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Economic Watch: Wholesale Prices, Industrial Production, Home-Builder Confidence Advance

July 16, 2014

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Prices at the wholesale level rose 0.4% in June from the month before, according to new U.S. Labor Department figures, following a 0.2% decline in May and a 0.6% advance in April.

Excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, the Producer Price Index advanced just 0.2% while the overall rate has gained 1.9% over the last 12 months.

Goods prices rose 0.5% in June after falling 0.2% in May. Energy prices increased 2.1%, the most this year, accounting for the majority of the rise. Food costs increased a minimal 0.1% in June. Excluding food and energy, goods prices rose 0.1%. Service prices rose 0.3% following a 0.2% decline the month prior.

“Recent price pressures appear to have abated, pulling the annual headline rate of producer prices back below 2% after briefly breaching that threshold in April. The trend reversal, or at least the arrest of further increases, supports the most recent commentary in the Federal Reserve statement and minutes, as well as in Tuesday’s testimony from the Chairman Yellen, downplaying the recent increases as temporary,” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at the investment firm Sterne Agee.

Meantime, a separate report shows industrial production increased 0.2% in June and advanced at an annual rate of 5.5% for the second quarter of 2014, according to a new Federal Reserve report.

In June, manufacturing output edged up 0.1% for its fifth consecutive monthly gain, while the production at mines moved up 0.8% and the output of utilities declined 0.3%.

For the second quarter as a whole, manufacturing production rose at an annual rate of 6.7%, while mining output increased at an annual rate of 18.8% because of gains in the extraction of oil and gas, while the output of utilities fell at an annual rate of 21.4%

At 103.9% of its 2007 average, total industrial production in June was 4.3% above its level of a year earlier. The capacity utilization rate for total industry was unchanged in June at 79.1%, a rate that is one percentage point below its 1972–2013 average.

Finally, a third report shows builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes reached an important milestone in July, rising four points to a reading of 53 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index released Wednesday. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

“This is the first time that builder confidence has been above 50 since January and an important sign that it is strengthening as pent-up demand brings more buyers into the marketplace,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly.

All three HMI components posted gains in July. The index gauging current sales conditions increased four points to 57, while the index measuring expectations for future sales rose six points to 64 and the index gauging traffic of prospective buyers increased three points to 39.

The HMI three-month moving average was up in all four regions, with the Northeast and Midwest posting a one-point and two-point gain to 35 and 48, respectively. The West registered a five-point gain to 52 while the South rose two points to 51.


“An improving job market goes hand-in-hand with a rise in builder confidence,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “As employment increases and those with jobs feel more secure about their own economic situation, they are more likely to feel comfortable about buying a home.”

 

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