Category Archives: Uncategorized

Charts Indicating Economic Weakness – August 2018

U.S. Economic Indicators

Throughout this site there are many discussions of economic indicators.  At this time, the readings of various indicators are especially notable.  This post is the latest in a series of posts indicating U.S. economic weakness or a notably low growth rate.

While many U.S. economic indicators – including GDP – are indicating economic growth, others depict (or imply) various degrees of weak growth or economic contraction.  As seen in the August 2018 Wall Street Journal Economic Forecast Survey the consensus (average estimate) among various economists is for 3.0% GDP growth in 2018 and 2.4% GDP growth in 2019.  However,  there are other broad-based economic indicators that seem to imply a weaker growth rate.

As well, it should be remembered that GDP figures can be (substantially) revised.

Charts Indicating U.S. Economic Weakness

Below are a small sampling of charts that depict weak growth or contraction, and a brief comment for each:

Total Federal Receipts

“Total Federal Receipts” growth continues to be intermittent in nature since 2015.  As well, the level of growth does not seem congruent to the (recent) levels of economic growth as seen in aggregate measures such as Real GDP.

“Total Federal Receipts” through July had a last value of $225,266 Million.  Shown below is  the measure displayed on a “Percent Change From Year Ago” basis with value -2.9%, last updated August 10, 2018:

MTSR133FMS_8-10-18 225266 -2.9 Percent Change From Year Ago

source:  U.S. Department of the Treasury. Fiscal Service, Total Federal Receipts [MTSR133FMS], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, accessed August 11, 2018:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MTSR133FMS

__

Taxes On Corporate Income

Another measure that depicts weakness is that of “Federal government current tax receipts: Taxes on corporate income.”  Through the first quarter the value is $149.029 Billion.  Shown below is the chart, last updated July 27, 2018:

B075RC1Q027SBEA_7-27-18 149.029

source:  U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Federal government current tax receipts: Taxes on corporate income [B075RC1Q027SBEA], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis;  accessed August 9, 2018:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/B075RC1Q027SBEA

Here is a chart of the measure, on a “Percent Change From Year Ago” basis with value of -48.6%, through the first quarter, last updated July 27, 2018:

B075RC1Q027SBEA Percent Change From Year Ago

__

The Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index (ADS Index)

While the 2nd quarter GDP (Advance Estimate)(pdf) was 4.1%, there are other broad-based economic indicators that seem to imply a weaker growth rate.

Among the broad-based economic indicators that imply weaker growth is that of the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index (ADS Index.)  Below is a two-year chart of the index through August 4, 2018, with a value of .047, as of the August 8 update:

ADS Index

source:  Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index (ADS Index)

__

Total Construction Spending:  Commercial

“Total Private Construction Spending: Commercial” is a measure of construction exhibiting weak YoY growth.   This measure through June had a last value of $90,991 Million.  Shown below is the measure displayed on a “Percent Change From Year Ago” basis with a value of 1.1%, last updated August 1, 2018:

TLCOMCONS_8-1-18 90991 1.1 Percent Change From Year Ago

source:  U.S. Bureau of the Census, Total Construction Spending: Commercial [TLCOMCONS], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, accessed August 9, 2018:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/TLCOMCONS

__

Real Hourly Earnings

The level and growth rates of wages and household earnings continues to be (highly) problematical.  I have extensively discussed these worrisome trends in income and earnings.

As seen in many measures the problem is chronic (i.e long-term) in nature.

Shown below is a chart depicting the 12-month percent change in real average hourly and weekly earnings for private sector employees from June 2008 – June 2018.  (July 2018 was unchanged from June 2018, and it decreased .2% YoY (i.e. compared to July 2017.))  As seen in the chart below, growth in this measure over the time period depicted has been intermittent, volatile, and, especially since 2017, weak:

Real Average Hourly Earnings

source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Real average hourly earnings unchanged from June 2017 to June 2018 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2018/real-average-hourly-earnings-unchanged-from-june-2017-to-june-2018.htm(visited August 10, 2018).

