Heavy Week of Economic Data Paints Dull Picture of American Economy

A full week of economic data showed consumer sentiment has declined, spending has risen less than forecast, GDP has grown at the slowest pace in two years and worker pay remains subdued, presenting a U.S. economy that seems to be just muddling along. As measured by the University of Michigan Sentiment Index, consumer confidence fell to a seven-month low in April as Americans reduced their expectations for economic growth. This apprehension led to less spending and a tick up in the savings rate to 5.4%, the highest level in more than a year. GDP came in at a 0.5% annualized rate for the first quarter of 2016 after a 1.4% print for the fourth quarter of 2015. Business investment was the biggest detractor from growth, falling at a 5.9% annualized pace during the quarter, the largest decline since 2009. Finally, while the employment cost index grew as expected during the first quarter of 2016 at 0.6%, total compensation (which includes wages and benefits) climbed at just 1.9% over the past 12 months, the smallest gain in two years. Federal Reserve officials have acknowledged some weakness in recent data, but remained optimistic in their Wednesday report that strong hiring and income gains have the potential to generate momentum in consumer spending and increase the pace of economic growth. We broadly agree with the view of the Federal Reserve, and expect the economy to continue to produce moderate growth in the near to medium term. As such, our expectations for a range-bound interest rate environment remain unchanged at this time.  

Sources: Bloomberg