CMD announced today that January’s level of U.S. construction starts, excluding residential work, was $24.7 billion, an increase of 9.8% versus December. The nearly double-digit percentage increase was noteworthy since there is usually (i.e., average over 10-years-plus) a December-to-January decline, due to seasonality, of 8.5%.
Compared with January of 2015, the latest month’s starts level was +12.9%. Relative to average non-residential starts in January over the preceding five years, 2011 to 2015, the gain was +18.6%.
The starts figures throughout this report are not seasonally adjusted (NSA). Nor are they altered for inflation. They are expressed in what are termed ‘current’ as opposed to ‘constant’ dollars.
‘Non-residential building’ plus ‘engineering/civil’ work accounts for a considerably larger share of total construction than residential activity. The former’s combined proportion of total put-in-place construction in the Census Bureau’s December report was 63%; the latter’s was 37%. (more…)
My favorite meal when traveling on business or pleasure used to be breakfast in the hotel where I was staying. In the ‘old days’, a morning repast was almost invariably cheap, plentiful and delicious.
Last summer, I took my family to Chicago for some wonderful sightseeing. We live in Toronto. (Our oldest child has moved out of the house and he and his girlfriend undertake their own travel adventures.)
The price of the breakfast buffet where we were registered downtown was $32.50 USD. For the four of us, that would have come to $130.00 USD.
Such a charge would have been steep enough on its own. Factor in the value of the Canadian dollar at the time, and the price was going to be $160.00 CAD.
Consider the further devaluation in the loonie since then, and the pain rises to $185.00 CAD.
That’s serious coinage. It’s nearly enough to rent a tuxedo, which I’ve always considered to be an excursion into luxury land. (more…)
The steep descent in the global price of oil began in early July 2014. It was rapidly accompanied by moderate to severe pullbacks in the posted charges for many other commodities.
Not by coincidence, late-summer 2014 was also the moment that launched many radical readjustments in currency values around the world.
Resource-supplying nations, suffering damage to their foreign trade balances, have been experiencing the most severe exchange rate declines ever since. Russia, Brazil, Australia and Canada are the prime examples.
The United States, viewed by international currency traders as a safe haven amidst all the turmoil, has seen its dollar move from strength to strength.
Nor has it hurt that as possibly the world’s most open economy, the U.S. marketplace has adjusted and recovered better than any other nation’s since the Great Recession. Indeed, U.S. employment and output have improved to such an extent that the Federal Reserve has moved out front among central banks in adopting a hawkish position on interest rates. (more…)
Spending time in U.S. stock markets lately has not been a walk in the park. Drooping equity prices are a symptom of assorted maladies. The three that stand out most prominently are as follows. First, a great many people are worried about China’s economy and especially the state of its banking sector. There are thought to be way too many shaky loans in danger of crumbling if growth continues to decelerate. The subsequent drop in value of the yuan won’t be pretty.
Second, on account of a shockingly low international price for oil, investment in the U.S. energy sector has gone into a tailspin, affecting certain regions of the country more severely than others.
And third, the uplift in value of the U.S. dollar is limiting the ability of American manufacturers to win export sales. Some of the nation’s biggest firms are being negatively affected the most.
This Economy at a Glance examines the most interesting and surprising data from the latest U.S. foreign trade report.
(1) U.S. Oil Imports: Due to the rapid emergence of a domestic hydraulic fracturing industry, plus efficiency improvements and conservation-minded consumer behavior, there is nothing like the former U.S. energy-dependency with the rest of the world.
The steep drop in the global price of oil from a year ago, combined with some extreme exchange rate fluctuations, have rendered the dollar figures on U.S. energy trade confusing.
However, ‘Exhibit 17a’, in July’s publication, released jointly by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), presents the data in ‘barrels’.
‘Barrels’ as a volume measurement carry the same constant-valued connotation as ‘units’ for both housing starts and motor vehicle sales and ‘square footage’ for construction activity.
Year to date, through July of this year, Canada − by a considerable margin − accounted for the largest proportion of U.S. crude oil imports (41.2%). (Keep in mind that this has been without a go-ahead for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion.) (more…)