This Week's State Of The Economy - What Is Ahead? - 21 February 2020

By: Taro Chellaram /Wells Fargo Economics & Financial Report/Feb 22, 2020

This Week's State Of The Economy - What Is Ahead? - 21 February 2020

U.S. - Coronavirus Won’t Move the Fed

  • Minutes from the January 28-29 FOMC meeting indicate the coronavirus will not push the Fed to cut interest rates, and for the most part housing and manufacturing survey data this week supported that view.
  • The Leading Economic Index jumped 0.8% to an all-time high—easing some concerns generated by its dip into negative year-over-year territory the prior month—while the Philly Fed Index exceeded expectations by jumping to 36.7 and the Empire Manufacturing Survey beat consensus by rising to 12.9.
  • Housing, meanwhile, continues to exceed expectations. December and January were the two strongest months for housing starts since 2006.

 

Global - Japan Underperforms Expectations; Coronavirus Update

  • This week’s Japanese GDP data indicated a significant slowdown in the Japanese economy to close out 2019. Q4 data revealed Japan’s economy contracted 6.3% quarter-over quarter annualized, while other measures of activity contracted notably as well. As a result, we have downgraded our 2020 GDP forecast and now expect the Japanese economy to contract in 2020.
  • The coronavirus continues to linger over financial markets, with the most recent update of over 77,000 confirmed cases and over 2,200 fatalities around the world. We still expect the virus to cause additional disruptions to China’s economy.



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Total payrolls rose by 263K in November, with the unemployment rate holding steady at 3.7% and average hourly earning rising by 0.6%.

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Markets gyrated this week as the spread between the ten- and two-year Treasury\'s turned negative for the first time since 2007. Financial markets seem to expect that the sharp slowdown in growth overseas will soon spread to the United States.

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Unlike the local temperatures, data released this week showed U.S. economic growth modestly declined in Q2.

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Market attention was concentrated on the January consumer price data, as inflation has come back into focus.

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In the holiday-shortened week, analysts’ attention remained on the progress of the labor market. Recent jobless claims data remain stubbornly high and point to a slowing jobs rebound.

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Retail and Industrial activity were stronger than the headline data suggest, there are also some signs of weakening.

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While we were picking up tree limbs from the yard, data released this week generally showed a stronger economy in August than many expected in the wake of surging COVID cases.

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The recent surge in COVID-19 cases indicates that elected officials re-opened the economy too soon, that too many Americans are flaunting social distancing guidelines, and that the virus is likely to be around longer than we’d hoped.

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The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.4% in September, a monthly change that was a bit softer than the 0.6% increase registered in August. The core CPI rose 0.3% during the month, a pace unchanged from the month prior.

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Mild weather helped housing starts surge 16.9% in December to a 1.61 million-unit pace, the highest in 13 years. Manufacturing surveys from the New York Fed and Philadelphia Fed both rose more than expected in December.


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