__

Other Indicators

As mentioned previously, many other indicators discussed on this site indicate economic weakness or economic contraction, if not outright (gravely) problematical economic conditions.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2833.28 as this post is written

Average Hourly Earnings Trends

I have written many blog posts concerning the worrisome trends in income and earnings.

Along these lines, one of the measures showing disconcerting trends is that of hourly earnings.

While the concept of hourly earnings can be defined and measured in a variety of ways, below are a few charts that I believe broadly illustrate problematic trends.

The first chart depicts Average Hourly Earnings Of All Employees: Total Private (FRED series CES0500000003)(current value = $27.05):

(click on chart to enlarge image)(chart last updated 8-3-18)

CES0500000003

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Average Hourly Earnings of All Employees:  Total Private [CES0500000003] ; U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics; accessed August 3, 2018:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CES0500000003

This next chart depicts this same measure on a “Percentage Change From A Year Ago” basis.   While not totally surprising, I find the decline from 2009 and subsequent trend to be disconcerting:

(click on chart to enlarge image)(chart last updated 8-3-18)

CES0500000003 Percent Change From Year Ago

There are slightly different measures available from a longer-term perspective. Pictured below is another measure, the Average Hourly Earnings of Production and Nonsupervisory Employees – Total Private (FRED series AHETPI)(current value = $22.65):

(click on chart to enlarge image)(chart last updated 8-3-18)

AHETPI

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Average Hourly Earnings of Production and Nonsupervisory Employees:  Total Private [AHETPI] ; U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics;  accessed August 3, 2018:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/AHETPI

Pictured below is this AHETPI measure on a “Percentage Change From A Year Ago” basis.   While not totally surprising, I find the decline from 2009 and subsequent trend to be disconcerting:

(click on chart to enlarge image)(chart last updated 8-3-18)

AHETPI Percent Change From Year Ago

I will continue to actively monitor these trends, especially given the post-2009 dynamics.

_________

I post various economic indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2835.97 this post is written

Consumer Confidence Surveys – As Of July 31, 2018

The Doug Short site had a post of July 31, 2018 (“Consumer Confidence Increases Marginally in July“) that displays the latest Conference Board Consumer Confidence and Thomson/Reuters University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index charts.  They are presented below:

(click on charts to enlarge images)

Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index

University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index

There are a few aspects of the above charts that I find highly noteworthy.  Of course, until the sudden upswing in 2014, the continued subdued absolute levels of these two surveys was disconcerting.

Also, I find the “behavior” of these readings to be quite disparate as compared to the other post-recession periods, as shown in the charts between the gray shaded areas (the gray areas denote recessions as defined by the NBER.)

While I don’t believe that confidence surveys should be overemphasized, I find these readings to be very problematical, especially in light of a variety of other highly disconcerting measures highlighted throughout this site.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2818.72 as this post is written

Employment Cost Index (ECI) – Second Quarter 2018

While the concept of Americans’ incomes can be defined in a number of ways, many prominent measures continue to show disconcerting trends.

One prominent measure is the Employment Cost Index (ECI).

Here is a description from the BLS document titled “The Employment Cost Index:  what is it?“:

The Employment Cost Index (ECI) is a quarterly measure of the change in the price of labor, defined as compensation per employee hour worked. Closely watched by many economists, the ECI is an indicator of cost pressures within companies that could lead to price inflation for finished goods and services. The index measures changes in the cost of compensation not only for wages and salaries, but also for an extensive list of benefits. As a fixed-weight, or Laspeyres, index, the ECI controls for changes occurring over time in the industrial-occupational composition of employment.

