survey was formerly sponsored by ABC News since 1985. Beginning in April 2014, immediate details of the report are available by subscription through Langer Research Associates which conducts the survey for Bloomberg. Publicly released details are available only after a significant delay after release of the headline number. In May 2014, Bloomberg changed the series range to zero to 100 versus earlier reports with a range of minus 100 to plus 100.

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Jobless Claims

New unemployment claims are compiled weekly to show the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time. An increasing (decreasing) trend suggests a deteriorating (improving) labor market. The four-week moving average of new claims smoothes out weekly volatility.

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FOMC Meeting Announcements

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the policy-making arm of the Federal Reserve. It determines short-term interest rates in the U.S. when it decides the overnight rate that banks pay each other for borrowing reserves when a bank has a shortfall in required reserves. This rate is the fed funds rate. The FOMC also determines whether the Fed should add or subtract liquidity in credit markets separately from that related to changes in the fed funds rate. The Fed announces its policy decision (typically whether to change the fed funds target rate) at the end of each FOMC meeting. This is the FOMC announcement. The announcement also includes brief comments on the FOMC's views on the economy and how many FOMC members voted for and how many voted against the policy decision. Since the last recession, the statement also includes information on Fed purchases of assets, so-called "quantitative easing", which affects longer-term interest rates.

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FOMC Meetings

The Federal Open Market Committee meets eight times a year in order to determine the near-term direction of monetary policy.

The FOMC consists of the seven Governors of the Federal Reserve Board (assuming no seats are vacant) and five Federal Reserve Bank presidents. The New York Fed president is always on the FOMC and the other four seats for the District presidents are rotated yearly. Changes in monetary policy are now announced immediately after FOMC meetings.

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EIA Petroleum Status Report

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides weekly information on petroleum inventories in the U.S., whether produced here or abroad.

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Consumer Confidence

The Conference Board compiles a survey of consumer attitudes on the economy. The headline Consumer Confidence Index is based on consumers' perceptions of current business and employment conditions, as well as their expectations for six months hence regarding business conditions, employment, and income. Three thousand households across the country are surveyed each month. In general, while the level of consumer confidence is associated with consumer spending, the two do not move in tandem each and every month.

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New Home Sales

New home sales measure the number of newly constructed homes with a committed sale during the month. The level of new home sales indicates housing market trends and, in turn, economic momentum and consumer purchases of furniture and appliances.

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S&P Case-Shiller HPI

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index tracks monthly changes in the value of residential real estate in 20 metropolitan regions across the U.S. The composite indexes and the regional indexes are seen by the markets as measuring changes in existing home prices and are based on single-family home re-sales. The key composite series tracked are for the expanded 20-city composite indexes. The original series (still available) covered 10 cities. A national index is published quarterly. The indexes are based on single-family dwellings with two or more sales transactions. Condominiums and co-ops are excluded as is new construction. The data are compiled for S&P by Fiserv, Inc. The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices are published monthly on the last Tuesday of each month at 9:00 AM ET. The latest data are reported with a two-month lag. For example data released in January 2008 were for November 2007.

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Durable Goods Orders

Durable goods orders reflect the new orders placed with domestic manufacturers for immediate and future delivery of factory hard goods. The first release, the advance, provides an early estimate of durable goods orders. About two weeks later, more complete and revised data are available in the factory orders report. The data for the previous month are usually revised a second time upon the release of the new month's data.

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Dallas Fed Mfg Survey

The Dallas Fed conducts this monthly survey of manufacturers in Texas regarding their operations in the state. Participants from across the state represent a variety of industries. In the latter half of the month, the questions for the manufacturing survey are electronically transmitted to respondents and answers are collected over a few days. About 100 manufacturers regularly participate in the Dallas Fed survey, which began collecting data in mid-2004. Participants are asked whether various indicators have increased, decreased or remained unchanged. Answers cover changes over the previous month and expectations for activity six months into the future. The breakeven point for each index is zero with positive numbers indicating growth and negative numbers reflecting decline.

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PMI Services Flash

Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) US Services Flash is based on monthly questionnaire surveys collected from over 400 U.S. companies which provide a leading indication of what is happening in the private sector services economy. It is seasonally adjusted and is calculated from seven components, including new business, employment, and business expectations. This Flash Services PMI is based on approximately 85 percent of usual monthly replies and usually is released about a week before the final. It gives an early reading of conditions for the current month.

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Employment Cost Index

A measure of total employee compensation costs, including wages and salaries as well as benefits. The employment cost index (ECI) is the broadest measure of labor costs.

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State Street Investor Confidence Index

The State Street Investor Confidence Index measures confidence by looking at actual levels of risk in investment portfolios. This is not an attitude survey. The State Street Investor Confidence Index measures confidence directly by assessing the changes in investor holdings of equities. The more of their portfolio that institutional investors are willing to invest in equities, the greater their confidence. The report's main index is global and is based on activity in 45 countries. The report tracks more than 22 million transactions annually. There are three published components: North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The separate weightings of the three components vary month to month based on investment activity and are not published. Also included in the global index, but also not published, is activity in South America and the Middle East.

  -RW 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Thursday, January 1, 2015