Economic Indicators Roundup (July 6, 2015)

Economic indicators are everywhere, so this is kind of like a dashboard that I like to follow.  For each indicator, I will try to give you a brief description, the latest reading and what I understand to be its implications.  For simplicity, I will assign each a rating of positive, neutral or negative.  For the economic indicators, I will denote in each one’s section how I decide which rating to give it.  At the end, I assign an overall rating, but this is just to guide me in my takeaway of where things stand.  It’s not scientifically rigorous or anything.

  • Positive – indicative of a healthy, growing economy.
  • Neutral – indicative of a slow or no growth economy but not a contracting (recession) economy.
  • Negative – indicative of a shrinking economy or recession.

(NOTE: For a “Quick ‘n Easy” read, just review the labeled white boxes, then skip to my “Easy Take” summary at the end.  You can review any charts/graphs afterward.  I want to make sure no one is intimidated by the length of my posts, even though I’m trying to making them easy …)


Quick Summary

Indicator (Click for details – only works if full article is open) Current Rating (change from previous roundup)
GDPNow (GDP Forecast from Atlanta Fed) Neutral
ADS Business Conditions Index Neutral
Bloomberg Financial Conditions Index Neutral
Big Four Economic Indicators Neutral
Daily Consumer Leading Indicators Negative
Employment Trends Index Positive
Chicago Fed National Activity Index Neutral
Easynomics Real Estate Price Stability Index Positive
 Citigroup Economic Surprise Index Reports slightly worse than expectations
Easy Trends Dashboard   (min/max -3 to +3) +1.67 = Very likely moving in a positive direction with a few unconfirmed trends or trends in a bad direction

NOTE: You may be reading an outdated analysis.  Please visit my latest economic indicators roundup.



Economic Indicator: GDPNow   |   NEUTRAL
Easy Intro: None yet   |   Link to Source   |   Latest Date This Info Represents: 2nd Quarter 2015 (i.e., three months ending June 2015)

Quick ‘n Easy

The current forecast for real GDP growth in the 2nd quarter of 2015 is 2.2 percent – below-average growth by historical standards but modestly better than the 1st quarter’s slight contraction. The Federal Reserve Board of Atlanta combines a whole bunch of public data to mimic what the government does when reporting Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the broadest and most comprehensive measure of the economy that is widely accepted. It basically measures the value of all goods and services produced in the country, regardless of industry. In a sense, that’s what economics is all about, the value of things. The rate at which GDP is growing tells us whether our economy is strong or not. Historically, the average has been about 3.3 percent per year. It would be great to see at least that rate of growth.

Economic Indicators - GDPNow from Atlanta Fed - Jul 1 2015

Source: FRBAtlanta.org

Easy Description: GDPNow is a frequently updated estimate of the growth rate of the economy (GDP growth) as opposed to having to wait for quarterly estimates from the Bureau of Economic Analysis for “official” figures.

Latest Readings:

2nd Quarter of 2015: On July 1, GDPNow is positive (+) 2.2 percent annualized growth rate (versus +2.1 percent on June 25)

NOTE: “Annualized growth rate” is how much growth we would see over a full year if economic growth continued at the same pace as it did in the latest quarter being forecast.

Implications: The 1st quarter of 2015 showed slight contraction (-0.7 percent annualized rate), but many feel it was slowed by several temporary factors that should subside over the course of the following quarters. The latest indications of 2nd quarter growth suggest better growth than the 1st quarter, but still below historical averages.

Easynomics Rating Methodology: For this index, I will use data on the most recent quarter available. If the latest GDPNow estimate refers to a quarter for which there is already an official BEA reading, then I will go with the BEA reading. I will rate anything between zero and (+) 3.3 as “neutral” – anything above or below that will be rated “positive” or “negative” respectively.

continue reading…

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Initial Weekly Unemployment Claims (4-Week Moving Average) thru Week Ending June 27, 2015 – Easy Trends

In this article, I’ll do an “Easy Trends” analysis of the initial weekly unemployment claims data.  “Easy Trends” is a place where I’ll analyze the recent trend for an indicator and discuss whether it is currently going up, down or neither.  You can read the basics of my methodology on the FAQ page.

