INDICATOR: March Housing Starts and Industrial Production
KEY DATA: Starts: +2.8%; Permits: -2.4%/IP: +0.7%; Manufacturing: +0.5%
IN A NUTSHELL: “Housing may be coming back only slowly but the continuing rebound in manufacturing activity points to an economy that is picking up steam after the winter hibernation.”
INDICATOR: March Retail Sales
KEY DATA: Sales: +1.1%; Excluding Vehicles: +0.7%
IN A NUTSHELL: "The winter slumber is over and with confidence rising, the consumer could lead the way, if only wage gains improve."
Yesterday, the so-called "minutes" of the March 18-19, 2014 FOMC meeting were released. This is a scrubbed and antiseptic review of some of the things that went on and that the members want known. The markets viewed the Committee's comments as indicating it would remain aggressive and equity investors shouldn't worry about an early hike in rates. I think people are missing key messages.
If there was one sentence in the "minutes" that caught investors attention it was this: "... 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." Sounds great, until you start analyzing what that really means. It does not say that the rate hikes will not begin earlier than expected; it says that it will take time to get back to a normal funds rate. There is a big difference.
Let me explain using my forecast. I expect that by the end of this year: the unemployment rate will drop below 6%, not far from full employment, which is roughly 5.5%; job gains will be in the 250,000 per month range; openings and quits will be high; most other indicators will be pointing to a tightening in the labor market; inflation will have edged up to or above 2%, the Fed's target; and wage gains will be accelerating. Jobless claims are already near historically low levels when adjusted for the labor force and most other indicators are moving in the direction I am forecasting.
INDICATOR: February Job Openings and Labor Turnover
KEY DATA: Openings: +299,000; Year-over-Year: +158,000; Hires: +71,000; Year-over-Year: +36,000; Quits: +14,000; Year-over-Year: +114,000
IN A NUTSHELL: "The beat goes on as another indicator points to further improvement in the labor market as openings, hiring and quits all increased."
INDICATOR: March Conference Board Employment Trends Index
KEY DATA: Index: up 0.5 point; Year-over-Year: Up 5.1%
IN A NUTSHELL: "Another labor market indicator, another indication the labor market is improving."
INDICATOR: March Employment Report
KEY DATA: Payrolls: +192,000; Private Sector: 192,000; Unemployment Rate: 6.7% (unchanged); Labor Force Participation Rate: 63.2% (up 0.2 percentage point)
IN A NUTSHELL: "We seem to be back to "normal" when it comes to job growth but that normal is just not strong enough to generate solid income gains."
INDICATOR: February Trade Deficit, March Layoffs and Jobless Claims
KEY DATA: Deficit: $42.3 billion ($3 billion wider); Layoffs: down 7,436; Claims: up 16,000
IN A NUTSHELL: "A surprise slowdown in exports may have widened the trade deficit but the labor market is getting better anyway."
INDICATOR: March ADP Jobs Estimate and Help Wanted Online
KEY DATA: Private Payrolls: 191,000; Small: 72,000; Medium: 52,000; Large: 67,000/Help Wanted Ads: -292,000
IN A NUTSHELL: "Jobs are being created and the only question is when the gains will truly accelerate."