Almost every day a major government agency or private organization releases new information covering the status of some pocket of the economy. I’m here to help you sift through the barrage of economic data out there and determine what this will mean for your stocks. Last week was a fairly slow one for economic reports, but here are the most important data that came in:
The American Consumer
In March, consumer credit rose by $7.97 billion. This was sharply lower than the $18.6 billion advance the previous month that was the biggest since May 2012, and just half of the $15.6 billion that economists were expecting. Credit card debt fell in March, while student loans, auto loans and personal loans rose. The slowdown coincides with a slowdown in March consumer spending, and while it’s clear that folks are taking advantage of the low interest rate environment for non-revolving debt, I’ll admit that I’d like to see stronger results in terms of consumer spending.
The Jobs Market
The Labor Department announced that new jobless claims declined 4,000 to an annual rate of 323,000. This is another five-and-a-half year low, and came in below analyst expectations. Meanwhile, the four-week moving average dropped 6,250 to 336,750—the lowest level since November 2007. This decline should be no surprise as the effects of the end-of-March spike fade. While hiring remains somewhat weak, we should see the Fed continue with its efforts to reduce the unemployment rate to 6.5%. Ultimately, this was a solid report.
The Private Sector
In March, stockpiles held by wholesalers rose 0.4% in March from February, when they had fallen 0.3%. However, sales declined 1.6%, the most since March 2009. This was largely in line with economist estimates. This was clearly a mixed report, as inventories of durable goods rose by 0.5% and non-durable goods edged up by 0.1%, as inventories of apparel and piece goods were offset by a sharp drop in inventories of petroleum and petroleum products.