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Archive for April, 2016

A Dozen Mid-April Economic Nuggets

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

It may just be the calm before another storm, but the economic news seems to have quietened down quite a bit over the last little while. As for the political news, as both the Democrats and Republicans race towards their leadership conventions in a few months, that’s another story.

The pain in the oil sector on account of the deeply depressed price of crude is finally leading to some self-correcting courses of action. In the U.S. and Canada, capital spending plans have been slashed and production levels in the fracking sector significantly reduced. Internationally, Iran isn’t expected to ramp up export sales as quickly as once thought. And other OPEC members, including Saudi Arabia, appear intent on re-imposing a degree of control over their output levels.

The global price of oil may have found a floor near $40 USD per barrel. That’s a lot better than when it was nosediving towards $20. Furthermore, it will still provide car drivers, when they fill up, with gasoline charges that are pleasing bargains. Freeing up money so that it can be spent in other areas will prove especially important as the summer vacation season quickly arrives.

Against this backdrop, there are the following additional ‘nuggets’ to be gleaned from the latest government agency and private sector data releases. The ‘soil’ is rich and the ‘crop’ abundant.

(1) Let’s begin with CMD’s own construction starts statistics. Perhaps the most informative way to look at the numbers is to compare the year so far (i.e., through the first quarter, 2016) with the same time frame in 2015. On such a basis, grand total starts, in ‘current’ (i.e., not adjusted for inflation) dollars, were +7.4%, with major type-of-structure sub-categories performing as follows: residential, +3.7%; non-residential building, +11.8%; and heavy engineering, +5.8%.

U.S. and Canadian City Long-term Home Start Trends – Proxy for Vitality Part 1

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

While practicing the ‘art’ of economics, sometimes the statistics just fall into your lap.

For example, heading into 2016, it was the consensus opinion among analysts that Ontario and British Columbia would have the best upcoming growth performances among Canada’s ten provinces.

Consequently, there were grins from ear to ear among my fraternity when March’s Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada showed Ontario with the largest year-over-year increase in jobs at +86,000, with British Columbia not far behind, at +72,000.

No other province was even close. In fact, the sum of Ontario and B.C., at +152,000, was greater than for the country as a whole, +130,000.

The material in this current Economy at a Glance continues in a similar vein. I’ve graphed the relatively long-term history of housing starts, from 1980 to the present, for the major cities in the U.S. and Canada and allowed Microsoft’s Excel to add a trend line.


A Great Canada Jobs Report for March but Head Scratchers Galore

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

There’s going to be a lot of cheering about Canada’s March labour market numbers as reported by Statistics Canada. The latest Labour Force Survey shows a month-to-month pick-up in total employment of 41,000 positions and a jobless rate that fell 0.2 percentage points to 7.1% from 7.3% in February.

Furthermore, most of the overall jobs increase (+35,000) occurred in the usually more stable and higher-paying, and thus better quality, full-time category of work as opposed to part-time (+6,000) activities.

Plus, all the boost to employment was provided by the private sector (+65,000), as the public sector downsized slightly (-2,000). Self-employment (-22,000) staged a significant retreat.

Still, there were some real oddities in the rest of the figures.

U.S. Corporate Profit Growth Stymied by Energy Sector Slide

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

North America’s major stock market indices have taken investors on a ‘theme park’ ride over the past 12 months − as can be seen from Graph 1. More often than not, it hasn’t been much fun.

There were substantial dips for all four indices – Dow Jones Industrials (DJI), the S&P 500, NASDAQ and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) − in September of last year, followed by recovery for the U.S. series, and then another crater in the January-February period of this year.

Canada’s TSX stayed mainly down once it faltered in the fall of last year.

In the most recent month, however, there were notable improvements once again. At the close of trading in March 2016, the DJI, S&P 500 and NASDAQ were all within 1.0% of their levels achieved a year prior.

The TSX moved +4.9% during the month of March, but was still -9.4% year over year.

Worry has centered on the likely performance of corporate profits. It’s well known that in the energy sector, the low price of oil is taking a heavy toll on the revenues of exploration and extraction companies, as well as their service and material suppliers.


A Bit More Ammunition for a Fed Rate Hike from March’s U.S. Jobs Report

Friday, April 1st, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

In March, the size of the U.S. labor force rose by nearly 400,000, as many working-age people who were previously on the sidelines jumped back into the job hunt.

As a consequence, the participation rate rose to 63.0%, a climb of 0.3 percentage points since the start of the year’s level of 62.7%.

Both developments are votes of confidence in possible employee prospects. They indicate more out-of-work individuals now feel they have a better shot at finding a welcoming face, corporate or otherwise, to pay them a living.

This notion received a boost from March’s month-to-month gain in the total number of non-farm jobs in the economy, +215,000, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Furthermore, the total employment increase was widely dispersed among industry categories, with payrolls in ‘education and health’ (+51,000) increasing the most; but with ‘retail trade’ (+48,000) and ‘leisure and hospitality’ (+40,000) not that far behind.


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