On July 31, 2018, the ECI for the second quarter was released.  Here are two excerpts from the BLS release titled “Employment Cost Index – June 2018“:

Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 0.6 percent, seasonally adjusted, for the 3-month period ending in June 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Wages and salaries (which make up about 70 percent of compensation costs) increased 0.5 percent and benefit costs (which make up the remaining 30 percent of compensation) increased 0.9 percent. (See tables A, 1, 2, and 3.)

also:

Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 2.8 percent for the 12-month period ending in June 2018 compared with a compensation costs increase of 2.4 percent in June 2017. Wages and salaries increased 2.8 percent for the 12-month period ending in June 2018 and increased 2.3 percent for the 12-month period ending in June 2017. Benefit costs increased 2.9 percent for the 12-month period ending in June 2018. In June 2017, the increase was 2.5 percent. (See tables A, 4, 8, and 12.)

Below are three charts, updated on July 31, 2018 that depict various aspects of the ECI, which is seasonally adjusted (SA):

The first depicts the ECI, with a value of 133.3:

ECIALLCIV_7-31-18 133.3

source: US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Cost Index: Total compensation: All Civilian[ECIALLCIV], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, accessed July 31, 2018:

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/ECIALLCIV/

The second chart depicts the ECI on a “Percent Change from Year Ago” basis, with a value of 2.8%:

ECIALLCIV Percent Change From Year Ago

The third chart depicts the ECI on a “Percent Change” (from last quarter) basis, with a value of .6%:

ECIALLCIV_7-31-18 133.3 .6 Percent Change

_________

I post various indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2821.28 as this post is written

Velocity Of Money – Charts Updated Through July 27, 2018

Here are three charts from the St. Louis Fed depicting the velocity of money in terms of the MZM, M1 and M2 money supply measures.

All charts reflect quarterly data through the 2nd quarter of 2018, and were last updated as of July 27, 2018.

Velocity of MZM Money Stock, current value = 1.321:

MZM money velocity chart

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed July 30, 2018:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/MZMV

Velocity of M1 Money Stock, current value = 5.578:

M1 money velocity chart

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed July 30, 2018:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/M1V

Velocity of M2 Money Stock, current value = 1.454:

M2 money velocity chart

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed July 30, 2018:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/M2V

_________

I post various indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2818.82 as this post is written

Real GDP Chart Since 1947 With Trendline – 2nd Quarter 2018

For reference purposes, below is a chart from the Doug Short site post titled “Q2 GDP Advance Estimate: Real GDP at 4.1%” post of July 27, 2018, depicting Real GDP, with a trendline, as depicted.  This chart reflects the Gross Domestic Product Q2 2018 Advance Estimate (pdf) of July 27, 2018:

U.S. Real GDP and Its Historic Trend 18.51T

_________

I post various indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2818.08 as this post is written

Durable Goods New Orders – Long-Term Charts Through June 2018

Many people place emphasis on Durable Goods New Orders as a prominent economic indicator and/or leading economic indicator.

For reference, below are two charts depicting this measure.

First, from the St. Louis Fed site (FRED), a chart through June 2018, updated on July 26, 2018. This value is $251,884 ($ Millions):

(click on charts to enlarge images)

Durable Goods New Orders

Second, here is the chart depicting this measure on a “Percentage Change from a Year Ago” basis:

Durable Goods New Orders Percent Change From Year Ago

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Manufacturers’ New Orders:  Durable Goods [DGORDER]; U.S. Department of Commerce: Census Bureau; accessed July 26, 2018;

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/DGORDER

_________

I post various indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2838.00 as this post is written

Money Supply Charts Through June 2018

For reference purposes, below are two sets of charts depicting growth in the money supply.

The first shows the MZM (Money Zero Maturity), defined in FRED as the following:

M2 less small-denomination time deposits plus institutional money funds.
Money Zero Maturity is calculated by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Here is the “MZM Money Stock” (seasonally adjusted) chart, updated on July 20, 2018 depicting data through June 2018, with a value of $15,524.8 Billion:

MZMSL

Here is the “MZM Money Stock” chart on a “Percent Change From Year Ago” basis, with a current value of 4.1%:

MZMSL_7-20-18 15524.8 4.1 Percent Change From Year Ago

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed July 24, 2018:

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/MZMSL

The second set shows M2, defined in FRED as the following:

M2 includes a broader set of financial assets held principally by households. M2 consists of M1 plus: (1) savings deposits (which include money market deposit accounts, or MMDAs); (2) small-denomination time deposits (time deposits in amounts of less than $100,000); and (3) balances in retail money market mutual funds (MMMFs). Seasonally adjusted M2 is computed by summing savings deposits, small-denomination time deposits, and retail MMMFs, each seasonally adjusted separately, and adding this result to seasonally adjusted M1.

