It was a light week for U.S. data but rumblings from Washington elevated the stock market. President Trump suggested that the framework of his proposed tax overhaul would be made public soon. Also, deregulation was in the news with discussion about proposed changes to the Dodd-Frank Act.
Labor data was solid. The Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover Survey for December showed a slight dip in the job openings rate to 3.6 percent. The hiring rate was unchanged at 3.6 percent and the separation rate eased to 3.4 percent.
Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell by 12,000 for the week ending February 4, to hit 234,000. The 4-week moving average for initial claims hit the lowest level since November 1973. Continuing claims increased by 15,000 to hit 2,078,000 for the week ending January 28, still a very low number. We show continuing claims scaled by the size of the labor force in our graph on page 2. That ratio is the lowest since the late ‘60s.
The Federal Reserve released the results of their January Senior Loan Officer Survey. Generally speaking, loan standards on commercial and industrial loans were unchanged in the fourth quarter of 2016. Standards tightened on commercial real estate loans but were unchanged for residential real estate.
Mortgage applications increased for the week ending February 3, boosted by both purchase and refi apps. The Mortgage Bankers Association said that the rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages eased to 4.35 percent.
The U.S. international trade gap narrowed in December to -$44.3 billion. Exports were up by $5 billion for the month while imports grew by $3.6 billion. This implies a 0.1 percent increase to the 1.9 percent annualized growth rate for the first estimate of 2016Q4 GDP growth.
There was a strong build in U.S. crude oil inventories for the week ending February 3 due to a surge in imports. Gasoline inventories fell on strong demand. Natural gas storage fell in line with expectations. Natural gas inventories are down 11.3 percent from a year ago.
According to the St. Louis Fed’s Financial Stress Index, we are unstressed with a reading of –1.21 for the week ending February 3.
For a PDF version of the Comerica Economic Weekly, including forecast tables and the variables calendar, click here: Comerica_Economic_Weekly_ 02102017.