MacroScope

Off the rails? Goldman lowers Q2 GDP ‘tracking’ estimate to 1.1 pct

Another round of bad news on the economy has prompted Goldman Sachs to shave another tenth of a percentage point off their already bleak second quarter U.S. GDP forecast.

The July Philadelphia Fed business activity index improved less than expected and remained “significantly negative,” pointing to a third month of contraction. Following news that June existing home sales were much weaker than forecast, Goldman Sachs economists lowered their Q2 GDP tracking estimate to 1.1 percent from 1.2 percent.

The 5.4 percent month-on-month decline in existing home sales in June, reported by the National Association of Realtors, was much weaker than the consensus expectation, the economists noted. The 4.37 million annualized rate of sales was also lower than expected despite upward revisions to the May sales figures.

“On the other hand, median sales prices of all existing homes  rose 7.9 percent year over year to $189,400 in June,” they noted.  The economists added this was the highest growth rate since February 2006 and the highest level since September 2008, “pointing to a continuing slow pickup in house prices.”

One question is whether a rise in home prices in a slow-growing economy might quickly run into an affordability barrier.

Here come the downward U.S. GDP revisions again

It’s become an uncanny, almost seasonal pattern over the last few years: The economy perks up as a new year kicks into gear only to flail again by the time summer comes around.

It must be that time of year. A very weak U.S. retail sales report for June forced economists to again take an axe to their already meager forecasts for economic growth this year. Stephen Stanley at Pierpoint Securities, suggests the figures are beginning to dip dangerously close to contraction.

I have been near the bottom of the range of estimates on Q2 GDP for the last month or two and it seems like we are all chasing the data lower. Before today, I had about 1% for Q2 real GDP. The awful retail sales figures coupled with somewhat higher-than-expected inventories tally takes me down to +0.6%.

U-turns aplenty in predicting U.S. jobs growth

 

The past year of forecasting U.S. payroll growth marks a bumpy road of U-turns on the timing of an elusive turning point to sustainable recovery, an analysis of Reuters polls shows.

In early 2011, an overwhelming majority of economists — 48 of 52 in the April poll and 38 of 46 in the May poll — said that turning point already had been reached.

More than a year later, it still seems a way off.

The U.S. economy added jobs at a monthly rate of 165,000 so far in 2012, far short of the 200,000 most say is representative of strong growth in a recovering economy.

Fed doves ‘will not be patient’

Ellen Freilich contributed to this post

The Fed did the twist. Will it shout as well? There has been some debate among economists about whether the U.S. central bank might launch a third round of outright bond buys or QE3 given that it just prolonged Operation Twist.

But a truly grim report on the U.S. manufacturing sector from the Institute for Supply Management, if coupled with further evidence of a deteriorating labor market, could certainly induce policymakers to press their foot to the monetary accelerator.

Not only did the index slip below 50 in June, pointing to a contraction for the first time in three years, but the reading of 49.7 was lower than the lowest forecast in a Reuters poll of economists. Moreover, the subcomponents showed the biggest drop in new orders since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Surprise plunge in bond yield forecasts may spell more trouble ahead

By Rahul Karunakar

The spread between 2- and 10-year U.S. Treasury yields will shrink to 180 basis points in a year according to the latest Reuters bonds poll – the narrowest margin since August 2008, the month before Lehman Brothers collapsed.

Historically, that spread has been a key indication of what investors and traders are thinking about the economy’s prospects: the narrower it gets, certainly with short-term rates already at rock bottom, the darker the outlook.

It wasn’t looking particularly good in August 2008, and of course we all know what happened the following month: the start of an epic financial and economic crisis the world is still struggling to shake off.

Get ready for QE3 if things don’t get better soon

Ben Bernanke appears to be reluctantly gearing up for a third round of large-scale Federal Reserve bond buying, so-called QE3. Millan Mulraine of TD Securities captures just how likely further monetary easing is becoming following the Fed’s decision on Wednesday to expand Operation Twist.