NOTE: You may be reading an outdated analysis.  Please visit my latest unemployment claims trend analysis for more info.

Quick ‘n Easy

By tracking the number of people who are filing for unemployment benefits for the first time each week, we get a quick insight into the latest status of the economy’s health.  Fewer claims equals more jobs, which equals more income, which usually equals more consumer spending (70% of the economy!) that supports company profits, which in turn can lead to more hiring.

Quick Version of Easy Trends Analysis

For the Initial Weekly Unemployment Claims series, I will be doing only a brief update as long as the level of claims is super low (below 300,000) or just low (below 350,000) but without a confirmed upward trend (which is undesirable of course). I will only call out a few specific statistics that I like to track. I’ll be tracking the trends, but it takes a lot of time to do the post, so I won’t do a post with the full analysis unless there is any cause for concern. Bottom Line: If you’re seeing my “quick version” of this analysis – don’t be worried about weekly jobless claims!

NOTE: The last time I did a full update was for the week ending March 7, 2015

4-week moving average of weekly initial unemployment claims: 274,750   (Excellent – we want this number to be below 350,000)

4-week moving average of weekly initial unemployment claims as a percent of the total size of the nation’s workforce: 0.17 percent   (Excellent)

Current Trend: Unconfirmed downward trend of about 2,500 fewer claims per week, but latest reading too high to include in downward trend.   (Good, but could be changing)

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Factory Orders for Nondefense Capital Goods New Orders (Excluding Aircraft) – Easy Trends (thru May 2015)

Factory orders reports provide insight into how busy our factories will be in the coming months.  I’m continuing a feature called “Easy Trends” – a place where I’ll analyze the recent trend for the factory orders report and discuss whether it is currently going up, down or neither.  You can read the basics of my methodology on the FAQ page.

NOTE: You may be reading an outdated analysis.  Please visit my latest factory orders trend analysis for more info.

What are factory orders for nondefense capital goods?  From the USA Today / IHS Global Insight Economic Outlook Index (no longer published):

Key barometer of business owners’ confidence in the economy.  Tracks how much business owners plan to invest in machinery, computers and other goods.

Why do investors care about factory orders for nondefense capital goods?  Simple – it’s a leading indicator for the economy.  Changes seen in the level of new orders will often mirror changes in the economy several months later.  Why is it “excluding aircrafts” though?  Factory orders for aircrafts come in bursts, so the ups and downs obscure our ability to see the underlying trend in the data.  For that reason, we will subtract factory orders for aircraft out of the equation.

Here’s a graph of the Nondefense Capital Goods New Orders (Excluding Aircraft) from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis for the past five years:

Nondefense Capital Goods Excluding Aircraft New Orders - May 2015 - FRED

Source: StLouisFed.org

Factory Orders Trends and Projections

Below, I will discuss whether factory orders for nondefense capital goods (excluding aircraft) is currently in a trend, when the last confirmed trend was and what that says about projecting the next data point to be released. I generally start my analysis from about three years ago. continue reading…

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Employment Report – Nonfarm Payrolls – Easy Trends (thru June 2015)

Employment report figures are perhaps the most closely tracked economic numbers of all. I’m continuing a feature called “Easy Trends” – a place where I’ll analyze the recent trend for the nonfarm payrolls from the monthly employment report and discuss whether it is currently going up, down or neither. You can read the basics of my methodology on the FAQ page.

NOTE: You may be reading an outdated analysis. Please visit my latest Employment Report trend analysis for more info.

