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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Increased vaccinations and an improving public health position led to an easing of restrictions and pickup in activity across the country in March.

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Financial conditions tightened sharply this week as concerns over the coronavirus and the economic fallout of containment efforts mounted.

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More job seekers also lifted the participation rate to 62.4% and thus easing some tightness in the job market even as payrolls expanded.

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Weekly first time unemployment claims highlighted an extraordinarily slow week for economic news. Jobless claims fell slightly but continuing claims fell by one million.

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A recent strong report from the National Association of Homebuilders set the tone for another round of strong housing data. The NAHB index rose two points to a record high 85.

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Despite indications of lost momentum elsewhere, residential construction activity is picking up steam.

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I’ll wish you a Happy Earth Day anyway. Don’t expect a card this year. While the Earth continues to thankfully revolve at a steady rate, rising mortgage rates appear to be slowing residential activity

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On the housing front, new home sales dropped more than expected in August, though an upward revision to July results left us about where everyone expected us to be year-to-date.

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Two countervailing themes competed for attention this week in financial markets. The first is that for the most part, economic data continue to surprise to the upside and do not yet rule out prospects for that elusive V-shaped recovery.

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The combination of the election outcome and a workable vaccine boosted financial markets and set the background music for this week’s short list of indicators.


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