Here is the “M2 Money Stock” (seasonally adjusted) chart, updated on July 19, 2018, depicting data through June 2018, with a value of $14,112.4 Billion:

M2SL_7-19-18 14112.4

Here is the “M2 Money Stock” chart on a “Percent Change From Year Ago” basis, with a current value of 4.2%:

M2SL_7-19-18 14112.4 4.2 Percent Change From Year Ago

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed July 24, 2018:

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/M2SL

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2824.89 as this post is written

Disturbing Charts (Update 31)

I find the following charts to be disturbing.   These charts would be disturbing at any point in the economic cycle; that they (on average) depict such a tenuous situation now – 109 months after the official (as per the September 20, 2010 NBER BCDC announcement) June 2009 end of the recession – is especially notable.

These charts raise a lot of questions.  As well, they highlight the “atypical” nature of our economic situation from a long-term historical perspective.

All of these charts are from the Federal Reserve, and represent the most recently updated data.

(click on charts to enlarge images)

Housing starts (last updated June 19, 2018):

Housing Starts

US. Bureau of the Census, Housing Starts: Total: New Privately Owned Housing Units Started [HOUST], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/HOUST/, July 13, 2018.

The Federal Deficit (last updated March 27, 2018):

Federal Deficit

US. Office of Management and Budget, Federal Surplus or Deficit [-] [FYFSD], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FYFSD/, July 13, 2018.

Federal Net Outlays (last updated March 27, 2018):

Federal Net Outlays

US. Office of Management and Budget, Federal Net Outlays [FYONET], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FYONET/, July 13, 2018.

State & Local Personal Income Tax Receipts (% Change from Year Ago)(last updated March 28, 2018):

ASLPITAX_3-28-18 407.037 6.2 Percent Change From Year Ago

US. Bureau of Economic Analysis, State and local government current tax receipts: Personal current taxes: Income taxes [ASLPITAX], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/ASLPITAX/, July 13, 2018.

Total Loans and Leases of Commercial Banks (% Change from Year Ago)(last updated July 6, 2018):

TOTLL_7-6-18

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US), Loans and Leases in Bank Credit, All Commercial Banks [TOTLL], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/TOTLL/, July 13, 2018.

Bank Credit – All Commercial Banks (% Change from Year Ago)(last updated July 6, 2018):

TOTBKCR_7-6-18 4.2 Percent Change From Year Ago

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US), Bank Credit of All Commercial Banks [TOTBKCR], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/TOTBKCR/, July 13, 2018.

M1 Money Multiplier (last updated July 12, 2018):

M1 Money Multiplier

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, M1 Money Multiplier [MULT], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/MULT/, July 13, 2018.

Median Duration of Unemployment (last updated July 6, 2018):

Median Duration of Unemployment

US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Median Duration of Unemployment [UEMPMED], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/UEMPMED/, July 6, 2018.

Labor Force Participation Rate (last updated July 6, 2018):

Labor Force Participation Rate

US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate [CIVPART], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CIVPART/, July 15, 2018.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) 3-month moving average (CFNAI-MA3)(last updated June 25, 2018):

CFNAIMA3_6-25-18 .18

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chicago Fed National Activity Index: Three Month Moving Average [CFNAIMA3], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CFNAIMA3/, June 25, 2018.