Quick ‘n Easy

Nonfarm payrolls, a component of the employment report called “Employment Situation Summary,” is meant to measure the number of jobs in the economy except for those in the farming industry. The large ups and downs in farming make it harder to see the true underlying trend, so jobs in that sector are excluded. What people usually focus on is the change in nonfarm payrolls from the previous month. We typically want to see something above 150,000 during average economic times. (Easy Intro to Nonfarm Payrolls)

Nonfarm payrolls from the employment report is meant to measure the number of jobs in the economy except for those in the farming industry. The large ups and downs in farming make it harder to see the true underlying trend, so jobs in that sector are excluded. What people usually focus on is the change in nonfarm payrolls from the employment report for the previous month. We typically want to see something above 150,000 during average economic times. You can read more in my Easy Intro to Nonfarm Payrolls.

I have decided to analyze the two different methods the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses in estimating the number of new nonfarm payroll jobs added per month in its employment report. The one that most articles quote is from the “Payroll Survey” (a survey of businesses). The second one is from the “Household Survey” (survey of households, duh!). Because the “Household Survey” includes a whole bunch of workers who aren’t included in the “Payroll Survey” the BLS has to adjust the data a bit to help them match up. In the end, they should track each other fairly well. Nevertheless, I felt it would be helpful to look at the trends from both of them. In fact, my personal preference is to look at the average of the two surveys to get a better estimate of the true trend of job creation.

Below is a graph showing the trends in both the “Payroll Survey” and the “Household Survey” after adjustments were made to the latter to represent a similar population. As you can see, they track each other fairly well after adjustments (see the unadjusted data in a line that’s way above the others):

Employment Report - Nonfarm Payrolls Payroll and Household thru June 2015

Employment Report Trends and Projections

Below, I will discuss whether the nonfarm payrolls number from the employment report is currently in a trend, when the last confirmed trend was and what that says about projecting the next data point to be released. I typically start my analysis from three years ago. continue reading…

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Economic Indicators Roundup (June 30, 2015)

Economic indicators are everywhere, so this is kind of like a dashboard that I like to follow.  For each indicator, I will try to give you a brief description, the latest reading and what I understand to be its implications.  For simplicity, I will assign each a rating of positive, neutral or negative.  For the economic indicators, I will denote in each one’s section how I decide which rating to give it.  At the end, I assign an overall rating, but this is just to guide me in my takeaway of where things stand.  It’s not scientifically rigorous or anything.

  • Positive – indicative of a healthy, growing economy.
  • Neutral – indicative of a slow or no growth economy but not a contracting (recession) economy.
  • Negative – indicative of a shrinking economy or recession.

(NOTE: For a “Quick ‘n Easy” read, just review the labeled white boxes, then skip to my “Easy Take” summary at the end.  You can review any charts/graphs afterward.  I want to make sure no one is intimidated by the length of my posts, even though I’m trying to making them easy …)


Quick Summary

Indicator (Click for details – only works if full article is open) Current Rating (change from previous roundup)
GDPNow (GDP Forecast from Atlanta Fed) Neutral
ADS Business Conditions Index Neutral
Bloomberg Financial Conditions Index Neutral   (Downgrade)
Big Four Economic Indicators Neutral
Daily Consumer Leading Indicators Negative
Employment Trends Index Positive
Chicago Fed National Activity Index Neutral
Easynomics Real Estate Price Stability Index Positive
 Citigroup Economic Surprise Index Reports generally worse than expectations
Easy Trends Dashboard   (min/max -3 to +3) +1.67 = Very likely moving in a positive direction with a few unconfirmed trends or trends in a bad direction

NOTE: You may be reading an outdated analysis.  Please visit my latest economic indicators roundup.



Economic Indicator: GDPNow   |   NEUTRAL
Easy Intro: None yet   |   Link to Source   |   Latest Date This Info Represents: 2nd Quarter 2015 (i.e., three months ending June 2015)

Quick ‘n Easy

The current forecast for real GDP growth in the 2nd quarter of 2015 is 2.1 percent – below-average growth by historical standards but modestly better than the 1st quarter’s slight contraction. The Federal Reserve Board of Atlanta combines a whole bunch of public data to mimic what the government does when reporting Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the broadest and most comprehensive measure of the economy that is widely accepted. It basically measures the value of all goods and services produced in the country, regardless of industry. In a sense, that’s what economics is all about, the value of things. The rate at which GDP is growing tells us whether our economy is strong or not. Historically, the average has been about 3.3 percent per year. It would be great to see at least that rate of growth.