The burden of proof may now be on the incoming data to prove that a third round of large-scale asset purchases may not be necessary.

Just under two months before the central bank’s yearly gathering at Jackson Hole – where Bernanke announced QE2 – the Chairman emphasized the path of the job market will be a key driver of any decision to further expand the central bank’s $2.8 trillion balance sheet. He told reporters at a press conference:

Immigrant small business owners: bringing big bucks to Main Street

What would Main Street America look like without immigrants?

Picture vastly fewer restaurants (37% of the industry’s ownership is foreign-born), hotels and accommodation (43% foreign-born ownership), dry cleaning and laundry facilities (54% foreign-born), and nail salons (37%). It would be that much harder to go out for a treat (bakeries, 32% immigrant-owned), fill up the tank (gas stations, 53%), or grab a bottle of wine on the way to a dinner party (beer, wine and liquor stores, 42%).

As President Barack Obama announces a big shift in immigration policy that will offer greater leniency to individuals under 30 who came into the United States as undocumented children, a new report from the New York-based Fiscal Policy Institute highlights just how broad a role immigrants play in the world’s largest economy.

In his speech this week, President Barack Obama hinted at the new policy:

If we truly want to make this country a destination for talent and ingenuity from all over the world, we won’t deport hardworking, responsible young immigrants who have grown up here or received advanced degrees here. We’ll let them earn the chance to become American citizens so they can grow our economy and start new businesses right here instead of someplace else.

Central bankers vs. politicians: High-stakes chicken?

Are politicians playing chicken with central bankers? More to the point, if the U.S. Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank step up, yet again, to protect their economies from the global slowdown, will it take U.S., German, Spanish, Italian, Greek and other governments off the hook?

Such questions are swirling as Europe’s financial crisis boils and starts to bubble over into Asia and the Americas. Expectations are growing that the Fed will take more monetary policy action when it meets June 19-20. The messy possibility that Greece could exit the euro zone was not enough to prompt the ECB to cut interest rates last week – and that was before a deal over the weekend to bail out Spanish banks was dismissed by markets as just another kick of the can. Underlining the standoff between monetary and fiscal policymakers, ECB President Mario Draghi told European Parliament this on May 31:

Can the ECB fill the vacuum of lack of action by national governments on fiscal growth? The answer is no.

Modest U.S. growth prospects riddled with risks: bank economists

Despite all the flashing yellow signs in the global economy, banking sector forecasters are sticking – if a bit uneasily – to their modestly optimistic outlook. Still, a group of economists from the American Bankers Association, a banking lobby that presented its latest economic projections to Federal Reserve officials this week, highlighted plenty of risks. Chief among them were financial contagion from Europe and sharp fiscal adjustments in the United States.

They see U.S. gross domestic product expanding at a pretty subdued 2.2 percent this year, and then slowing to 2 percent in 2013. The forecast assumes that Europe will come to some sort of resolution that puts a floor under its troubled debt markets. Even so, the ABA committee saw a 55 percent chance that one or more countries would exit the euro, with Greece topping the list.

At a press conference on Friday presenting the group ‘s findings, George Mokrzan, chair of the committee and economist at Huntington Bancorporation in Columbus, Ohio, said one worrisome factor for the U.S. economy  was the lack of income growth for most American workers. He said this could crimp consumer spending, which accounts for the vast bulk of U.S. economic activity.

Fed policy: So many risks, so few tools

Chris Reese contributed to this post.

A barrage of rotten economic news around the world has suddenly and vigorously reawakened the prospect of additional monetary easing by the Federal Reserve – most notably a report on Friday showing job growth slowed sharply in recent months.

William Larkin, portfolio manager at Cabot Money Management in Salem, Mass., said:

The chance of another recession is on the table, no question about it. It might force the Fed to develop another growth strategy like a QE3.