I will continue to update these charts on an intermittent basis as they deserve close monitoring…

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2801.31 as this post is written

Charts Indicating Economic Weakness – July 2018

U.S. Economic Indicators

Throughout this site there are many discussions of economic indicators.  At this time, the readings of various indicators are especially notable.  This post is the latest in a series of posts indicating U.S. economic weakness or a notably low growth rate.

While many U.S. economic indicators – including GDP – are indicating economic growth, others depict (or imply) various degrees of weak growth or economic contraction.  As seen in the July 2018 Wall Street Journal Economic Forecast Survey the consensus (average estimate) among various economists is for 2.9% GDP growth in 2018.  However,  there are other broad-based economic indicators that seem to imply a weaker growth rate.

As well, it should be remembered that GDP figures can be (substantially) revised.

Charts Indicating U.S. Economic Weakness

Below are a small sampling of charts that depict weak growth or contraction, and a brief comment for each:

Total Federal Receipts

“Total Federal Receipts” growth continues to be intermittent in nature since 2015.  As well, the level of growth does not seem congruent to the (recent) levels of economic growth as seen in aggregate measures such as Real GDP.

“Total Federal Receipts” through June had a last value of $316,278 Million.  Shown below is  the measure displayed on a “Percent Change From Year Ago” basis with value -6.6%, last updated July 12, 2018:

MTSR133FMS

source:  U.S. Department of the Treasury. Fiscal Service, Total Federal Receipts [MTSR133FMS], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, accessed July 12, 2018:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MTSR133FMS

__

The Yield Curve

Many people believe that the Yield Curve is a leading economic indicator for the United States economy.

On March 1, 2010, I wrote a post on the issue, titled “The Yield Curve As A Leading Economic Indicator.”

While I continue to have the stated reservations regarding the “yield curve” as an indicator, I do believe that it should be monitored.

As an indication of the yield curve (i.e. a yield curve proxy), below is a weekly chart from January 1, 1990 through July 11, 2018.  The top two plots show the 10-Year Treasury and 2-Year Treasury yields.  The third plot shows the (yield) spread between the 10-Year Treasury and 2-Year Treasury, with the July 11, 2018 closing value of .27%.  The bottom plot shows the S&P500:

(click on chart to enlarge image)(chart courtesy of StockCharts.com; chart creation and annotation by the author)

Yield Curve proxy

__

U.S. Auto Sales

U.S. auto sales have experienced significant growth over the post-2009 period as seen in the chart shown below. The current reading (through June) is 17.381 million vehicles SAAR.  Of great economic importance is whether auto sales have peaked, which I believe has occurred, as well as other problematical characteristics of the light vehicle market.  A long-term chart is shown below:

Light Weight Vehicle Sales: Autos and Light Trucks

source:  U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Light Weight Vehicle Sales: Autos and Light Trucks [ALTSALES], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed July 10, 2018:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/ALTSALES

__

Vehicle Miles Traveled

I find the flagging growth trend in the “Vehicle Miles Traveled” (NSA) measure since 2015 to be notable.

“Vehicle Miles Traveled” through April had a last value of 272,442 Million.  Shown below is  the measure displayed on a “Percent Change From Year Ago” basis with value -.2%, last updated July 2, 2018:

TRFVOLUSM227NFWA_7-2-18 -.2 Percent Change From Year Ago

source:   U.S. Federal Highway Administration, Vehicle Miles Traveled [TRFVOLUSM227NFWA], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed July 12, 2018:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/TRFVOLUSM227NFWA

__

Alternate Growth Trend Measures

Another facet of economic activity is seen in the ratio of the Conference Board’s Coincident Composite Index to the Lagging Composite Index.  I interpret the trends seen in this measure to be disconcerting, as the ratio has generally been sinking for years:

Conference Board Coincident To Lagging Ratio

source:  Haver’s June 21, 2018 post (“U.S. Leading Economic Indicators’ Rate of Increase Eases“)

__

Other Indicators

As mentioned previously, many other indicators discussed on this site indicate economic weakness or economic contraction, if not outright (gravely) problematical economic conditions.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2798.29 as this post is written