Economic Indicators - GDPNow from Atlanta Fed - Jun 25 2015

Source: FRBAtlanta.org

Easy Description: GDPNow is a frequently updated estimate of the growth rate of the economy (GDP growth) as opposed to having to wait for quarterly estimates from the Bureau of Economic Analysis for “official” figures.

Latest Readings:

2nd Quarter of 2015: On June 25, GDPNow is positive (+) 2.1 percent annualized growth rate (versus +1.9 percent on June 16)

NOTE: “Annualized growth rate” is how much growth we would see over a full year if economic growth continued at the same pace as it did in the latest quarter being forecast.

Implications: The 1st quarter of 2015 showed slight contraction (-0.7 percent annualized rate), but many feel it was slowed by several temporary factors that should subside over the course of the following quarters. The latest indications of 2nd quarter growth suggest better growth than the 1st quarter, but still below historical averages.

Easynomics Rating Methodology: For this index, I will use data on the most recent quarter available. If the latest GDPNow estimate refers to a quarter for which there is already an official BEA reading, then I will go with the BEA reading. I will rate anything between zero and (+) 3.3 as “neutral” – anything above or below that will be rated “positive” or “negative” respectively.

continue reading…

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Stock Market Technical Analysis – Tech It Easy (thru June 26, 2015)

Stock market technical analysis is all you need to know, complete hogwash or somewhere in between. It depends on who you ask. If you find it interesting, you’ll probably like reading this weekly feature.

NOTE: You may be reading an outdated article. Please visit my latest stock market technical analysis summary of the S&P 500 for more.

I used to have screenshots of the various stock market technical analysis assessments I present below, as well as a bit more analysis for each one. In order to save time, I will not be doing the screenshots and will abbreviate some of the text for each analysis as well. The last time I did a comprehensive analysis can be foundhere, in case you want to see what it looked like.

The next few paragraphs are my standard intro to stock market technical analysis – you can skip down to the table (or click “continue reading”) if you read this feature regularly: 

Many people who trade in the markets believe that there are patterns that can generally lead to profitable trades. By analyzing stock charts that show the change in price along with the volume (how many shares were traded), “technical analysts” believe they have an edge and can time their trades profitably. There is significant controversy over this subject, however. Others say that, unless you have some information that no one else does, basically you can never beat “the market” because everything is already baked into the current price of a stock.

Nevertheless, supporters of stock market technical analysis are everywhere, and the tools for their trade can be found throughout bookstores and the Internet. I like to follow some websites that do some of the work automatically and provide a snapshot opinion of whether a particular stock is considered “bullish” (going to go up in price), “bearish” (going to go down in price) or “neutral” (stay about the same price).

For simplicity, I’d like to start by showing you a snapshot of what several stock market technical analysis websites suggest about the exchange traded fund (ETF) with the ticker symbol of SPY. This fund is supposed to go up and down the same as the S&P 500 index does. And many people consider the S&P 500 index (a measure of the price of the 500 largest companies that trade in the U.S.) to be an accurate gauge of where “the market” stands.

For each of the sources below, where I have a choice, I will use a measure that attempts to predict the future direction of SPY or S&P 500 in the next 3 months.

S&P 500 Technical Analysis Summary

Source: Barchart.com   |  NEUTRAL   (Downgrade vs 1 month ago)

Quick ‘n Easy

Barchart.com uses three analyses to predict the direction of SPY over the next three months or so. Looking at the average value and strength of these three signals, we can conclude that BarChart.com thinks that the price of SPY will stay about the same over the next three months.

Easy Notes: BarChart.com says that the price of SPY will probably stay about the same over the next three months. Two of three signals are at “buy” right now, and both of them are weak signals. Unfortunately, all three signals are headed in the wrong direction (the right direction would mean “buy” signals are strengthening and “sell” signals are weakening). Overall, this is a neutral assessment.

continue reading…

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