Mixed Bizness: Today’s Assortment of Indicators
In case you haven’t noticed, many are eyeing slowing growth in the restaurant sector and predicting a recession. There’s no questioning the concerning data, but I’d like to counter that with a grab bag of recent, largely positive macroeconomic indicators.
If you’ve been checking your 401(k), I probably don’t have to tell you that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is higher than it’s ever been, currently at approximately 18,500—so clearly not everybody in the investor community has their sad faces on.
We’ve now seen 77 consecutive weeks of initial unemployment claims below 300,000, and the latest numbers show weekly claims falling by 1,000 to 261,000—approaching a new post-recession low. This bodes well for continued job gains and, perhaps even more critically, wage gains in the future as the employment pool continues to shrink.
Durable-goods orders are another key indicator that’s along the same lines as housing—manufacturing tends to pay out good wages, spread wealth around a wide supply chain and also indicates major industries are still doing good business. Such orders jumped 4.4% in July, which suggests production is set to increase in the coming months.
Speaking of homes, the annual rate of new home sales topped 654,000 in July, which is the highest figure since October 2007. Housing is still hot, and most experts in the category still don’t see much of a bubble in the general market. There, of course, may be pockets (like San Francisco) that are seeing growth that’s simply not sustainable. Housing supply is down to 4.3 months, where 6 months is seen as healthy/normal.
Additionally, First Data's back-to-school SpendTrend report shows a boost in spending in July over the previous year, up 2% compared with 1% last year. Looking at fresh data for the first week of August, this trend continues as the new school year approaches—good for retailers of all kinds.
I always like to include an off-the-wall indicator, and as I found on CalculatedRiskBlog.com, the American Chemistry Council Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB) expanded 0.4 percent in August, following an upward revision for July. This is the barometer’s sixth consecutive monthly gain, and portends accelerated U.S. business activity into 2017. So, get your chemicals now!
There’s no denying the slowdown in enthusiasm in restaurant sales—saying nothing of the explosive competitive growth in on-demand food delivery from the likes of Amazon, Uber and DoorDash and the rest of the pack. Given strength in the rest of the American economy, I think it’s safe to predict the restaurant sector will now be a drag on the economy in the coming months or years. Hopefully an increase in wages, employment and discretionary income are enough to at least blunt this slowdown. Stranger things have happened.
And speaking of strange (but amazing) things, I leave you with a 10-year-old music video from Beck. It’ll give your day the boost it needs: