Record Retail Sales, Higher Growth Ahead?

Financial FAQs

It looks like Q4 GDP could be higher than the Third Quarter’s initial estimate of 2.9 percent growth. That’s because retail sales and wholesale inventories, both major contributors to growth, are surging.

Retail sales jumped 0.8 percent in October with September revised 4 tenths higher to plus 1.0 percent. The consumer started the fourth-quarter better than expected and finished the third-quarter even stronger than that, according to BEA’s revision.

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Graph: Econoday

The data show wide gains for both months led by the most important component of all, autos which rose 1.1 percent in October on top of September’s 1.9 percent surge. Building materials & garden equipment are also very strong, up 1.1 percent following September’s 1.8 percent gain with both pointing to strength for residential investment. Non-store retailers are also a standout and reflect strength in e-commerce, up 1.5 percent and up 0.9 percent in the two months.

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Graph: Econoday

And manufacturing activity was also strong, Year-on-year, all vehicle production is up a very solid 5.0 percent and eclipsed only by the 6.7 percent gain for the selected hi-tech component which rose 1.0 percent in October to extend its run of impressive gains, according to Econoday. Another positive is a 0.2 percent gain for business equipment which has otherwise been weak most of the year.

Midwest manufacturing is also doing better. Kansas City Federal Reserve manufacturing activity report said, “This was the second consecutive month of rising factory activity in the Tenth District, the first time that has happened in nearly two years,” according to Kansas Fed chief economist Chad Wilkerson.

But what will happen with rising interest rates and a stronger dollar? Long term bond rates have jumped almost 1 percent since P-Elect Trump announced his very ambitious infrastructure upgrades, but which Fed Chair Yellen threw some cold water on yesterday in congressional testimony. She asked, Where will the workers come from to build it when we are already at full employment?

Another economic indicator reported the U.S. is growing at a moderate pace and is likely to do so through early 2017, according to the Conference Board’s Index of Leading Economic Indicators (LEI). The LEI is an index that measures the nation’s future economic health. It rose 0.1 percent in November after a 0.2 percent gain in the prior month, the Conference Board said Friday.

“Although its six-month growth rate has moderated, the index still suggests that the economy will continue expanding into early 2017,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, economist at the board. Its measure of current economic conditions rose 0.1 percent, the “lagging” index of past activity increased 0.2 percent, meaning current activity has slowed.

We therefore believe that Q4 will shape up to have perhaps 3 percent plus GDP growth. Will this extend into next year? It depends on how extensive and expensive will be the Trump infrastructure plans, because it will certainly boost long term rates and inflation.

But rising interest rates and higher inflation are actually signs of higher economic growth. Fed Chair Yellen seemed to remain cautious about the need to boost Federal Reserve short term rates in her latest congressional testimony, even though higher growth looms ahead.

Harlan Green © 2016

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of PopularEconomics.com, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly, The Huffington Post, and PeaceCorpsWorldwide.org.
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